Interview: Debbie Newcomb
Today we’re talking to Debbie Newcomb, whose novel A Tale of Two Tricksters is now available from Amazon.
Long ago, King Solomon sealed all djinns away in bottles to stop their havoc. One particular bottle made its way around the world, over many years without ever being opened. Until one woman in a park wishes she could have a child...
Jenn has always been difficult. She would rather play a trick on someone than help them, but her life is pretty normal. That is, until one night at a bar, when a man accuses her of having magic. Jenn doesn't pay him any attention until she starts to notice strange things happening around her that can't just be explained away…
Hi Debbie, thanks for taking the time to chat!
How did you first learn about myths of djinn? How you decide that they would be the subject of your novel?
I’ve always been big into fairy tales and folk tales, so I don’t remember the first time I came across a djinn, as opposed to a genie, but the difference between them was always interesting to me. If you found a magic lamp, how were you supposed to know if you had a friendly genie like in Aladdin or a djinn who would use your wishes against you?
The idea for this novel actually came from a Christina Aguilera song, specifically “Genie in a Bottle”. I like to take things literally, so I started wondering how a genie could be in a person’s body and what their life would be like. Apparently, full of difficulty and unexpected magic.
What are your favorite stories of djinn?
One of my favorites is actually not a fairy tale. It’s called Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones, and it’s the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. The djinn is particularly clever at misusing his master’s wishes, and that really stuck with me.
What are the influences that were most important to you when you wrote A Tale of Two Tricksters?
Almost all of the characters in this story are based on characters from folk tales or fairy tales. Some of them were already in my mind, but I admit I had to go looking for a few more creatures to flesh out the cast and make sure there were characters from a variety of folk tale traditions. I wanted to make a world where you could have creatures from any kind of tradition because a) it’s more fun that way and b) then all bets are off for who you’ll see next.
How did you decide to have Jenn's initial encounter be during her college years, at a bar?
The locations for this book are inspired by several places across the Midwest. The first time I went to Cleveland, OH, we went to a bar called the Velvet Tango Room. On the outside, it didn’t look like much, but inside it was really nice, with a large drink menu, a live band, and a hidden bar in the back, leftover from Prohibition days. After that experience, it didn’t take much to put the two together and realize that Jenn needed to go to her version of this bar. As for why she was in college, when I wrote the first draft of this book, I had a better handle on college life than “real” life afterwards. And she couldn’t habitually go into a bar much younger than that.
Do you come up with an outline when you write? What surprises came up during the writing of the novel?
Typically, I’ll have an idea of where I want the story to begin and end, but not a lot of detail on what happens in the middle. Rewriting this story was particularly interesting because the characters started to change the plot and I had to figure out how to get to the ending and have it still make sense. This either means that I’m crazy or a good writer, but I prefer the latter.
How did you come up with the title?
Titles are so hard. This story started life as “Djinn in a Bottle” and went through a few changes before I settled on “A Tale of Two Tricksters”. I stuck with that because it’s always nice to make a nod to those who came before us, and I like the alliteration. Hopefully, something will come to me about what to call the sequel.
Debbie Newcomb is a writer, analyst, and lover of fairy tales. A Tale of Two Tricksters is her debut novel. Check out her Instagram at newcombnotes and her short fiction and assorted musings at https://soyouthinkyouknowfairytales.blogspot.com/.