Meet Karen Foxlee



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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