Victoria "V.E." Schwab is the prolific author of three YA titles (The Near Witch, The Archived and The Unbound), a children's series (Everyday Angel) and two adult novels (2013's Vicious, and A Darker Shade of Magic, released last month). She describes herself as being "the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, I have been known to say 'tom-ah-toes,' 'like,' and 'y’all.'" She has also been known to address the readers of her blog as "lovelies." Victoria currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and recently agreed to be interviewed by librarian Daryl Maxwell for the Burbank Library blog.
What was your inspiration for A Darker Shade of Magic (ADSOM)?
It came in pieces. I’d been wanting to write a book about magic and multiple worlds, and then I got the image one day of a man stepping through a wall and colliding with a girl in an alley. That collision became the crux of the book.
What was your process for writing A Darker Shade of Magic? Do you work on multiple books at the same time?
Deadlines necessitate that I juggle deadlines, but I try to make sure I’m only writing one book at a time (I’m usually planning one, writing one, editing one). With ADSOM, I had a short list of vital scenes, the four main characters, the designs of the worlds, and a sketched-out plot before I actually put pen to paper and started writing. The idea was about a year in the making, and it took six months to get the first draft down, and another three to four to edit.
|Cover of the UK edition|
Where did you get the inspiration for multiple, and markedly different, Londons? Did they evolve and change as you wrote the novel?
As I said, I’d been wanting to write a book about travel through space instead of time, and alternate worlds, and the various Londons were inspired by their relationship to magic, and how it shapes the people and their city. You’ve got Grey London, which is essentially magic-less, an iteration of our own world. And there’s Red London, a version with a rich and healthy relationship with magic, one in which power and vitality permeate. Then there’s White London, a place which has an adversarial relationship with power, in which it’s not seen as something to revere, but something to control, and consequently it’s a fairly brutal, barren atmosphere. And lastly, Black London, which has gone down in the histories as a place where magic overpowered everything.
Are Kell and/or Lila inspired by a specific individuals (or group of people)?
Nope. I’m not a believer in using specific people for inspiration, lest I feel obligated to represent them truly instead of letting my characters be who they need to be. But I’d say that Lila Bard is an aspirational character, in that I wish I could be as reckless and fearless as she is.
If you could have Kell bring you anything from one of the other Londons, what would it be and from which London? Is there anything from our world/London you’d like to give to him or Lila?
I would love a dream stone from Red London. And I’d probably give Lila more bullets for Caster, her gun.
It’s really out of my hands. I recently read the first draft of the script, which was quite a trip, and I really like everyone involved in the project. I think in the end it will either get made right, or not at all.
I know you moved to Scotland last year to study in a graduate program. What are you studying?
I’m studying medieval art history at the University of Edinburgh.
What’s currently on your nightstand?
Right now I’ve got Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, which hits shelves in April.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Perhaps it sounds trite, but Harry Potter. I had the immense luxury of growing up with Harry almost year for year, so it was an incredibly formative experience. Before that, I jumped from The Boxcar Children to Robert Ludlum.
Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?
Neil Gaiman, T.H. White, Laini Taylor, Scott Lynch, Holly Black
Is there a book you've faked reading?
The fourth Twilight book (Breaking Dawn).
Is there a book you've bought for the cover?
Too many to count. I try so hard not to judge, but it’s so hard not to swoon for a particularly wonderful cover.
Can you name a book that changed your life?
Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. I was a teenager dabbling in half a dozen genres and forms, thinking I had to pick just one, and then I picked up one of Neil’s collections, and realized that I could fuse my poetry into my fiction, my strangeness into my prose. It was liberating.
Is there a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?
I try to tailor my recommendations to the reader, since I know there’s no one book to suit all minds. But for fantasy fans, Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, for contemporary, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, and for literary, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?
Every book I’ve ever loved. There’s a beauty to the discovering.
What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?
My perfect day would probably involve a casual breakfast and some writing with Holly Black, since I’ve heard she’s a master problem solver when it comes to plot. Then a good long wander (I’m a fan of wandering), and an afternoon tea with a book before going to see Neil Gaiman speak at an event (after which I’d steal a hug).
A Darker Shade of Magic is the first of a new series. What is the plan for the series? When do you anticipate the second book will be available?
It is! And as far as I can tell, it’s a three-book series. Or at least, this plot arc is three books. I’m revising book two now, so it should be on shelves just about a year after book one (so February 2016).
What are you working on now?
In addition to the ADSOM sequel (which has a title--I hope we’ll be revealing it soon), I’m hard at work on my next YA, which hits shelves next summer, and a middle grade novel for Scholastic. There are also a few other irons in the fire, but I can’t talk about them yet, save to say that one involves Vicious!
Editor's note: What a pleasure it was to gain a little insight into the life, works, and writings of V. E. Schwab! Thanks to Daryl Maxwell for initiating this interview!