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Author Luís Falcão de Magalhães: Why your reading time is justified even if a book doesn’t make you feel “empowered”

That their reading time is justified even if a book doesn’t make you feel “empowered.” That it’s OK to just read a book as a way of getting to know other worlds and fictional cultures, and empathizing with unique characters.If you think you need to be “empowered”, you probably don’t; what you need is to […]

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That their reading time is justified even if a book doesn’t make you feel “empowered.” That it’s OK to just read a book as a way of getting to know other worlds and fictional cultures, and empathizing with unique characters.

If you think you need to be “empowered”, you probably don’t; what you need is to move away from such goal-centric thinking — not because goals are bad, but because you’re so deep into that form of thinking that you’ve subtracted yourself from the rest of the human experience.

Read my book — or any other author’s book — because you want that singular part of the human experience that one can only truly experience through books: the ability to mind-meld into someone else’s make-believe world; the ability to recreate their dreams in the theater of your own mind.

“Empowerment” is a Google search or a Twitter scroll away. You can aim for so much more.


As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luís Falcão de Magalhães.

Luís Magalhães is Director of Marketing and editor-in-chief at DistantJob. During the day. At night, he turns into a fantasy fiction author, writing novels and short stories set in his own fantasy universe. After selling thousands of books in Portugal, his home country, and Brasil, he’s now introducing his popular series to English-speaking readers. His first fantasy novel in English is “A Silvery Moon”.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Growing up my parents had good jobs; my family could be described as upper-middle class. Sadly, they decided to have four kids. So while we never wanted for anything important, like food or education, there wasn’t a huge budget for one very important part of life: video games! And when I was seventeen, I made an amazing discovery: people who wrote for video game magazines got games for free! “Well,” I thought to myself, “writing is something I can do.” So I started pitching, and soon enough, I was getting published — and amassing a sweet video game collection. Eventually, I realized that writing was a lot of fun in itself. That led me to think about the novels that I loved reading in my youth — fantasy stuff like the Forgotten Realms series, or Tolkien’s masterpieces. So then, I thought to myself: “I’d like to do something like that. I think I can do it. Let’s try!”

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

In the summer right after publishing my first novel, I was at a book fair doing the usual promotion thing, chatting to book buyers and signing their copies. This guy comes up to me and says that the book looks really neat and that he’d like a copy. “Great! Who should I sign it for?” I ask. From behind him pops this little, doe-eyed kid who was probably around 8 years old, smile beaming wide.

My book has some pretty grisly scenes. I didn’t think it would make for great father-son reading time. So I tried to tell him as much. “You know, this isn’t exactly kid-friendly.” But the kid was in love with the book cover. So for the next 5 minutes or so, I was watching the dad react to my description of the kinds of things the book featured with increasing desperation and discomfort until he finally gave in to his better judgment and realized he needed to get his kid to fall in love with something else at the fair.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

After publishing my first book, I was exhausted. The long review and editing process; the physical and mental stress from the book promotion tour; the clashes with the publishing company over everything from cover font to distribution… Yes I know, #firstworldproblems and all that. Boo-hoo, he wrote a book and sold thousands of copies and it was hard!

But here’s the thing: that success did take a lot out of me. Marketing a book is an uphill struggle, and the margins on book sales for us “regular” authors aren’t so great that we can just farm it out to a marketing agency. Success doesn’t come without hustle. And the hustle broke me down for almost 2 years — that’s how long it took me to start my second novel.

How did I get over it? I don’t have a silver bullet for you. I went back to basics: writing every day at a set time. As self-publishing became increasingly easier, especially through digital storefronts, I re-evaluated my relationship with my publisher. And I started chunking specific blocks of time during the week to focus on marketing the books, instead of doing it whenever possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

After my first novel performed well, I took some of the extra money and had a carpenter craft a lovely writing desk. It was huge, solid, luxurious. It made me feel like a REAL writer.

It also prevented me from getting any work done. Whenever I sat there, it amplified my expectations for myself and my writing. I ended up doing much better work sitting in random coffee shops.

Performance anxiety is a real thing. Give yourself an easier time.

Don’t be sad for the writing desk, though. I set up all my video game systems on it. It became the centerpiece of my leisure room.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m excited to expand my fantasy universe into a new series in English. I thought about translating my original novels, but that felt a bit boring, and as I’m still testing the market it didn’t make sense to go all out on a professional translation service. So I decided to write a new series specifically for English-speaking readers, and if that takes off, I’ll reconsider translations. I’m loving the new characters and settings I’m adding to my world.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

There’s a main character who hears voices in his head. At some point in the story, something happens and the voices stop. You’d think that would be a good thing, right? But that’s not exactly how things turn out…

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

That their reading time is justified even if a book doesn’t make you feel “empowered.” That it’s OK to just read a book as a way of getting to know other worlds and fictional cultures, and empathizing with unique characters.

