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Magician - Origins

Magician and its origins, posted by Ray in two parts.

19 March 2016 part 1

OK, so I said I'd post something about how Magician came to be, in the sense I was asked "did you know where you were going when you wrote "The Storm Had Broken" and the answer is, by that time, sort of.

Magician began as "untitled," and later was going to be "Riftwar," (which got dropped as "too SF").

The main character was going to be Prince Arutha, who was the first character I got in my head. He sort of looked like Billy Wirth in Lost Boys (a film co-written by my college chum, the late Jan Fischer), though I didn't know that as Lost Boys came out 5 years after Magician. Anyway, dark brooding, bad attitude, wanna be Hamlet, etc. So, the first chapter is pirates raiding Crydee, Arutha getting knocked into the harbor, Crydee burned to the ground, Arutha's family killed, except for his sister who's kidnapped.

So, off we go to save sister. Wait a minute? It's his sister, so no love interest? (This was before Game of Thrones so save the smart-ass remarks). He needs a side-kick, a Sancho to his Quixote. Enter Pug.

But wait, who is this kitchen boy and why do we care about a kitchen lad in love with the Princess? So, Chapter 1, the Pirate Raid becomes Chapter 2. And the Chapter 1 you've read becomes Chapter 1. So, my father, the writer/producer/director told me when I was a kid, "Give the audience someone to root for." (that's barrack for all you Ozzies, and again save the smart-ass remarks). So, I decide to put Pug at risk early on and you're pulling for him even before you know who he is, because he's in a bad spot because he was goofing off, and we all remember our teenage year. So, introduce Meecham and Kulgan.

About this time, my friend Steve Abrams asks what the book's about and I tell him and he says, "Why don't you tell the story about how the Greater Magic came to Midkemia?" As I have no idea how that happened, I say, "How did that happen?" He says, "Through a magic rift from another world," and then adds, "there were five wars, actually . . . ." and so that begins. Now i have to turn a kitchen boy into a wannabe magician and the pirates into raiders from beyond the rift.

OK, so now I have to turn Pug into Kulgan's apprentice, so I go back and tinker with Chapter 1 a bit adding the crystal ball thing and creating the Choosing, so now the original Chapter 1 is Chapter 3 and the new Chapter 2 is about the choosing and we meet Tomas. By now the characters are starting to form into 3-d for me and I (seriously) used a High School metaphor for who everyone was. Pug was the short kid everyone picked on, except his best friend was the school quarterback. Rulf was the bully. Arutha was student body President, but also a killer basketball player or baseball, so he wasn't just a nerd, but the smartest guy in school who was cool, if a little moody. Carline was the Prom Queen. most popular girl in school, and all the boys had crushes on her. Roland was the Prom King, the second best jock in school and cool enough to be friends with the other boys because he thought he was a lock to ride off into the Sunset with the Prom Queen.

Oh, but I have to turn the Pirates into Tsurani (I picked the name because there was a terrific politician named Paul Tsongas in the Senate back then (House of Representatives then Senate from Massachusetts while I wrote Magician, and Tsongas is a Greek name--you don't get the Ts in English in the initial part of a word, though it's very common in the terminal position, bats, mats, cats, etc.) and I had just read something about West Africa and a people named the Serer, and I tried Tserer (they were almost the Tsonghi), so I tweaked Tserer into Tsurani. So, we find the crashed ship and original Chapter 1 goes into a drawer because now Borric needs to warn the Prince in Krondor . . . .

Original Chapter 1 completely reworked ended up as the 1st Chapter in The King's Buccaneer, some of you may recognize.

As i continued to write, ideas came and went but the book took on a life of its own. Pug's experience in the swamp was so influenced by the film Papillon, staring Steve McQueen, the destruction of the stadium was influenced by Conrad Veidt's voice calling for wind in Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad. True story, I didn't realize the Tsurani ship I had described looked exactly like the ship in that film until I saw it in a retro house with friends a few years after writing Magician--I had seen it as a little kid and it obviously stuck.

New characters showed up, like Macros, Guy, and the others, the story kept reinventing itself, but it got more focused, narrower as I headed to an ending. Along the way I started planting tiny hooks for future stories, not knowing if I'd even sell Magician let alone sequels. Little did I know.

Anyway, that's more or less the long answer I promised to a short question. So, I had no idea, really, but things just sort of worked out.

