INTERVIEW: 'The City of Lost Fortunes' and How Writing Goes from the "Goo in a Cocoon" Stage to a Fully-Realized Tale [Preview]

The City of Lost Fortunes, as Saturday Night Live's Stefon would say, "has everything": bewitched poker games, trickster gods, sinister vampires, magic powers, elaborate spell-casting rituals, sexual tension, intertwined mythologies, dramatic betrayals, and a good dash of humor, all wrapped up in the mystery of the city of New Orleans. The short summary goes like this: street magician (and reluctant former sorcerer) Jude Dubuisson is invited to a poker game and gets much more than he could have bargained for (or gambled away), leading him on a madcap adventure to solve a murder and learn the truth about his past.

And yet there's more to Bryan Camp's charismatic debut than an entertaining urban fantasy yarn: the specter of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hangs over the narrative with heavy, painful purpose, ultimately imbuing Jude's story with a sharp poignancy. While the monsters and magic in The City of Lost Fortunes are hiding just out of view, the imbalance of society's scales are all too real. I caught up with Camp over email, and picked his brain about developing the story, the relationship between luck and fate, and who would play the characters in a Hollywood adaption.
This conversation contains spoilers.

The City of Lost Fortunes is as much about the city of New Orleans and its character as it is about Jude and his journey. What's your relationship to the city, and how did you make it come to life in the story? (I've never been to New Orleans, but the specific way you described the streets and geography and people made it feel familiar.)

My relationship with the city, simply put, is that it's the only place I really know. I've lived in the area my whole life. I grew up in the suburbs just across Lake Pontchartrain, which to anyone anywhere but here is the same as New Orleans, but to people who grew up in the city proper, the Northshore might as well be in another state. I've lived in the city itself for the past ten years, first in an apartment in Uptown, then a tiny condo in the Warehouse District, and now in a house in Lakeview, so I've lived all over the city.

If I succeeded at all in making the city come to life, I did so by treating the place more like a character than a setting. People are complicated and messy and contradictory and somewhat unknowable. Settings are represented as concrete, distinct, and often only as extremes. A poor neighborhood is only squalor and despair and crime, while a wealthy one is only shallow and corrupt and petty. Or it's viewed through rose-colored glasses, a magnificent example of culture and history and charm.

But the truth is that places, cities especially, are full of contradictions. The French Quarter is a wonderful, evocative place, but it also smells like piss more often than not. You and your family can have a wonderful, relaxing, joyous memory of walking down a street where, 200 years ago, slaves were sold. When you want to create a clear image of a place, it's tempting to focus in on one element, but with New Orleans I embraced the contradictions, and allowed it to be somewhat undefined at times.

You can read the rest of this interview at PopMatters!