It started with this idea that I wasn’t going to let life pass me by, that if this was indeed my last YallWest what were some things I wanted to accomplish. Turns out I wanted to interview my idol, and it was a terrifying prospect.
Let’s back track a bit. I first discovered V.E. Schwab at YallWest when a friend handed me an ARC of This Savage Song. And that was the beginning and the end. I can say that yesterday I finished A Gathering of Shadows (OH MY GOSH) and I’m yet to not marvel at Victoria’s use of language, of prose, of the complete ability to take you from this world into another. So when I saw Victoria would be at YallWest a spark ignited: What if. That “What If” is why you’re here. Armed with a can of coffee in my vest pocket, pure ambition and terror, and a bit of reader magic, I did what a year ago I would never dream of. I sat down and had a conversation with V.E. Schwab.
Camille: To kick it off, you write from Middle Grade to Adult, what’s your process jumping between different audiences like that? Is one easier to write than the other?
Victoria: I actually don’t find any of them easier to write, pre se, I think a few of them come more naturally like the adult voice just because that is where I am in my life right now. When I write for a different audience I’m writing to a specific age of myself. So when I’m writing middle grade I’m just writing for 11 year old me and when I’m write YA it’s usually 17 year old me, and then I think the reason adult feels most natural now is because I am simply writing to whatever age I am right then. So when I wrote Vicious I was writing to 25 year old me when I wrote A Darker Shade of Magic it was 27, when I wrote Vengeful it was 30 and so I think that I get to be whoever I am right then without any transference. But I don’t find any of them easier.
Camille: Can you tell us anything about Addie La Rue?
Victoria: *laughing. Well I’m still writing it, so there’s that. I use to call it a love story between a French girl and the devil over the course of 300 years, but love isn’t really the right word for it. It’s a story about the relationship between a French girl and the devil over 300 years and about a relationship between that French girl and a young man in New York City over the course of a year.
Camille: So magic and the supernatural are themes throughout your works, is there a particular thing that spurn the interest?
Victoria: So the dedication in A Darker Shade of Magic is for those who dream of stranger worlds and I think that truly is at the heart of why I do what I do because I grew up wanting the world to be stranger than it was. I grew up looking for the cracks in doorways. I would go hiking and see rock formations and I would try to visualize where a key would go. Like I just grew up looking for more, and as an adult I still believe there is more, but I like to believe there is more and we simply haven’t found a way to access it. So most of my books are about people finding ways to access that more.
Camille: Reading is its own sort of magic. As a kid was there anything that you loved to read or go back to reread?
Victoria: So I wasn’t a huge reader when I was a child. I was really big into sports, really big into anima, really big into all kinds of things. I was proficient reader but I had yet to become a passionate reader. And then when I was 11, my mom’s friend called and she was at a bookstore and a book signing was happening. She said (to my mom) there’s this lady here and she signing her debut novel should I get Victoria a copy signed. And my mom said yeah she’s not a huge reader but we’re trying, so go ahead and get her a copy. What arrived in the mail the next week was a signed edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So I owe a lot to Harry Potter. As a 31 year old I had the immense luxury of growing in time with Harry Potter. And that’s like a very specific generational luxury. So it made a big dent.
*We sidetracked and talked about my current experience reading the Harry Potter series as an adult, and how it was a very different experience but none less enjoyable, but then we started talking about middle grade as a genre:
Victoria: A lot of people think middle grade means lighter than YA and it doesn’t! * I interjected: I love Cassidy * Oh thank you. Those are my scary books and people are always like when you wanted to write a scary book did you think you would write, did you consider writing scary book for an older audience? And I was like no, for me middle grade is the best place to be afraid. Because it’s when you learn the power of words, it’s when you learn that you can put something down, it’s when you learn to have control over your environment in some way. So no. Plus I just think it’s fun to be afraid.
Camille: I love how you handle that in City of Ghosts. And I’m really excited for Tunnel of Bones.
Victoria: I think the important thing to remember as well is that characters like Delilah Bard who are adult characters or for adult audiences — they handle fear in an adult way. Delilah Bard becomes an aspirational character because she feels fear and then she puts it aside. But for Cassidy and Jacob and that age it’s not about putting aside fear, it’s about feeling it. Like Cassidy and Jacob are never braver than the reader; they’re scared too. And I think that’s a really important thing for a young reader to realize it’s okay to be afraid. It’s not a shameful thing. You’re not a coward. You’re not any of these things. Bravery comes from feeling the fear and acting despite it
Camille: If you could choose one character to bring to life, who would it be and what would you do?
Victoria: Well there are selfish answers for this. There are characters that I love but they probably would be very terrible people and so I wouldn’t bring them to life. I’d probably bring Kell to life because it would also mean bringing his magic to life and I would like to re-infuse our world with a little bit more magic. Plus I would steal his coat. The very first thing I’d do would be to steal his coat.
* And tell me, who wouldn’t steal Kell’s coat?
Camille: If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Victoria: So I think about this a lot. My power would be to control time, but only moving forward. Because when we try to go back its when everything gets messed up. I just want to be able to pause, slow down and speed up, because I feel like I could read as much as I would want, I could write as much as I want, so yeah, my power would be time.
As it was May the Fourth on YallWest, I had to ask about Star Wars and do a quick lightening round.
Camille: Are you a fan of Star Wars?
Victoria: I’m a light fan. Like not an intense fanatic. I really enjoy the new movies, but I would not throw down over it. I wouldn’t go to extreme lengths. There are things I like and thing I‘m meh about, but it’s enjoyable. Like I’ll punch someone out if they say they don’t like The Princess Bride, but if someone is like oh I didn’t like that Star Wars movie I’d have a conversation about why. I’m really interested in this idea of do we dislike female protagonist because they’re not men, like what if we hand them the same power as men and then it’s just a gender change. I’m really interested in the reasons people don’t like things. But I’m definitely not like – there are things that I am so passionate about that I can brook no argument about, like Princess Bride, but Star Wars is not one of those.
* And that is why we can be causal fan-people.
Camille: Lightsaber or blaster?
Victoria: Lightsaber – but only Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. Let’s be very real about it.
Camille: Sith, Jedi, or Grey Jedi?
Camille: Rebel or Empire?
It all started with a question, a quest to know— What if? It ended in a smile, a bit of magic, and the best YallWest ever. Did I fangirl the rest of the day? Hell yes! * though it was amplified with the amount of caffeine consumed. But you know what? I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.
*I’ve added a secondary post: What If? To assure you I was not as cool, calm, or collected as it may read, and to hopefully encourage you that all you have to do is ask what if —What if I ask for an interview? What if I met my idol? And that is a powerful magic in it’s own right.