Magic and deception meet head-on in Madeline J. Reynolds’ ILLUSIONS, a tale of old-time magicians, competition, and sabotage with a hint of romance!
Told through letters, newspaper clippings, diary entries, and more, Illusions follows Thomas Pendelton, a magician’s apprentice to Neville Wighton, one of the greatest magicians of the time. There’s one major secret to their success: Thomas, in fact, possesses real magic. When fellow magician’s apprentice Saverio Moretti is tasked with discovering the tricks behind Thomas and Neville’s illusions, he doesn’t expect to find the shocking truth about magic… but he also didn’t expect to fall in love, either.
Thanks to Entangled Teen, we had a chance to talk to Madeline J. Reynolds about magic, her characters, and her creative storytelling method. Take a look!
When were the first inspirations for ILLUSIONS and how did you develop them?
One of the very first things that inspired me in writing ILLUSIONS is that I knew that I wanted to write a novel in a non-traditional narrative format. I had always wanted to write an epistolary novel and this felt like the perfect story to tell through things like journal entries, newspaper clippings, posters, letters, etc. Now as far as inspirations for characters and setting, the film The Prestige had sparked a fascination in me when it came to Victorian era stage magicians, which I had wanted to explore for a while.
What are some of the best and worst traits of your main characters, Thomas and Saverio?
Oh, I love this question! Beginning with Thomas, I actually think he has a trait that can be his best or his worst depending on how you look at it: he always sees the best in people, or he tries to, anyway. He is so sensitive and kind and wants to believe that people are essentially good, even when the people in his life are doing bad things that will ultimately hurt him. With Sav, I love how extroverted and confident he is. He will walk down the street wearing whatever he wants, flirting with whomever he wishes along the way and he won’t care what anyone thinks about it. I really admire that about him. One of the uglier traits that Sav has is that he starts off the book pretty self-serving. Due to the way he as raised, he has this mentality where everyone is out for themselves and so each decision he makes is usually for a selfish reason and to advance himself and his own goals, many times at the expense of others.
Competitive spirits turned romantic partners is such a fun angle! What about the relationship between Thomas and Saverio do you love the most?
One of the things that I love the most about Thomas and Sav’s relationship is the “opposites attract” dynamic between them. They are so entirely different from one another and honestly, are the last people you would expect to fall for one another. That said, these differences allow them to bring out sides to one another that they may not have known were there and personally, I think each boy manages to bring out the best in the other.
ILLUSIONS is told in a non-traditional format through journal entries, newspaper clippings, etc. What inspired you to approach the writing from that angle?
I’ve seen a lot of authors give the advice to write the book that you want to read, and I always love reading books that are unconventional and that play with narrative form in interesting ways. What I really enjoyed about telling this particular story through found documents like journal entries and letters was that the reader is getting these small glimpses into these characters’ lives and so in a way, the overall story comes together like pieces to a puzzle. I found it a lot of fun to write it that way and I hope its equally fun for the readers to watch it unfold like that.
How much research did you do on magicians of the past? Were there any fun facts you learned along the way?
I definitely did some research into actual stage magicians from that era, like people Howard Thurston and Harry Kellar, and this mostly informed my depictions of the magicians in the book (Neville Wighton and Paolo il Magnifico) when it came to things like their personas and common stage names. That said, more of my research was focused around things like language and setting. I wanted to make sure the dialogue and language I used felt authentic to the period so I did a lot of looking into common phrases or words for things back in the 19th century. One of my favorite Google searches I did over the course of writing the books was “19th century curse words” (some of which definitely made it into the final version of the book). I also named real theaters and streets that were in London at the time to make the time and place feel more authentic as well.
What are some of your favorite stories of magicians and illusionists?
Personally, I don’t have any stories of illusionists or magicians from my own life or experiences. I think a majority of my knowledge comes from depictions I’ve seen in films such as The Prestige or The Illusionist, or common knowledge about world-famous stage magicians like Houdini. There was knowledge I gained from further research, of course, but I think ultimately, both Neville and Paolo came into their own through writing the out and playing with different ideas for what these men would be like both on and off the stage.
If you were a magician, what would be your signature trick?
If I were a magician, I would like to do something like Neville where it appears I’ve vanished into thin air!
Illusions is out now. You can order it via…
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Entangled Publishing
Thomas Pendelton was born into wealth and prestige. He has a sensitive heart and wants nothing more than to write poetry. Instead, he is apprenticing for Neville Wighton the Great, an aging magician who has become somewhat crazed over the years in his pursuit of fame. With Thomas’ help, Wighton is about to premiere the greatest illusion seen by man, for Thomas possesses something no other illusionist has: real magic. Many in the theatrical world are desperate to learn Wighton’s big secret.
One such magician is Paolo il Magnifico. His apprentice, Saverio Moretti, is also seeking the answer. He has a scheme to get close to Wighton by seducing Thomas but seduction turns to real feelings. Now the young men must struggle to keep the secret of their romance, as well as the secret of Thomas’ magic, as both of these things could cost Thomas his life. Through journal entries, posters, letters, and other documents, ILLUSIONS is a story of love, betrayal, and of course, magic.