Growing up in Ridgefield, Chris Bedell always wanted to be a writer. After graduating from Ridgefield High School in 2012, he went to college in New Jersey, before moving back to his hometown to make that dream a reality.
He just released his first book, In the Name of Magic, a YA fantasy novel about fascism in a contemporary Earth-like setting in which people born without magic are persecuted.
Keith Loria: What inspired you to write your first book?
Chris Bedell: I’ve always wanted to write a dystopian/fantasy novel. So, the trick was finding a new angle — my angle is a LGBTQ angle. A lot of progress has been made with tolerance and acceptance, but there seem to be more LGBTQ stories in contemporary YA literature than in YA fantasy literature. The LGBTQ angle is important because you don’t have to be LGBTQ to read the book. Literature — whether implied or clearly stated — can promote empathy.
KL: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the book’s plot?
CB: It’s about 17-year-old Maximillian who lives in a country (Magnifico) where people born without magic are persecuted by Queen Vivian’s tyrannical monarchy, and he risks his life to protect his best friend, Katherine, who was born without magic. Also, Maximillian finds himself drawn to Queen Vivian’s younger, estranged brother — Prince Stefan — and they must work together to destroy Queen Vivian while balancing their burgeoning relationship.
KL: It’s an interesting idea, what was the genesis of the story and how did it grow over time?
CB: The genesis of the story first began when I was in the eighth grade, but I could never find the right dystopian story to tell, so this has been 11 years in the making. I think dystopian literature and pop culture is timeless — whether it be in the past with Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, or more recently with V for Vendetta, Hunger Games and now [Hulu’s adaption of] the Handmaid’s Tale. Even if someone doesn’t live in a totalitarian state, a person still has to deal with rebellion and finding your voice in your teen years.
KL: Were you a big fan of fantasy growing up? Who were the authors you read?
CB: I wasn’t that much of a fantasy fan growing up, but I did love the Harry Potter books. But I have become more of a fantasy fan now. Two YA fantasy series I love now are Elly Blake’s The Frostblood Saga, about a world with fire and ice magic, and Tara Sim’s The Timekeeper Trilogy about an alternative Victorian London where clock towers literally control time and the main character falls in love with a clock spirit.
KL: I’ve heard this is just the first book in a planned trilogy.
CB: Yes, it has always been my intention to write three books — the idea requires that many books to tell the story. But the endgame conflict is pretty easy to figure out — the main character, Maximillian, versus the tyrannical Queen Vivian. So, even if a book separates the first and last book of the series, it doesn’t mean I can’t still be planting seeds for the series finale in book 1. Almost as if the series is a like a snowball rolling down the hill, and gets bigger and bigger.
KL: What’s the secret to knowing where to stop so it’s satisfying yet entices the reader to go on to the next one?
CB: My secret is to have a big dramatic moment (or moments) at the end of a novel and then push forward a little to hint at what’s to come. Pushing forward after the big dramatic moment (or moments) can be helpful because it gives some substance and fleshes out the story more. For example, let’s say a main character’s friend died. Then, the push forward would be how has the world changed, and how does the death impact/motivate the trajectory of the main conflict going forward.
KL: Where are you currently in the process of that second book?
CB: I finished a messy first draft and now have to almost completely rewrite the second book from scratch except for two scenes. I have a new seven-page outline, and feel I understand the book better. And it is nice I get to keep two scenes from the messy first draft, as it shows writers don’t always have to ‘kill their darlings.’
KL: What has been the most challenging part of writing this?
CB: The most challenging thing has been editing. For the final, published version I went from 93,000 words to 69,000 words, meaning I cut a lot of superfluous details. But I have a much better product and I still maintained creative control of what I wanted to happen.
KL: What else are you working on?
CB: I have a second project/series that was accepted by NineStar Press that’s YA with a slight sci-fi twist. The first book in this series comes out in 2019, and this new project/series involves cryogenics and superheroes. I also have another YA novel that was accepted by a different publisher, and will release more details on my social media once I get the okay from my publisher. Finally, I do hope to get a literary agent at some point.