Thursday, May 28, 2009

Introducing Magickeepers - an interview with Erica Kirov

Besides having one of the coolest covers I’ve ever seen, Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass can also boast a fantastic story. Nick’s a kid we all might know – one who slacks a little here and there and is looking forward to a summer filled with nothing but junk food, sleeping in, and skateboarding.

Instead, he’s whisked away to live with relatives he didn’t know he had who perform the most successful magic act in Vegas – and Nick will be on stage with them, except the magic will be more than an act. The story itself is fun and fast paced, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. The characters are people you’d love to get to know in real life, including some names in history you may have heard tales of already – like Houdini and Rasputin.

I want to thank Erica Kirov, for taking the time to allow us to interview her, and for volunteering to stop in at the comments to talk with all of our readers. Feel free to ask any questions you’d like about the book, or about writing and publishing in general.

To find out more about the books, stop by the Magickeepers Website or visit Erica’s Magickeeper’s blog, which are also moderated and kid-friendly.

My eleven year old daughter, Gracie, wanted to ask some of the questions, so I’ll turn it over to her to start us out:

Grace: Were you always interested in magicians or was it something new to you for the story?

Erica: I actually LOVE magic acts, and I am always trying to figure out the tricks. (Not very successfully, I might add. I can never figure them out!) So then I had an idea for a book--and like nearly every book idea it started with two words: What if? What if magic was real?

Grace: How did you get the inspiration to write the book?

Erica: Once I had my "what if" question, I let that sort of rest inside me for a bit. Then little by little a world where magicians had to hide their true identities emerged. And then I came up with the idea of a diaspora (a big SAT word meaning when a people scatter) out of ancient Egypt of magicians to places all over the world. And my clan--the Russians--came to me. My father's family is Russian, so that part was kind of easy to come up with.

Grace: If you were Nick Rostov, would you have done anything different? Are you like the main character and what ways are you alike or different?

Erica: That is a really good question. I don't know that I would have been as brave as Nick or have come up with the ending (don't want to spoil it for anyone). I actually am very different from Nick in that I LOVED school and like to read and study--and he obviously doesn't. But he is VERY patient with the Grand Duchess, and I am like that with older people. I love that they have these wonderful stories they can pass along to the next generation. And I also remember not liking the food my grandmother cooked--so I would be like him there. Russian food is definitely an acquired taste. And I guess finally that he gets frustrated easily . . . that is me through and through.

Grace: When you turned the book in to your publisher, did they ask you to change things - and what kind of things do you have to change?

Erica: You will be very surprised, perhaps, to hear the book originally was ONLY about a girl. But before I officially started it, my editor asked if I would make it about a boy. We compromised . . . and so we have Nick and Isabella. They each have gifts unique to them--Nick cannot control animals ever. Once I turned the entire book in, I was asked to add more history (my editor LOVES that part of the story). And the ending changed a lot--my editor wanted more danger!

And now, for some questions of my own:

Merry: This is your first middle grade novel - did you decide you'd like to write to that age bracket and then the idea for the story came to you - or did the idea for the story come first and it was a perfect fit for middle grade?

Erica: I actually wanted to write a middle grade book. I have four children . . . one is a grown-up already (well, she's 19, and I consider her a grown-up). One is 14, one is 11, and my little guy is a VERY mischievous 4 year old. And pretty much, though I have been a novelist for years, it was always very separate from them. A book would come out, and they would sort of shrug or say "Congratulations." But since the books were adult novels, they didn't get to read them and didn't feel part of my writing world. This has been something we got to do together--especially the 14- and 11-year-old. So I did want to write one and I had a couple of ideas, but none felt right. And then out of the blue, I got my "what if magic was real" idea . . . and it grew from there.

Merry: Russian history and heritage is a large part of the story of Magickeepers - did your own Russian heritage play a role in your life and did some of your own traditions make it into the novel?

Erica: My mother's side of the family is Slavic, and actually, they have more traditions. My father's side is very small--but it is a very small family since so many of them were murdered during the Russian Revolution. Very few survived. So that history was always a part of my life, knowing that they experienced this very dark tragedy and it colored the survivors’ lives.

Merry: This is the first series you've created - did you approach the plotting or writing of this novel differently than you have approached your previously published stand alone novels? In what ways does writing a series differ from writing a single title?

