Brian Anderson - What if Magic was Real
Brian Anderson is the creator of the syndicated comic strip Dog Eat Doug, which enjoys an international fan base both online and off-line. He is an optioned screenwriter and the author of several children's books, including Nighty Night, Sleepy Sleeps; The Prince's New Pet; and Monster Chefs. Brian's uncle was a charter member of the Magic Castle and taught him his first card trick in second grade. He has been practicing magic ever since. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, The Conjurers.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Conjurers is about.
What if magic was real and magicians invented sleight of hand to hide that truth? If I told you they created a secret world to protect themselves from persecution, would you go?
What inspired you to write about a secret world where magic is real and skilled illusionists can perform actual tricks?
I’ve been a magician since second grade and always wanted to build a fantasy world around magic. It’s a love song to my passion. A world based on real life magicians and tricks. The characters and the Conjurian are my tribute to magicians who have inspired me. You might recognize a few. All the tricks in the books are ones that I’ve performed and that you could learn.
Where does your fascination with magic come from?
My Uncle taught me my first magic tricks when I was in second grade. He was a charter member of the Magic Castle and did a lot to promote the art of magic. I hope “The Conjurers” will do the same.
Tell us more about Emma and Alex. What makes them so special?
Let me revise that last answer. My Uncle taught my sister and I our first tricks when I was in second grade and she was in fourth grade. That is where Alex, Emma and Uncle Mordo originated. Although my Uncle never wore kimonos.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have??
Magic and Martial Arts are my two lifelong passions. I’m also the chef in the house. Most of my focus these days is in fostering dogs.
Tell us more about the cover and the illustrations in the book. How did it come about?
It was a blessing and a curse to illustrate my own books. I couldn’t settle on one design. Thankfully, I work with a genius editing team, and they guided me towards what you’ll see on all three covers. I wanted to have a lot of hidden detail but still have the covers pop.
Initially, parts of the book were told purely through sequential art. There’s still a little of that comic book influence in the final version. Mostly, I didn’t want to do spot illustrations. I wanted the drawings to tell parts of the story and not repeat what was in the text. It took a long time to find the right balance.
And of course, there are a ton of magic related Easter eggs hidden throughout.
Which character did you find the most challenging to create?
It took me several rewrites to learn who Alex and Emma are. Usually I don’t start writing until the characters are alive, but I was a wee bit too excited to explore the Conjurian. Once I had built a challenging gauntlet, it was a simple matter of pushing the kids in and seeing what they did and how they rose to the occasion (or didn’t).
Do any of your characters ever go off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
All the time! Especially Emma. She’s a lot like me in the sense that, when she sees a wrong, she’ll charge ahead to make it right. This creates an avalanche of consequences, so I was always having to adjust. But it makes for an exciting story.
Another character, whom I can’t mention without spoiling the surprise, threw me a twist I never saw coming. I hope the readers are as shocked as I was when it happened.
This is book 1 of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
It’s not a standalone. Alex and Emma grow and change a lot over the next two books. So does the world of the Conjurian. That’s been the most rewarding part is to watch these kids grow up. They have some rough times ahead.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I get a new notebook. I write all my first drafts longhand. I focus on the principal character and spend a lot of time getting to know them. I also sketch a ton in the notebook, building the world, the creatures and brainstorming all the wild ideas that may or may not make it into the story. I can fill up two notebooks with character and world building before I ever start on the plot.
Why do you write for kids? What drew you to this audience?
Partly, I never stopped reading “kids” books. I rarely think about the age of the audience when first writing my story. The one thing I focus on is making the characters real. The more alive the characters, the more the reader will care about them, regardless of their age.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I’m addicted to fountain pens and old-timey notebooks. I love the bendy, leather journals you find at Renaissance festivals. They’re not always the most practical to carry in your pocket, but they add a certain vibe to your writing.
What are you working on right now?
A bunch. Finishing illustrating book three of “The Conjurers”, along with a companion graphic novel that will run on Webtoons. That will probably launch alongside book two in February. I’m halfway through the first draft of another fantasy novel, which may or may not be a series. And of course, I’m always working on my daily comic strip, “Dog eat Doug”.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website and Instagram are the best places to find me lurking. And when you sign up for my newsletter, you'll get a free copy of "The Art of the Conjurers". It has a ton of sketches and art not used in the books.
Brian Anderson, free comics, fantasy books. (brianandersonwriter.com)
Brian Anderson (@dogeatdoug) • Instagram photos and videos