Food of Magicians is done. In honor of the silly novel, I have studded this blog post with some of my favorite food photos of Summer and Autumn 2016.
The story revolves around Agatha, a girl who arrives in Isidore, the culinary capital of her lite fantasy world, with the hopes of opening a pizzeria. But the only job she can get is working as a delivery girl, and she accidentally ends up handling the delivery account for one of the most famous restaurants, Plums. Agatha becomes friends with Bo, a girl working at the restaurant, as well as other young adults running around the city.
Rockfish with lemon sauce in Virginia. Deep fried dill pickles, thanks, Toronto. And homemade spiral fish with nori in Ocracoke, North Carolina.
One of the cool things about building a world in a city is creating a sense of space by a variety of characters, locations, and types of food. While Agatha is running around making deliveries, Lance is a young man working as a milkman for his family's diary. His cat has been held hostage by the magician mafia, and he wants to get her back, which means he has to get the money to pay them off. His path—and Agatha's—crosses with Hadiya, a wickedly gifted chocolatier and confectionist who has opened a hot new candy store. Hadiya is a runaway princess from a fondness for guns and a hatred for her past...
Sushi in L.A. Thanksgiving feast with Maryland stuffed ham, truly one of God's gifts to mankind. A homemade roll cake with apples and cranberry whipped cream.
Everyone gets tangled up with Jerome, a magician enforcer and the son of a mafia boss named Mr. Black. Jerome likes wearing tight pants and writing bad poetry, but he's really a terrible villain who can't 100% commit to evil, and it's resulting in the erectile dysfunction of his magic. Unlike his father, who is 100% okay with evil and can make people follow his commands at the twitch of a finger.
There was a lot of stuff that was fun to write in this book. Because the world that Isidore exists in is so similar to our own, I did not have to do a lot of crazy, extensive world-building. I could focus on making stupid jokes and writing food descriptions, which is all I ever wanted to do as a writer anyway.
It's been a bit of a journey, this book. In classic form, I planned this to be a quick book, only 80K and done in the early fall, but as I got to writing, it seemed that the scenes took longer. Honestly, I'm not shocked. The final first draft clocked in at 103K, only a little shorter than Fox Demon, which does shock me somehow. I think the thing that changed the length was that I ended up spending more time on each character than I planned. This held up until I reached the 90% mark, and then I was filled with a strong urge to Just Finish. Of course, this means that there's some tragic underwriting and a few dangling/weakly gestured at plot lines that I didn't want to resolve. Sequel opportunity? Or laziness? I'm going to claim the former!
When I compiled the entire document—I usually write my chapters in separate documents—to send to my first reader, I was really struck by the three set pieces structuring the novel. These set pieces are food competitions, both underground and on reality television, where our heroes and villains duke it out to achieve their dreams. They really are absurd. But characters cry and laugh, so dunno, it's about food.
It's all simultaneously sincere and cynical that the narratives probably have personality disorder. And I seemed to think that if I nodded at the audience, acknowledging weak, pivotal moments in the plot, then it was all cool. When I was planning, I was thinking the story would be a sort of YA Kiki's Delivery Service, if something like that was even possible when YA just seems to be getting darker. I wanted there to be stakes, but I didn't want the stakes to be crazily high, and I wanted most of the characters to have loved ones. I wanted them to encounter obstacles and clash with each other, but that there'd be no doubt that they'd all—literally—just hug it out at the end.
I think while it's important to see Katniss Everdeen hacking and slashing her way through tyranny, it's also important to have stories that come back to friendship and all the uncertainties of young adulthood. Stories about teaming up with difficult people, and making the world a better place, whether it be through dramatic blowing up buildings... or delivering a pizza to a friend when they need it. That's the slightly dysfunctional story I've written.
I don't know if I'll edit it next year or not. I'm going to start a new novel, and I've told myself I'll take a peak at Food of Magicians again next spring. I'll take a few reading requests on the first draft, but it still just feels like a gooey marshmallow of a novel.
Below is a gallery of images from a meal I had at Ze Kitchen Galerie, one of the best meals I've had in my life. The multi-course I enjoyed there became one of my inspirations for Plums.