I have the absolute pleasure of hosting Caitlen Rubino-Bradway today for her blog tour; she's the author of Ordinary Magic, a Middle Grade fantasy book that releases next week!
I have to ask about the unusual spelling of your first name - is there a story behind it? Do you like it?
First, I’m really impressed that you noticed the spelling. There are people I’ve known for years that still spell it ‘Caitlin’. I actually really love my name, especially now that I get to see it on a book cover, but I’ve kind of accepted that it’s going to be misspelled a lot. That’s okay, I’m a terrible speller myself. Just as long as they get it right on the book.
There actually isn’t a story behind my name, other than the family rumor that Mom picked out all our names from seeing them in a book. But then she just decided on a spelling she liked. Mom did say I could make up a story if I wanted, so I’m going to say she spelled it that way just to annoy people. Although once this guy in a bookstore tried to convince me that the spelling was Old Irish (I think) and that I’d been mispronouncing it. Apparently the correct pronunciation is not KATE-lin but KAT-leen. Unfortunately, the wrong pronunciation was stuck in my head by that point, so we’ll just have to go with that.
Introduce us to Ordinary Magic: what's something you'd like the reader to take away from the story?
Actually, what I love about stories is that five different people can read the same thing and each take away something completely different. The story is the same, but the reading is personal. I’m really looking forward to hearing what my readers take away from Ordinary Magic.
But, seriously, it should be how awesome Gil is.
Your previous works have all been co-written with your mom (which I love, my mom is my best friend) - was it difficult to do a solo novel?
Yes and no. It’s difficult to write any novel — no matter how much I love a story, there’s always a point where I start tearing my hair out because it is just taking so LONG. That’s what’s nice about working with Mom: there’s somebody else to talk things over when you get frustrated, to keep you going, and, most importantly, go get coffee with. Of course, you also have to have a give and take. When you’re writing on your own, you get to control everything. But then it’s also all on you: meeting deadlines, getting up in the morning, and sitting your butt down in front of that computer.
Your previous works are also all Jane Austen-centric - does Ordinary Magic have any Austen-like qualities? Or did you want to depart from that fully?
I tried to depart from that fully; Ordinary Magic’s just a different story. It’s actually interesting that Mom and I write completely different stuff apart than when we’re together. On her own Mom wrote an awesome mystery series about a single mom, and I love MG and YA fantasy, but then we have Lady Vernon, which is an adult historical inspired by Jane Austen.
Your novel sounds fabulous! Why did you decide to write a fantasy book?
I love fantasy books! Especially middle grade and young adult — I feel like they really have this sense of fun and wonder. Some of my favorite books are kids fantasies; I love The Secret Garden, and, more recently, I was really charmed by Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. It also helps that everybody’s running around in cool fantasy clothing — because, you know, pretty dresses only ever enhance a reading experience. In fact, I often debate dressing up for my reading time, I have a couple of Renn Faire outfits, but my favorite corset laces up the back so it’s really hard to put on by myself.
Are you working on anything else now, or are you basking in the soon-to-be-published glow?
At the moment I’m working on a YA paranormal that is taking forever to finish. It is going to make me go bald from all this tearing the hair out.
What made you choose to write a MG novel?
Actually, when I was originally submitting Ordinary Magic, I thought it was a YA — Abby was 12, because she just sort of showed up at that age, but there was some scary stuff in that draft. The two villains smacked the kids around and cursed a couple times, Abby’s older siblings engaged in a bit of risqué teasing, and there are carnivorous creatures in the book that we, shall we say, saw the aftermath of. It was my wonderful and fabulous editor who pointed out that Abby’s age dictated my audience — because she’s 12, my target audience is going to be 8-14, as kids mostly like to read up. Because I was looking at a younger audience, I had to cut a lot back to make it more age appropriate. Sometimes it was just the way I’d talk about a certain thing, and other times it was whole scenes.
Was it difficult writing Ordinary Magic? Getting it published?
The writing and publishing process always has it’s ups and downs. For instance, it’s always tough writing a full-length novel, but I feel really lucky to have had Abby. From the first she’s been a character that’s taken hold of the pen, and her POV was one of the easiest things to write.
