This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Victoria Fox is the author of bestselling bonkbusters and her latest novel, Power Games, is out now. She told Novelicious why The Magus by John Fowles had such a big impact on her, and why it made her realise what – as a writer – she wanted to offer her readers.
When I was 14, I won some book vouchers in an English competition. Mum and I went shopping and one of the books I chose was The Magus. I chose it because it looked different to everything else I’d read, I liked the fact it was massive (it made me feel intellectual) and it was set in Greece. Because it was massive, I put off reading it for some time, and finally got to it a year later. I was at boarding school, and my abiding memory of The Magus is of pretending to be asleep when the house matron came in, then flicking the lamp back on as soon as she’d left. I was addicted to this book. This book is addictive.
It’s about human psychology. Nicholas, a teacher, moves abroad to escape his problems and meets the enigmatic Conchis, whose slippery Kurtz-like conduct creates a twisting, turning labyrinth of second guesses and red herrings that soon forces Nicholas to question the line between reality and imagination – if indeed there is a line. Before The Magus I didn’t realise that a book could be both action adventure and philosophical drama. Fowles raises themes that blew my 15-year-old mind, but it’s all wrapped up in a nail-biting spider’s web of a plot.The Magus is a masterclass in swallowing up a reader. I’m with Nicholas every step of the way, and as a result I’m falling into the same traps, stumbling over the same doubts, thinking I’ve got it all figured out then getting it wrong again. It’s a puzzle as well as a story. It can be easy sometimes to second-guess an author, to spot that twist coming from afar, but not with The Magus. For starters, it’s not one twist; it’s many. Then I’m inside the maze and I can’t see a way out: Fowles is much, much cleverer than me. His and my relationship has become like Conchis’s to Nicholas – he’s playing with my expectations and toying with my trust. But I like it. I haven’t encountered such a complex relationship between reader and writer since.
My novels are a far cry from The Magus, but this book taught me much about what I enjoy in a book and therefore what I wish to deliver. Escapism. Immersion. Involvement. Captivation. Taking the reader on a journey that makes them forget real life, and knowing that reader will follow the most intricate of storylines if they invest in the characters. But most of all, ambition. Exploring the far reaches of the imagination is what being an author is about. Pushing myself and daring myself. The Magus taught me that.