Recently I had a surprise when I opened a package of books that landed on my doorstep.
Included with my Dancing Lemur Press order was a review copy of an upcoming release,
Brian Carmody's My Magic Summer with the Moon Maidens.
I hadn't ordered it.
I wasn't asked to review it.
It was just there in the box.
Intrigued by its premise, I read it immediately.
Enchanted by the story, I offered to do a post on it after it was released on February 1st.
Who doesn't remember a first magical summer love bathed in moonlight?
I certainly remember mine, all the significance, uncertainty,
awkwardness, and poignant awareness that it was fleeting.
Brian's book captures this unique coming of-age-experience
with sensitivity and understanding and humor.
Bewitching Iluna, Motherly Cassiopeia, and Flighty Eiru
But My Magic Summer... is so much more!
It's a rich and realistic story told by a narrator with a strong and singular voice,
overstitched with silvery ethereal threads, an otherworldly fantasy.
Drawn in, I connected with it, loved it, and loved it even more on the second reading.
And lucky me, I had the opportunity to interview Brian Carmody!
FB: Welcome, Brian!
I so enjoyed My Magic Summer... It was drenched with magic, and I loved the people and places you created in Still Bayou,Texas. Such real grounded detail juxtaposed with the dreamy, celestial moon maidens and Connor's experiences with them. I have some questions for you. Answer any that appeal to you. I've included a number so you have some choice! btw ~ I lived near Chapman and Harbor in Garden Grove a lifetime ago. I always thought it would be cool to go to Chapman University.
BC: Wow! I'm so glad you liked it! I'm still fairly new at this whole author business, so it's really nice to receive interest and encouragement like this. Chapman was a lovely school and I cherish my time there.
I love your questions! They are very insightful and thought provoking. If you don't mind, I'd like to answer them all.
FB: What inspired you to write this book? Did it start with an image, a voice, a memory, or a moon maiden of your own?
BC: Summer itself. That's probably the best way to put it. I've long said, first as a screenwriter and now as a novelist, that I have a tendency to live vicariously through my characters. So I wanted to give as magical and fantastic a summer as I never had. The fantasy romance is the big story, but I also give Connor some experiences I always wanted to have and maybe didn't get to- that's why he works at Blockbuster!
FB: What was an early experience where you learned language had power?
BC: My father used to read to my brothers and I bedtime stories from the Arabian Nights. I loved Sinbad the Sailor especially. I remember one story where they came across this strange giant dome, and it turns out to be the egg of a roc- a giant bird that would fly off elephants to eat! He was reading from a book with no pictures, but just the way he was describing it, I could see that massive egg! Properly immersive language can really paint an image.
Sinbad and his men confront the Roc.
FB: What was your hardest scene to write in MMS?
BC: Without spoiling too much, I'd say the climax. There's two parts of it. The second is an action scene, which can be difficult for me because you're writing about very fast motions and developments in an extended description. But before that, there is a sensual scene I have to be careful with because I want to remain appropriate for the Young Adult audience and not cross any lines in writing a minor, but also be honest to a 16-year-old's experience.
FB: How important was professional editing to the development of your book?
BC: Very! Both my incredible mother for the first round and the extensive feedback from Dancing Lemur made clay into marble. Is that how marble is made?
FB: I suspect you are very fond of Tolkien as a writer. Like Connor, I have a well-read dog-eared copy of "The Hobbit." Are there any authors or books that inspired you to become a writer?
BC: Huge Tolkeinite, of course. Clive Barker is my favorite living author. Big inspiration on my first novel, "Hellish Beasts", which is for a very different audience. C.S. Lewis- another Clive- is my favorite author of all time. Specific influences on MMS include Summer of '42, A Ring of Endless Light, the Twilight series, and A Monster Calls. Lady in the Water too, though I saw the film before reading Shyamalan's picture book.
Brian with His First Novel Hellish Beasts
FB: If you had to describe yourself in three or four words, what would they be?
BC: Pensive. Silly. Catholic.
FB: What If you were to write a spinoff about any of the characters, who would you choose and why?
BC: That's easy! I'd write about Russell, Connor's father. It comes up a little bit in this book, that he has had some adventurous, magical summers of his home, in Vietnam, Still Bayou, who knows. The 1960s would be harder for me to write than the 1990s without personal experience. But I think it could be very interesting, and I may write it some day.
