Bosch’s New Novel Pairs Mystery and Magic

by Amy Koester

BadMagiccoverPseudonymous Bosch is back with Bad Magic, a middle-grade novel that follows sixth-grader Clay as he’s sent to Earth Ranch, a camp for delinquent youth. But it’s not your average camp story. In true Bosch fashion, Bad Magic is part mystery and part adventure, with a zany mix of strange characters and interesting elements. SLJ caught up with the highly secretive author to find out about his new book, inspirations, and thoughts on magic.

NOTE: This editorial content was sponsored by Little, Brown.

What have you been doing in the time between completing The Secret Series (Little, Brown) and the release of Bad Magic?

Fretting. Procrastinating. Eating. Not necessarily in that order. I kept trying to write another book and was utterly unsuccessful. In despair, I published an unfinished manuscript called Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, hoping against hope that my readers would finish it for me. I’m not sure how well that worked out. I’ve been too afraid to look…. Of course, any other activities for which my neurotic writer persona may or may not be a cover I am not at liberty to disclose.

Your previous series follows Max-Ernest on his adventures, while Bad Magic is the story of his younger brother, Clay. What made you want to keep writing about this family?

As my readers know, I have a close personal connection to Max-Ernest’s family. Too close. I think I keep writing about the family in order to assert my independence from it. Alas, every book just seems to prove how entwined I am. As for my new book, focusing on Max-Ernest’s younger brother, Clay, that idea actually came in the the mail. Many readers write to me and ask (more like command) me to continue the “Secret Series.” This is no doubt because they think the series ended in such a perfect way with no loose ends or unanswered questions. Other readers have taken a more devious approach. “Why not a new series set in the same universe?” they slyly ask. A few have been so bold as to suggest I create a series about Max-Ernest’s younger brother. Naturally, I told them I don’t take writing suggestions from children and that all the ideas in my books are wholly my own. And then I did exactly as they suggested.

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Most of Bad Magic takes place at a summer camp that is…unusual. What inspired you to create such an odd summer camp?

I’m not saying I went there, mind you, but in the late 1970s a certain budding young writer of my acquaintance attended a summer camp in Northern California called Earth Camp One. It boasted such things as an “Emotional Carwash” and moonlight cookie-baking. Throw in a ghost story, add a bit of mystery and magic, and you just might have something like Earth Ranch, the camp in Bad Magic. Coincidence? You decide.

Your latest work includes volcanoes, potential ghosts, pyromania, Shakespeares The Tempest, magic, and pickpocketing. Do you draw from personal experience when you create your novels? 

It should be clear by now that I don’t draw from personal experience so much as steal from it. I pickpocket myself, you might say. Certainly, I have made a baking soda volcano or two and have dressed as a potential ghost. (What is a sheet over your head but a way of saying that there is potentially something spooky beneath it?) I will admit I’ve never personally been in a production of The Tempest. I did play Bottom in A Midsummer Nights Dream in second grade. It’s safe to say I made an ass of myself…. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

PBHeadshotBad Magic features a library that is strange and wonderful. Are you deliberately pandering to librarians? 

Yes. It’s an old habit. Comes from years of trying to weasel out of late fees.

There is some debate in this book as to whether magic sucks or rocks. What are your opinions on this topic?

Rocks, of course. Except in the wrong hands. Then it sucks.

The appendixes of your books include how-to’s for activities such as performing magic tricks, creating disguises, and turning tubers into batteries. Arent you worried that such information will turn your readers into dastardly villains?

Worried, no. Hopeful, yes. Readers come and go, but any writer will tell you that a good villain is indispensable.

Pseudonymous Bosch is the author of the New York Times bestselling Secret Series, which includes The Name of This Book Is Secret; If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late; This Book Is Not Good for You; This Isn’t What it Looks Like; and You Have to Stop This. His most recent book is Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery. He loves rich chocolate and fine cheese. His identity is a closely guarded secret.

Amy Koester is the Youth & Family Program Coordinator at Skokie (Ill.) Public Library. She blogs at Show Me Librarian and wrote SLJs feature on STEAM. 

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