I've always been fascinated by magic, which explains my lifelong love of Fantasy. But this passion extends beyond the world of make believe sorcery and into the art of stage magic. Call it sleight of hand, conjuring, or prestidigitation, I love the cleverness involved in stage magic, the canny combination of applied psychology, physical dexterity and showmanship. The drama and the showmanship appeal to me, the knowingness that pervades each performance. The magician and the audience all know that it's a show, but while the performance endures, the extraordinary takes place.
And this is why stage magic is such an important part of my new series, 'The Extraordinaires'. Seventeen year old Kingsley Ward wants to be a stage magician. He wants to thrill an audience, to take them with him on a journey into the impossible, to make them believe in the amazing. He tackles this ambition with the sort of dedication and focus necessary - the same sort dedication needed in anyone who wants to be a professional musician. Hours of practice are required, disappointment must be overcome, but the dream must stay alive in order to achieve mastery.
A few years ago, I signed up for a magic course, to learn some of the basic principles I'd only read about. After six weeks under the tutelage of a highly professional and endlessly professional instructor (one of Australia's finest close-up illusionists) I learned my limitations. I did, however, learn many fundamentals and the experience drove me to delve into the history of stage magic. It's hugely entertaining, full of magnificent characters like Houdini, the Great Maskelyine and the wondrous Robert-Houdin, but it's also full of mystery, raging professional jealousies and egos the size of zeppelins. Great stuff, and particularly tantalising for a writer, with hints of great stories. Did you know, for instance, that a top secret unit in Second World War recruited stage magicians to help hide military installations from German bombers? 'And here I have an airbase ... Hey presto! It's gone!'
I'd like to share with you the first magic trick I ever learned. I must have been about twelve years old, and I can't remember the book I found it in - because I pored over so many books of magic from my local library, the names are lost in my memory. It's not so hard to learn and - as a twelve year old - I managed to impress myself.