I've also mused with the idea of writing another "(Season)_of the (Magic)" book, more thematically related than anything, though I have already written a page or two of "Winter of The Hum", maybe it'll just be an idea, a title, and a character (only briefly mentioned in MM), but a whole quartet could be interesting.
FB: You had some unique and vivid characters in your book, and I don't mean just the moon maidens. I found Griff and Willard fascinating. Did you have a favorite character? How did these people come to you?
BC: I loved Willard! That was part of the point, in a teen story, to create a likable adult character. Instead of the stuffed shirt or antagonist, Willard is the kind of fun but responsible guy I imagined as the ideal uncle- somewhere between older brother and father. Some influence from my own uncles.
This is Connor's coming-of-age story, but we see a bit of Willard's as well, in his 30s, settling down, becoming a "man in full".
Griff I imagined as this sort of oddball who seems borderline creepy at first, but you see his perception at seeing right through Connor is indicative of a kind heart and friendship.
I took a lot of influence from the persona and mannerisms of Jeremy Davies, an actor I've shared a correspondence with, whose other works have inspired mine (Spanking the Monkey for my short film "Aunt" and Going All the Way for Hellish Beasts). If they ever make a movie...well I get ahead of myself.
Brian's Short Film Aunt
FB: What What advice would you give a writer working on his or her first book?
BC: Do whatever you want. Don't be shy, and don't be afraid to rock the boat. My first book was totally unhinged, threw in the kitchen sink- and so was Moon Maidens- before the very helpful editing process. So don't be afraid to go nuts. The polish will come later.
FB: What is the hardest part of writing for you? The best part?
BC: Hardest part is actually writing out a story when I already have the plot fully planned out. It can seem almost tedious. But you often find what you started doesn't go exactly as you planned, and that's a wonderful thing. Best part is seeing the finished work. You've got a story!
FB: Share something about you that your readers don't know about you?
BC: I've got a birthmark in the shape of a scorpion.
FB: What What is your writing process?
BC: Oh, it varies. Sometimes I come up with the whole plot, sometimes I only have the smallest grain and hit the page. Write when I have the time. And when I really feel I've written a bit that feels inspired (or at least satisfies me), I look up and say "Grazie, signore" to God for the inspiration. I don't speak Italian, but that's a move I got from Salieri in Amadeus.
FB: I loved that you had three very different moon maidens. A less rich and meaningful novel might have had just Iluna. How did the three develop?
BC: Thank you for asking. Joy, wonder, hope. That's the simplest thematic way to divide them, and the novel for the first part. Iluna, first love of Connor's life, enjoys with him all these incredible experiences, she's joy. That's when the moon looks like the Cheshire Cat's grin, and those are ebullient times. I developed Iluna as this beautiful, enchanting mystery, who absolutely bewitches him, but retains enough childishness and petulance that she feels like an authentic match and her eventual vulnerability in the love story works.
Eriu shows Connor some of the most magical fantasies in the script. She moves the stars, chases the will-o'-the-wisp, even flies with him. There's wonder in that. I drew from Lewis Carroll's Wonderland characters for her. Whimsical nonsense with a heart. She's innocent, flighty, and sometimes doesn't seem all there, and just lovable all over. Here the moon looks like a Dragon's Eye, sharp and looking for magic.
Finally, there's Cassiopeia, the most mature, the leader, the wise motherly figure in a story that needs one. Connor's own mother seems to be on her way out and he's dealing with all these conflicted emotions. Cassi is there to offer compassion and wisdom when he needs it most, and she may help him through it all. Teach him to keep the hope.
And of course it had to be multiple Moon Maidens! I knew that back in the primal stages of just wanting to write a young adult novel about a very eventful summer, when it was Summer of the Dolphins or Summer of the Mermaids, etc. They may not have a perfect thematic breakdown, like one representing childhood, then adolescence, and adulthood, but we gotta see more than one.
FB: OMG ~ the noodling of catfish! I never knew you could do such a thing! Have you noodled for catfish like Uncle Willard? It would freak me out!
And Napoleon, Emperor Gator of Still Bayou, was vividly real? Is he an old family story or based on a real Gator?
BC: Ha, never been noodling myself. I read about it and it seemed so weird and funny I just had to incorporate it.
