Into Magical Realism

Rika Chandra
9 min readJun 3, 2021

An interview with Lily Iona MacKenzie

Realism is the foundation of the story. It is set in the real world and in real time, with magical elements thrown into the mix. This is the genre of writing that Lily prescribes to.

Curva Peligrosa’ is a bold and striking Mexican woman, who refuses to conform to stereotypical gender roles and is a trail blazer. Literally! As she makes the tough journey along the Old North Trail from Mexico through to Canada, and sets down roots in a mythical town of ‘Weed’ in Alberta.

A magical character, she is wrapped in a cloud of beauty, intrigue and the unexplained. Time slows down and even stops, and soon she mesmerises the town folk of ‘Weed’, as she immerses herself and builds a life surrounded by mystery. It’s a beautifully written book, gripping and full of mystical and magical moments, delving into the supernatural with lots of laughter along the journey.

The author of ‘Curva Peligrosa’ is an enchanting lady by the name of Lily Iona Mackenzie, who is a native Canadian with roots originating from Portree, Isle of Skye in Scotland. Lily taught writing at the University of San Fransisco for over 30 years, She now resides in San Francisco and continues post pandemic to teach memoir classes online through the Fromm Institute for lifelong learning. Her journey in writing in a genre she describes as ‘Magical Realism’ is delightful. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lily, and here are some of the highlights of our conversation.

What prompted you to move from Calgary to San Francisco, was it the warmer Climate?

‘It certainly was an appeal, but also at the time America just seemed so full of energy and an exciting place compared to Canada. When I grow up in Calgary, the population was about 250,000, (but now its well over a million) so at the time it was like a small cowtown mostly known for the Calgary Stampede. I was interested in bigger things that I couldn’t get in Calgary.’

Lily worked at the Calgary office of Bechtel Corporation worldwide, and being a gutsy 23 year old she promptly transferred to their head office in San Francisco while the construction of the Alberta — California gas pipeline was being implemented. Being a single mother and needing to support both herself and her son, she soon realised that there was a vast difference in living costs compared to Calgary and soon found herself supplementing her income with a night time job as a…

Rika Chandra

Artist, Architect, Designer and Writer with a geeky passion for spreadsheets and a curiosity about people, history and cognitive dissonance.