We wanted to share this new magical story with you, When Magic Calls: A Collection of Modern Fairy Tales by Caitlin Berve, which shows how fairy tales are taking place all around us. “If you look closely,” the book description says, “you will witness the magic, terror, and impossible riches or perhaps discover you are in the midst of a tale of your own. Not all fairy tales have happy endings. This collection shows both the wonder of magic gone right and the consequences of magic gone wrong.” The book was lovingly illustrated by Beth Berve and features magical beasts like changelings and selkies as well as spells and curses. What could be better?
Look how lovely:
And then here’s an excerpt from one of the tales, “A Love to Sleep For”:
The moon and stars guided me to the front door, just like they did when Shelly and I snuck home after curfew. It was a sign I was doing the right thing. My heart pounded against my chest like the bass rattled the windows of Kyle’s Camaro. I wanted to shout my excitement into the desert. Instead, I hustled up the stone steps to the old adobe building.
Reaching the solid wood doors, I pulled the picks from my pocket I’d YouTubed how to use earlier that week. My adrenaline rush slipped away and my heart stopped banging as I inserted a pick into the lock. Then I took a step back, had a thought, and pulled one of the handles.
The door flew open. I stumbled backward, almost tumbling down the concrete stairs. The door remained open, waiting, inviting, daring me to enter. Hell no, I thought and turned around, pressing the van’s unlock button. Before I reached the minivan, my phone vibrated twice. Shelly had texted me.
On my way cutie! <3
That tingling sensation in my fingers was back. If I sped the whole way, I could make it home before Shelly. I held my breath and with shaking fingers prepared to text back: Okay cutie! See you soon! Shelly had finally come to her senses. She realized all those movie days and lunches meant we were more than best friends, but before I finished typing, Shelly responded.
Oops! Sorry, Liz, that was meant for Kyle.
My heart plummeted. I clenched my teeth, shoved the phone back in my pocket, and marched to the steps. It was all Kyle’s fault: He stole her from me. Shelly didn’t even come to book and film club after school anymore. She was supposed to be my co-president—the leading lady to my director—not Carla, who was nice and saw connections I didn’t between the movies and books, but she didn’t have Shelly’s full, kissable lips, copper skin, and way of making people she listened to feel special and heard. Shelly understood my pain when my dad got sick and my confusion when my mom first introduced my soon-to-be step dad and his kids.
Hesitating long enough to pick up a chunk of sandstone, I ran my thumb across its roughness before shoving the rock into the door jam. No way was I getting trapped overnight in some creepy-ass museum. The door creaked, trying to close as I stepped inside.
And here’s Caitlin reading from another tale called “A Salty Invitation”:
And then finally, we asked Caitlin a few penetrating questions:
Can you tell us a bit about When Magic Calls? When/how did you start this project?
I started When Magic Calls in graduate school. I became fascinated with how fairy tales evolve and change with society and wanted to bring them to the present to see how they would change to fit our current societal values. So I wrote “But the Fairy Tale Isn’t Over” and then just kept re-imagining some of my favorite tales.
What are the main themes linking the stories together?
One theme I hope comes through is magic can find anyone. I did my best to create diverse characters from different places and cultures. Magic isn’t just for kings and queens and lost farm boys in Europe. It’s in the sand and wind of the desert and the rains of the mountains. It chooses nurses, researchers, and people who haven’t found their way as well as heirs to the family fortune. If you look, you can find it in every town and home.
Another theme is finding the strength to go after what you want. Everyone wants something desperately, but not everyone is born with the confidence to pursue their desire, so I like to show characters finding that strength.
Some of the stories feature magical beasts like selkies or changelings. Can you talk about that? Have you always loved these creatures?
I have always loved all forms of magic, including magical creatures. I even made a Which Magical Creature Are You quiz (you can take it at https://www.caitlinberve.com/blog/which-magical-creature-are-you-quiz). Magical creatures seem to hold a special kind of intelligence where they can live in the moment, yet still guide their chosen humans to a happy future. At the same time, they can hold more wisdom than humans or have more of an animal brain and drive. So magical creatures can be either pets or peers. With such a wide variety, everyone can find a magical creature they connect with.
I chose to write about selkies in When Magic Calls because I didn’t like how most stories are about a man forcing a female selkie to become his wife, so my version is about choice and support. I wanted to depict a healthy relationship.
The changeling story actually happened on accident. Originally it was just my take on Snow White, but then a fellow writer said an early draft read more like a changeling story, so I decided to explore a Chinese Snow White changeling and see if changelings are truly evil from birth or if nurture makes them that way.
Have you always loved fairy tales?
Yes and no. I’ve always loved magic tales many of which are fairy tales.
You say that fairy tales take place all around us. How do you mean?
By that I mean magic is still here. Often I see fairy tale retellings where you have to enter another realm to use magic or the story is taking place today without the magical elements. While these are great pieces, I believe you don’t have to leave this plane to find magic. Fairy tales can and are happening right now in your city.
And on that note, how do you stay enchanted in your daily life?
Well for starters, my living room is a fairy garden. I have one of those spaces above my fireplace designed for the huge cube-shaped TVs that I turned into a fairy/dragon garden. For the fall it’s a Halloween village, and in the winter it’s filled with snow people. You’ll see touches of my love for fantasy all over. I even have a stuffed dragon on my car’s dashboard.
I also like to craft. I have an amazing group of girl friends who get together once a month to make things like snow globes, owl-shaped dream catchers, and candles. To me, creation is enchantment.
A few of the tales in When Magic Calls involve a museum filled with magical artifacts from fairy tales. Can you talk about that?
While I was reading a version of the dancing shoes fairy tale, I wondered what happened to all the magical items from the stories. Are they still charged with magic? Who stores them? So I decided the best place to store them would be in a museum with a caretaker in charge of making sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands or get loose and disrupt lives. Then I thought the safest place for them would be in a small town in New Mexico because the forests and oceans where many of the artifacts are from have a different kind of magic than the desert.
I understand that you teach writing online. What are some tips you have for aspiring writers?
I love teaching writing. The first tip I give new writers is to finish your stories. Many writers are great at beginnings and not so good at endings because they start way more stories than they finish. Do your best to get to the end, even if it’s only to practice that ending. The second tip I give writers is to cut out as much backstory as you possibly can. Readers are smart. They don’t need every piece of your character’s history spelled out for them. And if you need pages of backstory, you’re probably starting in the wrong place. My last tips is to write regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily, but be consistent.
Here are versions of those magical artifacts from fairy tales that Caitlin created to display at her book release party. Each magical object is featured in a different story.
And here are some links:
- Barnes and Noble:
- Caitlin’s Website: https://www.caitlinberve.com/books
- Kobo Audio and ebook: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/when-magic-calls-2