Napoleon came when I was looking for a villain, and something more spectacular than the local bully. The story's lovely and enchanting as it is, but I wanted more of an edge and a threat to make it more exciting. I toyed with ideas of various supernatural villains, but it was getting too complicated and crowded. Napoleon, Emperor of the Swamp is simple but primevil, and I think his massive jaws deliver. A hero's journey could use a dragon.
Not based on a family story, but there is this crocodile in Burundi, Gustave they call him, acquired literally hundreds of human victims over the decades, still not captured or killed. An animal that can kill that many people and get such an infamous reputation, that's a scary thing. There is also a connection to Connor's family's past, and I think that's nifty.
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) Chambers Co. Texas. photo W. L. Farr
FB: Beyond the magic and the wisdom of the characters, there was a natural, not a proselytizing and heavy-handed, religious undercurrent in your book. What prompted you to include a spiritual aspect to your teenaged fantasy story?
BC: I hope it comes off as organic and earned rather than distracting. Sam Raimi did a wonderful job casually conveying the Parker family's Christianity in his Spider-Man movies, as just a natural part of life and character, immersing us without taking the audience out of it. I'd like to pull that off, as Connor and his family are Christian, and that's just part of it.
It's trickier with the Moon Maidens themselves, as they are decidedly NOT literal angels, but they do seem to be of a higher realm and have an understanding of the divine.
G.K. Chesterton, a huge influence on C.S. Lewis, once said, "It is impossible, I hope, for any Catholic to write any book on any subject, above all this subject, without showing that he is a Catholic". I definitely think that's true for me.
There is definitely a Christian subtext in Lewis and Tolkien. This is a fantasy, but I still wanted to write something honest to the human experience, and faith is very much a part of that for me. 1 Peter 5:10 tells us "Each one should receive whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administrating God's grace in various forms."
In all humility, if writing is my gift, that's what I want to do.
The Crucifix by Giotto
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy
September 16, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
FB: What can we look forward to next from you? Are you working on a new book or screenplay?
BC: Always. I've finished the second draft of another novel, now the important post-process. I've co-written/co-produced a more adult horror short film, "They See You", directed by Jared Januschka, produced by Max Curry, that we're taking around the festival circuit this year. Stay tuned!
FB: Is there something you would like to share about your book or writing that I haven't addressed?
BC: I'll just say one more thing about the tone and content that I wanted to come across. The crux of "My Magic Summer With the Moon Maidens" is the human drama affected by the grace of the miraculous. So it's a real boy coping with real grief having his life changed by these fantastical visitors. I hope the human elements are resonant and the fantastical dazzles, and I hope it all works together.
I hope that's not too long, but I loved your questions and they really inspired me. Thanks for everything!
FB: Thank you, Brian! I appreciate your generous answers to my questions! It was fun to meet you and learn more about you and your latest release! Wishing you lots of success with your delightful book!
Happy Friday, Everyone! Have a relaxing weekend!
My next post will be on Friday, February 18th.
Till next time ~
Where to Find My Magic Summer with the Moon Maidens:
My Magic Summer
With the Moon Maidens
By Brian Carmody
Print 9781939844804 $17.95
EBook 9781939844811 $4.99
Young Adult – Contemporary Fantasy/Coming of Age/Boys & Men
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0965XBJ7Y?fbclid=IwAR1kX2MqEy711oqKGmqmbS3MPF25z3wvHklITvL-NzH1llMtfjkk1ZK_hco
Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-magic-summer-brian-carmody/1139629159?ean=9781939844804&fbclid=IwAR3bhr9IL8B6_mNaDBquXSYfHO54ftRP7JbwqzJvO_Lxaf4zKY_lXH_SSqQ
iTunes - https://books.apple.com/us/book/my-magic-summer/id1573280572?fbclid=IwAR2NMDRM-bvCtsXbIM8rV-u5VlqelJwwkBWbZ6mcM7_9VYv_WV45fFuSljU
Scribed - https://www.scribd.com/search?query=9781939844811&language=0&fbclid=IwAR1_AaQ7zKFhrGPrrY8XNa2Db6G-saYAr1ChG0yt1Cq5SGWN4_vyVXVpQNo
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58346132-my-magic-summer-with-the-moon-maidens?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=kaTEA8qkwj&rank=3
The award-winning screenwriter and author of several books, Brian Carmody is a dreamer, a wisher, a hoper, a prayer, a pretender and a magic bean buyer, He’s had moondreams from Texas to Virginia, and now California, where he has plenty of other flax golden tales to spin by his fire.