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Why did you decide to become an author?
–I’ve always loved telling stories—poems, short fiction, scripts—but I didn’t ever think I’d write novels. I didn’t think I could hold something so large in my head. But when I was a college sophomore, I realized I was afraid to try, because I was afraid to fail. I sat down and wrote my first novel, and it was terrible (as all first attempts should be), but it taught me a valuable lesson: I COULD. I’ve never stopped.
What are your pets’ names and where do they live?
— My kittens, Thomas and Chauncey, who make frequent appearances in my Instagram Stories, live with me in Edinburgh. My dog Riley is a Romanian rescue and a very sensitive girl who found life in Edinburgh a little too busy, so she lives at my parents’ house in the French countryside along with a very stately Golden Pyr mix named Max, an overweight cat named Beau, a ferret-like feline named Bea, and five chickens, all named after booze.
Which of the characters you have written do you identify with the most?
–I identify with all of them, in some way. The good, the bad, the stubborn. I tend to break off a small piece of my personality and then grow someone very different. But there are a few characters that have felt the most me: Kate Harker, Victor Vale, Lila Bard, Henry Strauss.
Is there a sequel to Addie?
–No. Addie LaRue is a standalone novel.
How do you motivate yourself?
–The knowledge that my dreams are big and life is short. I know that might sound flippant, but it’s the truth—there are so many stories I want to tell. I don’t feel like I have time to waste. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t get stuck, or feel daunted by the task. But my want is always louder than my fear.
Why did you decide to write under both Victoria Schwab and V. E. Schwab?
–In the beginning, I didn’t put much thought into it. I’m Victoria, so I wrote as Victoria. I began in YA and MG, so when I wrote my first adult novel (adult meaning for grown-ups, not adult as in inappropriate), I thought it best to go by V.E. on those, so one of my youngest readers didn’t pick it up by accident (more power to them if they picked it up on purpose). But there was another reason—adult genre, specifically fantasy, can be a sexist place, and I didn’t want readers discounting my work because I presented femme. But as time went on, and I became better known, I found myself wishing I’d only ever gone by V.E. It was a personal choice—one stemming from a desire to protect my identity as a human behind my persona as an author. So from here on out, my books will all be labeled V.E. Schwab. Apologies for any confusion!
What are the age ratings for your books?
–I like to think of books more like puzzles, they have a lower age advisory, but no upper age limit. I’m not one to tell a young reader they aren’t ready for something, if they believe they are, and I don’t think we ever age out of reading something—we come back to it with different eyes, new perspectives. Young readers, like older ones, have the incredible ability to decide for themselves, and put a book down if it isn’t right for them right now.
What did you study in college?
–I began in astrophysics at WashU, but changed my major several times (Set Design, Literature, Art History, Japanese Culture and Mythology–it turned out, what excited me most about everything I explored was the narrative, the story) before finally graduating with a BFA in design (at that point I had a literary agent and my family begged me to just graduate). I then went on to get a Masters in Medieval Art History at University of Edinburgh.
What is your favorite thing to do?
–I live by the seaside in Edinburgh, so most days I go for walks along the shore and take photos of the many marvelous dogs I see. I walk until my legs get tired and my mind goes still. I also swim in the sea, which is terribly cold and beautifully shocking. In summer, I help my father harvest berries from his garden, and read books in the shade. These are all my favorite things.
What is your writing process?
–I try to write for at least two hours in the morning. That might not sound like much, but there’s a difference between writing time and typing time. I think about the scenes I’m working on for hours/days/weeks, so when I sit down for those two hours, I’m typing the entire time. I don’t let myself write more than three hours at a time, because I prefer to have momentum the next day. My afternoons are usually taken up with business (there’s a ton of work and admin that goes into being an author outside of actual storytelling) and my evenings are for me.
What is your creative process like?
