When I read THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES by Susan Bishop Crispell, I was absolutely honored to offer an endorsement. And now the book is available for all of you lucky readers who enjoy magical realism as it intertwines with women’s fiction! I’m thrilled to have Susan here on WFW talking about magical realism, what it means, and even, how to write it!
Here’s what I thought of the book:
“Susan Bishop Crispell delivers a page-turning and moving story of family, love, and second chances complete with touches of humor and heartache. If you don’t already believe in magic, you will, when you arrive in Nowhere, North Carolina along with Rachel Monroe, meet the town’s charismatic residents, and learn everyone’s secrets, hopes, and deepest fears. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will delight in this bright new voice in romantic magical realism. I know I did!”
Please welcome Susan to WFW!
Blending Magic and Real Life into Must-Read Stories
Magical realism is something that a lot of readers say they like to read and a lot of writers say they like to write. But it’s also a term that a lot of people don’t understand. I’ve seen it confused with light fantasy and paranormal and even urban fantasy. While magical realism might share some characteristics with these genres, it really goes so much deeper than what most people think.
At its core, magical realism involves a story based in the world as we know it (whether historical or modern times) with touches of magic that are seamlessly woven into the characters, setting, and plot. Instead of being created and summoned via spells and incantations as in fantasy novels, the magic in magical realism is simply there, occurring naturally in the world without an explanation of how or why. The characters carry out their normal lives, working and having families and falling in love. But they also accept the magic and believe in it without question. That’s where the magic and the realism blend together.
Another key distinction of magical realism is that the magic is tied to the plot so its existence is as integral to the story as the characters are. In other words, without the magical elements, the story would not—could not—exist.
That’s because the magic is more than just a fantastical plot device. It’s the heart of the story, pulsing with a vibrant energy that brings the underlying culture and needs of the world to life on the page—and in the hearts of readers. With roots in Latin American literature, it’s not hard to see how the beauty and evocative descriptions of that culture have fueled magical realism for so long. My friend Anna-Marie McLemore, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, wrote a beautiful article* for Writers Digest about magical realism and its roots in Latin American culture. I highly recommend hopping over there to read it to get an in-depth look at the cultural and deep emotional connections that drive so much of traditional magical realism.
In recent years, magical realism has gained a bigger following as more writers are leaving their personal touches on the genre. One of my favorite authors is Sarah Addison Allen, who writes what she calls “southern fried magical realism.” As a southern girl, I gravitate toward books set in the south that show off our small-town charm, hospitality, and food. I’ve always written quirky stories, but it wasn’t until I read Garden Spells that I understood what my genre was. Then I started seeking out magical realism books to gain a better understanding of what it really was and how to write it.
When I was writing THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES I read a tried to incorporate a lot of the elements I loved from some of my favorite magical realism books. Magic that makes the characters’ lives harder, like making wishes come true just by thinking about them and baking secrets into pies to keep them from getting out. Small-town relationships that are steeped in Southern culture, including gossiping neighbors and a barbecue festival and pies of every imaginable flavor. Quirky characters that beg for you to come sit on the front porch and stay awhile just to listen to their stories.
My stories tend to be more on the whimsical side than traditional magical realism, but that’s the beauty of writing. Each story holds a piece of the author, s snippet of their own story, and allows readers to experience a slice of the world that might not have seen before.