Guest post by Laura Lam, author of Pantomime and Shadowplay.

Writing about a book with magicians and spiritualism meant I was able to go wild with research, and I did. I read fiction, non-fiction, watched films, listened to podcasts, throwing myself into early, Victorian, and modern magic, stealing bits that seemed interesting and twisting them for my own purposes. Here’s some of my resources. I knew writing all those random research posts last year would come in handy!:

1. The Giant Taschen Book of Magic from 1400s-1950s. This was my husband’s present to me when I got my book deal for Pantomime. It was stupidly expensive at the time (it’s now much cheaper, damn it), but it was far and away my most useful resource. It’s a gigantic book—with enough force, I’m sure you could brain someone with it, full of gorgeous colour plates and great essays as well as countless photos. Can’t recommend it enough. I write a longer review of it here.

2. Smoke & Mirrors Podcast. This was one of the first bits of research I did. I listen to a lot of podcasts at work while I’m saving emails to a database. It features various members and non-members of the Circle of Magic, or the British society of magicians. The earlier episodes speak a bit about the history of magic and also focus on the modern application of magic and the different types, with a bit of magical-related news thrown in for good measure. I link to them here.

3. Hiding the Elephant – Jim Steinmeyer. This, and a lot of his other books, are great. They’re told in a conversational style and he’ll explain how a lot of historic tricks worked. I learned how to describe the Pepper’s ghost that appears in Shadowplay from this book, and learned a lot about Robert-Houdin and Houdini, and many other lesser known magicians. Longer review here.

4. Hocus Pocus – Paul Kieve. Aimed for younger readers, but it’s from the magician who worked on the set of The Prisoner of Azkaban. A fun, quick read, and I’ll probably buy it for one of my nephews when they’re a little older. Longer review here.

5. Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold. My agent gave me this book as a present! It’s a fictional telling of Carter as a magician in San Francisco. Very detailed and beautifully written. I based Maske a bit on Carter mixed with Robert-Houdin. I didn’t write a review of this one.

6. The First Psychic – Peter Lamont. This was another one of my early researching books, which I nabbed from the library. It’s the biography of Daniel Dunglas Home, one of the most famous psychics in the Victorian era, who was never caught using any tricks, even though what he did seemed to be impossible. Very fascinating. Longer review here.

7. The Prestige – Christopher Priest. I saw the film when it came out and it (and the Illusionist) were both great visual research. I read the book and loved it – thought it was fantastic. It sparked the idea for the magician duel I have in Shadowplay, though I take a very different focus. I also didn’t write a review of this one, since as an author I feel a bit uncomfortable writing reviews these days.

In conclusion: I LOVE RESEARCH. It helps me feel more confident while writing, but I also never take notes when I research, or else I’ve noticed I invent crazy ways to work in THIS ONE COOL FACT I found rather than what’s needed for the story at the right time. My world of Ellada and the magicians of Ellada differ in many ways from our own, but there’s a nod at our own past there. Those who made the magic.

Follow the Tour

Shadowplay is out soon in paperback and ebook editions.
UK/AUS/NZ: 4 January 2014
US/CAN: 2 January 2014
Pantomime page (including ordering links)
Shadowplay page (including ordering links)
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