I was lucky enough to be able to attend Victoria Schwab’s tour for This Savage Song (which I ADORED – click the link to see my review) at Anderson’s Bookshop, and I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you! Victoria was a fantastic speaker, and I can honestly say that this was one of the best author events I’ve been to!
First of all, the picture above was “stolen” from Schwab’s Twitter feed (with permission). That’s me and my mom, front and center! Let me tell you something I’ve learned about author events – I know that in school all the cool kids sat in the back, but I’ve decided that I love being right in the front row for author events (especially if it’s an author I love!). Why? Because, not only do you get to hear the author speak during the “scheduled” discussion, you also get to hear everything that she (or he) says to people in the signing line. And since you’re sitting right there, you kind of end up participating in some of the discussions too. It doesn’t seem that weird because you’re literally like two feet in front of people while they’re talking – it would be weirder to sit and stare off into space and pretend you can’t hear what’s going on! I learned just as many fun and fascinating things in the signing line as I did from the actual discussion – for instance, this is how I knew to ask for the special narwhal drawing in my copy of A Darker Shade of Magic.
Now for a recap of the event. Here are some interesting things I learned about VE Schwab and her books:
- Schwab has featured “outsiders” in all of her books because she felt like one growing up (and still does, to some extent, today). She talked a lot about her inability to relate to others and empathize with them. She said that she isn’t good at being “people” – which I thought was a fun and interesting way to talk about her social skills shortcomings.
- Outsiders don’t always have to come from outside – Schwab purposely features characters who don’t necessarily have to be outsiders. They aren’t characters who don’t fit in because of social status or coming from some distant land. Instead, they’re outsiders because of something intrinsic that makes them different from the people around them. Again, this is based on Schwab’s own life growing up because she always felt almost guilty for feeling like an outsider. She, ostensibly, had a great middle class family and everything she needed to socially succeed, but she just couldn’t connect to people.
- Is it okay to be an outsider? – This is another theme that Schwab explores. Maybe outsiders don’t need to be fixed – they just need to come to terms with who they are.
- It’s funny because, though Schwab says that she has trouble relating to people and she’s very introverted, she was a fantastic speaker. Her natural intelligence shines, and I was completely engaged with her every word. (She claimed she was utterly exhausted and therefore a bit rambly, but I can honestly say that this was one of the best author events I’ve been to solely based on her discussion with the audience.)
- Schwab learned to observe people because of her father. Schwab’s father had Type 1 diabetes, and she had to watch carefully for signs of his illness. She says this helped her become more observational of people’s behaviors in general (even when she didn’t feel like she could relate to them, she was noticing them.)
- Schwab has realized that all of her characters are her. Each character represents some part of her. For instance, in This Savage Song, both Kate and August exhibit anxiety in different ways. August displays circuitous thinking and Kate wants to measure up to an impossible goal of pleasing her father.
- Schwab is a connect-the-dotser. She isn’t a plotter or a pantser; she’s something in between. She said she writes down five to ten story points, but doesn’t plan much else. She needs to be excited by the story as she writes it, and she doesn’t feel like she could do that if it was all perfectly planned. BUT she said she always knows the ending of a book or series – down to the last paragraph. (She said she writes her characters backwards – knowing where they end up and seeing how they get there.)
- This Savage Song was inspired by tragic events like school shootings. Schwab talked about how violence begets violence begets violence – the monsters are the violence come alive (and they bring more violence).
- Schwab’s favorite character in the Shades of Magic Series is Holland. She hopes by the end of the third book she’ll have company. (She promises she’ll convince you.)
- Schwab is excited that she finally got to title the final book in the Shades of Magic series! She wanted to name the first book Traveler, but there’s an issue with the spelling: US spelling would be Traveler, UK spelling would be Traveller – so how would you spell it for a book published in the US but set in the UK? (She said they already had issues with people spelling Vicious wrong.) The second book was named by a random publicist (if I remember correctly) – she said people kept joking that they were going to name it Magic: The Gathering and then ended up naming it A Gathering of Shadows. She wasn’t completely amused. So, she was happy to get to choose the final book’s title!
- All of Schwab’s female characters are Slytherin and all of her male characters are Hufflepuff or Gryffindor.
- When Schwab submitted her first book (The Near Witch) to Hyperion, they told her it was a fantastic idea. And then they said to write it all over again. From scratch. She did.
- Schwab gave some fantastic advice for authors who are querying a book:
- Make a list of agents and break it down first into three tiers (dream agents, agents you’d be really happy with, and other agents).
- Send queries to a cross-section of agents from all three tiers.
- When responses come back, figure out how far into the query process you got. If agents responded only to your query, you might need to adjust that. If they responded to your sample, then you might need to make adjustments there. If they got to the full book, you know your query and your sample were successful (but maybe the full book needs to be edited more).
- Since you only sent to a cross-section, you didn’t exhaust your dream agents list in one fell swoop. You can make adjustments and send out more queries (to agents you’d love to work with still)!
The books I bought at the event:
Schwab’s fun signatures:
Note the cat from This Savage Song and the cute narwhal from … Schwab’s imagination.
So that’s it! This was a fantastic event. Hope you learned something new about Schwab!