VE Schwab at Waterstone’s // in which i am in awe


I was lucky enough to be able to attend an event on VE Schwab’s tour for This Savage Song last Friday! As you guys might know, I am a MASSIVE fan of her books. So this was much excitement. I decided to do a recap of the talk, because I’ve had a lot of fun doing them before and I thought you might want to hear what was said!

Although I arrived pretty early (by my standards) there were already a few rows of people there. I stationed myself in the second and passed the time by having some excellent fandom conversations. *nods* Everyone fell very silent when the event was about to start.

So, VE Schwab was in conversation with the lovely Anna James, who’s also done a few other events I’d been to.  We began with a brief summary of This Savage Song. Then VE discussed the inspiration for This Savage Song — the idea for it came from a rash of violence in the US — which she hoped she would talk about retrospectively once on tour for the book, but is still very relevant. “I was looking at all the negative energy we were throwing into the universe and thinking ‘how is there no aftermath?'” After a week life goes back to normal. This Savage Song explores the idea of an actual tangible aftermath. (In the form of monsters.)

This Savage Song is really interesting in that it explores redemption and forgiveness. (slight spoiler) August can only eat the souls of people who have made monsters. In taking a life they’re also in some ways doing good. There’s no peace for smol and sad Hufflepuff August. What I love about VE Schwab’s books are that there are always ‘fuzzy’ moral grey zones, and that’s no exception in This Savage Song!

Kate Harker — bless this cutthroat daughter of Victor Vale and Lila Bard — was VE’s reaction to a lot of YA protagonists. “I refuse to believe that if you gave a teenage girl the power to change her own life or to change the world, she would choose the world.” ME TOO. Despite her respect for the Katnisses, Kate is out for Kate. VE said she’s just very interested in self-interest as a personality trait.

According to VE you’ve made a character right when someone else can tell you what that person will do and it’s accurate. See the internet producing an ADSOM coffee shop AU where Kell is the pissy barista and Lila is banned for stealing and Holland drinks black coffee/judges everyone using a laptop. I AM 100% HERE FOR THIS EVERYONE. Characters who act like Rhy and Alucard are very difficult to write because you have to make it clear to the reader that they’re pretending.

After a bit of debate over the plotter/pantser words — because yep, pantser means something pretty different in the UK! but I still use it — VE said she has about 10 main plot points so she has a compromise between an outline and freedom. The only thing she has to start with is the ending in order to rewind the character arcs. (Let me just cry as I think about the end of ACOL. I am not prepared for that to happen.)

Next we moved onto talking a little more about A Darker Shade of Magic and AGOS. Conversation of course turned to the cliffhanger in AGOS (which we are all still in pain about). VE had previously avoided cliffhangers because she thinks they get abused — people just cut off the end of the first arc instead of starting a new one and cutting it off. So she managed to avoid this for all her other books, but according to her this was the gentlest version of the cliffhanger possible! I slightly dreaded to think of what the first draft contain. Apparently 90% of the cast died. *cries*

VE said a lot of people assume she’s a fast writer, but she’s actually a very slow but consistent one. She can only work in one world at a time when she becomes an insomniac who is completely absorbed in her books. “I have to rely on Facebook to tell me what’s happening in my own life.”

Because she designs the world first instead of the characters, she’s never sure about how long a series will be. But This Savage Song was always going to be a duology — the first book creates the roles the characters play in the second of a monster and a monster-hunter. “This Savage Song was about Kate and August figuring out their own identities, and Our Dark Duet is about them figuring out the world around them.”

Does VE write consciously for YA or for Adult genres? She said she doesn’t really care as long as readers are finding the books they want to find — she just writes for a version of herself. This Savage Song was written for 17 year-old-her because that’s what she would have wanted to read at 17. “I’m a firm believer in writing for yourself as primary reader.”

