I invited Laura Lam here last year to talk a bit about the various inspirations behind Pantomime, and I'm so pleased to have her back to do the same with Shadowplay. Both books are part of a larger story about Micah Grey, runaway, aerialist, and now... MAGICIAN.
I've gone on and on and on about my love for Pantomime—I'm so pleased that it has a spot on this year's Cybils YA Speculative Fiction shortlist—so I was deliriously happy to finally get my hands on the sequel, Shadowplay. It picks up shortly after Pantomime left off, with Micah on the run and being hunted by not one, BUT TWO different groups, and it has the same blend of feels-like-fantasy-but-is-secretly-science-fiction, AMAZING worldbuilding, strong character development, a narrator with an original voice and perspective, but who is infinitely relatable, and Shadowplay is topped off by an extremely satisfying romantic arc! Like Pantomime, the storyline has threads of trust and family, identity and friendship and justice, and it's as satisfying intellectually as it is emotionally.
I can't wait for the next one.
And now, here's Laura!
I love lists, and really enjoyed coming up with a list for Bookshelves of Doom a few months ago about books that shaped my first book, Pantomime. I’m glad to be back to talk about books that helped shape the follow up, Shadowplay. For the first book, most of my research was on life in the circus and intersex history and issues. For the sequel, most of my research was on magic, illusion, and spiritualism. There’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
Hiding the Elephant, by Jim Steinmeyer.
I really enjoyed this book and it was probably the most useful for drafting Shadowplay. It's told in a conversational style and Steinmeyer explains how a lot of historic tricks worked. I learned how to describe the Pepper’s ghost that appears in Shadowplay from this book, and learned a lot about Robert-Houdin and Houdini, and many other lesser known magicians. Longer review here.
The Giant Taschen Book of Magic from 1400s-1950s.
This was my husband’s present to me when I got my book deal for Pantomime. It’s so huge that at the moment the only place I can store it is under my computer monitor, but I still take it out and look at it occasionally. It’s incredible, full of gorgeous colour plates and great essays (first in English, then French and German) as well as countless photos with captions in all three languages. Can’t recommend it enough. I write a longer review of it here.
Hocus Pocus, by Paul Kieve.
Aimed for younger readers, but it’s from the magician who worked on the set of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (when the map folds up on the table in the film, it was Paul Kieve underneath the table pulling the strings). It was a fun, quick read, and I’ll probably buy it for one of my nephews when they’re a little older. Longer review here.
The First Psychic, by Peter Lamont.
This is the biography of Daniel Dunglas Home, one of the most famous psychics in the Victorian era, who was never caught using any tricks, even though what he did seemed to be impossible. Very fascinating. Longer review here.
Writing the Other, by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward.
I kept hearing about this short work about writing about the Other around the internet and read it. It was an excellent short work about diversity and the common pitfalls people can fall into when writing about people different to themselves, often unthinkingly. Definitely impacted certain aspects of Shadowplay, specifically regarding sexuality and race. I didn’t get around to writing a review of this one on my blog – though I should have done!
Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold.
My agent gave me this book as a present! It’s a fictional telling of Carter as a magician in San Francisco. Very detailed and beautifully written. I based Maske, the magician in Shadowplay, a bit on Carter mixed with Robert-Houdin.
The Prestige, by Christopher Priest.
I saw the film when it came out and it (and the Illusionist) were both great visual research. I read the book and loved it – thought it was fantastic. It sparked the idea for the magician duel I have in Shadowplay, though I take a very different focus. A few people have called Shadowplay a YA Prestige, which sort of fits, much like Pantomime was often compared to The Night Circus.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke.
I read this when it was hyped around its release. I did enjoy it, though wow, it’s a lengthy book! These are magicians more in the traditional magic sense versus illusion, but the delicate Victorian culture and such matches with Shadowplay as well, and I’m sure it had an effect on the book somewhere along the way.
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare.
I studied this at university and I think it had a large effect on Shadowplay. Maske could also be likened a little to Prospero – a man thrown out from his rightful profession unfairly, struggling for redemption. The Tempest is also quite dream-like, and many secrets are revealed in dreams in my book.
Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling.
I would be remiss not including the series I’ve read at least a dozen times as a teenager. I was a huge HP nerd – waited in line for the books at midnight, dressing up with my friends as witches and wizards, reading fan fiction, the works. I think the fact that this book has a trio could be linked back to the original trio I read so often as a teen – Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I also think Rowling’s rich approach to worldbuilding influenced me, as well as having little hints in earlier books that come to prominence in later installments.
So, those are some books that I’m sure had an influence, but I’m sure there’s more that have influenced me in ways I don’t realise. I enjoyed all then of these, so if you haven’t read ‘em, I recommend picking them up for a bit of magic.