Photo credit: Deborah Feingold
The Rules of Magic
takes place in Greenwich Village, at the height of the folk music scene of the '60s, with a side trip to the Monterey Pop Festival held in California in 1967. In Monterey, my character Vincent Owens performs his cult underground song, "I Walk at Night." Music is everywhere, mixing the real with the fantastic.
This prequel to Practical Magic
follows a New England family fighting an ancestral curse: they cannot fall in love without disastrous results. The book combines magic, politics, love, enchantments, and music. Throughout the writing I thought of the music I loved in the 1960s and the huge impact it had on my generation, and on me personally. My playlist is made up of rule-breakers, wild men, women who love too much, poets, dreamers, and magic-makers.
"It Ain't Me Babe" by Bob Dylan
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The original rule-breaker who changed everything, including literature, music, and poetry. A one-of-a-kind rebel with a cause. His songs are enchantments that tell the truth. In The Rules of Magic
, Vincent sees Dylan at a club and begins to understand that being truthful and telling your own story is what matters most. Dylan is a master who can never be duplicated. The reason for this is clear: he's an original. Be yourself, not who you are expected to be,
the Owens children are told by their wise Aunt Isabelle. And, regardless of the consequences, know who you are
"The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Bob Dylan
Every rule will be broken by the time the 1960s are over. The Owens siblings are poised on the edge of the '50s, waiting for the next decade, when everything changes. They move downtown — always a forbidden place — to 44 Greenwich Ave. Once they do, they enter into a different world, one where everything is changing at warp speed.
"My Generation" by The Who
The Who preformed this song at the Monterey Pop Festival, destroying their guitars in a wild crescendo at the end of their set. Old traditions and expectations no longer applied. In The Rules of Magic
, the new generation of the Owens family clash with their parents and set out to explore the downtown world. I remember doing the exact same thing.
"Wild Thing" by Jimi Hendrix
An unconventional genius and a one-of-a-kind artist, Jimi Hendrix hid a can of lighter fluid behind the amps at the Monterey Pop Festival, and after his erotic, explosive rendition of "Wild Thing," he set his guitar on fire, smashed it, and threw it into the audience. This is what love can do in The Rules of Magic
— it can wreck your life and set you on fire. All the same, would you want anything less?
"Ball and Chain" by Janis Joplin
Performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, Joplin's strong, sexy rendition is all about the curse of love. Love is too heavy, too dangerous. Franny Owens spends most of her life running away from true love. She does everything she can to keep her distance from the power of love, but a life without love is just another sort of prison.
"California Dreamin'" by The Mamas and The Papas
The Owens's cousin April dreams of escaping her uptight Boston family by fleeing to California. She and her daughter wind up in Santa Cruz, the perfect place for someone with April's powers of intuition. She finds peace there, even though she is warned to be careful — the move to California can change her fate and the fate of her daughter, Regina.
"Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane
Performed at the Festival, this is a psychedelic song of freedom that embodies the '60s. The Rules of Magic
is all about wanting someone to love, yet fearing the power of what love can do. Love means ruining your lives together
. When Jet Owens gets caught up in a huge Be-In in Central Park, she has her own psychedelic experience that changes her view of how she must live her life.
"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by Scott McKenzie
This '60s anthem is also an anthem for Vincent when he arrives in San Francisco and feels free for the first time in his life. In this city, in the 1960s, being different is not a curse. You can be who you want to be, who you really are, and that is the lesson all of the Owens siblings must learn — the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.
"War" by Edwin Starr
This antiwar song mirrors the rage and frustration of a generation; basically, this one song says it all. The first rule of magic is "harm no one," so I have no doubt that everyone in the Owens family would agree to the sentiment expressed in this song.
"Light My Fire" by The Doors
This song broke every rule, and Jim Morrison, poet and provocateur, did the same. He was a radical voice and presence, a nonconformist and a daredevil. Vincent Owens is a Morrison fan and thinks of the lead singer's rebellious words and deeds in his own darkest hour, when he is hospitalized after refusing to be drafted. His journey mirrors Morrison's in some ways. Or is it the other way around?
"I Put a Spell on You" by Nina Simone
The gorgeous voice of Nina Simone, the aching love song, the big city jazz vibe — this could be the theme song for The Rules of Magic
. The sisters open an enchantment shop, and most people want the same thing: a love spell. Love and fate are mysteries that can never be fully explained or controlled. If you want magic, here it is.
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of more than 30 works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic
, The Marriage of Opposites
, Practical Magic
, The Red Garden
, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth
, The Museum of Extraordinary Things
, and The Dovekeepers
. She lives near Boston.