Sunday, February 4, 2018

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat

(a guest blog post by Kelly McCullough)

Magic, Madness, and Mischief is an attempt to mince my childhood fine, add in some magic and an actual plot, and serve the result up for your entertainment. This book isn't autobiographical, but it draws on my experiences in ways that none of my previous books ever have. I'm not sure what made me decide it would be a good idea to try to write a fast, funny, fantasy novel about growing up in a house with a parent with serious mental health issues and going to an Open School, but I'm glad that I did.

I think it started with the first line of one of my bios: Kelly McCullough was raised and educated by free range hippies. Over the years a lot of people have asked me about how that worked, and to some extent this book is my answer. It was weird. Really, really weird, and occasionally magical. I wanted to try to capture some of that with this story about the oh-so-subtly named, Kalvan Munroe. I gave Kalvan some things that I had; a mentally ill parent, a hippie school, a gift for getting into trouble, and a sharp tongue. I also gave him some things I didn't; a snarky magical hare for a sidekick, elemental powers, and very real enemies who would quite happily murder him.

The book kicks off with the start of a new school year and the first stirrings of Kalvan's fire magic. Not long after that he accidentally summons the world's most sarcastic fire hare and they head off for wild adventures like skipping class, hanging around with selkies, and nearly being devoured by giant anthropomorphic badgers. Figuring out which of those things I have the most experience with will be an exercise left to the reader. Hint, it's the badgers. Those things were the bane of my existence as a kid. But, you probably know how it is.

Okay, so maybe not, but, hopefully that gives you a bit of the flavor of the thing. It's a book about being an outsider and how to have a happy childhood in the face of challenges both mundane and esoteric. It's about learning how to be kind and strong even when you're angry and confused and loving your family even on the days you don't particularly like them.

All of which might come off as kind of heavy for a middle grade adventure novel, if my family motto weren't: that which doesn't kill us makes for the best jokes. Since family rule one is: don't die, that makes for lots of material. Rule two is: don't walk in front of the cannon. You probably won't need to worry about it for purposes of reading this book, but, if the opportunity comes up, it's still a good thing to remember.

To bring this essay to its somewhat surreal, but still terribly on-point ending, if you like Magic, find Madness interesting, and enjoy Mischief, this might just be the book you've been looking for. If none of that is true, you should still probably buy a copy and read it simply because it's a fast fun romp through a world a few degrees off from our own.

More information on Kelly and his work can be found at kellymccullough.com. His books can be found at many bookstores and ordered pretty much anywhere. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Uncle Hugo's (can usually get signed books), Indiebound.

Bio: Kelly McCullough was raised and educated by free-range hippies. Later he received a degree in theater and worked in improv. That combination was the perfect preparation for his current career as author and cat herder. He is the author of more than a dozen novels including School for Sidekicks and the adult fantasy series Webmage and Fallen Blade. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. His microfiction series DragonDiaries and Badnoir can be found on his webpage or by following him on Twitter or Facebook. He also does a fair bit of silly performance art which can be found at: https://kellymccullough.com/shenanigans/

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