Erica: For me, it was like night and day and a LOT harder. I had to have a very clear idea of the battle between the Shadowkeepers and Magickeepers over many years of the story. I had to see well ahead at least two books . . . I had to hold some secrets back. And now that I am in the middle of the second one, I can say that I have to make sure there's enough background for people who didn't read the first--without boring those who DID read the first. A very tricky thing. What I have done differently, too, is create a story bible, so I can keep things straight over a period of years (this first book was a three-year-process, just about). And now I am in the middle of creating a historical timeline because matching historical dates to make sure characters could really have met each other in time has been super difficult.

Okay, guys, it’s your turn. What questions or comments would you like to add?


Amy Sue Nathan said...

First of all - I don't think I would have come up with that ending either if I were Nick! He is a very clever kid -- and I love that he's figuring that out within the story.

Second, as a mom, the book is a reminder of the power of our children. Magic or not, kids all have special gifts whether or not they realize them. And like Nick's newfound family, it is really an adults job to help a child find his passion and work toward his or her true potential.

Third, I'm so glad the book is about Nick and Isabella -- I liked reading about a boy and a girl.

Thanks Merry and Grace for 'giving us' Erica today. And thanks Erica, for Magickeepers.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Amy:
Didn't Gracie ask great questions? :-)

And I'm glad it's about the two of them too. I feel that yin-yang thing getting to write about them. I like that they each have specific gifts--because I think that's true in life. I can write, but I can't paint--and I sure as HECK couldn't have done a cover as beautiful as Eric Fortune's artwork.


Stephen Parrish said...

Grace is a good interviewer.

When my copy arrived my 13-year-old snatched it away from me to read it first. When she finished she said she wanted more. More of what in particular, I asked. Everything, she answered.

Mark Terry said...

I liked a lot of things about Magickeepers, but I really liked the Houdini stuff, because, like most kids (boys at least) I went through a magic stage, read books about Houdini and escape artists... you know, that escape artist thing might come in handy for Nick in the future, too.

Anyway, question. Hmmm.... we know Edgar Allen Poe is in the next one. Care to give us hints about other historical figures?

Travis Erwin said...

I wish I has a story specific question but the copy I order nearly four weeks ago still hasn't arrived. And yes I'm ticked. If it doesn't come in tomorrow I will tell my local Hastings to forget it and order via Amazon.

I may have missed this fact somewhere, but do you have a set number of books planned for the series or are you playing it by ear and simply writing as many as it takes to tell the complete story?

Ello said...

Grace did an awesome job!! Just like her Mommy!

Well - as Erica knows, I only have one question but she refuses to answer it and I have to wait for the next book which isn't out til next year. Grrrrrr. Patience has never been my strong suit. I need to get more zen.

Melanie Avila said...

Great interview! I am unable to get my hands on the book right now so I've had to soak up details from everyone else. I was unaware until this interview that there's a boy AND a girl. Up until now everyone's only talked about Nick.

I've been wondering, have any characteristics of your children snuck into the story? I know we often say truth is stranger than fiction, and some of the stories you've told us certainly demonstrate the creativity of children. Have you immortalized them in any way?

Merry Monteleone said...

Good morning everyone!

Hi Amy,

You know, I haven't even mentioned Isabella - but I did love the character. I wondered, too, if Isabella might be taking a larger role in the upcoming books.

Hi Erica,

Thanks again for coming in today and for all the time on the interview - Gracie will be stopping on after school, she's looking forward to getting to 'chat' online with people - I've never let her do that before.

Hi Stephen,

If Sarah's got time today, we'd love to see her - plus I bet she's got some great comments and questions - I've seen some of her writing already :-)


I loved the history mixed in with the story - and I'm dying to hear more about Poe in the next one... he's one of my favorites.

Hi Travis,

How have you been? I think it's a trilogy, but I'll defer to Erica on that in case I'm wrong.


I KNOW - you'd think we could use our massive pull as blog interviewers to get the next book early.... but no.... :-) Spring is not that long to wait, though, at least in publishing terms...

Hi Melanie,

That's a good question, too! I always wonder how much writers pull from real life, if at all - I think every writer's a little different with that.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I love both Nick and Isabella. I especially love how they interact with each other. It reminds me of how my brother and I reacted to each other when we were kids.