As for getting it published, I kind of lucked out there, too. I actually work for the woman who’s my literary agent, and I originally asked her to read the book over to just give me some feedback, not expecting her to offer to represent it. I also got Bloomsbury Children’s, which handles some of my favorite authors — I was especially lucky because that draft needed a lot of work. It was a 90k word behemoth that was a little all-over-the-place. I had to cut at least 30k words, which meant I chopped an entire plot line (that will — fingers crossed — make up the backbone for Book 2), and a lot of just chatty stuff. It took me about 9 months to do the revisions, and then another year for it to work through the publishing process, so it’s been a long road.
Argus Filch from Harry Potter
What inspired you? I can't help but think of Argus Filch, the Squib from Harry Potter - but I love that in Ordinary Magic there is a negative consequence for being non-magical.
You’re so right! I actually got the idea for Ordinary Magic a while back, when my friends and I were talking about fantasy novels we liked, and I thought how often I’d seen the special person or kid who is an orphan or unloved by their family who turns out to have the biggest magic of them all. Don’t get me wrong, I love that plotline, but I just thought, you know, I’d love to see a story where the main character can’t do any magic at all. How would they function?
Shortly after that I was re-reading Harry Potter, I was really struck by that scene in Chamber of Secrets where Harry comes across Filch’s Kwikspell letter, and afterwards Ron is laughing about it, and I couldn’t help thinking how much that must stink. There’s also the moment when Neville tells how his uncle dropped him out a window because he was worried that Neville’s magic hadn’t shown up. It’s supposed to be a funny moment, but how awful is it that your family would chuck you out a window just to prove you’re not a squib?
I absolutely ADORE the cover of Ordinary Magic - it's bright and whimsical and so enticing! Did you ever envision the cover before it existed? Is it anything like what you'd imagined?
It’s better than I imagined. I was thrilled when Bloomsbury Children’s accepted Ordinary Magic, and a big part of that was that I’ve always loved their covers. So I knew I was going to get something awesome. Which is good, because I also knew, from working in publishing and the Lady Vernon process with Mom, that the cover is ultimately up to the publisher’s art department. Publishers will consult with the author, but the final say is up to them. As you can see, they came up with something completely gorgeous.
What's the best part about being a writer? The worst?
I’d say the best part is seeing your book in bookstores, but actually my favorite is the feeling I get on those special days when everything’s working. The characters are mostly doing what I want them to do, but when they’re not they’re still interesting and telling me stuff about them I hadn’t thought about yet, when I can figure out the exact way to say what I want, and I can turn off the computer and go do my laundry, feeling like I’ve accomplished something. It’s a total high.
The worst part is, naturally, the exact opposite of that. There are days when nothing is coming, when it’s pulling teeth to get a sentence written, and my characters are all acting like a sullen 15-year-old Caitlen and refusing to even talk about why they’re not behaving. (Yes, I had a very moody teenagerdom.) Those are the days when I slam my computer shut and can’t stop worrying that the story is stupid, and cliché, and no one is ever going to want to read it in a million years.
As you can see, I’m well past the moodiness now.
Anything you would like to tell the readers?
Just that I hope you enjoy it. For all of my trials and tribulations, I had a lot of fun writing this book, and I hope that translates into the reading.
How can you be contacted/found around the web?
How about some randomness to close out! What were your last 3 purchases?
A coffee, a couple of sea-salt caramels, and a ticket to Newsies on Broadway.
Last 3 websites you visited?
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Obscurus Lupa's Channel on That Guy With The Glasses
My Twitter page
And of course, last 3 books read?
Eye of the World (now that the final book is coming out in January, I’ve promised myself I’m going to read the entire series)
The Truth by Terry Pratchett
Knightly Academy by Violet Haberdasher
How awesome is Caitlen?? Anybody who loves The Secret Garden gets a plus in my book, and I can't wait to see what's in her YA novel after all she had to edit out of Ordinary Magic. Thank you so much Caitlen for the pleasure of your company on my blog, and I can't wait to read all about Abby!