Amy Kuivalainen knows what it’s like to be obsessed with ancient cultures, magic and esoteric history, myths and legends, and a city on the other side of the world. Obsession is a main theme in her new series, The Magicians of Venice, and so it’s no surprise that all of her own obsessions found their way into its pages. We talked with her about the inspirations, characters and the magical setting of Venice in The Immortal City.
Can you describe The Immortal City in under 15 words?
An archaeologist and a magician hunt a serial killer in Venice.
What inspired you to write the series?
The Magicians of Venice is the culmination of many weird pieces of ancient history and personal passions finally coming together. I’ve always loved characters like Indiana Jones and Robert Langdon, but I wanted to write a story that turned the Adventurer Archaeologist trope on its head. It was important to me to create a female character that is not an oversexualised, badass Lara Croft figure, but an unsuccessful, anxiety-ridden academic refusing to give up on the impossible dream of discovering Atlantis and that continues to be brave despite her failings. I’ve always loved the legends and theories behind Atlantis and continue to this day to follow any new discoveries that might pertain to it. I wanted to play with some of the legends and mash them up with my own ideas and love of magicians, creating a story about survivors who became close to immortal because of the powerful blast that destroyed the island kingdom.
If there was ever a place that is so impossible and beautiful and could make you believe it was founded by magicians, it’s Venice. Even though my Venice obviously has many fantasy aspects, I wanted to ensure current issues were correctly portrayed especially concerning global warming, the MOSE project, the problem with cruise ships, and the impact that tourism has on the city.
While book one is mainly a magical, murder mystery, book two and three have more of the feeling of a treasure hunt. As a student of ancient history, I’ve studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so I knew about the discovery of a new cave in 2017 and was determined to write it into a book. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the scrolls, so I wanted to play into that while incorporating my own magical twist and theories of why the Essenes vanished.
I grew up on fairy tales and mythology, and so I wanted to write about a famous relic that I’ve always been fascinated with that mainstream entertainment hasn’t plundered. Like Atlantis, the ring of King Solomon has been the centre of many legends, especially from those found in One Thousand and One Nights, and it was a natural fit to a story about fighting a demon prince and his cult.
The books have a lot of references to historical times, events and figures, is this your background?
I’ve always been a really big history nerd. I studied Ancient History at High School and in recent years went to university and continued to take units in areas that really inspire me such as Ancient Mythology, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Later Roman Empire.
What makes Penelope such a great character?
Penelope was a really tricky character to put together, unlike Alexis who I knew well pretty early on. I knew who I wanted her to be but it definitely took a few drafts to nail her down. Penelope I tried to make as real as possible. I’ve worked in academia, which is why I am eternally frustrated when you get characters like Lara Croft who you never see writing up research papers or grant applications! Penelope has this great stubbornness about her that really drives her to prove that Atlantis is real, and that she’s not going to drop it just because she’s told to. She really believes in herself, which I think is a quality I most admire about her. She has anxiety, which I can personally relate to, but she doesn’t let it hold her back and she pushes through it and does her best to manage it which is its own kind of bravery. She doesn’t let people push her around, certainly not any magicians who think they can mess with her, and she always fights back even when she’s afraid. She’s a really complex character to write which is what I really love about her
The magicians are an eclectic group of characters, was it hard to craft each personality? Do you have a favourite?
The magicians were crazy fun to write and create back stories and histories for. They’ve all been lumped together for a really long time so they have all these random grudges and secrets which makes them a tight knit, if argumentative, family. It was really important that each magician was really individual, even down to what kind of magic they use, how they dress and interact with each other etc. With every book in the series you’ll learn more about them, secrets start to come out, and you get to know each of them really well. It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that Alexis is my favourite! He can be really serious and moody but surprisingly sweet and funny when the moment is right. He’s had to protect the secrets of the magicians for a really long time, and in doing so has led him to do things he personally hates and he’s struggled with that. He’s full of stories which has been really fun to incorporate.
What is the main theme of The Magicians of Venice series?
The main theme is definitely is Obsession. Every single character is obsessed with something and it’s a really driving motivator for them.
Do you have a favourite place in Venice?
Only one?! That’s too hard. I do however love the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute that sits on the point directly across the Grand Canal from Saint Mark’s Square. My favourite café was definitely the very famous Cafe Florian that was a favourite spot for Byron, Casanova and Jonathan Strange. The writer nerd in me screams with happiness every time I go there.
Who has inspired your writing the most that isn’t another writer?
I am a big listener of classical music and composers have actually taught me a lot about writing. Hans Zimmer has been my favourite since The Lion King came out when I was eight, and he’s really taught me about characterisation. For example, if you hear the themes of Jack Sparrow or Sherlock Holmes you instantly can hear parts of their personality and it’s so intrinsic to their character that you can be listening to a song and instantly be like “Jack Sparrow must’ve turned up in this scene.” Every character theme song is very individual. Jean Sibelius, a famous Finnish composer, taught me about epic landscape. He was obsessed with the Finnish mythology stories of The Kalevala and you can really hear the epicness of the landscape, lakes, mountains and forests, in his music. Ludovico Einaudi is a minimalist composer and it’s like he shaves off all the unnecessary bits until he has this very beautiful, clear sound. He taught me a lot about simplifying as much as possible.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It really depends on the book and how much research is involved. The Magicians of Venice books have on average taken me about six months to draft and over three months to edit. They have a lot of research involved in them, but luckily I had a few of my university units that gave me a head start. Other books of mine I managed to write a draft in six weeks, and another five years.
Do you have a dream job that isn’t writing?
Historian! I really love history but was never able to find that one area I wanted to dedicate all my attention to. I am an amateur at best, and I read very widely. The great thing is that whatever I study nearly always finds its way into a book whether its mythology or Greek funerary rites, so I think being a writer is the best of both worlds.
About the author:
Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer who is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until that happens, she plans to write about monsters, magic, mythology and fairy tales because that’s the next best thing. Amy is the author of The Magicians of Venice series, The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy, and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.
About The Immortal City
Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.
Read an excerpt of The Immortal City
Praise for The Immortal City
“Fans of fantasy, murder mysteries, and romance will admire Kuivalainen’s skill…” —Publishers Weekly
“Magic. Mystery. The Lost City of Atlantis. What more could you want? Amy Kuivalainen has truly impressed me with the amount of research that went into this book. Her approach to explaining the theory of Atlantis is unique and captivating.” —The Book Lyst
“…a rapid-paced, suspenseful, gripping, well-written and perfectly executed fictional fantasy/ thrilling murder mystery.” —LuluinHollywood.com
“…an exciting and page turning novel which draws from many influences to create a new take on the Legend of Atlantis.” —Crime Classics
“…combines both present day Venice and the myth of Atlantis flawlessly. Full of mystery, danger, intrigue, magic, and romance… I anxiously await the next installment.” —Just Jaime’s Reviews
“I loved this new take on the lost city [of Atlantis]. The addition of magicians was brilliant. The heroine was smart and strong…the book was filled with magic and took a legend and [turned it on its head] in a wonderful way.” —The Book Dragon
“…diligently brings the real world into fantasy, in a breath-taking way.” —Radzy Writes and Reviews
What’s next in The Magicians of Venice series
The thrilling story of Penelope and Alex continues in Sea of the Dead, book two of The Magicians of Venice series, available fall 2020 from BHC Press.
For more information on The Immortal City, including where to purchase and a free downloadable digital promo pack with posters, visit her publisher’s website.