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Monday, October 26, 2015

Magical Realism - My Immortal Journey

by Courtney Pierce

Sometimes it takes magic for characters–and their author–to appreciate the real. It can be a voyage and return of the highest order. What emerges from the experience is enlightenment and wisdom. In 2011, my first book, Stitches, became just such an endeavor. The magic of touch. Its magical realism and themes had me so hooked that I turned the story into a trilogy. Brushes and Riffs followed: transformation through art, and immortality born from music.

After abandoning a 20-year corporate career, my husband and I moved back to Oregon to care for my elderly parents and my younger sister, each in a full-blown health crisis. The trauma birthed a new venture: I became a writer.

The story of Stitches emerged from a year of wringing my hands and tapping on a laptop at three hospital bedsides. While not a normal environment for inspiration, out of the experience came an inspiring tale of a middle-age couple transitioning into life’s third act. They're stumped by what to do with the remainder of their lives after the drudge of nine to five. An innocent visit to an estate sale yields a fantastic find: an old chest. Inside a hidden compartment is an ancient piece of fabric that holds the key to immortality. The woven bird images come alive with stunning results. Attempts to rationalize the fabric’s magic plunge this couple deeper into its secrets, which sends them on a rollicking international quest for answers. History Detectives meets The Thin Man . . . with magic.

What I couldn’t fix in real life, I fixed in prose.

The books’ themes pose thought-provoking questions to the reader. If given the opportunity to become immortal at the end of your natural life, would you choose to exist for eternity? Or would you leave behind a legacy and allow death its due? Choices. Each has benefits and consequences. Over three books, my characters make their decision. 

Of course, the magic in the story is a metaphor, my literary attempt to keep my family intact with possibilities. As circumstances in real life became increasingly dire, my writing took a lighter and more fun turn. I threw aside my grief to ask no more of life than what if . . .

The genre of magical realism―the fantastic in a real world―is a powerful vehicle for addressing life’s challenges that are too overwhelming to rationalize. Magic transports us into the realm of wishes and dreams, and also presents us with trials and unfair circumstances to arm us with courage.

Halloween originated as a celebration of those who are immortal to us, even if for only one day. My mother and sister survived their ordeals, but my father did not. Dad's soul will live on inside the character of a softhearted, gruff FBI chief for eternity. And my soul will live on, too, for having re-created him on the page. That’s the real magic.

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of thirty-six years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Courtney has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. She is also a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is active with Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime.

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's latest novel, The Executrix. When three middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death, the book gives them a whole new view of their mother. Is it fiction? . . . or truth? Sibling blood becomes thicker than baggage when Mom becomes larger in death than she was in life.

Visit Courtney's website at Her books can be purchased at Windtree PressAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, and at several independent bookstores in the Portland area.


Sarah Raplee said...

I love magical realism. It's the sense that the world is a rich and strange place, full of surprises, tnat draws me to the genre as a reader. reading your story of how you came to write enriches the experience. Can't wait to read the next one!

Judith Ashley said...

Seeing magic around me and burying myself in romance novels helped me through the medical challenges and eventual deaths of my dad, my mom and a brother. And you and all other authors have touched immortality through your books. Thankfully you have more stories to tell!!!

Courtney Pierce said...

Thanks! While I've moved my boomer writing to the real world, those first three books will always be special because I wrote what I needed to read and couldn't find. I still get emails from readers who tell me how much those three books helped them through the death of a loved one in an inspiring way. Writing them taught me so much about deepening the magic of character relationships and to make prose sparkle with electricity.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Beautiful post, Courtney. I've been the one at the hospital bedside, too, so I can relate to that side of it. Your trilogy sounds like a good way to heal, and great stories in themselves.

Maggie Lynch said...

Having read and loved these books, I can speak to how they reach inside the heart. After reading Courtney's story one might think these books are depressing or sad. But they are not at all like that. In fact, the hold a lot of humor, have both lovable and quirky characters, and certainly speak to the many issues of baby boomers today. I recommend them to everyone.