*Impatiently waiting for book 2*

Merry Monteleone said...

Christine got ahold of me on facebook and let me know that she was having trouble posting here.

For those of you who don't normally blog or don't usually use blogger, you can click the "anonymous" circle below the comment field - and just introduce yourself with your first name only or first name and last initial when you leave your comment.

If you still can't get the comment to post - you can send the comment to me at merry.monteleone (at) - replace the at in parenthesis with the symbol. I'll make sure it gets posted.

Merry Monteleone said...

Christine's comment:

merry you and your daughter did a wonderful job. Especially Gracie she had good queastions very mature. Anyways I tried to leave a queastion for the author. Does she do books for 7 and 8 years olds? My son started reading chapter books the last few moths.

Erica Orloff said...

I am so humbled. Please tell Sarah thank you from me.

Erica Orloff said...

P.T. Barnum, Isaac Newton (in what I think is a HILARIOUS bit--and you all knew I'd fit in a physicist, right?), Poe, and there's a poker game with some pretty interesting historical folk. And I am not sure, but likely Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle, who is the key player in the last book, will make an appearance.

Erica Orloff said...

It was conceived (and my contract is written as such) as a trilogy. But I actually would be open to a couple more. I shared on my blog that I now "get" when authors fall in love with their children's series and don't want to leave them.

Erica Orloff said...

LOL! Yes, I know your question.


My younger daughter also has that same question and is NOT happy that I will not tell her.


Erica Orloff said...

Their names . . . . :-)

And the doorman's name . . . though the doorman at the Pendragon is more than a doorman. But that's for Book II.


P.S. Nick is a little like my son. But Isabella is A LOT like her character. She has spunk AND sweetness.

Erica Orloff said...

I really like how he LOATHES that she has a tiger and all he gets is a headgehog. I think that is exactly how my kids would be.

Erica Orloff said...


I am toying with ideas for younger kids . . . but none in print yet.


Melanie Avila said...

Erica, that's so cool!

Malanie said...

Erica, great interview. I will have to read this with my daughter! She will love it!

Merry, thank you for taking the time to work on this interview. I understand how much goes into one of these.

My best to both of you and your books!

Anonymous said...

I'm doing well to keep my 3-yr-old from strangling me as hangs on my neck while I do blog rounds - so - *waves* great job, Grace - Merry, thanks for hosting this - Erica, thanks for interviewing - hope to be back later if I am not asphyxiated

Erica Orloff said...

I have already heard from some parents who are reading it aloud . . . so hopefully it's that kind of book people will share.

Yes, Merry was great to do this!


Erica Orloff said...

LOL! I have one of those little stranglers, too.

Chris Eldin said...

I have to order this book, I haven't been on Amazon in a long time, and the need keeps growing...

Sounds like a wonderful premise and awesome read! Congratulations on its release!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi! It's Gracie!

Thanks everyone for the comments on my questions.

I've enjoyed the book so far. When I'm done, I'm coming back on the Magic Keepers blog. When I come back I hope there is a preveiw for book 2! :-)

Erica Orloff said...

Thanks, Chris!!!

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Gracie:
I think you have a career in journalism. You are a great interviewer.

Mary Witzl said...

This sounds like an intriguing book and one that my kids and I would absolutely enjoy. I love Houdini and used to read about him when I was a kid, so this is right up my alley. And your daughter asked some good questions here, too.

My old question for Erica is why she doesn't like Russian food -- wish I could have had her piroshiki and borsht; she'd have been welcome to my vegeburgers and coleslaw.

Angela said...

Looks like a great book, and the act in Vegas is different enough to set things apart from the usual shipped off to relatives. Thanks!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Everyone,

Thanks so much for participating, and I hope you will all check out Erica's book(s) - I can attest, she is a fabulous writer.

Erica's got another book releasing June 1st (three this year!) so I'm not sure if she'll be back over. But, if you're a writer, her writers blog is about the best discussions for fiction writers I've ever found (it's in my blogroll under authors to watch - Erica Orloff)... and if you're a kid, the magickeepers blog looks like it will be spectacular fun.

Sun Singer said...

Very nice interview, Merry. Erica, I HAVE to read the book.


Erica Orloff said...

Oh . . . you know . . . for kids, a lot of that is an acquired taste.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Sun: