So, I have some stuff to talk about in this post. First, as a few of you have already figured out, I've started a new book. I've been working on it quietly, and I haven't shared any of the pages with anyone. My working title is Food of Magicians, and I'm not putting a pitch on my homepage until I have more of the story on paper.
Let's see. Food of Magicians is YA magical realism.
Right, that is to say, it's not epic fantasy. I know. It's quite strange for me, especially since the last seven books I've written—oh, God, seven, my toes curled as I typed that—have all been variations on epic fantasy. I'm not saying they're good, but that's been the wheelhouse.
I've dabbled in science fiction when I worked on Void Inc., and I've written a slew of contemporary flash fiction. When I wrote Burnt Chocolate, Fairy King, that was mostly comedy with magic in it, and it's in that same vein I'm trying to approach Food of Magicians. (My alternate title is Let's Kill the Wizards, but I feel like it's more about food than killing wizards).
How do I begin to introduce this story?
Does anyone remember the show Seinfeld, or is everyone too young to remember now? When Seinfeld was in it's heyday, it was about a group of horrible people who are friends, and they attempt various schemes. Through the episode, the characters are doing their own things, and then by the end of the episode, the various subplots influence each other and make a mess.
That's basically how I'm approaching Food of Magicians. It's about a group of friends, mostly teenagers, a few twenty-somethings, who live in the foodie capital of the world. Agatha is freshly arrived to the city, working miserably as a delivery girl, but she dreams of owning a pizzeria. Hadiya had escaped her nasty—and overthrown—royal family, using the sale of family artifacts to pay for her confectionary shop: her true passion. Bo works for her father, and he's basically this universe's Jiro. (From Jiro Dreams of Sushi?)
Then, there's Jerone, and he's bad. He's a magician. If your bar or cafe is in his territory, you'd better pay up, or else.
But the character who might be the most important is named Lance.
He got this book started, although he didn't know it at the time. I sat down in the cafe near my office, trying to write a new query letter for The Princess and the Fox Demon, and instead of writing a query, I heard another voice in my head. It was his, and so I wrote what he had to say instead. I got to thinking about Lance and the world he was in, his frustration, and his humor. I've been wanting to write a food book for a while now, and Lance kicked open that door. What exactly that door was, it took some time to figure out.
Here's what Lance said in that cafe a few weeks ago:
See, I think we’ve got the same infatuation with wizards that we get with royalty. It’s all this chosen bullshit. They woke up one day and they could light their couch on fire, so they’re chosen. It’s the universe or God or DNA—but they’re chosen. It’s like being asked to prom by the universe.
I just got asked out to prom by Taytay, and she’s great and all, but ain’t the same.
Yeah. I dropped my handful of desperate change, and I picked those coins out of the gutter, nasty shit. I’d definitely rather be banging the universe. Or, hell, the universe can bang me. Just as long as it’s, you know, a little nicer. I’m open-minded. It could be a dude, the universe. That’d be weird, but sure.
How do we know God’s a dude anyway?
Doesn’t everyone wish they could be that undiscovered prince? Doesn’t everyone wish that they could wake up and make stuff float or study with some hot teacher in a secluded tower? I sure as shit wish I could. It’d be like the lottery, but it would never go away.
But no. I’m a milkman.
I work hard, and I pay my bills. This ain’t a story where I wake up and discover my birth certificate. I’ve seen it. It has a hideous coffee stain on it because my mom don’t respect me.
I think it was just because I was uncool enough to laugh at my own writing, that last line, that I knew I wanted to follow this wherever Lance went.
The door Lance kicked open is called the City of Isidore. It's a city that caters to visitors obsessed with food and eating. And it's a hard life for the people there, but they're working hard for their dreams. It's that corny sort of story. I've been aching to write a YA Kiki's Delivery Service, and Isidore finally seemed like the right place to do it.
There's the famous spots and restaurants, of course, but there's also hidden kitchens and underground competitions. To evade the magician mob and the authorities, cooks run kitchens out of a secret places—like, a dumpling place hidden behind a tattoo shop—and food trucks that vanish if you blink. The alleyways and tiny labyrinths of streets move.
I just finished writing Agatha's opening this week. She doesn't know about the magic yet.
Agatha had worked hard to memorize the main streets and landmarks, ignoring the couriers who joked about the alleyways that moved. Even the maps online hadn’t untangled the labyrinth of alleyways and half streets. Only an experienced delivery girl—or boy—would be able to navigate them. Tourists paid official city guides a premium to make it to their numerous restaurant reservations on time.
Agatha adjusted the seat on the bicycle before swinging her leg over. She memorized the contents of the delivery note—Don’t screw up—and jammed it in her back pocket. Then she kicked off from the curb.
I'm excited to share this story with you guys. I'm going to keep it short, maybe about 80K, and I'm hoping to be done by August. I'll keep you updated with the ongoings in Isidore.
What's the best thing you've eaten recently? I'm looking for food to include in the book.