Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Children's Author, Patti Larsen talks about Family Magic

Today's guest, a multi-published author, Patti Larsen is talking about her release, Family Magic. 

AUTHOR: Patti Larsen                 
BOOK TITLE: Family Magic

Please tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island, Canada, just north of Maine. Convinced I could write a book myself, I had my first typewriter at the age of twelve. I’ve been trying to convince myself that I actually am a writer ever since then, only succeeding after many years of side roads: acting, singing/songwriting, inventing, film making, improv… you name it, if it was creative, I tried it. But two years ago I realized what my real path was, my life’s purpose. I was meant to be writing books. The moral of this little story? Trust your inner twelve year old. She’s smarter than you when it comes to things like this.

Tell us your latest news?
I have so much going on right now, I’m  thrilled! The first four books of the Hayle Coven Series, of which Family Magic is the first, have been published. I have a new series coming out this month, the first book of which is called Smoke and Magic, a steampunk prequel to Family Magic. I’m also anticipating the publication of The Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House (Acorn Press) this spring.

When and why did you begin writing?
My parents were both avid readers. We didn’t have much money growing up, so pulp fiction in the form of science fiction and fantasy novels were our main entertainment. I was raised on The Lord of the Rings and The Dragonriders of Pern. When I finally realized I could write a book myself, my first attempt was a grand epic with all of my favorite characters involved, including Gandalf. Looking back, as horrid as it was, my young self knew what she was doing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is such a tough question. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but there used to be something else before it--I’m a journalist, I’m an actor, I’m a hairstylist, I’m a business owner. Writer always came second or sometimes third. When I committed to writing full time two years ago, I sold my business and settled into my new life. Now when people ask me, writer is the only answer I give. The first time I said it was hard but awesome, made me all shivery and excited inside while my ego told me I was a fraud. Now, it’s just natural. Though there are still times my ego jabs me. 

What inspired you to write your first book?
My father loved high fantasy and instilled that love in my sisters and me. I remember the night he brought home Dungeons and Dragons and the whole world changed. Weekends were spent, Friday night until Sunday when Mom made us stop for supper, with most of the kids in the neighborhood as well as my sisters and I, caught up in another reality with my father as the Dungeon Master. That love of storytelling and his passion for reading inspired me every day.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes and no. I’m not one to press ‘the message’ as much as want to tell a good yarn. But in this case, I think Sydlynn Hayle (the lead character) has a powerful one to share. A teen witch in yet another new school, destined because of her power to always be outside normal, bullied and trying to fit it, finally understands there is nothing wrong with her and stands up for herself. In the process, she wins friends as well as finding the strength to save her family when they come under attack. We need more heroines like Syd, strong female characters who have their flaws but do what’s right when the time comes.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?  (Has anyone ever realized it?)
Not really, though I feel a great kinship to Syd. I was bullied in school, though mildly compared to how she is treated in the book or even how many kids suffer these days. I think the strongest connection I have with her is the nerdy girl one--growing up awkward and different and trying to fit in. Thing is, I would have loved to have her powers and she wants to get rid of them. Go figure.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Just recently, one of my favorite authors of all time passed away. Anne McCaffrey changed the way I looked at fantasy. She wrote strong female characters (The Dragonriders of Pern, The Ship Who Sang) while creating fantastic tales I read over and over again. David Eddings (also deceased) The Belgariad and The Mallorean are two series I also reread about every few years, and no matter how many times I read them, I always cry when they are over.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
I’m currently reading Bag of Bones, by Stephen King. I’m a big fan of his and I’m enjoying the book, partly because the main character is a novelist. It’s funny to read about what I myself am going through (on a much smaller scale) and I find I’m empathizing with him because of it. My only complaint with Mr. King is he can be wordy at times… I admit to skimming on occasion.

What are your current projects?
I’m preparing my latest series for publication, beginning this month with Smoke and Magic. Fire and Illusion will be out sometime in February and the third in the line, Steam and Sorcery comes out in March. In the meantime, I’m writing the next four books in the Hayle Coven series, beginning with The Long Lost.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. Not a thing. I love my characters and everything they tell me to write. I have a fantastic editor who pulls out the core of what I’ve missed so I’m always thrilled with the result. My cover designer seems to read my mind, offering me more than I asked for every time. So I can say with all honest, no, never. The characters have a life of their own, their own voices. I’m just a conduit to that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I went through a dark phase, when a great deal of thriller/horror material was emerging. I wrote four books in the thriller genre (The Hunted series) and another in the horror genre (Best Friends Forever) while outlining three more horrors (The Blunt House series). I found them hard to write. Not like writer’s block hard. Painful hard. Nightmare inducing, depression settling hard. And while I love them, there are two sequels to BFF I have as yet to even consider writing because of the content and actually stopped book one of The Blunt House series because of it. I think we write in cycles of light and darkness. Those books will have to wait until the switch flips.

