We are thrilled that we’ve got Andrew Mayne — author, illusionist and star of A&E’s “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne” — as our guest today. His novel, Angel Killer, hits shelves on Sept. 23 and he’s telling us some today about writing and magic. We think you’ll be entertained and while we think you’ll be safe from his magic antics through the medium of the internet, if you find a playing card unexpectedly in your coffee, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
WORD NERDS: Your main character has a background as an illusionist; how does that career help her solve crime?
MAYNE: I think every good detective has a particular way of looking at things based on their experiences. As a magician, Jessica has an understanding of how people are fooled and how we fool each other. A good magician caters their magic to their audience. They exploit their cognitive biases. With Jessica, I wanted to present someone who may not have encyclopedic knowledge or gut instincts about human behavior, but could look at the evidence and see what we’re supposed to believe, but then pick up on the inherent deception.
WN: Magic has such a visual component even in getting the audience to look at the wrong thing. How did that translate into writing fiction when all you’ve got is the words on the page?
MAYNE: While magic is a visual medium for the most part, the trick really takes place in your mind. That’s where magic lives. Something is “magical” because you have prior experiences that tell you what is and isn’t possible.
In Angel Killer, I made a decision to describe magic in the way that we think about it – not just the way we see it. I think this approach makes magic even more interesting from a literary perspective. The trick happens in the characters’ minds. We as the reader then get to see it as they understand it.
WN: You started as a self-published author. What’s the journey been like to move from that to having Angel Killer picked up by HarperCollins?
MAYNE: It’s been a fun trip with a lot of growth. My favorite part is that at each level I get to work with great people that have really helped me grow as a writer. From my agent, Erica Silverman to my editor Hannah Wood, I consider myself lucky to work with these people. My goal has always been to tell the best possible version of the story I can. Going from self-published to published has enabled me to get advice and input I just couldn’t do on my own.
WN: What was the best advice you received as a new author?
MAYNE: It all goes back to the first piece of advice we all get: Show, don’t tell. It’s easy to get caught up in plot twists and character descriptions and forget that good storytelling isn’t what happened; it’s the unfolding of events as they transpire. When I stumble, it’s usually because I’m more caught up in the twists and turns than letting the character live through them.
WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
MAYNE: I’ve been reading James Clavell’s Shogun, which is based partly on the life of William Adams, a European who became a samurai in the 1600s. I’m fascinated by the interaction of different cultures in that time period. We’re so used to a singular narrative when it comes to Europeans interacting with the rest of the world; it’s cool to read something that feels almost like a science fiction story where a traveler journeys to an equally advanced civilization.
WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
MAYNE: The next Jessica Blackwood book is being edited and I’m in the middle of writing the third. I also have some interesting film and television projects at various stages. All of it involves me sitting in front of a keyboard.