Written by Kale Lawrence
What inspired you to write The Magi Menagerie?
I’ve always been fascinated with the three wise men—or Magi—from the Christmas stories. They just sort of came out of nowhere, following a star into the west and just as quickly, disappearing into the folds of time. This story was essentially born from wondering, “What ever happened to those guys?” That led me down a fantastic rabbit hole of creating this entire secret society of Magi dedicated to helping the world. But I sort of left that idea on the shelf for a while, until a year later when I wrote the first chapter as a creative writing exercise. I knew immediately what came out of that exercise (very similar to the final version of the first chapter) was that story and started piecing together all the details.
What were your favorite sources of research to make these settings come alive?
I relied on a smorgasbord of various sources for making this story as historically accurate as possible. Since it’s a historical fantasy, I do deviate a little and add my own quirks here and there, but my goal was to make The Magi Menagerie sound as if it could have actually happened in 1906. From driving down Belfast’s streets on Google Maps to taking virtual tours of the British Museum and the Royal Observatory, I was able to piece together visuals for several scenes. I also watched Belfast Corporation meetings online to get a sense of Northern Ireland politics and dove into old photos of what the city looked like in 1906.
One of my favorite sources of research was a tool called Stellarium. This online tool is an interactive star map where you can see the planets, stars, and constellations at any point in history at specific coordinates. Everything you read in the book when it comes to celestial positions was 100% researched and authentic to that very moment in time. So, the interpretation of the stars that Jonas talks about in Chapter 2 actually happened.
How did you develop your characters? And which of them do you have the strongest connection to?
Ezra and his mother came to me randomly when I did the free-flow writing exercise that became the first chapter. I just had this vivid mental portrait of a teenage immigrant and his mother on a train and had the urgent need to explore their lives. Despite being the main protagonist, Ezra was harder to figure out than Jonas and Diego, as their story came to me a bit easier. Jonas was probably the easiest character to write as he and I are similar in age, personality, and leadership abilities. I’m most connected to him.
I wrote a vast majority of The Magi Menagerie over the pandemic, so I had a lot of time to visit with these characters in my head. I like to say we were all quarantined together. In fact, they became so real to me that I’m pretty sure my actual friends were just like, “Uh…what about us?”
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I sincerely hope that readers come away from this adventure feeling empowered, knowing that they, too, can do great and wondrous things. I also hope that audiences can appreciate the diversity of the cast and see the beauty in every person, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation.
The Magi Menagerie was the light that guided me out of a lingering depression. I honestly didn’t know if I would ever write creatively again, but when I dove into this story, I knew it had to be told. If this story helps someone else out of a dark time, it makes all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project worth it.
Is the book a standalone or part of a series? What are you working on next?
The Magi Menagerie is indeed a part of a series! I’m actively working on book two as well as another episodic project that will be released through Kindle Vella. More details on those will hopefully be announced soon but until then, you’ll have to imagine what comes after that cliffhanger of an ending. 😉
About the Author of The Magi Menagerie
Since the age of six, Kale Lawrence knew she either wanted to be an astronaut or an author. Obviously, the astronaut gig didn’t work out, so instead, Kale turned to fantastic fictional worlds. When Kale is not writing creatively, she works as a Marketing Manager at a pet product company, and pretends she’s an Olympic swimmer at the gym. She has also served as a board member for the South Dakota Writes organization. In addition to books, Kale has lent her writing prowess to television, and her writing has been featured on nationwide PBS television programming, NBC newscasts, ABC newscasts, and the Travel Channel. Kale currently lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with her feisty tortoiseshell calico cat, Emma Bug and sassy Siamese, Seattle Bean.
More From Kale Lawrence:
Book Bub: bookbub.com/profile/kale-lawrence
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