From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Author Spotlight: Charles De Lint

In this week’s Author Spotlight, we ask author Charles de Lint to tell us a bit about his story for Fantasy, “The Invisibles.”

Charles de LintYour story, “The Invisibles,” deftly merges the real world and fantasy. As a writer, how do you decide where to draw that dividing line in your stories between the realistic and the fantastic? 

It’s a matter of what works for the story. In this case the magical elements are much more subtle than they are in some of my other stories. Since the point being made in the story is to bring to light things and people that “disappear” between the cracks it had to have a firm basis in the world we all know. In fact, I’d argue that’s the basis for all good fantasy stories: Ground the reader in the familiar so that when you do bring more improbable elements on stage, they’re more readily accepted.

On a deeper level, “The Invisibles” is not so much a straightforward fantasy as it is a kind of parable. At least on one level. Or at least that’s how I read it. I read “The Invisibles” as a morality tale of sorts, focusing on the importance of focusing our attention on those outside ourselves, the Invisibles of the real world: the victims, the refugees, the sick, the homeless, those who are hurting and lost and lonely. Why use fantasy to bring attention to reality?

Message stories are a tough sell. It’s much better to “show—don’t tell,” as Andrew says in the text, quoting pretty much every writing and art instructor worth his or her salt. So rather than lecture the reader, I wanted them to simply follow along with Andrew’s experience. On the most basic level I wanted the story to be entertaining or intriguing in its own right.

As for why I used a fantasy story as my vehicle, I just like writing stories that are set in the real world but have a little flash of something else to keep things interesting. 

According to what publication history I could find, “The Invisibles” first appeared in David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination. It has since been included in your short fiction collection, Moonlight and Vines. With the original publication date being 1996, some time has passed. What can you tell us about the original path to publication? Is there any interesting story there?

There’s no juicy story to tell. The story was commissioned for Beyond Imagination and because of Copperfield’s involvement I decided to add the elements of stage magic into the mix, rather than faeries and goblins.

Looking back on “The Invisibles” today, has the meaning of this story changed for you at all over the ensuing years since you wrote it? If so, how?

Sadly, I haven’t seen much change in the world at large in the fifteen or so years since I wrote the story. There are still invisibles out there: the kid in school that is so unimportant he or she doesn’t even get bullied, the homeless man in a doorway, the camps filled with refugees… 

Would you like to announce any upcoming projects for your fans?

I’m just finishing up a final edit of an expanded version of A Circle of Cats, the picture book I did a few year ago with Charles Vess. The story’s about five times longer than the original and will feature fifty new paintings by Vess. It will be published by Little Brown. I’m also in the middle of a three-book Young Adult series for Penguin Canada called Wildlings, which plays with the animal people mythology I’ve been using for years in my adult books. And after far too many years of saying I will, I’ve finally recorded and released a CD of original story songs called Old Blue Truck. It’s a mix of folk-rock and Americana. Samples and a video can be found on my Website at www.charlesdelint.com.

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