When it comes to magic, it’s a pretty illogical thing. In stories, there are very rarely reasons for why magic lets people do what they do. When there are, it’s something like midi-chlorians, which is about the same as saying magic, only with a sort of scientific sounding name.
It always seemed to me that magic in stories was relegated to either the person could something extraordinary, or they couldn’t.
Over time, two things became clear to me: 1., Magic is an intensely personal experience, and it varies from person to person just as its mechanics change from story to story. And 2., Magic is a powerful metaphor for our wants and desires, and a perfect way to explore the struggles of a young girl growing into a woman.
Growing up, I had always enjoyed stories by Diana Wynne Jones, where characters always had their own particular brand of magic. One person would use a fire demon, while another would whisper words to inanimate objects to enchant them. There was no explanation as to why magic varied in the same universe. It just was, and it said so much about their personalities.
I wanted to explore that personal element of magic in Dora’s Jinx, which is why I used a very peculiar brand of magic for Dora, and gave her familiars that matched up with her personality. But I also wanted to connect that with how women see, and view themselves. After all, witches are starting to be seen as feminist icons these days. Maligned in their early days for having power women shouldn’t have, they have become celebrated for being more in control in their lives. This is also something that is explored with Dora’s magic.
In the world of Dora’s Jinx, most witches use their powers by saying what they want. They can say “fly” and be soaring through the clouds with that simple word. Dora, on the other hand, has to punch, kick and scream to make anything happen.
This was very deliberately done.
I think that all girls feel ignored and unnoticed at some point in their lives, if not for a great deal of it. We watch people get praise for work that we have done, and have to guard our feelings to avoid seeming strange. I think that even when we get attention, it’s about the wrong things.
More often than not, it’s about the way we look.
Dora picks up on this. Unfortunately, she deals with it in a negative way. She obsesses over fashion, thinking that it will be what gets her noticed. Then, she obsesses over boys because she thinks that having a boyfriend will get her heard.
It should be no surprise that Dora feels the only way to exert power over her own life is through violence. For Dora, speaking her mind has given her no control over her life. When most of everything she wants or says is ignored, she has no reason to think using words to cast a spell will do anything the way it works for her friend, Melanie, or her Aunt Pamelia. That is why, for much of the book and much to Dora’s chagrin, she ends up having to punch a lot of things… which, sadly, isn’t the most effective way for her to get things done.
Particularly, if you’re trying to get rid of a curse on your friend…
Dora’s magic is a journey for her. She eventually starts to exert more control over her own life, and is able to find other means to work her spells, but what’s important is that her personal experience changes how she expresses that power throughout the book.
I’ve always loved the idea of something being a part of your personality, yet having a life of its own. That is what familiars are in Dora’s Jinx. They become an extension of a character’s identity, filling in where the witch struggles to recognize her own power.
That’s probably why my favorite description for a familiar was from estoricist, Pierre Riffard: A familiar spirit (alter ego, doppelgänger, personal demon, personal totem, spirit companion) is the double, the alter-ego, of an individual. It does not look like the individual concerned. Even though it may have an independent life of its own, it remains closely linked to the individual. The familiar spirit can be an animal (animal companion).
The familiars in Dora’s Jinx are exactly like this. For example, Dora’s first familiar is Jinx, a cat that is particularly good at sensing magic. Because magic is metaphor for the power we have within (or rather it represents our truest selves), what he actually does is guide Dora as she struggles to understand herself, and navigate relationships with other people. As Dora feels powerless, it’s only natural that Jinx comes in and reminds her that she has more power than she needs.
…And if that culminates in her getting an embarrassing Birds and the Bees talk from a cat? Well, so be it.
For Dora’s friend Melanie, a girl who wears loud colors in attempts to be noticed, her familiar specializes in communications. Witch’s familiars, then, become their alter egos and guide each of the witches to unlocking their real power. The cats are their friends, but also parts of themselves that aren’t fully realized.
Essentially, I think that all magic comes from ourselves, we just have to learn how to use it. Sometimes, that just means we need a little guidance along the way.
It’s been a pleasure hosting Boom on Blue Books, I love how much thought has gone into the parallel between self image and magic. If you love the sound of her book then you can check it out here:
Or find Boom on her site:
Dora’s Jinx Book Tour also has giveaway of a $15 amazon gift card here:
So at least try to beat me to it.
Dora Behn might as well have been born invisible. She could wear bright colors and dance the Macarena in the middle of class without so much as a glance. It’s not that she’s antisocial, just no one other than her family seems to even notice she’s there. This would naturally put a damper on her romantic life… If she had one to begin with.
Everything changes on her sixteenth birthday when a talking cat appears and tells her she is a witch. For Dora, nothing could be worse. No one dated crazy cat ladies!
Things go from bad to worse when the other witches’ familiars go missing, including her aunt’s. Dora’s magic may be the only thing that can prevent the total destruction of the sleepy town of Kinderhook. But to save her friends and family, Dora must learn to embrace who and what she is. She just needs to figure out what that means.