V.E. Schwab’s work is — you know what? Let’s just say it. I’m jealous! She’s younger than most of us and certainly more talented and damn her for her mad skillz. Her books are so good, it’s not fair. *throws short tantrum* Ahem. So, in the hopes that her ability will magically fill the air like a miasma and I can run through it and absorb some via osmosis, I am glad to host her here in a short interview with her Tor editor, Miriam Weinberg. Please to enjoy.
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V.E.: Let’s get down to business. Are my first drafts really as bad as I feel like are?
M.W.: No, they are not! Authors spend so much time considering their work–in ways both positive and negative. But specifically, it’s easy to get stuck in the space of second-guessing your own effect on the narrative, and whether it measures to your expectations. Authors (in first pass stage especially) tend to basically wring words and emotions out of themselves to the page, like a wet washcloth, until you’re a wrinkly crumpled mess.
V.E.: I do have a super weird relationship with my books, in that I forget that I’ve written them, and then forget that I’ve ever edited them. Once I’ve survived, I block it all out so that I can start the vicious cycle again 😉
M.W.: Do you ever go back and re-read post publication?
V.E.: The only one I’ve re-read is VICIOUS.
M.W.: And did you nitpick it?
V.E.: I didn’t. Of all my projects, I think that one is as close to technically flawless as I can get. Which is not to say it’s perfect, of course, but I tend to go back and wish I could change foundations, and I feel like the foundation of that one is super solid.
M.W.: I want to return to your writing process because I think your underpinning method is so integral to your books. You’ve talked before about layering muscle on top of bones. Is that how you think about writing, or is it just your Hannibal-esque brain?
V.E.: I know I skew toward the morbid, but I actually do think of my books as bodies. The first draft is for forging bones, the subsequent ones are for adding muscle, tendon, flesh. If you try to write the skin (or, you know, the top layer, the polish) before you have your bones, it will never hold together.
M.W.: Heh, your books are all creepy in some way, even when they’re funny.
V.E.: I like the dark humor. Like when you laugh and then feel bad about it.
M.W.: What do you think is the most essential part of the authorial process?
V.E.: Revision, hands down. It’s trite to say that writing is rewriting, but it’s true. If first drafts are for laying bones, then everything that comes after is for bringing the body to life. That’s where having an amazing editor is key. One that keeps you afloat while telling you everything that’s not working 😉 You never give me the answer, but you always ask the right questions.
M.W.: Aw, thanks :*)
M.W.: So, what is the part that you find that most frustrating?
V.E.: I have a complicated relationship with the first draft. On the one hand, it’s freeing, but I always want the first draft to have all the layers, all the twists and turns, and there’s this chasm between knowing what’s wrong, and being unable to fix it. I spend most of my first draft frustrated with that inability.
M.W.: You take your writing time very seriously, and you follow the method of treating it like a daily job. So how you do you deal with self-imposed deadlines, and what happens when you can’t get the words down?
V.E.: Massive feeling of insecurity.
M.W.: WHOMP. Okay, let’s talk about the evolution of the Shades of Magic series!
V.E.: Hard to believe that this little seed of an idea—the image of a man walking through a wall and colliding with a girl dressed as a boy—grew into a massive story with a cast of characters set across not one, or even two, but four Londons.
M.W.: It’s been so fun to watch it grow, too. The revision process was awesome–it makes me so happy that you and I both love getting into the serious depths of everything–Rhy’s insecurities vs. Kell’s, what the Arnesian landscape looks like, and particularly the cross-world linguistics!*
V.E.: What are you most excited about readers discovering in AGOS?
M.W.: I’m just really excited that we get to expand everything; from character depth, to action, to world expanse. The conceit of this world is obviously super fun, with all the Londons, but I’m so excited to see beyond the Arnesian empire, to meet the other countries, and to get to know the world that Kell and Rhy have grown up in, which is so like and so different to our own.
Also, there are a couple scenes I’m really excited for readers to discover. Lila! On a boat! A romance between the prince and an old fling. Lila and Kell together again! MAGICAL TOURNAMENT.
V.E.: You’re a Slytherin.
M.W.: um, *maybe* if I’m a Slytherin modeling Ravenclaw …I’m too Gryffindor to live, but too Ravenclaw to die 😉
V.E.: Eateket’s English Breakfast.
M.W.: ooooooh wait me too! Alternately, Seabreeze, from Spices and Tease.
City you’d love to live in?
M.W.: …..dammit, Schwab, stop answering my answer. MIND MELD IN FULL EFFECT. But also, Melbourne, and Amsterdam.
Lastly, what do you want to see more of in genre?
V.E.: I’d love to see more monsters. (M.W.: OF COURSE)
M.W: I’m really excited to see, at least in the wider market, a resurgeance of space opera, also, WITCHES, since I love both of those– but I’m most excited by the broadening of voice and setting in SFF (for instance, obvious UPDRAFT pride aside, the Nebula ballot is super exciting to me, and I hope that spread continues).
(Note: If you are curious about the language of the Londons, see this post No Mother Tongue: Language In The World of Magic.)
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A Gathering of Shadows: out today!
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.
In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games-an extravagent international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries-a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again-and so to keep magic’s balance, another London must fall.
A Gathering of Shadows: Indiebound | Amazon
7 responses to “V.E. Schwab: Books As Bodies (And Other Thoughts)”
“…I’m too Gryffindor to live, but too Ravenclaw to die”
Hm. Thats… Pretty. Odd.
Thanks for this post. The bit about first drafts really resonates with me. I am constantly beating myself up that my first draft is a total nutty shitbar.
Hoorah! Another person (a lot more accomplished) who writes short and adds more detail in further drafts. I do like your description for the process better than mine.
I would watch a webisode of you two talking TBH 🙂
They did a great Rocket Talk podcast, check it out. Thanks to that and this I’m going to buy the AGOS books you’ve snared me. 🙂
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