Amazon hearts Lev Grossman. I mean, seriously.
His new novel, The Magician King, was the "spotlight" pick among our Best Books of the Month for August. The prequel, 2009's The Magicians, was also a #1 Best of the Month selection. So we were thrilled to have him stop by the Amazon offices today for an interview with our own Juliet Disparte.
As a fan of fantasy fiction, Grossman said he believes fantasy writing has entered a "second golden age" and a "rebirth." And as the book critic for Time magazine, he feels grateful that his day job allows him to meet writers he admires, including Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Franzen, Suzanna Clark, Neal Stephenson, and George R.R. Martin. "These are people who are just incredibly inspirational for me," he said. "I mean, I've met John Le Carre. How great is that? So there's a bit of a kid in a candy store element."
Grossman discussed how he set out to write books with themes similar to those he admires - Narnia, Harry Potter - but for adults. (His characters do tend to curse a bit.) And he confirmed that his hero, Quentin, is two-thirds of the way into his own series - a third 'Magician' book is forthcoming.
Funny, charming, gracious, and humble, you'll heart Grossman yourself once the full interview is available for viewing. (You'll find it here soon, and on our author interviews page, The Backstory.) Meanwhile, we thought we'd share a few previews and highlights...
Juliet: I feel like 'coming of age' is a major theme is both of these books. Quentin matures a lot over the course of these two books. And I was curious: was that informed by lessons that you learned in life?
Lev: I wrote the Magicians in my 30s and it was a point in my life where I was sort of professionally kind of defeated and personally also kind of defeated "¦ I kind of had to rediscover who I was and remind myself of what I could do if really tried to be what I wanted to be. And that's what Quentin has to do. He has to realize that he's much more powerful than he thought he was. And he could do things that he never would have believed possible.
Juliet: Other reviewers, including myself, have noted that your characters feel very real - they're witty, they're funny, they're flawed. And I wonder how you managed to accomplish that. Are they based on people that you know? Are there any characters that are like you?
Lev: Well, I don't have any personal flaws myself, um "¦ No, it was very important to me that everybody in the book, and the heroes, be flawed, and the villains have redeeming qualities "¦ One thing I wanted to do in this book is get as many shades of gray in there as possible. And make it clear that in life that people, everybody, they're both good and bad. And sometimes you don't even know if you're acting on your good impulses or your bad impulses.
Juliet: In your day job you are a book reviewer for Time magazine, so you spend all day reading and thinking about books, I imagine. How does your work as a book reviewer inform or affect your work as a writer?
Lev: If you're going to have a day job, and you're writing novels, it's just about the best - there aren't many better jobs to have than professional critic. Because you get to look around and see what other people are doing, see what your contemporaries are doing. And then whenever they do something good, you want to steal it, and avoid giving them credit and just claim it for your own. There's really no better vantage point to survey what's going on in contemporary fiction "¦ I got really lucky when I got that job.
After the interview, he sat with a few of our editors and reviewers - as Seattleites, we were obliged to make him drink coffee - and he even let us talk him into an impromptu Magician King reading. (We'll have video of that here next week.) Now, Amazon really, truly hearts Lev Grossman.