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Interview with Jaclyn Dolamore, debut author of MAGIC UNDER GLASS

Today at the Elevensies, I kicked off our Tennerviews – interviews with YA and MG authors debuting in 2010, aka "Tenners" – with Jaclyn Dolamore, author of MAGIC UNDER GLASS. I'm cross-posting our interview here.

As a fellow aficionado of vintage clothes, organic food and the Goblin King himself, David Bowie, Jaclyn's definitely a kindred spirit of mine. Oh, and she draws her characters, too! (You'll see.) Her YA fantasy/steampunk fusion, MAGIC UNDER GLASS, will be released by Bloomsbury on December 22nd, 2009.

Here's a peek…

Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport.

Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.

KH: MAGIC UNDER GLASS has ghosts, fairies, magic and clockwork, as well as the requisite romance. Did you set out to write a book with all these elements, or did they surprise you along the way?

JD: The basic elements were there in the beginning, the clockwork and the romance particularly. The fairy part gave me a little angst because they aren't your usual fairies. They are more like humans, but with a strong connection to the earth and nature. I considered calling them something else, but then I would have to make up a name, and in some way I felt like having a race with a foreign name would make the book feel too much like another planet, where I wanted it to reflect our world closely. So I called them fairies, and although I worked some of fairy lore and the Victorian concept of fairies in, a lot of things are made up, like the Queen of the Dead being a fairy called "The Queen of the Longest Night."

KH: What's your very favorite part in MAGIC UNDER GLASS? What part was the most difficult to write?

JD: My favorite part is near the end of the book where the love interest is kind of being tormented. I love tormenting the love interest. Otherwise, the end was the most difficult part to write. It was rewritten the most times, and even when I turned into my editor I was convinced it was horrible. I was surprised that she liked it!

KH: Who are some of your biggest literary inspirations?

JD: L.M. Montgomery. She had such a big influence on my style that people used to complain how even my contemporary stories sounded old-fashioned and wordy. Laura Ingalls Wilder. (And perhaps, Rose Wilder Lane, who put so much work into helping to edit those books.) The writing in the Little House books is always clear and simple, but it gets across wonderful images. Storywise, I have been hugely influenced by long-running fantasy comics like Thieves and Kings, A Distant Soil, Elfquest (the original quest)...

KH: Your upbringing ("homeschooled in a hippie sort of way") and interests (vintage dresses, organic food, David Bowie) are very eclectic. In what ways did they inspire MAGIC UNDER GLASS?

JD: I say I was "homeschooled in a hippie way" because I don't think the term unschooled is widespread enough to use, but, growing up, we very rarely had lessons or assignments or much of any structure at all. We were free to spend hours playing saga-length pretend games with plot lines that went on for weeks and the same characters for years. We were also free to pursue whatever interested us without anyone telling us to learn something else, so that probably contributed to my eclectic interests. My formative years were spent on five acres in the boonies, and my mom's friends were mostly very new age and kooky and artistic. I got the sense that even the adults around me believed in fairies and miracles and magic. A great background for a fantasy writer.

KH: What have been the most challenging/unexpectedly amazing parts of your publishing journey?

JD: Well, it took a while to get an agent and I revised the book many times, learning a lot about editing. That was hard. Really hard. But in some ways, actually being published was what took me off guard. It's been a total dream come true and I've been very happy with my publishing experience. But on a personal level, total emotional upheaval. It's scary to achieve your life's dream for many reasons. I've been really sensitive this year, prone to panic attacks that seem like they aren't related to having my book published at all, but I think they actually are. And I've been dealing with a repetitive stress injury almost all year that popped up the week my first ever editorial letter arrived, which I'm not sure is a coincidence entirely. Anyway, I'm still really happy about everything, it's just that all my feelings, good AND bad, feel super magnified this year. Intense.

KH: When the well's sapped dry, what gets you writing again?

JD: Well, I've never been good at giving myself a break. So sometimes what I really need is to just step away from the computer and do anything else. I'm learning to trust that the urge to write will always come back soon. But the most effective ways to stimulate inspiration are reading books and making or listening to book themed playlists.

KH: Like me, you draw your main characters. Can you share any sketches?

JD: I have had some scanner issues and...well, I haven't scanned any pictures in two years!! I'll have a gallery up on my website soon, but in the meantime, I can give you an older picture of Hollin Parry, the...well, sympathetic antagonist or Byronic hero of the tale.

KH: If your favorite literary characters and Nimira, your book's protagonist, were stuck in a bunker during the zombie apocalypse, what would they talk about?

JD: Well, I would probably have Mr. Rochester and Emily of New Moon, and maybe Jonathan the Zombie Master from the Xanth books -- I had a crush on him as a kid -- which would be a very ironic choice for a zombie apocalypse. But, I bet once they finished questioning Jonathan about zombies and whether there's anything they could do about the apocalypse, they could probably all talk about books. I think they're all sort of introverted, intellectual types. Actually, there could be a cute romance of some kind in all of this...

KH: Can you tell us about your next book in 25 words or less? (I've read rumors of mermaids…)

JD: It's a love story between a book-loving mermaid and the winged boy who was her childhood friend, with a setting based on late 18th-century Italy.

Thanks, Jaclyn!

Find out more about MAGIC UNDER GLASS on Jaclyn Dolamore's website,

~Kirsten Hubbard
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Wow!! Both this novel and your next work sound incredible!

    This was a great interview.

  2. Magic Under Glass is definitely on my to-buy list. It sounds really awesome! :)

  3. Awesome interview! This book sounds great.


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Item Reviewed: Interview with Jaclyn Dolamore, debut author of MAGIC UNDER GLASS Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard