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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Interview with J.B. Rivard

Hi Everyone!! I want to take the opportunity to welcome J.B. Rivard, author of Illusions of Magic, to The Maiden’s Court today.  I was intrigued by this book from the first time I saw the blurb, I mean, magic, an attempted assassination on a president, and a murder that turned a major city upside down! 

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Heather: Welcome to The Maiden’s Court! I’m glad you could drop by. Your novel, Illusions of Magic, introduces the reader to a character who was a vaudeville performer, which is not a common profession in novels.  Why choose this for your character’s identity?

J.B. Rivard: In my early teens, I was fascinated by conjuring. I read everything I could find about the great magicians, including Houdini and the Blackstones, as well as manuals describing card tricks, sleight-of-hand, and stage illusions. I purchased some magic paraphernalia, practiced endlessly, and actually performed a few times before local audiences.

In 2010, I abandoned the initial version of my Chicago novel, titled variously The Heedless Spring, or Chicago Story. Revisiting the manuscript in 2014, I realized a change of focus and a revised protagonist were required if the novel were to be improved and rewritten. Casting Nick Zetner as “The Amazing Mr. Z” appealed. It seemed both appropriate and interesting, plus it allowed me to use my earlier-acquired knowledge of magic and magicians in reworking the book.

H: I’m always fascinated by stories about the Presidents and I had never heard about an assassination attempt on Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Was this something you came across early on and knew you would build a novel around or was it an element that developed later on?

JBR: Sometime around the turn of the 21st century, I happened upon a description of the attempted assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt by Giuseppe Zangara in early 1933. (Roosevelt had been elected president in November of 1932, but was not inaugurated until March 4, 1933.) This little-known attempt is seldom reported in histories of the 1930s, perhaps because Zangara missed his target with all five of his shots at Roosevelt.

One of the bullets, however, struck Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak. I realized that in Cermak’s life and death 19 days later lay a terrific real-life struggle that could provide a dramatic backdrop for a Chicago novel. I didn’t actually begin to write the novel, however, until 2006. It was then that I discovered another amazing and equally dramatic fact: that Chicago’s City Council faced a crisis caused by a lack of legal means for replacing the city’s mayor in the event of his death.

H: I can certainly see how that could cause a significant crisis and a drama for a novel! You include hand-drawn illustrations in your novel – why make the decision to include these in Illusions of Magic?

JBR: We would be surprised, I think, by an edition of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland that didn’t include the fabulous illustrations of John Tenniel. The 1940 Limited Edition Club edition of The Grapes of Wrath—a text noted for Steinbeck’s descriptive excellence—proves that its illustrations, lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton, enlarge and enhance our comprehension of the Joad family saga.

Rather than competing with literary expression, well-conceived artwork alongside texts complements authors’ written effects. In addition, illustration, as historical evidence shows, can make novels more attractive and inviting to an audience well-versed in visual images.

As you may know, my earlier career as an artist resulted in many exhibitions and numerous awards. So it was only natural, when Anya suggested illustrating Illusions of Magic, that I agreed to draw them, even though it was my first experience in book illustration.

H: I think that is a cool element and for it to include your personal talents! Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process?  How have you worked through these?  Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

JBR: My experience includes stints as a newspaper reporter and stringer for a national magazine. Also, as a staff member at a U.S. National Laboratory, I wrote or co-wrote many technical reports, papers, and monographs—some still listed on Google Scholar.

Since beginning writing novels in 1990, I estimate I’ve generated more than a million words of fiction. Although the published output is modest, and every new venture presents challenges, there are fewer struggles as long as I remember to write, revise and re-write. And then to repeat.

Struggles with publishing issues, however, are a continuing, and different matter.

Following the completion of the draft of the current novel, we sought to interest traditional publishers. In the current era of decline for agents and traditional publishers, they are forced at every turn to seek potential bestsellers. By and large, this means manuscripts that are ready-made to meet reader expectations. Because Illusions of Magic did not meet that requirement, the attempt came to naught.

Upon considering self-publishing, the plethora of options seemed endless. Each merited consideration, but much research was needed to achieve an adequate understanding. Thus we found the learning curve to be very, very steep.

By early 2016, however, we had decided that an inexpensive eBook was the mode best suited for this book. Then came issues of providing a fast-loading, professional-appearing website, producing an ARC to draw pre-publication reviews, producing a Collectors Print Edition for promotional efforts, writing description, author page and introduction, selecting categories, keywords, etc., pricing and uploading to KDP, planning and executing a marketing campaign, and on and on.

Although we didn’t initially recognize it, being one’s own publisher is more than a full-time endeavor. Aspiring authors should carefully consider this before deciding to go it alone.

H: I have heard many people who have had a similar experience. Navigating this self-publishing world comes with so many hidden elements you never would imagine! When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

JBR: When not writing or tending to publishing matters, I read extensively. However, I read so widely, it’s difficult to characterize. Recently, for example, I read William Randolph Hearst: Final Edition, 1911-1951 by Ben Procter; The Man Who…, by Richard Oulahan; “The Trip to Bountiful” screenplay by Horton Foote; and Sleepless in Hollywood by Lyda Obst.

H: That Hearst book sounds like it might be fascinating! I have to go look it up! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today, I am so excited to be able to introduce you and your novel to my readers.

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Almost everyone is familiar with the illustrations in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. However, the number of illustrated novels published–for adult readers–declined steadily from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century, although not for lack of popularity. “Illusions of Magic” dares a return to the edgy, swirling arts of the illustrated story, with pen and ink illustrations by the novel’s author, Joseph B. “J. B.” Rivard, supplementing this exciting story.

As a young child, Rivard began drawing by copying newspaper comics. In his teens, he drew illustrations for his high school’s award-winning yearbook. He attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and his artworks have appeared in more than fifty juried exhibitions, earning many prizes and awards. He’s an artist-member of the Salmagundi Club of New York City.

Rivard’s writing draws on wide experience–he served in the U.S. Navy, graduated from the University of Florida, worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, and on the engineering staff of a U.S. National Laboratory where he wrote and co-authored many technical papers listed on Google Scholar. His broad background supports a wide array of significant publications, from short stories to song lyrics, from essays to novels. He calls Spokane, Washington home.

Find J.B. Rivard: Website

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Book Blurb:

The withering of vaudeville was bad enough in 1933. Because of the Great Depression, bookings for stage magician Nick Zetner disappeared. With his marriage cracking under the strain, Nick reluctantly accepts a devious banker’s deal: He earns a generous reward if he retrieves photos stolen during a break-in at the bank. Along the way, a love he thought he’d forever lost reappears. Despite his skill in the arts of magic, penetrating the realm of the thieves grows increasingly perilous, especially when it endangers his newfound romance.

Illusions of Magic seamlessly merges this tale with the true-life assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt resulting in Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak, being shot. His lingering death and a lack of legal means for his replacement causes great civic and social upheaval in the city.

In modern style, this novel propels the reader through emotional highs and subterranean lows with knife-edged dialogue, easy humor, page-turning action and authentic history.

Read an Excerpt of Illusions of Magic

Buy the Book: Amazon

Tour Wide Giveaway!

To win a paperback copy of Illusions of Magic by J.B. Rivard, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!  Please note that this giveaway is being hosted by the tour coordinator and any questions should be addressed to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours as I have no control over this giveaway.  Good luck!


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Illusions of Magic


Follow the Tour!

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On HFVBT Website

On Twitter: #IllusionsofMagicBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Giveaway

Monday, January 9
Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 10
Review at Books, Dreams, Life

Wednesday, January 11
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, January 12
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, January 13
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Monday, January 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, January 17
Interview at The Maiden’s CourtThat’s Me!
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, January 18
Review at Creating Herstory

Thursday, January 19
Review at Laura’s Interests

Friday, January 20
Review at Broken Teepee

Monday, January 23
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, January 24
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, January 25
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, January 26
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, January 27
Review & Interview at Quitterstrip


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