The Garden of Abracadabra
“This is a very entertaining novel- sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first “episode” while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I’m looking forward to finding out more. “-D. Pflaster about The Garden of Abracadabra
Author of numerous books spanning over a surprising amount of time, I was very excited to have our guest today. She accepted with such sincerity and kindness I was encouraged about the literary world. Meet . . .
RW: Where are you from?
LISA: The heart of the Midwest. But I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for so long, and love where I live so much, I consider myself a California native.
RW: Who are your favorite authors?
LISA: That has evolved over the years as my taste in fiction has evolved and broadened. While I was writing book reviews for Goodreads and skimming through works I’d previously read, I was struck at how some books and authors stand the test of time, while others aren’t as great as I’d remembered them.
E.B. White and P.L. Travers from my childhood reading remain fresh and delightful. Classical writers like Edith Wharton (domestic dramas), Margaret Mitchell (historical romance), and Raymond Chandler (hard-boiled 1940s detective mysteries) are always good for relaxation. In science fiction, Frank Herbert’s Dune still reads well, but Dan Simmons’ Hyperion isn’t quite as amazing as when I first read it.
In contemporary urban fantasy, I enjoy Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris. In detective mysteries, I like the early Sue Graftons, not so much the later ones. In high fantasy, George R.R. Martin is of course the king, but I just don’t have time for 1,000 page books.
So there you have it. I like to read and write in different genres.
RW: What is your favorite beverage to drink, any kind?
LISA: Oh, like every red-blooded writer, coffee is essential in the morning. Later in the day, I enjoy chilled chardonnay. Throughout the day, I sip lots of cold spring water. I love water.
RW: What is your favorite word?
LISA: I like “murmur.” The word sounds just exactly like what it means. I like the symmetry of the spelling. “Susurrus” is a good one too, but not quite as usable as “murmur.”
RW: What is your background in writing, what makes you a writer?
LISA: My mother bought me lots of great books when I was a child. I loved reading and decided I wanted to be a writer. Stories and fantasies would pop into my head. I wrote my first book at age five. I’ve got it on my desk right now. It is 1¼ inches by 2 inches, hand-sewn, with two chapters lavishly illustrated by the author, and entitled, “Millie the Caterpillar.” Millie is despondent at being “a fat, green, hairy, little caterpillar.” Then spring comes, she breaks out of her cocoon, and “to her surprize, she found two beautiful red and black wings on her shoulders.” Happiness! The End.
I’ve thought ever since that surprise should be spelled with a z.
So you could say I got bit by the writing bug early on.
RW: What is the title of your book and why did you choose that name?
LISA: My latest novel-length work is The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series.
The title is a take on a classic memoir, The Garden of Allah, by Sheilah Graham, about a wild and crazy apartment complex in 1940s Hollywood (that no longer exists) where many famous actors lived before they hit big in the movies, as well as the “Round Table” New Yorker crowd of famous writers, who had come to Hollywood to write screenplays.
RW: What genre does your book fall into?
LISA: Urban fantasy.
RW: Why do you write in the genre that you do?
LISA: Urban fantasy is one of several genres I write in, and I like it for all the reasons I like to read and write in different genres.
I like the rich blend of fantasy tropes (magic and magicians, witches, wizards, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons) in a contemporary setting, often a city but not necessarily, and mystery tropes (detective work, murder and crime, police procedural), spiced up with dicey romance, troublesome relationship issues, and wit and whimsy interspersed with murder and mayhem.
RW: Tell us a little about your book.
LISA: At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus.
She discovers that her tenants are witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards and that each apartment is a fairyland or hell.
On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before.
Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between humanity and demonic realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.
RW: What inspired the book?
LISA: Often inspiration springs from something quotidian. You’re in the shower. Or shopping for groceries. Or, in this instance, searching for a parking place in Berkeley.
Berkeley is a small historic university town across the Bay from San Francisco. The town is so crowded these days, searching for a parking place on the street is something of a quixotic quest.
As my husband and I were cruising through unfamiliar neighborhoods looking for that elusive space, we passed by a spectacular 1920s Mediterranean apartment building and were both instantly struck by its beauty.
But more than that, the place had a powerful vibe. It was spooky!
The idea sprang instantly to my mind: what if you were the superintendent of a building and discovered that every tenant was some stripe of supernatural being and every apartment was a portal to a fantasy world? To a fairyland or a hell?
Setting the book and the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts in Berkeley itself was a natural fit. Berkeley is not only home to the University of California, but several other eminent colleges as well.
RW: Tell us about your main character(s) and what you think will them connect to readers.
