A little bit of angel glow is just what we need.
It has been a sunny and silent July here in Chianti, and I’ve been busy editing my next novel, the first in a new fantasy series, and rich in angels and all things heavenly. So when Zoe Brooks asked me to join her wonderful Magic Realism blog hop (always such a pleasure to read – and even a greater honour to be a part of), I realised that this is my golden opportunity to take an inventory of my writing career. This is the time to ask myself how it is possible that a novelist starts with magic realist noir and ends up with a group of funny, mischievous angels. Is there a link – and if there is, what is it?
If we consider magic realism as something miraculous and hard-to-believe that happens in the everyday world (often portrayed with such detailed, photographic precision that apart from that one mystery the novel feels eerily true-to-life), then my debut novel Witchcraft Couture was as magic realism as I will probably ever get as a writer. It told the story of an unsuccessful fashion designer who believes he has found a magic machine that transforms all his designs into masterpieces. The tone of the story was dark, very dark; not the least because at the end of the day it wasn’t a fable about occult dressmaking machines, but of a psychological collapse; of creative impotence taken to its very extreme.
My second novel Absolute Truth, For Beginners started as a fantasy novel. But seeing that in this case the magic aspect didn’t work, I edited the story with a heavy hand, changing, with the help of a brilliant mathematician, all pseudo-scientific science elements into hardcore science facts, so that in the end the novel was your textbook love story, with no seeming links to the world of miracles and wonder. The reader couldn’t possibly know that even this story has its origins in the world of magic, for which reason the jump from Witchcraft Couture to Absolute Truth, For Beginners seems a gigantic one.
And now I am jumping again, this time to another kind of fantasy (for a little peek into the first book, out in spring 2017, click here). Unlike Witchcraft Couture, my new Angel Aid series is pure escapism: it is funny, and as light as the flap of an angel’s wing. It narrates the human life of a former angel, and the rise and fall of a charitable agency in a small Tuscan village. There is nothing dark about the series; and even if there might be moments of shade and sadness, those dark instances are compensated for with plenty of humanity. Its warmth and humour sets it apart not only from magic realism, but also from most fantasy books – because let’s face it, the majority of fantasy novels from vampires to Harry Potter are fairly dark reading; they are about the struggle between good and evil; and about bloody fights and horrendous treasons, and dark clouds amassing over big cities. Instead my Angel Aid series is as luminous and pastel-coloured as old Hollywood films. Picture Marilyn Monroe’s powder-perfect complexion in How to Marry a Millionaire, or Grace Kelly driving a convertible Sunbeam Alpine in To Catch A Thief, her pink scarf billowing behind her. That’s the colour-scheme of my angel world.
So Angel Aid books aren’t just fantasy books – no, they are first and foremost feel-good fantasy books. A subcategory of fantasy books that isn’t crowded at all, which leaves plenty of space for my angels to grow.
It is the feel-good aspect of my new series that brings me back to real-life events and to this very July. Because it just happens that I’m writing this blog two days after the horrendous Nice terror attack – which, unfortunately, is only one of the many dark events of the year so far. And thinking about the past days, of all the human lives lost so violently, I can’t help asking myself whether there is a correlation between the real world and the fictional world, so that the darker our real world becomes, the more we need warmth and humanity in our imaginary worlds.
And if that is the case, then a little bit of angel glow might be just what we need.