Writing gentle heros like Kell and August and more cutthroat girls was a conscious decision. VE has nothing against feminine girls, but she thinks we have enough of them — she writes what she wants to read. Badass female characters like Rey are a pretty recent phenomenon. She recalls reading a review that called Lila a trope: “She’s, like, a genderfluid aspiring pirate — you don’t get to call it a trope until I see too many of them.”

Something that I and many others really enjoy about VE Schwab’s books is that the romance doesn’t take centre stage. VE says that she enjoys romance but thinks often so many other interesting dynamics get chucked aside for it. YES PREACH. This is really similar to what I think myself! I’d love to see more different relationships explored in books.

The final question before opening up the floor was whether VE starts with small details and builds outwards or begins with a broad idea and works inwards when she worldbuilds. She said that are fantasy writers who give you a door where you can explore everything in the world, and there are fantasy authors who give you a window where you see what’s relevant at that moment. VE told us that she is a window writer — she wants us to guess what’s in the room, but leaves room to change things. Language is her detail in worlds. (YAY LANGUAGES. I was super glad this got mentioned, because the languages in ADSOM and AGOS honestly make me so happy.)

Then we moved onto a couple of audience questions: As for new books, as 4 more due to be released in the UK: ACOJ, the sequel to Vicious (!!) and a book about a French girl who sells her soul to the devil for the ability to live forever, as well as a super secret 4th book. We talked a little about the This Savage Song movie rights getting optioned and then I asked about how VE constructs the languages in her books. I KNOW. I was so proud of myself, because normally I’m a small embarrassed bean. But anyway: VE comes at languages from how they sound in her head, but her editor focuses on linguistic origins. Other questions included the danger of writing rituals, a book in the distant book based on the anime Pyscho-Pass and the awesomenes of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

After this we all queued up to get books signed and asdfjkl I am still flailing very much from this. Overall I had an absolutely FABULOUS time and I’m actually feeling very motivated to get writing again! (Not looking at that WIP which I haven’t touched in months and I think I need to entirely rehaul. *coughs*)

are you a fan of ve schwab too? been to any book events lately? let me know!

The Fictional Crushes Tag

fictional crushes tag

I was tagged for this by Engie @ Musings From Neville’s Navel — thanks so much! And also sorry that this is, um, pretty late haha. I’m basically terrible at doing tags, but today I am rewarding myself for essay writing with a post of me flailing about characters that I love. 😛

the paranormal crush.

…Am I allowed to choose Baz Pitch? I don’t read that many paranormal books. And I like Baz a lot, even if he is stupidly in love with Simon. He’s the only paranormal character I can currently think of. If witches are allowed, then I choose my favourite violent cold-hearted witch Manon Blackbeak. Who would hate me. (This seems like a recurring theme among characters I like.)

les mis deluxe cover
THIS IS (one of) MY COPIES OF LES MIS. I love this edition aah.

the dark and moody crush who has a good side.

Eponine Thenardier. I KNOW I’M PUTTING LIKE 3 LES MIS CHARACTERS IN HERE. I just have an intense love of Les Mis and to be quite honest all of the characters are wonderful precious cinnamon rolls. Eponine is the-coolest-girl ever-slash-secret-nerd. She could probably kill you with a glare. Enough said.

the most badass crush.

I am currently watching How to Get Away With Murder. And admittedly I’m not even through the first season, but LAUREL CASTILLO OH MY GOODNESS. Everyone else was so shaked by the murder but, like… She found herself. AND SHE’S SO BADASS. She speaks Spanish. She has amazing eyebrows. Okay, I think I need to stop talking now.

the crush i’d venture anywhere with.

Linh Cinder. We can fly off into the galaxy together as I talk excitedly about space and Cinder does mechanic things (about which I know a terrible amount).

the crush i’d want to be stranded on a desert island with.

Penelope Bunce, obviously. She’d get me out of there in no time. Although if we were actually stranded she would also be great because overall Penny is just a very sensible person. We could discuss social justice, spells, and the stupidness of Simon and Baz together.

the crush i want to tame.

