Meet Karen Foxlee

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Karen Foxlee, Queensland author of three prior novels, including CBCA Notable book for younger readers in 2015, Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, is about to release her new novel, A Most Magical Girl (out September 28).  Here she shares with us how she grew a villain.

Some characters arrive fully-formed into a story. I know what they look like, I can hear their voice, and I know their personality.  Others take longer.  I call them shape-shifters.  They are the type of characters I can’t see straight away, that hide in the shadows of a story, or sometimes inside other characters.  I have to peel away layers of story to get to them.  They can shrivel if I scrutinize them too much.  Mr Angel, the villain in A Most Magical Girl, was one such character.

Annabel thought Mr Angel was sad and lonely-looking. Wicked-looking.  She thought he might pinch babies when their mothers weren’t paying attention. But in the beginning I couldn’t see him at all.   He was a darkness, a silhouette.  If I tried to see his features he dissolved. Oh, but I knew he was bad.

It was through his terrible dark magic extracting machine that I grew him. I decided I’d concentrate on that rather than him.  I pictured that machine, all gleaming brass and dark leather, bellows and gauges, all susurrations and sighs.  The more I saw the machine the more I noticed things about Mr Angel: his crooked back as he examined its gauges, the lustre of his dark hair. I knew I had to be patient.

I decided that his machine was fuelled by sorrowful things; black-bordered handkerchiefs and the booties of long-dead babies. Mourning shawls, tear-catchers, and jet brooches.  I saw him stealing such things, creeping into houses, bending down to pilfer the shoes from a pauper.  These items, which had touched sadness and sorrow, were sucked with great force into that hungry machine.  They were crushed, distilled, mixed with moonlight, to produce pure dark magic.

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Still I had to wait.  Writing is mysterious like that sometimes.  It wasn’t until the magic flowed from that machine into his black wand that I saw his face illuminated. His pale skin, his haunted eyes, his hollow cheekbones.  His cool dry hands.  His terrible laugh.  I heard him whisper “Umbra, Pentumbra,” and up rose that terrible first shadowling….and I saw his smile.  My villain had arrived.

Thanks to Karen for writing this, and to Jess from Allen & Unwin for supporting Reading Time with amazing author posts.

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