Kathy McCullough is here today to talk about one of my favorite books Don’t Expect Magic which takes a very unconventional spin on the Fairy Godmother stories you might know. I read this book back in 2012 and I still think about it quite a bit. When I found out a sequel called Who Needs Magic? came out in 2013 I was even more excited and reached out to Kathy to see if she’d talk to me here on the blog.
Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Kathy McCullough (KM): I’ve been writing since I learned how to write. I wrote poems in grade school and began writing stories as well in middle school. I’ve always loved to read, of course. I took a lot of creative writing classes in college and then went to graduate school for screenwriting. My initial professional success was writing for film and television, but I’d never given up the dream of writing fiction. My TV and screen work tended to be in the family/teen/kids genres so it seemed a good fit for me to write novels for kids and teens.
MP: What was the inspiration for Don’t Expect Magic?
KM: I wanted to come up with a comic YA twist on a fairy tale character, and I liked the idea of focusing on a minor figure instead of the familiar leads, which is how I came up with the teen fairy godmother idea. The original idea had Delaney’s grandmother being the adult fairy godmother in the story, and the ability skipping a generation. However, that idea didn’t have a lot of humor in it, and that’s when I thought of making it her father. Having Delaney accept the skill willingly lacked conflict, so it was a natural development to make her someone for whom this is not a good thing: she’s a loner and this forces her to interact with people; she’s dark and sullen, and so the typical image of a sparkly, cheery fairy godmother goes completely against how she views herself. Part of her journey is accepting this destiny; in the process, she heals her fractured relationship with her father.
MP: Delaney’s story starts when she has to move in with her father in California–much to her East-Coast-Loving dismay. Which begs the question: Does your heart belong to the East Coast or the West Coast?
KM: I have a lot of great memories from growing up on the East Coast (and in the Midwest before that), but I’ve lived the longest on the West Coast and have made a home here, and since “home is where the heart is…”
MP: Working off the last question: As Delaney navigates her new life, she explores some of her California surroundings. Were any of Delaney’s observations or locations inspired by actual places or events?
KM: Yes, a lot of them were, most notably the mall, which is featured in Don’t Expect Magic, and where she gets a summer job in Who Needs Magic?, but in every case I took the original and made it much more extreme and surreal, to underscore the “modern-day-fairy-tale” feeling.
MP: One of my favorite things about Delaney is her talent at making boots into art. Did you always know that would be part of Delaney’s character?
KM: No, that developed in rewriting. Characters seem to expand and gain dimension when I’m revising, which is fun – they really do “take over.” One day, I just discovered that she had this interest and ability.
MP: Of course I also have to ask: If you could “Delaney-fy” your own pair of boots, what would they look like?
KM: Alas, unlike Delaney, I am not a visual artist, but if I did have any talent in this area, I’d add a lot of buckles and snaps, and some colorful spiral swirls.
MP: A big part of the story involves Delaney making sense of her father’s unusual work. If you were in Delaney’s shoes, would you want to try your hand at being a Fairy Godmother?
MP: Don’t Expect Magic also has a sequel now called Who Needs Magic?. Did you always know Delaney’s story would continue after her first book? Will this be the last readers see of Delaney?
KM: I did hope to write a sequel, but the idea for it came much later, after Random House had made the deal to publish Don’t Expect Magic. I do have an idea for a third book, as well as ideas for prequels and spin-offs, but there’d have to be the demand for them. Right now, I’m working on a new, stand-alone idea.
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
KM: It’s contemporary and realistic. It’s YA and the characters are slightly older teens than in Don’t Expect Magic and Who Needs Magic?, but it has a similar tone: comic with serious undertones.
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
KM: Write a lot, write consistently, embrace revision, seek feedback and don’t waste time on doubt.
Thanks again to Kathy for stopping by the blog. You can find out more about her and her books on her website kathymcculloughbooks.com.
You can also check out my review of Don’t Expect Magic here on the blog.