Spoiler Questions

Drew
Given that Quentin's perspective dominates the book, did you ever consider writing it in first person?
 
Lev
I didn’t really. I’ve never been any good at first person. It’s funny, because I have an identical twin who’s a writer, Austin Grossman, and he only writes in first person. Go figure.
Drew
Given the different nature of the four 'books' of the Magicians, did you consider breaking it out into separate, longer volumes?  Additionally, will we see Quentin - or at least his universe - again?
 
Lev
To me The Magicians needed to be one book. If you’ve ever read Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, you’ll see that the structure of The Magicians is swiped from it -- this single long fall from innocent happiness (at Oxford instead of Brakebills) into painful horrible experience. You want it happen in one movement, one arc. Or I did anyway.

And yes, there will be another Magicians book. I'm working on the outline now.

Drew
The deeply, deeply creepy introduction of 'The Beast' - and Quentin's moral quandries that spring from it - is a bucket of ice water across the first book (in a very, very good way).  Why did you decide to let the reader know so early on how dark the book might get?
 
Lev
Well, you’ve read it just right -- it is a warning shot for the reader that the safeties are off. Like when they shut off the safety protocols in the Holodeck on Star Trek. There was a danger that the first half of the book might read as a rather soft, cozy young adult fantasy. I wanted to make a sharp tonal break from that.

Though I would argue that it happens even earlier, about 60 pages in, when Quentin walks in on Eliot going down on another boy. I meant that as a very direct we’re-not-in-Hogwarts-anymore scene.
Drew
Okay, fess up - did you intend Quentin's lack of a Discipline to continue for the entire novel to keep the character somewhat ambiguous, or did you just forget to give him one?
 
Lev
I am a big fan of stories that don’t resolve properly. But I’ve come to realize that those are a lot more fun for the writer than they are for the reader. I did allow myself to leave one or two threads dangling though, and that was one of them. Though yes, I admit it, if I’d had a really killer idea for Quentin’s Discipline I probably would have given him one. I never did.
Drew
Where did the idea of the cacodemon come from?
 
Lev
You’ve caught me stealing. I am a massive fan of Larry Niven. He’s mostly known as a hard SF writer, but he does have a small fantasy oeuvre, with which I’m somewhat obsessed, and Niven’s hero, the Warlock, has a tattoo on his back with a demon trapped inside. (A shadow demon, not a cacodemon, but same difference.) I meant it as a homage. I hope Larry Niven sees it that way.
Drew
Did it just feel like stepping off a cliff writing the second book, knowing that your readers would have to go along with Quentin doing some pretty horrible stuff?
 
Lev
Personally I was ready to give Quentin a taste of reality. He was getting a little spoiled. Though I didn’t realize then quite how bad it was going to get.
Drew
How or why did you come to the decision to make Quentin perpetually unhappy with his place in life, sure that there's something better around the corner?
 
Lev
 That was always how he was going to be. He’s a portrait of me as a young fan, who’s convinced that his life is crap because it’s not like Narnia. There came a time in my life when I had to kill that fan off or succumb to clinical depression. In a way Quentin has to do the same thing.
Drew
A little birdy told me that the ending the Magicians is going to print with was not the original ending.  I really, really liked the ending of the current incarnation, but I'm curious: did it just end earlier, or is there an 'alternate ending' sequence somewhere?
 
Lev
We’re doing full spoilers, right? For much of the book’s lifetime it was Janet who died in the big battle scene. I was very attached to this idea -- Janet spends a lot of the book hovering on the edge of being an unbearable bitch. I liked the idea that she’d redeem herself in the end, by sacrificing herself, and you’d see that she really did have a good, tender heart under all that bitchiness.

But late in the game we decided that I was pulling my punches, and Janet was spared. But if you look carefully you can still see a few moments earlier in the book where I was trying to foreshadow Janet’s death …

Incidentally there is a deleted scene that I’m very proud of, where Quentin and Eliot go to London to consult the Thames dragon about Fillory. Tragically, it didn’t make the final draft.
Drew
About that ending: certain parts seem to imply that the view the readers' have been given of the events that have occurred may have been heavily colored by Quentin's perspectives, but it's never approached directly.  So - is what happened just what happened, or is Quentin - despite not actually being a narrator - coloring the events of the story?
 
Lev
We see the events from Quentin’s point of view -- we never learn anything that Quentin doesn’t know -- but what we get is all accurate. I wasn’t playing any Rashomon games.
Drew
Okay, I'm clearly obsessed with the ending, but this one's about an earlier segment: the first few pages of the Chapter 'The White Stag', one of my favorite moments in the book.  How do you manage to write a sequence so ambiguous about how much time it takes, while also giving it such a grand scope?
 
Lev
Thank you. It’s one of my favorite bits too. It’s probably the only moment in the book where I really let my high-fantasy instincts run totally free, without having to check them or ironize them or darken them in any way. The catch of course is that late in the game everything has all gone terribly wrong, and it’s too late for Quentin to enjoy any of it.

The White Stag is of course borrowed from Lewis. I always thought it was funny -- though totally characteristic of him -- that nobody ever catches the White Stag, and in fact he never mentions it again in the rest of the series. As a kid I always thought about the fact that the White Stag was still out there, somewhere in Narnia, and that somebody could get those wishes if he could only find it.
Comments