“All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” -Ernest Hemingway
I’m the author of the LADY LAZARUS historical urban fantasy trilogy — the final book in the trilogy, REBEL ANGELS, is coming out next month. The series is set on the eve of World War II, and tells the story of Magda Lazarus, a witch with the power to call souls from the dead. In order to avert her sister’s visions, Magda must battle SS werewolves, wizards, and demons, including the one who has possessed a willing Adolf Hitler.
Now that the trilogy is complete, I’m taking the opportunity to take a step back and ask the question: where did all of this come from? Who are all these people who emerged out of my head? And why did this epic story insist on getting told in Budapest in the moments before the start of World War II?
LADY LAZARUS pulls much more from history than the other stuff I’ve written up until now. I’ve mined my family’s experiences, mysticism, and WWII history to create a new world, populated by imaginary characters.
This is the most personal stuff I’ve ever released, and when the first book came out, I worried that I was appropriating stories that aren’t “mine” to write. Some of my family survived the war, some didn’t…all of them went through experiences that I feared to even imagine.
I console myself with that famous saying by Picasso: good artists copy, great artists steal. We writers are magpies. But I am sensitive to the idea that I am taking tragic events and mining them to weave a new, fantastical history of my family.
My answer to this may be self-serving but I believe it nevertheless – though it’s important to respect the experiences and viewpoints of the people in your life, and of people generally, you still can write any damn thing you want to. That very sensitivity will give you greater insight into the heart of the story and where it veers away from actual experience. And the story itself demanded to be written. Magda Lazarus insisted that I write the tale.
As a writer, I have always believed that if something terrifies you and your first instinct is to say, “I can’t write about that,” it may be a sign of what you need to be writing about. I believe that we all have stories inside of us that nobody else can write. This is where your originality resides, where you will stand out. And giving voice, bearing respectful witness, isn’t really stealing. If you’re doing it right, it’s art.
That said, the story, not the controversy, is the boss. As Sam Goldwyn famously said, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” Nothing wrong with exploring difficult situations, just make sure you don’t forget you are writing fiction, not a political tract or journalistic expose.
There is a risk in speaking the unspoken — you are unlocking a closed door, and you might have people in your personal or professional life who want that door to stay closed. But if you are writing with passion about something that really matters to you, your writing will be vivid and will matter to other people too.
The best stuff comes out of the scary no-man’s land between fiction and fact, what is documented and what is true. Taking the painful raw material of life and making sense out of it is a kind of magic, a dark alchemy. And to grow as a writer, sometimes you have to leave your writing comfort zone way, way behind.
Michele Lang writes supernatural tales: the stories of witches, lawyers, goddesses, bankers, demons, and other magical creatures hidden in plain sight. Author of the LADY LAZARUS historical fantasy series, Michele’s most recent book in the series, DARK VICTORY, released January 2012 from Tor Books. The next book, REBEL ANGELS, is coming in March 2013.
Michele is also a lawyer who has practiced the unholy craft of litigation in both New York and Connecticut. She returned to her native New York shortly before 9/11, and now lives in a small town on the North Shore of Long Island with her husband, her sons, and a rotating menagerie of cats, hermit crabs, and butterflies.
Book 1: LADY LAZARUS
ADVENTURE, ROMANCE, AND MAGIC ON THE EVE OF WORLD WAR II
Summer 1939: In Budapest, the magical city where East meets West, beautiful, young Magda Lazarus has managed to make a life for herself in a dangerous world that teeters on the edge of war. But then her sister has a terrible vision: Nazi Germany overruns all of Europe, and their family and millions of others are exterminated.
Magda, the last of a long line of witches descended from the legendary Witch of Ein Dor, must find the secret of her family’s magic. Alone, pursued by SS werewolves, a Nazi wizard, and demons, including the one that has possessed a willing Adolf Hitler, she has no choice but to summon the family’s guardian angel, the dark keeper of secrets Archangel Raziel.
And when she stands in his celestial presence, her heart is utterly, completely lost…
“An absolutely unique protagonist in an engaging tale set against the backdrop of the greatest clash of good and evil in human history. What’s not to love about LADY LAZARUS?”
-Jim Butcher, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of THE DRESDEN FILES
Book 2: DARK VICTORY
THE REMARKABLE SECOND STORY IN THE LADY LAZARUS TRILOGY
Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch, until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful woman has fought Hitler’s werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Fuhrer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II.
There is still a chance of saving the millions slated for destruction, but Magda knows she cannot fight the Nazi supernatural war machine alone. With the power to summon an army of spirits, Magda stands with her guardian angel Raziel in a battle against the human and unholy forces of evil arrayed against her people and all of Europe.
Magda is desperate to win at any price, but the victory she seeks may be at the cost of her soul…
“The best entry yet in a groundbreaking, rich, enthralling series set in the darkest days of World War II with magic, very human characters, and stakes that couldn’t be higher. A tour de force!”
-Rachel Caine, NYT Bestselling Author of the MORGANVILLE VAMPIRE series
Book 3: REBEL ANGELS
THE THRILLING CONCLUSION OF THE LADY LAZARUS TRILOGY
Magda Lazarus, the Witch of Budapest, has returned from the dead time and time again to fight the Nazia’ devastating conquest of Poland. To prevent the Holocaust her sister has seen in terrible visions, Magda will need the Heaven Sapphire, a gem powerful enough to defeat even the demon Asmodel. With the future of all Europe in the balance, Magda and her beloved, the angel Raziel, begin a perilous journey to the Caucasus, the resting place of the fabled stone.
Surrounded by Nazis, Stalinists, and wary Azeri tribesmen, Magda must summon all of her magic to battle her supernatural foes. But more dangerous yet is the power of the Sapphire itself, which could stop Hitler — or destroy Magda.
At the end of this long road Magda’s epic quest will end…in love and redemption, or with annihilation. REBEL ANGELS, the climactic book of the LADY LAZARUS trilogy, filled with suspense, magic, and action, will have readers on the edge of their seats until the riveting conclusion.
“REBEL ANGELS is a satisfying, powerful conclusion to a series that is as moving as it is thrilling. Rooted in a compelling version of history, peopled with unique and intriguing characters, the tale of Magda Lazarus combines the action of a modern urban fantasy with the atmospherics of CASABLANCA. With this final volume, Michele Lang establishes herself as one of the leading voices in historical urban fantasy.”
-D.B. Jackson, author of THIEFTAKER
Michele is giving away not one, not two but THREE sets of her trilogy. THREE. I repeat THREE! So yes, three of you have the chance to win three books each.
To enter, all you need to do is tweet about this giveaway, give me evidence of the tweet (link it) and leave me a comment your email address. The giveaway runs from today till the 15th of March. I will email the winners and you will have two days to respond before I choose a new winner. The giveaway is only open to residents of USA and Canada. However, since Michele is so awesomesauce, she will give any reader who wants a free e-copy of her novella The Magic of the Fabulous. All you need to do to receive it is leave a comment with your email address specifying that you would like to get a copy of her novella. And you can do both if you live in US and Canada. So.. what are you waiting for? Leave a comment and enter the giveaway!