This is my first post here, so I should introduce myself. After twenty years of ocean-based fun, during which I worked at various times as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer and an investigator, I settled with my family and our two monstrous dogs in a wooded valley on the coast in England's West Country, where I write paranormal and urban fantasy.
My story ideas tend to start with an interesting character or two in a situation, usually a single vivid scene that grows in my mind. I live with the mental plot bunny for a week or two, and if it still excites me I start worldbuilding. By now I'll know my main characters well, but will probably have several storyline options and sometimes the whole thing is still a bit amorphous. So I start pinning things down by asking a series of questions, and one of the first is always: What sort of magic?
There's no system of magic in my paranormal romance Beauty and the Bastard, which takes place in a "hidden in plain sight" urban fantasy world. Magical events occur when supernatural characters use their personal gifts. Demons exercise talents such as super-strength and hypnotic mind control, while the hero, Saul, a fallen angel trying to redeem himself, is a martial arts street fighter whose hands turn into blades during combat.
My urban fantasy novel Quarter Square, coming from Carina this June, explores a world where three physical realities occupy the same space. There's our normal world; the magical realm known as the Wild; and in-between places called havens, where magical people who make their living in the normal world can enjoy freedom and peace.
My hero Joe lives among the magical street performers whose home is the Quarter Square haven, so in this book we'll see different sorts and systems of magic. Easiest and most frequently employed is glamour, which street magicians use to mask the real magic and which hides everyone's true nature from the stare of outsiders. But once Joe ventures into the Wild he discovers the existence of deeper, older, more powerful and far more dangerous forms of magic.
Although Quarter Square takes places in a world that's bang-up-to-date, the magical systems are the most classical I've written so far.
The Weaverfields Heir (coming very soon – the day after tomorrow in fact!) is a different animal altogether, because the magic in this paranormal fantasy novel is a secret science. The saga follows several generations of a strangely gifted family, and zooms in on the lives of a few particularly creative individuals who inherit a supernatural talent to see the net, which is the system of relationships between cells, and the building material of the universe. The net looks like a web of gossamer threads connecting everything, but very few people are gifted with the ability to see it and even fewer can manipulate it to bring about change.
This is how my heroine is affected when a reclusive and estranged relative dies and she inherits the net without warning:
The northbound traffic clogged up to a fuming jam that stuttered past the airport. Kate leaned back against the headrest and stared down her nose at the car in front. One more day. One more day. One more day...
After Roborough, the traffic jam dissolved and she took her place in the synchronised escape from the city. She was up on the moor, five minutes past Princetown, when she suddenly felt very ill. She pulled into a lay-by and opened her door slightly in case she had to throw up, thinking it must be the heat. She turned the engine off and closed her eyes.
Dizziness left her unable to move, as if a big net kept twisting and tangling her up, tighter and tighter. A hot flush spread through her chest, and her mouth tasted sour. Her heart throbbed in heavy, painful waves, making her arms ache and her fingertips prickle. Her neck stiffened. Darkness gathered on the edges of her vision and raced inward.
She panted in pain and panic. She was dying.
She saw her dream home in dappled sunlight. The pool water chuckled and hiccupped over the dam. A big fish swam placidly just below the surface, watching her, and deer grazed the lawn in front of her big house. She was dying and she didn’t care because she was going home.
Her chest exploded. She wet herself and her world faded to black.
* * *
Slowly, a lifetime later, she became aware that she was still alive. Her vision cleared, and she saw blue sky, purple moor, grey sheep and dusty black tarmac.
She saw everything in everything: the tiniest molecules in whatever she looked at. She looked into her windscreen, into the glass, saw every flaw, every colour. The liquid glass flowed in an intricate pattern. She retreated from the windscreen and saw her eyes, saw their colours, saw the cells through which she saw. She looked into her heart. Good grief, she could see her heart, beating her back into the outside world.
A web of gossamer threads covered everything in sight. Kate blinked hard to clear her vision, but it was still there when she opened her eyes. The web was everywhere, like a net, linking everything. Golden traces glowed and stretched to infinity in every direction. She looked through it, concentrated on the moorland, and the everyday world returned to its normal focus. She relaxed and let the net glow again and saw deep into everything.
A nearby gorse bush gleamed and pulsed with life. Patterns spread and contracted within its frame. The moor behind it remained three-dimensional while her gorse bush became its own vibrant world, tiny models of itself forming intricate combinations and multiplying throughout the whole: smaller and sharper, smaller and sharper.
She shut her eyes and fought her fear. What could it be? Epilepsy? A brain tumour? Madness? She filed these possibilities away for later. All she needed to do now was gain enough control to drive safely. A wet seat was the least of her problems.
Now it's your turn. What sorts of magic do you like to read and write?
(Edit to post: Unfortunately, The Weaverfields Heir release has been delayed. It will now be available on the 22nd April.)