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Side by Side: Genies/Jinn

Side by Side

Side by Side: Genies/Jinn

A lot of people have a very specific image when they think of “genie” --- the loveably goofy, blue one from Aladdin who is forever bursting into song and imitating various accents. However, authors Amber Lough and Lindsay Ribar have a very different take on these mysterious creatures in their new books.

In Amber’s THE FIRE WISH, Zayele, a girl who is engaged to the Prince of Baghdad against her will, trades places with Najwa, a jinni training to be a spy in the war against the humans. In Lindsay’s THE FOURTH WISH, the second book in The Art of Wishing series, high school student Margo finds out she’s a genie and has to reconcile doing whatever her master wants with coming into powers she never imagined having.

For this side-by-side, we asked Amber and Lindsay to tell us a writing-related wish, what they would have wished for in high school, what magical creature they would like to be, and more. See their answers, below! A genie just granted you one writing-related wish; what will you wish for?

Amber Lough:The ability to focus on my writing project --- and only my writing project ---every time I sit down to write.

Lindsay Ribar: I’d wish to be better at plotting! I’m a “pantser” by nature --- meaning a writer who works better without an outline --- mostly because whenever I try planning my plots ahead of time, they sound so much better in theory than they do when I’ve actually written them. I’d really love to be able to see where I’m going before I actually get there.

TRC: If a genie visited your high school self and granted her three wishes, what would she wish for?

AL: 1. Clear skin
2. A transporter, so I could travel anywhere I wanted.
3. A magical wallet that never ran out of cash.

LR:  My high school self? Yikes, that’s a tough one! But hmm, probably…
1.  The ability to navigate social situations effectively… or, really, at all. I was an incredibly awkward teenager, and also incredibly aware of the fact, which just made it worse.
2.  A starring role in a Broadway show --- and, preferably, the talent to go with it! (If you get a genie who’s good at their job, those things can totally count as a single wish.
3. To always be in good shape, without having to work for it. Let’s be honest; I’d totally wish for that now, too.

TRC: What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching your book?

AL: Medieval Baghdad was one of the brightest intellectual centers in the world. It was the forefront of scientific discovery, including astronomy, alchemy, mathematics and optics, but so much was lost when the Mongols invaded in 1258. The Tigris River ran black with ink from books and red with the blood of scientists and philosophers for days. Baghdad never fully recovered, much like how Alexandria never recovered from the loss of its Library.

LR: The most interesting thing I learned is probably that genie/djinn lore didn’t intersect with the “three wishes” trope until fairly recently. In older genie stories, the genie would often give someone a wish in exchange for a favor, or as a thank-you for some good deed (usually freeing the genie from some sort of trap) --- but as far as I can tell, it was usually a single wish. Meanwhile, there are fairytales full of creatures that are obligated to grant three wishes (like the fish in “The Fisherman and His Wife”), but no genies until (again, as far as I can tell) the early 1900s!

TRC: What would be the best part of being a genie? What would be the worst part?

AL: The best part would be to use wishes to make your own life easier, more beautiful or more fun. The worst part would be the obligation to grant a wish you did not agree with. Imagine if you had to grant a wish to an evil dictator, knowing the result would be worldwide destruction and pain?

LR: I think the best part would either be the ability to shapeshift, or the ability to jump, which isn’t exactly like teleportation, but pretty close! As long as you can visualize a place, you can be there in a matter of seconds. Considering how much time I spend commuting on the subway every day, man, jumping would be awesome.

The worst part? Well, if you’re a genie, you can’t actually have a physical body unless you’re bound to a master. And, as Oliver says in THE FOURTH WISH, most people won’t abuse the kind of power they have over their genies… but there are always some who try.

TRC: In your book, the human protagonist unexpectedly becomes a genie. If you could become a magical creature for a day, what would it be and why?

AL: A mermaid. I get claustrophobic underwater, and being a mermaid would allow me to explore the water without worrying about running out of air. Also, I hear mermaids are best friends with dolphins, and who wouldn't want to be friends with a dolphin?

LR: I’d probably want to try being some kind of shapeshifter --- a skinwalker or a werewolf or something. Being able to turn into an animal would be so endlessly cool.