Do you ever have problems with writers block?  If so how do you get through it?
I don’t and I honestly thing it’s a sham. I know I’ll receive flak for saying so. But writer’s block is really just ego fear--fear of starting, fear of finishing, fear of failing, fear of the size of the task… I could go on and on. The simplest way to break it is to make a plan, break it down into tiny chunks that seem easy and start writing. I actually teach a course on structure and novel writing, and I have tools for my students to use to break them out of the ‘I don’t wanna’ phase.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I’m pretty much a hermit, it’s terrible! I love hidden object video games so I play those for fun. I also have for beautiful cats who bring me immense joy. And a sweet husband. TV, movies. My treadmill. I used to play roller derby but broke my arm--not the best thing for a writer! And my tailbone, also bad. I’m so focused on writing at the moment I’ve sort of given up everything. Now I’m depressed… LOL

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Honestly there was nothing hard about it. Family Magic poured out of me after I was woken by a voice in the middle of the night (no straightjacket necessary, I assure you) telling me I had to get up and write this down--wasn’t I paying attention? I went right to my office. This girl’s voice said her mom was a witch and her father was a demon but she just wanted to be ordinary. From that moment, the whole book, from outline to completion of the first draft, took about two weeks.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Writing doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, when I listen to the characters and not to my brain, it’s immensely easy. And it brings me so much joy, like nothing else I’ve ever done.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Much. But I’ll only share three things:
1. You know you’re a writer. You hear the call. Don’t let anyone stop you. That being said, don’t let you stop you either. Learn, learn more, grow, figure out how to take criticism and how to give it. Don’t just say you’re a writer. Be one.
2. Treat it like a business. Because if you want to make a career out of it, it has to be business. It’s a great way to not let the naysayers get to you. It’s not personal. The art part, the creative process, has nothing to do with the business.
3. Have fun! This is a gift, a great blessing and you’re meant to enjoy every minute of it. So stop worrying and go write something.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
 Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. All I’ve ever wanted to do is share my stories with you. I know your time is precious. Thanks for making my writing a part of your life.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I’m working with Acorn Press at the moment for my middle grade novel, The Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House, due this coming spring. They are a small press, but the publisher, Terrilee Bulger, is fantastic to work with. They are my regional house and a perfect fit for the book I wrote, based here at home on P.E.I.

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal who writes a great deal of horror for someone who is afraid of the dark. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband Scott and four enormous cats.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.

Her new series, The Hunted (Run, Hide, Fight and Hunt), and her YA paranormal series, The Hayle Coven Novels (Family Magic, Witch Hunt, Demon Child and The Wild) are available now at and
You can find her at
and her work on

In Family Magic, Sixteen-year-old Sydlynn Hayle is the daughter of a powerful witch and a demon lord of the seventh plane. The trouble is, she just wants to be ordinary. Syd struggles to survive the minefield of her new high school while being torn between her attraction to football hero Brad Peters and the darkly mysterious Quaid Moromond. When her coven comes under attack, Syd is forced to face the fact only her power can save her family’s magic.

In this excerpt, Syd’s father Harathazar has just been summoned to renew his bond with her coven and family. The ceremony has ended and Syd can’t wait to escape. Her mother has something else in mind…

“Thank you for your enthusiastic participation, young lady.” Mom tried very hard to be stern, but she didn’t do stern very well. It came across as huffy.

“You're welcome.”

Her eyes flashed fire, normal Mom fire, not the magic stuff. Dad chuckled. She spun on him. He held up his hands for protection.

“Miriam,” he started.

“Harry!” She finished.

It dissolved into them sweetly gazing at each other. Would my time in family hell never end?

“Can I go?” I glared back and forth between them. “I have homework.”

Mom crossed her arms over her chest.

“You would think you didn’t want to see your father, Sydlynn.”

“Mom… ”

“Of course she does,” Dad said, “don’t you, Syd?”

“I love seeing you, Dad.” I really meant it. 

Mom softened a little, but I knew the dangerous stuff was still to come. The crying and yelling stuff. To be honest, it was getting to the point where I hardly listened anymore.  The same old, same old. And yet, there was obviously more ammunition on the way. I braced myself for the guilt trip and held on.

