Everybody knows I am a fantasy super fan. Give me magic! Give me mayhem! Well, nothing describes Andrew Shvart’s books, the Royal Bastards series and It Ends in Fire, better than magic and mayhem! We (virtually) sat down with Andrew to talk about It Ends in Fire, evil magic schools, and angry magic girls! Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’ll be busy trying to figure out which Blackwater Academy Order I belong in!
What was your initial inspiration for It Ends in Fire?
So for me, I always have a bunch of random threads floating around in my head, and the eureka moment is when I realize how to combine them into a story. With IT ENDS IN FIRE, one thread I’ve wanted to do for a long time was an ‘impostor in a magic school’ story, one where the protagonist was someone who lied their way in on a stolen identity. I’ve had that idea for ages, but I couldn’t ever find a story to wrap it into.
The breakthrough moment came, hilariously enough, when I was ranting to a friend at a bar about my issues with the Sorting Hat, and how the idea of sorting children by innate personality traits is this really cruel thing that flies totally in the face of all modern educational theory. And I said something like “I mean, the only reason you’d do this is if your school was actively evil and trying to create hostility and trauma” and then the lightbulb went up over my head as I realized “the imposter is infiltrating an evil magic school to destroy it”.
Can you describe your writing process? Ae you a pre-plotter or do you develop the plot as you write?
I’m very much an improviser. I tend to start with a beginning and an endpoint I’m working towards, and then I just sort of fumble my way through the story, figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B as I go. And of course, by the time I get to the ending I’ve been aiming for, I discover it’s not the right ending at all, and I need to do something different altogether. Part of the fun of writing for me is that I’m constantly surprising myself… there’s one big awful plot twist in the middle of the book that made me gasp when I hit the scene and realized what I had to do.
Okay, magic system time! How did you approach writing the magic in It Ends in Fire? How did you come up with the ideas of Wizards using two wands (Loci) and carving magic into the air? What kind of Loci do you think you would you use?
This is one of those places where I started with an image, because the visual of a character stabbing blades into the skin of the world to carve magic was just so striking! I tend to love magic systems that are arcane and dangerous, where it feels like the characters are dabbling in ancient and dangerous forces beyond their control, where the magic threatens at any second to consume the Wizard. That’s what I was trying to channel when I visualized the Null, this plane where the characters slip into, this ashy frozen realm of the dead gods, the place where magic lies.
As for my Loci, if I’m being totally honest… it would probably be a pair of chewed up pencils.
As a fan of angry magical girls, I think I liked Alka the most out of all the characters! Which character from It Ends in Fire did you enjoy writing most? Which character do you relate most to?
God, I loved writing all of them! Probably the most fun was Prince Talyn Ravensgale, because he’s so unbearably flirty and clever and calculating, but then he has these moments, like That Scene In The Snow, where he can be intense and truly badass.
Students at the Blackwater Academy of Magic are divided among five Orders. Can you give readers a sneak peek of the school by telling us which Order you think you would be in and why?
Ha, this one’s easy! I created the Order of Nethro specifically for myself, an Order for people who don’t fit into any Order, the place for misfits and outcasts and outsiders, for people who break the system. Also, their patron is the god of death and their symbol is a kraken, which, how can you not love?
What are some books you’ve been reading recently or would recommend?
I just finished Linsey Miller’s WHAT WE DEVOUR which I absolutely adored. Speaking of arcane and terrifying magic systems… wow!
What are you working on now? Any exciting ideas you can share?
I’m just starting working on a new project that’ll be the most ambitious and complicated thing I’ve ever written! I can’t say much now, but I’m hoping to be able to share more soon…
It Ends in Fire
by Andrew Shvarts
ALKA CHELRAZI IS ON A MISSION:
1. Infiltrate Blackwater Academy
2. Win the Great Game
3. Burn Wizard society to the ground
As a child, Alka witnessed her parents’ brutal murder at the hands of Wizards before she was taken in by an underground rebel group.
Now, Alka is deep undercover at the most prestigious school of magic in the Republic: Blackwater Academy, a place where status is everything, where decadent galas end in blood-splattered duels, where every student has their own agenda. To survive, Alka will have to lie, cheat, kill, and use every trick in her spy’s toolkit. And for the first time in her life, the fiercely independent Alka will have to make friends in order to recruit the misfits and the outcasts into her motley rebellion.
But even as she draws closer to victory — to vengeance — she sinks deeper into danger as suspicious professors and murderous rivals seek the traitor in their midst, and dark revelations unravel her resolve. Can Alka destroy the twisted game…without becoming a part of it?
Andrew Shvarts is an author of novels and video games. He has a BA in English Literature and Russian from Vassar College. He works for Pixelberry Studios as a designer, making mobile games like High School Story, Choices, and more. Andrew lives in San Jose, California, with his wife, toddler, and two kittens. Find him on Twitter @Shvartacus.