–I’m an outliner/planner. That means different things to different writers. For me, what it means is that before I sit down to draft a novel, I create a detailed plan of the story I want to tell. I figure out the voice, the larger aspects of the plot, and the ending. A lot of my creative brainstorming goes into this part, so that the actual drafting process feels more like executing a well-laid plan. There’s still space for discovery along the way, but I feel more comfortable working from a guide I’ve made. That said, the end result is still a first draft, and then goes through multiple rounds of revision, tightening up the plot, the worldbuilding, the language. Sometimes that means taking the book apart completely, re-writing large portions. By the time you read one of my books, it’s been through anywhere from four to seven drafts.
What do you do against writing block?
–I don’t experience much actual creative block. What I do experience is doubt. I will get stuck because I’m worried the scene isn’t good enough, or that I’m not good enough to write it. One way I combat this is by creating a short summary of everything I want to accomplish in a scene before I start—it’s a makeshift road map.
Why do you love being an author and do you ever regret it?
–I love writing. I don’t always love being an author. One is an act, and the other a profession. Any time something you’re passionate about becomes something you’re required to do, it changes the relationship. It’s hard, because writing is a personal thing, one-on-one, between you and the page, before it’s ever a public one. Many days I struggle with expectation, insecurity, fear, and those are all tied to the external pressures of publishing. But no, I don’t regret getting to do something I love every day.
What of your books should I read? (Pinned Tweet?)
-That depends what you’re in the mood for! Some authors write for one audience, but I write for a slightly different reader with every book. If you like romance or literary fiction, I’d recommend The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. If you like action and adventure, start with A Darker Shade of Magic. Fairy tales and fables? There’s Gallant and The Near Witch. Ghost stories? City of Ghosts. Superpowers and morally grey characters? Vicious and Vengeful. Angst and the apocalypse? This Savage Song or The Dark Vault.
What are your favorite foods (sweet or salty)?
-I could live on sharp cheddar and dark chocolate.
If you were not a writer, what would you be doing?
-I would probably work in criminal profiling.
Your tattoos – what are their meanings to you?
-I have several. There are wings behind both of my ankles, both a nod to my wanderlust and to Hermes. I have birds on each arm, one a crow and the other a magpie—members of the same family, but one often symbolizes the flighty love of shiny things, and the other dispassionate cunning, the two facets of my own personality. I have an eye of Horus on my hip, for protection. I have a key on my forearm, so all the doors in life will open for me. I have the words RISE UP on my writing wrist, a reminder of where my power lies. And I have a Latin inscription, a reminder to find a way, or make my own.
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
–“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars still makes me dream.” –Van Gogh
What is the hardest part of a first draft?
–The fact it is necessarily imperfect. It is the act of taking the idea in your mind, which is flawless because it is all potential, and making it real, and thus flawed. It is very hard not to lose hope when the story on paper pales in comparison to the one in your head, but that’s what revision is for.
Best advice for “those days” when you question yourself and your skills?
–Make the work as small as possible. I do not sit down to write a book, or even a chapter. I sit down to write a line, a paragraph, a page. I set a time for ten or twenty minutes, a bitesize amount of work, a bitesize amount of time. And I remember that thinking is a vital part of writing. So is deleting. So is playing.
Will there be more special editions of your books?
–I hope so! I’m not in control of special editions—who makes them, and when they come out—and I’m rarely allowed to announce them. But as soon as it’s public, I repost on my IG to let readers know!
What is First Kill?
–First Kill is a tv show coming globally to Netflix this summer! It’s based on a short story I wrote—also called “First Kill”—in the anthology, Vampires Never Get Old.
Did you also write the tv show?
–I helped! I’m the creator, but not the showrunner (that honor goes to Felicia D. Henderson). I did participate in the writers room (that’s the term for the group of writers that come together to actually brainstorm and script the episodes), and wrote the first episode, and co-wrote the second with Mark Hudis, but a tv show is truly a team effort, and Felicia is the team captain.