If you think you need to be “empowered”, you probably don’t; what you need is to move away from such goal-centric thinking — not because goals are bad, but because you’re so deep into that form of thinking that you’ve subtracted yourself from the rest of the human experience.

Read my book — or any other author’s book — because you want that singular part of the human experience that one can only truly experience through books: the ability to mind-meld into someone else’s make-believe world; the ability to recreate their dreams in the theater of your own mind.

“Empowerment” is a Google search or a Twitter scroll away. You can aim for so much more.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

1 — You need to write because you feel a need to write.

This is not to say you need to enjoy it all the time. Writing can be painful, boring, frustrating, and many other things that will make you envy the burger-flipper at McDonalds. But NOT writing — not bringing to life the world in your head, or not putting to paper the ideas you ardently believe in — is more painful, boring and frustrating.

If that’s not the case — if you are perfectly happy keeping the contents of your mind to yourself — then don’t do it. You don’t owe anything to the rest of us. Go flip burgers and be happy.

2 — Write every day.

I bet you didn’t see this coming, right? It’s not like every book author under the sun hasn’t given this same, rote piece of advice for the past century. There’s a reason for that — it’s true.

You know why I got into a funk after my first best-seller? Because I didn’t follow that advice. I sat around licking my publishing wounds instead of showing up every day. That probably cost me two books — two books that I’m not going to write in my lifetime.

It doesn’t need to be good, by the way. Write the shoddiest piece of tripe you must. Just because you write it, it doesn’t mean you need to publish it. Once you get the bad writing out of your system, good writing will come.

3 — You need to read.

Reading often and a lot will give you the building blocks you need — grammatical and stylistic — to craft your own voice. It will add to your vocabulary.

You will judge other authors and their characters and come up with ideas of how you would develop those thoughts and situations better. And when you actually get your hands dirty and try to do it, you’ll see it’s not quite so easy and you’ll learn something.

That’s not to say you need to deconstruct every book you read; that’s an unnatural way to go about doing things. You need to read so much that you will start cross-referencing books and articles in your head naturally, in the same manner in which the meaning of words comes to you naturally.

4 — Don’t take yourself, or your writing, too seriously.

Go back to the story above, the one about my writing desk.

5 — Find tools you enjoy using. Stick to them.

Try all the text processors and writing tools you can get your hands on. Make your craft as joyous as you can — because you will need all the joy you can get once it gets rough.

And when you find one, stick with it and master it — don’t keep looking for “incrementally better.” That’s just another strategy your monkey brain is using to distract you from the task of writing.

One glorious day, I installed Scrivener for a National Novel Writing Month competition, and it felt so much better than MS Word or Google Docs, that I kept writing even after the deadline was gone. That turned into my first novel.

I stuck with Scrivener for years, and I only dropped it recently, and more because I felt I needed a change of desktop scenery than because of any problem with it. But I know authors who wrote great books in Google Docs. Pick your poison — and stick with it for as long as you can.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

Perseverance and discipline. Can you guess why? Because… You. Need. To. Write. Every. Day.

I’m not going to stop writing it. Hey, I’ll do you one better than a story or example; I’ll give you a ritual that, should you choose to enact it, will make you a great author. I can’t say how long it will take, but it will. Here it goes: change your laptop/desktop password into “You must write every day.”

You are welcome.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

To this day, I am a fan of the Forgotten Realms novels. The breadth and detail of the world that was originally crafted for feeding into Dungeons & Dragons campaigns never cease to entice me back. There’s always a little nugget of history to find out, a little-known corner of the Realms that’s ripe for exploration. I love the fantasy genre in general — from Tolkien’s splendid exercise in world-building to pulpy video game-based universes like Warcraft to Terry Prachett’s wacky Discworld — but my home-away-from-home will always be the lands of Faerun.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My movement would be anti-movement. Instead of trying to change the world: spend more time with your friends and family. Help out people in your local community. Adopt and take responsibility for a stray animal. Spend more money in good, healthy food and education/learning, and less money on everything else. You can never have too much of the former, and you almost certainly have more than enough of the latter. Enjoy the experience of being human — you only have one shot at it — and be excellent to everyone you meet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@luis_maga (Maga is a short form of my surname; not a political statement. I’ll break bread with anyone who comes to me in good faith.)

More importantly, check out my first English novel at https://luisfalcaomagalhaes.com/silverymoon

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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