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Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Post: "The Magic of the Pacific Northwest" by Alyx Dellamonica

Why is the epicenter of the magical disaster in INDIGO SPRINGS and BLUE MAGIC physically located in Oregon? Why did I pick the Beaver State as the setting for my fictional town?

I get asked this quite often, especially when I go to Portland. (At home, I sometimes get asked, "Why not Vancouver?")

I had a handful of reasons:

I wanted to choose somewhere in the U.S.:
The same magical spill, in Canada, would be handled differently. America has a more effective military infrastructure, an aggressive approach to dealing with emergencies, and enough resources and power to tell a worried world to butt out when it has problems. Canada, faced with
the same crisis, would probably be obliged, quite quickly, to accept a lot of international aid . . . some of it, perhaps, heavily armed.
I wanted the landscape of the Pacific Northwest:
The environment plays a big role in both INDIGO SPRINGS and BLUE MAGIC; Albert Lethewood is a gardener, and the gardens of Indigo Springs are Cascadia gardens: bulb flowers in the spring, rhododendrons and azalea and hydrangea and roses. The enchanted, contaminated forest that grows up around the town of Indigo Springs is a West Coast rain forest. Its giant cedars are bound together by runaway ivy vines and populated by overgrown, magically altered Stellar's jays, pileated woodpeckers, raccoons, squirrels, skunks and orb weaver spiders, all the species that I see every day in the local woods.

I wanted the action to be near Mount Saint Helens: I'm realizing lately that I'm something of a volcano freak. I love the triangular cones of Mounts Baker, Hood, and Rainier. I'm astounded and awed by the remains of Saint Helens. I've seen Vesuvius and Mount Etna and Santorini. The only really compelling reason I can think of to go to Hawaii is to go to Volcano National Park.
In terms of practical story reasons, volcanos and geothermal power offer a ready source of energy for the books' well-wizards, and the intermingled threat and possibility represented by Mount Saint Helens is important. It broods in the background of the novel, literally threatening to blow whenever the wizards draw too much power.

I love Portland, so why not blast the hell out of it?
In fiction, at least, I really do hurt the things I love. I visit Portland once a year, for Orycon, and it's a great city. I know lots of people there and I like the overall vibe: it feels like one of the few places I've been that could become home, if one could just hop over an international border and relocate easily. I love Powells Bookstore (who doesn't love Powells?) and the coffee shops and the parks and the weather and all my friends there are wonderful.

Putting the far edge of the magical disaster within spitting distance of Portland--having Portland be the frontline of the effort to contain the contaminated forest--appealed to me somehow.

When the people in my own backyard ask "Why Portland? Why not Vancouver?" I like to tell them that I wanted to leave myself room for the damage to spread out in BLUE MAGIC. And it does--one storyline plays out at a decommissioned air force base on the Nevada/Utah border (Wendover, which is the base the atomic bomb missions originated) and there are scenes in Tuscany, the Sahara desert, Atlanta, and the enormous toystore in New York City, FAO Schwarz, and Assateague Island Park National Seashore.

While the story begins with four people in the basement of an old house in a fictional Oregon town, trying desperately to contain a magical spill, it reaches a lot further as the enchantment and its effects continue to spread. But Oregon is still the starting point; by the time BLUE MAGIC ends, it's certainly the most magic-drenched place on earth.

Since what I've seen of Oregon and its people is downright enchanting, that seems entirely appropriate.


About Blue Magic 
Alyx Dellamonica’s new book, Blue Magic, the sequel to the critically-acclaimed, Sunburst Award–winning contemporary fantasy debut, Indigo Springs, goes on sale this Tuesday, April 10th!

This powerful sequel starts in the small town in Oregon where Astrid Lethewood discovered an underground river of blue liquid—Vitagua—that is pure magic. Everything it touches is changed. The secret is out—and the world will never be the same. Astrid’s best friend, Sahara, has been corrupted by the blue magic, and now leads a cult that seeks to rule the world. Astrid, on the other hand, tries to heal the world.

Conflicting ambitions, star-crossed lovers, and those who fear and hate magic combine in a terrible conflagration, pitting friend against friend, magic against magic, and the power of nations against a small band of zealots, with the fate of the world at stake. Blue Magic is a powerful story of private lives changed by earthshaking events that will ensnare readers in its poignant tale of a world touched by magic and plagued by its consequences.

About the Author
You may know Alyx Dellamonica already from her fabulous “Buffy Rewatch” series on, but here are some more fun facts:

Alyx lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she sings in a community choir and takes thousands of digital photographs. In 2003, soon after finishing her first novel, Indigo Springs, the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled in favor of legalized same-sex marriage. A month later, she achieved a lifelong dream by marrying her long-term partner, writer and wine critic Kelly Robson, at one of their favorite places, the UBC Botanical Gardens.

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Alyx.

    I *did* wonder "Why not Vancouver? Or maybe Victoria" but now I understand. :)

  2. It never occurred to me that Canada would have handled things differently. I learn new stuff every day.

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  4. I think there's just enough difference between the two countries, in terms of density of population, the state of the military in each, and the circumstances of First Nations people that they'd be two very different books.