Publisher: Daw Books, Inc.
Interviewed By: Kathleen Brummond
October 15, 2002
KB: Is the Magickers series your first Young Adult series?
ED: No, ...my first really big sale was a 14 book contract under the name of Rhondi Vilott, called the Dragon Tales series and they were what we call interactive fiction or similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure series... They are all fantasy. So they're pretty timeless. I received hundreds of letters from kids who read those. As a matter of fact, I still run into people who read them when they were younger.
I sold my interactive series to kids who read Endless Quest, which was a Dungeons and Dragons interactive book line... I also have written a book called the Twilight Gate... under Rhondi Vilott Salsitz.. That's one reason I keep changing pen names is I keep changing audiences' ages as well as genre.
KB: You write under several different pseudonyms. Does the pseudonym come first and then the inspiration or does the inspiration come first and then the name?
ED: The inspiration comes first. We find out what we're writing and ...we don't want to confuse age groups and genre types so let's pick up a new pen name for this. When you have a kid, you don't want him to pick up a serial killer book so you change your pen name so you don't attract the same audience.
KB: How long have you been writing?
ED: I started writing short stories when I was in the 3rd grade. I wrote my first science fiction novel when I was in the 5th grade. Needless to say, they weren't very good but I knew very early on that I wanted to be an author. My mother was a writer ...so, I grew up with an inherent love for books and I thought being a writer was probably one of the best things in the world you could be. I spent a lot of my early years trading letters with Walter Farley of Black Stallion fame. He was a wonderful author for a child to communicate with. He always wrote back... He was ...very encouraging. ...I was very lucky. I was always encouraged.
KB: If you were to give advice to a young reader and hopeful writer, what would that be?
ED: I would say write whatever you wish, whatever's in your heart, and be sure you finish it.
KB: Be sure you finish it, I like that!
ED: Finishing it is extremely important. I took a lot of writing classes and beginning writing critique groups with a lot of people who were far more talented ...but I finished. I went back and rewrote and you really have to have a lot of guts to submit because rejection is very hard. ...I got a lot of rejections for a lot of years before I finally started selling. But I'm stubborn. My dad used to say that if I fell in a river, I'd float upstream. I was determined to get published and I did. I haven't looked back since. I've had 47 novels published. ...You follow the dream.
KB: That sounds great. Let's talk about the Magickers series a little bit. I found the tongue-in-cheek references to the Harry Potter series in the Curse of Arkady pretty funny.
ED (chuckling): I think she's a wonderful writer...
KB: Your Magickers series has been compared to that one. How do you feel about that?
ED: You know it's inevitable... She has a wonderful English sense of humor that was honed by people like Roald Dahl and she really is an excellent writer. When she started selling and I started reading it, I said to myself, thank god I can go back into young adult and children's fantasy. There will be an audience there. I was very pleased... We're going to be bringing a lot of young readers back from the media of games and movies. Science fiction and fantasy had lost a lot of readers and she's just heaven sent.
Also, I have to really thank people like R.L. Stine who wrote Goosebumps. These authors that just hung in there and were successful enough that they were able to stay published in YA and children's fiction really did a wonderful thing for the rest of us.
KB: I have to ask this. What is the Curse of Arkady? My daughter and I both assumed we knew, but when we started talking about it, we couldn't put our fingers on a description. Can you help us out?
ED: I didn't bring out the Curse of Arkady as much as I wanted to. ...do you remember a fellow by the name of Edgar Eager who wrote Half Magic? (No..) That book is probably one of the best children's fantasy books ever. His books talk about a magic...that in order to do your magic, to get it to come off properly, you had to wish for double but you had to wish for double in the proper way or you ended up with a worse mess than ever. The Curse of Arkady was to have your magic backfire on you and backfire in such a way that you couldn't predict it. It was a catchall phrase that the elder magickers used to warn the younger ones to be careful what they wished for. And that's the curse. It's written to be obscure because it could be anything. In other words, the kids were really being cautioned to be careful. Because of the way things were set up, the elders couldn't scold them properly, couldn't supervise them as well as they wished, and all sorts of disastrous things could and did happen... Of course anything bad that happened was attributed to the curse throughout the book. It isn't really an actual curse.
Now, book three gets a little more serious. The kids are older, the stakes are higher, and in book three, they are going to have a real problem with the aging because many of the elder magickers were either asleep or thrown through time. It's going to catch up with them in a horrible way unless they find a way to counteract that...
KB: Do you have an idea in mind how many books you'll do in this series?
ED: At the moment, we're contracted for four. We have a stocking problem in that the books are going into the adult science fiction and fantasy section instead of the children's section... It's getting good reviews. Book three is coming out next July and book four is coming out next May or June and we'll see where it goes from there.
KB: Do you have a working title for book three?
ED: Book three is going to be called the Dragon Guard.
KB: Any clues or hints for our readers as to what is coming?
ED: ...Bailey's going to have some problems with her personal life that may take her away from magicking. Ting has a grandmother who is very ill but has gone into remission. She's a Hidden One and her rapport with Ting is going to be explored at great length. The world of havens will be opened up fully by Jason and there's going to be some real problems with that. What they hoped would be a haven for magickers to go and learn and live without stress from the modern world is going to turn out to be a real enigma. We have lots of excitement ahead for the kids.
KB: That's fabulous!
"EMILY DRAKE lives in a sand castle by the sea...well, actually, it's a dusty house full of wonderful old books, cats, and a rambunctious cocker spaniel dog. And, on a good day when the smog clears, you can see the Pacific Ocean. When she's not reading or talking with the cats or playing with the dog, she is thinking of Bailey-isms and writing. Somewhere in the house is a grown-up daughter who likes to read and write histories of the fantastic and brings home pottery from class which looks as if it must have been made in another realm, so she fits in extremely well. Emily is married to a nice gentleman who works very hard in the real world and is often a bit bemused by the goings-on in the sand castle but has a good sense of humor about it all. There are other sons and a daughter who are scattered to the Trade Winds but who write and call home often. All in all, a good day is one in which book can be read and written and enjoyed by anyone Emily can reach. At the moment, the dog only considers a book a good chew-toy, but she's hoping he'll outgrow this. Emily does not normally talk about herself like this, but the cats insisted upon it, like royalty."