What We Learned From V.E. Schwab, Part Two

On February 26, Victoria “V.E.” Schwab graced the doors of One More Page Books in Arlington for the fifth time. This time, it was in celebration of the release of A Conjuring of Light, the much-anticipated conclusion to her Shades of Magic series. Schwab was joined by moderator, friend, and beta-reader Patricia Riley. Attendance was so high that the event was held in the lobby of the next-door Westlee Condominiums–and there was still barely enough room! Sad you missed it? I’ve got the highlights!

(Presented approximately in order of when they were said. All quotes are taken from Schwab unless otherwise attributed. Some minor errors are due to the fact that the tongue is faster than the hand.)

The One More Page staff, dressed up and in character.

“You are my one and only beta-reader.” (Schwab, to Riley)

“Your process is the same every time you write a book… You’re right on schedule.” (Riley, to Schwab)

“You’ve seen my process of insanity.” (Schwab, to Riley)

“I have to pace whenever I walk.”

“In the very early stages of any book, Patricia is in positivity mode.”

“I start every single book I write from the end.”

“I am the God of my world. … It’s very off-putting when [characters] defy me.”

“I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman.” (She went on to cite a quote in which Gaiman said that the only thing he wants his books to have in common is his name on the cover, saying that she is of the same mindset.)

“I write to a version of myself.” (She elaborated that her books are essentially for herself at different ages: nine, seventeen, twenty-nine.)

“Publishing is weird and it’s super fickle, and if you always write for yourself you’ll never be disappointed.”

“What revision is is you trying to close the gap between the idea in your head and the idea on paper.”

“You will always have to write it wrong first.”

“My dreams make no sense whatsoever and they will never become a book.”

“If you think of a book like a body… if the skeleton is not sound, you’re screwed.”

Schwab said she “comes from poetry,” so the lyricism and the individual words are important to her, which makes first drafts a challenge.

“I always miss what I’m not doing”–I.E. she wishes she was revising when she’s drafting, brainstorming when revising, and drafting when brainstorming.

“My absolute favorite kind of scene to write is an ensemble scene where the characters hate each other.”

Kell’s dramatic foil is… everyone: “which makes him delightful to write!”

“I really do like writing murder.”

“The hardest scenes to write are grief.”

“What’s weird is I’m not empathetic in real life,” but she is when writing/toward her characters.

“The languages in the book are built from the ground up grammatically.”

“Language tells us about insiders and outsiders…”

A Conjuring of Light is her first-ever finale, “the very first time in my life where I had to say goodbye to characters.”

“This book is longer than it looks–it’s actually 710 pages but they cut the margins down.”

“Could I take the exact same skeleton and create a different body on top of it?” (Schwab on the four Londons)

“I just wanted to play. I love world building… For me, setting is a character.” (Schwab on the four Londons)

Schwab said that, if she were to return to writing in this world, it would be with a new cast of main characters, placing the current set in secondary roles. “My favorite kinds of stories are the ones that shift perspective without eliminating perspective.”

It was seriously SO crowded. I came an hour early and this was the best picture I could get of her while she was speaking–and I was half-standing on a pool table!

“Once you add technology to magic, things get a little wonky.” (Schwab on choosing the time period for Shades of Magic)

“I’m a cinematic writer. … I treat a book like a collection of episodes. … I cannot fathom a 610 page book, but I can fathom fifteen episodes.”

“My whole goal when I’m writing is DON’T QUIT.”

“I write my sentences and my paragraphs out of order and then I sort of stitch them.”

“I have a really hard time writing bridge sections.”

“My overnight success took nine years.”

“Writing becomes harder with every book. … It gets easier to get in your own way. There are more voices and more judgement.”

“I write different books for different people. … I don’t intend for every book I write to be loved by everyone.”

“I try to make sure I’m not writing books for everyone, as long as I’m writing for someone.”

“I’m a person who lives inside of my head ninety-eight percent of the time and makes shit up.”

“I will never tell a reader they have read one of my books wrong. I can only bring up to fifty percent of the equation.”

“Nobody in my books ever eats–they just drink!”

“I go through massive periods of time where I can’t read fiction.” She went on to recommend three books–Lab GirlFuriously Happy, and Neil Gaiman’s View From the Cheap Seats, which she characterized as “like having a friend on tour with me.”

The news recently broke that the Shades of Magic series has been optioned for film. As this is her fourth project that has been optioned for film, Schwab said, “I won’t believe that there will actually be a movie until I’m in the theater with popcorn in my hands.” When asked if she who she would cast, if it were up to her, Schwab said that she actively avoids dream casting, except in the case of “Holland–I cast him as Mads Mikkelson… specifically Hannibal Mads Mikkelson.” She went on to say that she does have a seat at the creative table, so, “It will either be a good movie or no movie.”

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