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J. Kathleen Cheney: Five Things I Learned Writing Seat Of Magic

Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill….

It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City. Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger. Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.

To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….


Yes, I did that. I wrote The Seat of Magic before I wrote The Golden City.

I originally wrote The Seat of Magic as a follow up to a novella, “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy”, that was published in 2010. I pitched The Seat of Magic to my future agent (Lucienne Diver) at the DFW Writer’s Conference in 2010 but, after reading the full, she wrote back to me saying it was clearly the second book in a series, and therefore she couldn’t represent it.

Now by that time, I’d decided I needed to rewrite the novella at novel length. That novel eventually became The Golden City. After I sent it to my future agent, she did decide to represent the books. So that worked out in the end, but…

My editors for The Golden City suggested some changes. They were fairly large changes, but they made it a stronger book. But those changes set off ripples of further changes that essentially required tossing a full half of The Seat of Magic (since it occurs later chronologically.) So I ended up throwing out a lot of work because I’d done it out of order.


My books are listed as Historical Fantasy, and I worked hard to get the day-to-day details of my historical setting correct. But shortly before I turned in The Seat of Magic to my editor, I noticed that in 1902 Porto…Santa Catarina Street had sidewalks.


I went into full panic mode, poring through old photographs of my setting and trying to determine which streets were cobbled and which had sidewalks at the edge. After a couple of hours of this, I decided to get a map and start highlighting the streets with sidewalks so I would get them right.

And then I had a sudden revelation: no one would care. My alternate Porto has had entire streets demolished and a palace built in it. The city’s population includes selkies and sereia and seers. Readers can handle a few missing sidewalks.


Like most authors, I did a lot more building for my world than I could include in my books. There were a couple of tidbits I felt people would find interesting, but every time I tried to stick in that paragraph about selkie procreation or sereia culture…I ended up taking it back out. Those things might have been interesting to me–and about 12 readers–but they would have been boring distractions to everyone else.


This isn’t the same for every author, but for me, I learned very quickly that reviews were distracting. I had a deadline for my next book, and if I started obsessing over some tiny criticism (which occur even in favorable reviews) that kept me from writing. Therefore, for me to be an effective writer–and get my work in by my deadline–I’ve had to stop reading reviews….even the good ones. (This was an unexpected development for me, since I never had that problem with short story reviews. I do not know why it’s different with my novels.)


As I got closer and closer to deadline on The Seat of Magic, I found myself having days where writing felt like drudgery. I hadn’t experienced that before, partially because writing has always been a stress reliever for me. Despite my looming deadline, I decided to set aside one day a week where I would work on something other than the WIP. I worked on silly stuff, stuff that will probably never see publication.

Doing that reminds me that I’m writing because I love to write, and that’s what’s important.

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J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her first novel, “The Golden City” was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards.

J. Kathleen Cheney: Website ǀ Twitter

The Seat of Magic: Amazon ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ Powell’s