(Published on June 26th, 2015 at The Muses PR)
By: Mónica G. González (Muse Momo)
Last Wednesday night, The Bookmark hosted their monthly Book Club, this time by discussing Maria Dahvana Headley’s Magonia, followed by a Q&A Skype session with Dahvana-Headley herself. Throughout the night, readers of all ages took the time to talk about the story, their likes and dislikes, as well to share their doubts and concerns amongst themselves and, later on, with the author. “It was a really beautiful, well written book”, said one of the readers who attended the discussion. Guests agreed that the world created for Magonia was very original and colorful, specially among most Young Adult books out there. Some of the readers suggested that they would love to see a Magonian alphabet and map in the future. There was a lot of love towards the resourceful, anxious and clearly lovable Jason Kerwin among the group. Although some readers liked Aza’s character, the majority of attendees favored the young male protagonist. Aza, with her rare lung condition and her spontaneous personality often reminded readers of John Green’s Hazel Grace Lancaster.
Most attendants wanted to know more about Magnonia, as in the country itself, and most would’ve enjoyed more geographical content within the story. Although there were some mixed feelings regarding the story development, most readers seemed willing to let go of their concerns given that Magonia is the first of a series in process. The biggest concern among the public was the fact that the book was described as “a war between two worlds,” which some readers considered misleading, given that one of the worlds was unaware of the other world’s existence.
The moment on which Maria Dahvana made her appearance, she made a connection with her readers, despite the technical difficulties due to unfavorable weather conditions. She seemed playful and friendly towards everyone, and revealed details about her writing process, her sequel, and even her taste in books. The Inspiration behind Aza’s character comes mostly from personal experiences and Dahvana’s affinity towards Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Wendy Darling. “”I was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes, it was an intense experience, some bad treatment had me going through a near death experience,” Dahvana explained. “I wanted a character who was thrown into an unknown world and just went along with it. But at the same time, felt like she had to be the responsible one all the time, even though, she just wanted to have fun. As far as the inspiration for Jason, she based the character on author and close friend China Miéville, who collaborated in the book and to whom it’s dedicated. Dahvana, who’s currently working on the sequel for Magonia, also shared that she chose singing as a power after meeting people with particular musical talents such as throat singing. She also felt inspired by how the Spanish Canary Islands actually have a version of Spanish that works as a whistling language. The author also explained that the fact that Magonians exercised animal cruelty needed to be seen, given that it happens in real life, especially when humans want to demonstrate their power.
Given that there were many abstract visual representations throughout the book, it was expected that readers wanted to know the reasons for all the symbology in the story. The inspiration behind the Pi (π) reciting came to Dahvana from someone she knew that suffered from anxiety and would calm himself down by reciting long patterns. The constant use of empty brackets, as she explained, is a representation of things that they [Aza and Jason] are too afraid to say or something they only wanted each other to know. She adjudicates this writing style as an influenced result of her constant exposure to E. E. Cummings as a child. The author also revealed that, despite authors not being able to design their own cover art, she did make sketches and gave them to the designer, who actually took some of her suggestions and applied them into the cover art. The biggest reveal of the night was the original ending to the story, which, in Dahvana’s words was “too mean.” In the original, Aza arrives home to find that Heyward had her family captive and the book ends in that cliffhanger. She considers that the final published version of the ending was a more prudent cliffhanger than the original.
After the Q&A session with Dahvana, The Bookmark went along with their traditional raffle giveaway session and revealed the next book club pick, Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means. The next book club meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 29th, as always, at The Bookmark.