Today, Fantasy Literature welcomes Lee Kelly, whose second novel, A Criminal Magic, was released in February of 2016 (and Jana thought it was fantastic). Ms. Kelly was kind enough to chat with Jana about inspirations, sorcery, jazz music, and letting the reader become part of the creative process. Comment below for a chance to win a copy of A Criminal Magic!

Jana Nyman: The idea of a government-sanctioned prohibition of sorcery — particularly in the vein of the very real prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. in the early 20th century — makes sense when you think about it, but I’ve never seen it implemented before. How did the idea come to you, and did the concept undergo any revisions as you wrote A Criminal Magic?

SFF, fantasy literature, science fiction, horror, YA, and comic book and audiobook reviews

I did! There’s this Pandora station called “Big Band” which I’d often have on in the background while writing (especially the scenes at the “magical speakeasy” in the novel, the Red Den), and I’d also play hits from the era (Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith).

In general, I like to listen to instrumental music while writing “travel” scenes and fight scenes … and I must have listened to The Road to Perdition’s soundtrack at least fifty times during the drafting of this novel.

Are there any authors or genres in particular who have influenced you as a writer? What books do you like to read whenever you have free time?

I’d say Suzanne Collins, for her ability to make you care about her characters while simultaneously driving you wild from story tension and suspense, and Gillian Flynn, for her twisty plots, but moreover for creating such deep, complicated, dangerous female characters. But my earliest influences were Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth), Roald Dahl and Madeleine L’Engle — I remember reading their books as a kid and thinking, “This is what I would love to do.”

As far as what books I like to read, I read pretty broadly (a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, but also young adult, commercial thrillers and literary fiction). I think I tend to read what I’m not writing/drafting as a counterpoint (and as a break)!

That’s a great way to give your brain a break!

Sorcerer's Shine credit Navah Wolfe

Photo credit: Navah Wolfe

Lastly, I’d like to ask about your favorite drink recipe — either as it relates to your creative process (as a relaxation aid while writing, for example) or something involved with your work. Are there any beverages which remind you of A Criminal Magic, or which you drank to celebrate its publication?

I love this question! I am a huge fan of book and cocktail pairings myself :). My revision process for this book was tight and intense, and there were often late nights. As a reward for finishing a scene (or as motivation to complete a scene, depending on the day), my husband and I would make this deep-red drink called the Claret Cocktail (Licor 43, red wine, brandy, lemon, orange juice).

But at the book launch party, we actually served a different ruby-red concoction that we dubbed the “The Sorcerer’s Shine” (made with dry gin, lemon juice, grenadine, ginger, bitters and pomegranate liquor). I wholeheartedly recommend both!

They both sound delicious, and I think it’s brilliant that you actually made something to mimic the “sorcerer’s shine” in your novel!

Thanks so much for having me Jana — I loved these questions!!

And thank you for stopping by, Ms. Kelly. I loved your answers!

Readers, comment below for a chance to win a hardcover copy of A Criminal Magic. U.S.-based addresses only, please.


  • Jana Nyman

    JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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