“This ceremony is very important to the family. You know that.”

“Yes, Mother.” She hated it when I called her Mother. What was wrong with me? I was only making things worse for myself, prolonging my grief. I zipped up and hoped she’d give me a pass.

She glared as I shifted from one foot to the other, hoping the expression on my face radiated innocence.

No such luck.

“And yet again, you have this… attitude.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to keep a calm expression. More attitude would make her crazy and I’d end up grounded or a frog or something. 

Unfortunately, my brain and my mouth had a miscommunication.

“Yeah, Mom,” I said. “It’s called ‘I don’t give a crap.’”

Mom’s face crumpled. Oh damn, the waterworks. My mother was a freaking supernatural faucet.

She reached out and brushed her fingertips over my cheek. “You have been fighting your power your whole life. Would it hurt you to participate just once? We’re your family, honey.”

“We’ve had this conversation.” I tried to keep my voice low and rational and succeeded not badly. “You know I don’t want to be a witch. If you would let me give up my powers now instead of making me wait until I’m eighteen, you wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Mom’s eyes brimmed. “So this is my fault? I’m a terrible mother for bringing you into the world, for cursing you to be a witch and not letting you go?”

“Oh, for… seriously, Mom, this is getting so old.” The drama was far too familiar and wore me thin. I tried to take a step back, but her power caught and held me. No way! I struggled against her, furious.

“Let go!”

“How can I let you go?” She cried, tears coursing in elegant lines down her flawless face. How could she be so perfect in everything, even crying? My anger cranked up a notch.

“If you really loved me, you would.”

Mom looked like I slapped her. I’d never used that line before and wished I could take it back, especially since Dad’s expression matched my mom’s. As a matter of fact, so did my little sister Meira’s.

“Miriam, Syd, I think that’s enough.” Dad slid an arm around Mom while my sister leaned into his free side. Talk about a united front. I felt like a huge wall stood between them and me and knew I was as responsible for its construction as they were.
Mom cried openly. For the first time she was a real person in real pain. I felt like crap, but I was determined to keep the ground I gained. This was my chance to cut myself free.

“Is it really that horrible?” Mom’s eyes were red rimmed. I’d pay for that. “Being what we are?”

“I don’t want to be what you are,” I said, voice barely registering calm. Barely.

“Why not?” Mom’s confusion was genuine. I knew that. 

I had two choices. I could go easy on her and lie about how I really felt like I always did. Or, I could open my big mouth and say the exactly the wrong thing, purposely breaking her heart.

Guess which one I picked.

“I don’t want to be a monster!”

I thought Mom was stunned before. Dad reached for me, but dropped his hand. Meira started to cry.

“Syd,” Dad whispered, “whatever gave you the impression you were a monster?”

Was he serious? Had he looked in the mirror lately?

“Dad,” I stretched out the word, trying to add weight to it, to make him understand.  “You are a demon. Exactly where is the descriptive confusion here?”

Dad didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. I was on a bridge-burning roll, uh-huh. Might as well finish the demolition and ride the flames like a cleansing pyre.

“I hate what we can do. I hate the way it feels and I want out! Why can’t you understand that?” 

I totally lost my temper. Bad to worse in a mere instant. Why did Mom have to pick right then to challenge me?  Why couldn’t she let it go like she always did? I wasn’t prepared for this conversation, especially not with her. It would have been easier with just my dad and me. I could have made him understand. But my mom and I knew each other’s buttons and which ones were atomic.

Case in point.

Dad gave me the Father face, the angry Father face. I knew I finally found his button, too.

“I want you to apologize to your mother, young lady. This is hard enough on her as it is.”

Hard on my mother?  Hard on my mother?! I am embarrassed to admit I suddenly and completely lost it. I dropped my robe on the floor in front of them with deliberate determination and crossed my arms over my chest.

“You have me until I’m eighteen. You know what happens then. You’ve always known.  When the choice is mine, I’m done with magic, once and for all. If that means I’m done with you too, I guess that’s the way it has to be. End of story.”

I turned and walked away. I actually walked away. When I hit the bottom step, my heart was breaking, but I would not give in. Would not. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, breathing a little heavy, not wanting to look back. But I did in the end, if only for one reason. Dad, his power to remain on our plane almost used up, would be leaving soon, and I wanted to at least let him know I wasn’t angry with him.

“Nice to see you, Dad,” I said and left.


  1. Interesting interview. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on writers block.

  2. Thank you so much for having me, Penny. Such a pleasure to be here on your wonderful blog!