Some people think hard rock and heavy metal is the music of the devil. Which may be true, or maybe not, you don’t know him. What we do know is that Lisa Maxwell’s new historical fantasy novel The Devil’s Thief (hardcover, Kindle) — the second book in a trilogy that began last year with The Last Magician — was, in part, inspired by her love of “loud music.” Or so she explains in the following email interview.
Let’s start with an overview of the plot. What is The Devil’s Thiefabout, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous book in this series, The Last Magician?
The Devil’s Thief picks up right whereThe Last Magician left off. Esta has discovered that the things she thought she knew about herself, the past, and magic have all been lies, and she’s out for vengeance. At the end ofThe Last Magician, Harte scattered the Order’s magical artifacts to keep them safe, but the two realize they need the stones and the power they contain. So while Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country journey to find them, the rest of the Devil’s Own gang is left in the city, to defend themselves against a couple of different enemies.
Where did you get the idea for The Devil’s Thief and how different is the finished novel from that original concept?
The finished book is very similar to what I’d planned, except that I’d planned for the middle installment to hop to more times and places. However, once I got the characters to St. Louis and the world’s fair, there was so much richness in that setting, that it ended up being about that place and time instead. Now book 3 will have more of the traveling and time-hopping that I’d originally thought was going to be in this book.
The Devil’s Thief seems to be a medieval fantasy story. Is that how you see it, or are there any genres, or combinations of them, that you think describes this story better?
It’s actually not medieval. Set in 1902, at the turn of the century, it’s definitely historical fantasy, but one of the rules of my time travel world-building is that Esta can only travel in her own lived timeline, so she can’t go that far back.
It also seems that The Devil’s Thief is a young adult novel. Do you agree, and if you do, do you think that old adults will like it as well?
My publisher is a young adult imprint of Simon And Schuster, and it’s definitely been marketed as young adult. I think it has a lot of cross-over potential because it’s very muchupperyoung adult. With the detailed world building, interwoven timelines, and multiple character perspectives, it would hold up for older readers. But I have a ton of teen readers, and I think that some of the themes — figuring out who you are and who you will be in the world, especially — appeals to that teen audience.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Devil’s Thief but not on The Last Magician or, for that matter, your earlier books?
They’re pretty much a continuation of the same story, so there’s not a lot of completely new influences.
I do have tons of Easter eggs in these books, though. For instance, there’s a scene that’s kind of an homage to one from Henry James’ Portrait Of A Lady, and I think, in general, my love of stories where magic lies just beyond our sightline is all wrapped up in here. I’ve always loved stories — literary or commercial — where magic could just be something we’ve simply overlooked. And I think that writers like Diana Gabaldon and Deborah Harkness are definitely inspirations in the way they’ve made time travel as much about the history and characters as the science of it.
How about such non-literary influences; did any movies, TV shows, or video games have a big impact on The Devil’s Thief?
I don’t know if there’s anything specific. I don’t spend a ton of time watching things, since I work full-time, have kids, and also write these books. And I’m not an overly visual writer; it’s really more about the sound of the words and voice for me, so visual stuff is less of an inspiration. Which probably sounds bizarre, since my own style is very descriptive and I really like to sink a reader into the scene.
And this is my last question about your influences, I swear. In the bio on your website it says you have, “a soft spot for loud music.” Is there anything in The Devil’s Thief that was influenced by your love of loud music? Like, is there an elf named Ulrich for the drummer of Metallica’s or a horse named Pantera?
I think the whole book is. I told my agent back when I was first pitching the idea that I wanted to write a thief book that was historical, but I wanted it to feel like a White Stripes song. So that impulse is always there. I feel like a lot of my characters are really inspired by the voices that inspired me. For instance, I listened to Chris Cornell repeatedly while I wrote The Last Magician, and his voice — especially on his solo albums, but also some of the Audioslave lyrics — is very much an inspiration for some of the angst in my characters.
But damn…maybe I’ll stick a Lars in the next book. That’s an excellent idea.
Thanks. I’ll tell you later where to send the check. Anyway, as we’ve discussed, The Devil’s Thief is the second book in this series after The Last Magician. But is this an ongoing series, the first two installments of a trilogy, what?
This is planned as a trilogy right now. Originally, my publisher thought it was going to be a duopoly, because I thought it was, but the story is just too big. It needed three books to give the secondary characters enough room to breathe and grow.
So what is the next book called and when might they be out?
I have a title for book 3, but it hasn’t been given the o.k. for release yet. It’s planned for December of 2019, as long as I don’t blow through any more deadlines.
Now, as you know, some people wait until every book in a series is out, and then read them all in a row. But is there a story-based reason why someone shouldn’t wait for the third book to come out before reading The Last Magician and The Devil’s Thief? Or that they should?
That’s a hard one. I get the impulse to just wait, because I do that a lot, too. I mean, obviously, I’d love for them to buy the books now. Better sales mean my publisher will continue to let me write in this world and in this series, but buy it now or later…I just really appreciate it when a reader is willing to spend their hard-earned cash on my words.
But also, they’re really long books. If you’re a slow reader, it might take you a while to get through it…and then there isn’t much time to wait.
Earlier we talked about the movies, TV shows, and video games that were an influence on The Devil’s Thief. But has there been any interest in making a movie, TV show, or game based on it?
I know there’s been some rumblings the background, but nothing that I could talk about. Honestly, I’d love to see a Netflix series or something like that. The story really depends so much on this big ensemble cast, and I would be worried that a single 90-minute movie would cut a lot of those characters’ richness out. And since those characters are so diverse, I’d be afraid it would make the world itself seem less rich and diverse. But hey, if someone wants to turn this into a film, ultimately, I am here for it.
If The Devil’s Thief was to be made into a TV show, who would you each like to see cast in the main roles?
I’d want them to find some relative unknowns, like they did for Outlander. But Oscar Isaac [Star Wars: The Last Jedi] is Dolph. No question
Finally, if someone enjoys The Devil’s Thief, which of your other novels would you each suggest they read next and why that one? Besides The Last Magician, of course.
My first two are out of print now, but I’d hope they pick up Unhooked. It’s a dark and twisty Peter Pan retelling, with a sexy pirate.