Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Kathy McCullough, Author of Don't Expect Magic

I'm thrilled to have had the chance to read DON'T EXPECT MAGIC (released from Random House yesterday), and to have scored an interview with Kathy. Delaney starts out as a tart character and becomes sweeter as the novel progresses, so I like to compare her to a sweeTart.  It's such a fun, heartwarming book!

 Here's the summary:

Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father—a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right.
Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother—an f.g.—and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there's a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is someone's fairy godmother.
But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?
And the cover:

And of course, the interview!

Did you consciously plot Delaney's character arc from standoffish outsider to openhearted friend or did it just happen organically?
It wasn’t conscious in the sense that I had decided to do this from the start. Initially, I had a very vague idea for a story about a teen fairy godmother. But then I had to introduce conflict, which meant that the main character couldn’t be happy about being an “f.g.,” as she calls it. Then I had to figure out WHY she wasn’t happy about it, and so on. Once I came up with her name, Delaney Collins, her prickly personality seemed to manifest itself full-blown with it. Since she began as a sullen loner, her arc was then likely to move her in the opposite direction. As I developed the story and got to know Delaney better, this arc did indeed unfold organically as part of the story.

Delaney's lack of matchmaking prowess reminded me of EMMA and CLUELESS. Were these influences and if not, what were your influences/inspirations for the story?
Very astute of you! I love CLUELESS, which was written by Amy Heckerling, and which, a screenwriter, I admire a lot for its tight structure – which comes largely from the structure of its source: Jane Austen’s EMMA. I didn’t look at CLUELESS specifically for this book, although the movie may have influenced me subconsciously considering how often I’ve seen it! There were a couple of books that I’d re-read a passage from if I felt I was missing the comedy in a scene: BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY by Helen Fielding and it’s YA cousin, ANGUS, THONGS AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING by Louise Rennison. My book is nothing like either of these two (which are straight comedies, both written in diary form), but the way conflict is used in each of them to create humor makes them good models for me.

Tell us a bit about your path to publication - were there any fairy godmothers involved?
Lots of fairy godmothers! Years ago, writing teacher Karen D’Arc led me to the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an organization that was (and is) invaluable to me as a source of inspiration and information. After I wrote DON'T EXPECT MAGIC, my manager, Dana Jackson, led me to my agents, Alyssa Reuben & Lydia Wills, who gave the book to Wendy Loggia at Random House.

If you were to chose a minor character from DON'T EXPECT MAGIC for a spin-off novel, who would you choose and what would the premise be?
Hmm. That's a good question! There’s actually a great character in the sequel, which I’m writing now, who could definitely star in her own novel. She’s a rival fairy godmother, who’s the opposite of Delaney in every way. If I had to choose someone from DON’T EXPECT MAGIC, I’d want to explore a character I don’t feel I know that well, because that would be more interesting to me as a writer. For that reason, I’d pick Mia, the frosty friend of Cadie Perez, the cheerleader whom Delaney is trying to fix up with a classmate. I believe that if you scratch the surface of any character, you can find an interesting story to tell, because no one is exactly what they initially seem to be. Not sure what the premise would be until I figured out what Mia's issue is. Of course, a story about Mia would be a completely different type of book than DON’T EXPECT MAGIC!

Finally - in what ways would fairy godmother powers help you survive a zombie apocalypse?
Delaney’s two main powers are “atom manipulation” and “object transference.” The first would allow me to transform myself into something that zombies wouldn’t want to eat, and the second would transport me far away -- hopefully far enough!

Thank you Kathy!


  1. Atom manipulation and object transference sound like pretty awesome powers. I'm looking forward to seeing them put into action!

  2. Can't wait to buy this one!

    I also love Clueless and fairy godmothers, so this book is perfect for me :)

  3. I love the premise of this one! Happy launch, Kathy:-)

  4. I just got this from the library yesterday! I'm so excited to read it. :)