A chat with Sage Blackwood, author of the Jinx series

I am a big fan of Sage Blackwood's Jinx series, which I wrote about in my first ever blog post for the Barnes and Noble blog.  The third and final book, Jinx's Magic, came out in January, 2015, so there's no reason to put off reading the series if you haven't already!

It's my pleasure to welcome Sage here today, to talk about the books!

(I'm in bold)

In the first Jinx book, I felt a strong Diana Wynne Jones vibe.  In this third one, I was feeling Terry Pratchett--the use of fantasy to address larger issue of relevance (in this case, Nation building and the rights of indigenous people to their environments).  Are you in fact a Pratchett fan, and was this something that occurred to you as you were writing Jinx's Fire?

Aw, thanks! Im a huge Terry Pratchett fan, and of course a huge DWJ fan. Ive reread both of their bodies of work dozens of times.

I actually always thought I was Pratchetting a bit, but nobody mentioned it until Jinxs Fire. Im not sure whats different about Jinxs Fire.  (for me it's the a strong element of getting along with non-human folk and recognizing them as fellow Urwalders ....)

But from the beginning, I thought of the Jinx trilogy as an American fantasy, loosely based on our own origin myths. 

Im sure you know that the 13 colonies didnt like or identify with each other very much to start out with, pretty much like the clearings in the Urwald. We only united because we had to. Join or die, as Ben Franklin said.

And what are we if not an amalgam of different people who are constantly having to learn not to see each other as monsters?

And now I am wondering if there is some other author reverberating in Jinx's Magic....

Not that Im aware of! Im trying to think who Ive reread as many times as those two. J.K. Rowling, I guess, and on the American side, Anya Seton (historical fiction) and of course Walt Kellys Pogo books. I read the Oz books a lot before I was nine, but not since; still, I think there are echoes of them here and there in the Jinx series.

And Tintin. The Tintin opus was the entire universe of graphic novels when I was a kid. Its quite possible I can recite it.  (me--I don't see any obvious Tintin influences in Jinx...Captain Haddock as Simon is too much of a stretch, even though they are both grumpy from time to time....)

I was very struck by your contemplation of gender identity with regard to witches and wizards, and I wish there'd been a bit more room to play with this more.   I guess I don't really have a question qua question about this, but was just wondering if you had more thoughts on the matter of gender identity and magical power to share.

Well, I decided that in the Urwald, the collective term for wizards and witches would be the gender-neutral magicians.

And it then naturally followed that not everyone who practiced magic was going to find their calling within prescribed gender roles.

Witches magic focuses on survival, while wizards magic is all about power. Still, certain outcomes are the same: magicians are the only residents of the Urwald who routinely achieve old age, they dont starve, and for the most part nobody messes with them.

Jinxs first power, his ability to see other peoples feelings, actually came from my wondering whether intuition evolved out of the need to protect ourselves from violence. Jinx has the intuition most humans have and then just a little bit more.

I worried people would pick up on this and think Jinx wasnt a real boy, but he seems to have passed muster. I mostly hear from boys about the books, and by and large they want to be Jinx.

Which makes me happy because, for all his faults, Jinx is no sexist.

And hes neither a witch nor a wizard but something else that hes created out of himself.

How on earth did you manage to sneak "quondam" past your editor?  or is your editor an erudite person, who feels kindly to Latin?

All editors are erudite people! Ive had three wonderfully brilliant editors for the Jinx series: the legendary Anne Hoppe, who acquired Jinx and edited it (and who was also Terry Pratchetts MG/YA editor); Sarah Shumway Liu, who took over early in the editing process of Jinxs Magic, and Katie Bignell, who edited Jinxs Fire. They are all erudite to beat the band.

Thanks for giving me a chance to mention their names. Of all the people that are credited in the production of a book, editors are conspicuous by their absence. And yet they do tons of work and are huge influences in shaping a novel.

There was never any question raised about quondam, actually and this was only slightly to my surprise. Ive only once had a word flagged as too difficult by an editor (not one of the editors above) and that word was firkin.

Which of the three books was the most fun to write?  which gave you the most grief?

Well, I suppose Jinx was in a way the most fun, because I was just writing to please myself. My previous attempt at a MG fantasy hadnt sold, so I thought Jinx wouldnt either, and therefore I just put into it what I loved most forests, cranky wizards, cackling witches, plucky orphans, trolls.

Jinxs Magic was the hardest. Around the point where Jinx and company leave Witch Seymours house, my life fell apart the way lives do. So unlike the 1st and 3rd books, which I could bury myself in for weeks at a time, Jinxs Magic was written an hour here, a day there.

That it got written at all amazes me when I look back.

Jinxs Fire was fun, because I got to tie off all the characters story lines, and to deliver on some things Id been preparing since the first book. And it was satisfying discovering how Jinx had grown into himself. Also, there are some jokes in there that made me laugh. I laughed my head off over Jinx and the ogre. I may be the only one who did.

Is there any chance that you will give us any more peeks at the Urwald?  I know I am not alone in thinking that a story about Simon and Sophie meeting for the first time would be lovely...

Someday. I would like to write Simon and Sophies backstory. I did put a little of it into Jinxs Magic but it was too grim and had to be deleted. (I thought it would be interesting to explain where Calvin (me--a skull that Simon just "happens" to have on hand) came from. But you know, no ones ever asked?)

If I did write their story, thered be the difficulty of point of view. Would Simon still be funny if seen from his own POV? Probably not. So, would the story be better told from his POV or from Sophies?  

Either way, neither of them is going to be quite the same person they are when seen through Jinxs eyes. Im just pondering these things.

Diana Wynne Jones handled this very well in The Lives of Christopher Chant. Since were in Christophers POV in that book, we never see, as we do in other novels and short stories that include this character, that other people find him insufferable.

What will your next book be about, and when can we expect to see it? 

Miss Ellicotts School for the Magically Minded (working title).  Its about a girl and her dragon, trapped within a patriarchal society which is in turn trapped within itself. At present the plan is that it will be coming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in early 2017. The manuscript is with the editor, Katie Bignell, and I await her thoughts on it.  (me--sounds right up my alley!  I'll be looking forward to it).

Thanks for coming up with these great questions, Charlotte. I had such a lot of fun thinking about the answers. Its a pleasure to be interviewed by you.
Thank you, very much, Sage!  And now of course I am awfully curious about Calvin's back-story...

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