20 March 2016 part 2

How Magician got written, Part II. So I've "finished" Magician and go looking for representation. As I've said, I grew up in the entertainment business so even though my dad had passed over a decade before, I still used his contacts to get in touch with a great literary agent, Harold Matson (his son Jonathan is still representing me) who agreed to take me on, and I have the honor of being the last writer he signed up.

It took a while but after a rejection from Del Rey (which Ironically is now its publisher in the US due to mergers and acquisitions), Warner Books, we got a nibble from Doubleday.

Here's how that went down. My agent calls and says, "A gentleman named Adrian Zackheim at Doubleday would like to talk to you about Magician, but be warned; he has strong editorial requests." Now, it was a pretty hokin' big manuscript, almost 700 pages, so I'm at once thinking about what can go, and in my mind it's not much (new writer's disease: every word is golden.)

So Adrian calls and says, "I enjoyed what I read. But let's begin by saying it's a really big book." To which I agree. Then he says, "But I think it could be bigger." I may be the only writer in history who heard that from an editor. Anyway, we went on to discuss some things about what he thought the book needed. I will not try to recreate that conversation, but here's a list.

1) we needed a foil for Pug regarding his crush on Carline. So, I created Squire Roland who wasn't in the "final" draft.

2) we needed a character in disguise, so I created Martin Longbow,who wasn't in the book.

3) we needed to see what happened with the other characters after Pug's capture, so I wrote two additional chapters at the end of the 1st half, the siege of Crydee.

4) we needed to see what happened back on Midemia while Pug was a captive, so the chapters where Arutha goes to Krondor and meets Anita were added.

BTW, as to 4. I had a very minor character in the book, a boy thief named Jimmy the Hand who appeared in one scene, helping Laurie and Kasumi escape the city to carry word to the King. So I thought I'd bring him back and use him to get Arutha to the Mockers, little suspecting I was about to introduce one of my most popular characters ever.

5) we needed conflict and tension after Pug and Macros close the rift, so the entire "who will be King?" bit was added.

So by the time I'm finished, the manuscript is now over 1,000 pages. Adrian calls and says, "Fantastic. This is the book I thought it could be. Now cut 50,000 words from it."

As a new writer I was devastated. Now, this was before I had a computer, so we're talking a typewritten, photocopied manuscript. So in a moment of grudge,which actually had a great payoff ten years later, I sat down with two sharpies, one black and one red. The black I used on stuff that could go, but the red, damnit! was for stuff that should have stayed in the book. The only entire scene that got cut was the boys in the ale shed, and everything else was a line here, a paragraph there, a really digested version of Tully and Kulgan talking about Pug's magic, and a couple of other things. At the end I got it down 48,934 words. Exactly. Adrian was happy, and it got published in November of 1982.

A brag: little did I suspect that today that book would still be in print in the US and UK, continuously since the first publication. There's a long story about the Doubleday edition and me hand-selling it I'll skip as it has little to do with publishing today, but I managed to get demand high enough it went to 2nd and 3rd printings.

Ten years later I'm having dinner with my publisher, who by now is Lou Aronica, at Bantam Spectra, because of mergers and acquisitions. I say to him that people are asking about a hardcover because it was a small printing and they have everything else but not Magician. Lou's answer was, "I won't do a reprint unless there's new material." Wait a minute! Remember all that stuff I cut?

So in 1992, on the 10th Anniversary of original publication, the Author's Preferred Edition is published. Now, truth time. I hauled out that original MS and because it had been typewritten, and by then I'd finally gotten a computer/printer, I had to retype the entire MS. Which while tedious, was a good thing, because it made me look at that original material totally in context. Remember that 48,000 odd words? Well, only about 20,000 got put back, and i wrote about 15,000 new stuff to blend in everything better. The scene in the ale shed with Roland, Pug, and Tomas, was entirely written because I'd said what I wanted back in 1982, I just hadn't said it well.

So, what did I learn? I learned that Falkner was right and you must be willing to "Kill your darlings," or you will never improve. I learned to tell more story with less words, which is a good thing. I had a five year writing experience compressed into five weeks, which was a good thing. I came to realize something I tell all want to bes: there are two skills associated with being an author, writing and story telling. Anyone who isn't learning disabled can be taught to write; write a letter, a shopping list, a report for the boss, a job application, whatever. That doesn't mean they can be taught to write well. No one can be taught to tell stories. That is a skill you must learn. People can help you learn, but if you do not have the knack for telling stories, you can't write fiction.

Anyway, that's the second part of how the book came to be the book.


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