As a trans reader who loves fantasy, I know to be wary of young magical boys. I’ve already been bit by She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and now I’m twice as shy. But F.T. Lukens’ Spell Bound managed to slip past the guards and plant itself firmly in the list of my new favs. With a beautiful mix of effervescent, earnest and downright adorable the classic sunshine and grump storyline featuring magical wi-fi, a call centre for mystical mishaps and rivals-to-lovers queers, Spell Bound makes for a fast and cozy read. So if you haven’t already, pre-order your copy here and keep reading to check out my chat with New York Times bestseller F.T Lukens to see what makes this extraordinary YA romance so enchanting.
Off Colour: What was your inspiration behind Spell Bound?
F.T. Lukens: I’ve been asked this question a lot! It’s funny because I always mention these conversations to my brother— my brother is my best friend, I was on the phone with him, and he’s like, no one’s going to believe we have conversations about world-building, magic and that kind of stuff. Because we do all the time, and then on that call, we brainstormed another novel together.
But the inspiration for Spell Bound came from a lot of different places. The idea initially came to me from Dragon Con in Atlanta. It’s a big science fiction and fantasy convention over Labor Day weekend. While driving back on the phone with my brother, we talked about being in the city versus a rural area. Then we talked about magic systems and internal versus external sources of magic. Which was where the idea of the magical Wi-Fi came from. I started brainstorming and thinking about tropes I hadn’t written before. It bloomed from there into wanting to write rivals to lovers. I wanted to address particular themes and have some characters with different facets of themselves. So that is kind of where it began.
Spell Bound has a call centre for magical mishaps that make for moments of levity. But it also touches on some more sensitive and sober topics. What was your process of walking that fine line?
F.T. Lukens: That’s a really good question! I am more of a comedic writer, so that’s something I’m working on. It’s how I deal with things that are, you know, heavier topics and things that happen in life. As a writer, in Spell Bound, there are some more serious topics. You know, Rook has lost his grandmother. He’s untethered and trying to find his way back into the world. Then there’s Sun, someone who is hyper-focused and hides from the world. He has difficulty with sensory defensiveness and social awkwardness, which is me in a nutshell.
But together, they go on adventures and have these kinds of fun and light moments. Then they even have hilarity in the dangerous spots like with the haunted house and with the doll. It’s something that I work at as a writer, and I have an incredible editor, Kate Prosswimmer, who also says, hey, push the humour here, or this is more serious, so cut back a little bit.
How do you care for yourself and your well-being during the writing process?
F.T. Lukens: Self-care is difficult for me; I’m not very good at it. That’s why I have people around me who would say, hey, you need to get up and walk around, go outside and get some vitamin D. At this time in my life, I lost my dad to cancer in 2019, and my mom passed away January 28. So I am not doing well right now, to be completely blunt.
But I have a team around me that knows that. I have my agent and, as I said, my editor and the team at Simon and Schuster. Then, of course, my team at home, my family, so I’m getting a lot of support.
My condolences. It’s very good to hear that you have people in your corner during these times. Pivoting to something lighter, Edward and Sun’s relationship, it’s absolutely adorable. Where did their relationship dynamics come from?
F.T. Lukens: Thank you, and aren’t they? I wanted to write opposite characters, a sunshine character and a grumpy character. But I didn’t want it to be; here’s the happy-go-lucky person, and that’s all there is to them.
Rook is very optimistic and has a sunshine personality, but he has all this weight he carries with him. He’s experienced a loss, which is part of his personality, and his coping mechanism is optimism, which is the opposite of how I am in real life. So of the two personalities to write about, he was the more complex, and Sun comes off as the grumpy character. The more you explore, the more of them you know. You know, their likes and dislike of the world, which is easy for me to write about.
With Spell Bound just days away, I’d love to know what’s next for you.
F.T. Lukens: Oh, a lot of things. I’m going on a book tour, my first in-person book tour ever, and I’m super excited! The launch will be with Ryan Lasala in New York, at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square. Then I’ll be up and down the East Coast.
After Spell Bound, I’m working on a book coming out in 2024; we’re in edits right now. The title wasn’t announced because it was part of the two-book deal with Spell Bound. So it’s the second book of that deal. Then I have a book that was just announced, Future Tense, slated for 2025. So, lots of things to look forward to!
The last question is two-parter, what would you like readers to know before they pick up the book, and what do you hope they leave me as they turn the final page?
F.T. Lukens: I want them to know it’s very different from In Deeper Waters, and So This Is Ever After. It’s more character-driven and a very personal book for me. What I want them to take away from it is there are a lot of themes just around self-acceptance, being yourself and knowing that you are enough as you are. You can try to shape yourself or mould yourself into something that someone would want you to be. But in the end, it’s much easier to be you. It’s such a relief just to be yourself and know that there are people out there who will love you as yourself.
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.