LISA: Abby is an everywoman, but she’s got magical power, so she’s special. She’s chosen. She’s still discovering herself and her power as an adult. She’s still exploring with whom she wants to share her life and her love.
RW: Who would play your main character(s) in a movie?
LISA: That’s up to the casting director!
RW: What message do you think your book delivers to the reader?
LISA: That Magic exists all around us. The study of Real Magic is a powerful tool to help you in real life. And above all, Know Thyself! Think for yourself! We are bombarded from all sides by the media. It’s vital to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to the truth.
RW: What did you learn about yourself from writing this book?
LISA: Life is an onward process of learning about yourself and the world. Never stop learning!
Describe your book in one word.
RW: Where can we get your book now?
LISA: The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
The Labyrinth of Illusions, Volume 2 of the Abracadabra Series, is forthcoming. With the publication of the second book, my publisher may produce print editions.
RW: What other books do you have to share with us and can you tell us a little about them?
LISA: My perennial bestseller is Summer of Love, originally published by Bantam, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book. This is my Great American (Science Fiction) Novel, about a significant turning point in American history with both wonderful and terrible consequences. The book is also about a harrowing coming of age for a teenager, a friendship that ends in tragedy, and a love spanning centuries.
Summer Of Love on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. Summer of Love is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
I love reading short stories and have published two dozen in magazines and anthologies worldwide. In September 2014, I sold another story, “Tearsdrop” to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ll announce the publication date when I have it on my website.
I’ve long wanted a story collection and got one in 2013, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, which has won five-star reviews from the San Francisco Review of Books, the Book Brothers Blog, and Amazon readers. As I mulled over my previously published short fiction, I found seven wildly different stories with one thing in common–a heroine totally unlike me. I’m the girl next door. I have no idea where these strange ladies came from.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
RW: What are you working on right now?
LISA: Although I love urban fantasy—and authors who are fifteen books into their series are still selling well—my sense is that some readers, and certainly the publishers, are searching for fresh ground. Dystopian fiction, which interests me less, seems to have run its course, as well.
I’m continuing my urban fantasy, The Abracadabra Series, for at least two more books and will consider more after I’ve wrapped up that trilogy arc.
I’ve got several YA ideas in development, as well as a children’s series. Forthcoming also is an adaptation of my early cyberpunk novels, Arachne and Cyberweb, as a Young Adult or New Adult piece, The Quester Trilogy. I’ve got another backlist series published by Bantam, Pangaea I and II, on the slate sometime down the road.
My main focus now is on a science fantasy with—I hope!—a new fresh exciting concept. I can’t say more about it!
RW: What book are you reading at this time?
LISA: I’ve got a To-Read List a mile long, but since I’m really, really busy (see above!), I don’t know when I’ll get to it. I’d like to read Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, The Night Circus, maybe Gone Girl (though I’m not sure after reading the mixed reviews). I love reading short stories, so any of the Year’s Best in F&SF are always a good bet.
RW: What is your biggest tip for someone to getting published?
LISA: Read works you admire, write constantly (even notes and random ideas that you’ll never develop), study the craft of writing, and persevere.
Figure out your entry point into the marketplace—and make no mistake, it’s a marketplace. If, for example, you want to write another Gone With The Wind, but you’re more likely to break in with a simple romance, start with a simple romance.
If you’re writing science fiction and fantasy, selling short stories is a terrific (and time-honored) way to break in. No other genre offers as many opportunities to publish short fiction as F&SF. Even writers who now publish mostly mainstream works (Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler), started out with stories in F&SF magazines.
That said, if you’re prepared to devote ten years to a masterpiece as your first book, be all means give it your best shot!
RW: What is your escape from writing when you are at that about to explode point?
LISA: I power-walk three-and-a-half miles a day, usually seven days a week unless I need to travel out of town. That keeps me on track on a daily basis.
I also enjoy reading, watching movies, researching on the Internet, (usually the book business and what other writers are publishing), cooking for my family, a bit of gardening, and local field trips (usually research for a piece I’m working on).
I think it was Voltaire who said (I’m paraphrasing), “Live a quiet, ordinary life so you can be outrageous in your writing.”
Unless you’re writing a tell-all memoir about your road trip with Miley Cyrus, that’s sound advice!
RW: List links to all websites you have and social networks such as Twitter.
LISA: Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson and the galleries where he’s presently showing work, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Now you know a few things about Lisa you may not have. I want to thank her again for this chance to learn more and for her allowing us to take up some of her time to answer our questions. Buy the books and follow her on her various sites. I am still excited she said yes.
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