…This seems like a kind of weird question? Because I don’t want to tame anyone per se. I would immensely like Adelina Amouterou to stop causing herself so much pain and become the villain. Also Kaz Brekker. Please stop torturing yourself, Kaz.

the crush i friendzoned.

Like Engie, for this one I’m going with ‘the character I super want to be best friends with’. (I mean, which kind of is all these crushes because that is basically what my crushes are. but anyway.) I’d love to be friends with Jean Prouvaire, aka Jehan! Also a Les Mis character, just to let you all know. Ahem. *looks sideways* He and I are one and the same. I, too, blush at everything and am in love with poetry and revolutions.

the most romantic crush.

Oh my god, Cosette Fauchelevent. I think a lot of people see her as a bit drippy because the musical simplifies her character a bit. But Cosette is A Literal Goddess, simultaneously lovely to everyone and slightly fighting you. Especially if you’re *cough*Marius*couch* keeping the secret that her father is an ex-criminal. But I think she’d be super sweet and romantic but in a very cool way. I would be sappy and embarrassed.

a gathering of shadowsthe crush i want to elope with.

Lila Bard. I was going to put her as ‘dark and moody’ because…well, she is pretty dark and moody but with a bad side. Also very brash, foolish, and in denial of her emotions/never ever talking about them ever. She says things like: I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still. *swoons* And then I decided NOPE I LOVE HER TOO MUCH. She would probably hate me or forget my name instantly. Whatever. Let me indulge in my fantasy.

my soulmate.

Hahaha… I DON’T KNOW. My soulmate is all my bookshelves!

I’m not going to tag anyone directly for this one but IF YOU’RE READING THIS THEN FEEL FREE. I had a lot of fun. *nods*

which fictional characters do you love? is it nice weather where you are? (apparently it’ll be 24 degrees at the weekend here!!)

The Les Mis Book Tag

les mis book tag final2.jpg

If at this point you didn’t know I have an obsession with Les Mis: I HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH LES MIS. And very recently it was the one year anniversary of my becoming obsessed with Les Mis, so this is my celebration post! *showers confetti* Also, I was upset that a Hamilton book tag existed but a Les Mis one didn’t, so. I MADE ONE MWAHAHA. It may have resulted in me bursting into song/tears at random intervals whilst writing, but those are basically common occurences anyway ahaha 😛

I Dreamed a Dream

i had a dream my life would be so different from this hell i’m living: a book that didn’t live up to your high expectations

My mind is very much on French history as I write this post, so I’m going to with Liberty’s Fire by Lydia Syson. I WAS SO HYPED FOR THIS: Paris! Revolution! Queer characters in history! Alas, it was not to be. The romance bored me immensely, and it was such a significant part of the book that it basically ruined the whole thing for me.

vicious ve schwabThe Confrontation

i’ve hunted you across the years: your favourite literary duo

I just reread Vicious by V.E. Schwab, which is possibly one of my favourite books of all time. Obviously I have to choose Victor and Eli. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S GETTING A SEQUEL ASDFJKL. (Although Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are a close second.

Castle on Cloud

i know a place where no one cries: a book you have read that made you comforted + happy

I think I could go for Fangirl, but I also adore Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun as a pick-me-up book. Fangirl feels like a warm hug, but IGYTS feels like a ray of rainbows and sunshine and happiness to be alive beaming down on me. It just makes me want to art and love and dance and asdfjkl I REALLY LOVE THIS BOOK. I encourage absolutely everyone to read it. *nods*

the rest of us just live hereRed and Black

red, the blood of angry men: a book you have an unpopular opinion about

I’m doing a shadowing group for the Carnegie medal right now, and there was a very…well, interesting opinion on Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Everyone complained that it was too boring and the satirical excerpts of Satchel and the indie kids would have made a better book. Which I thoroughly disagree with. It was just a mash-up of everything I hate in dystopian YA. *coughs* I don’t think The Rest of Us is for everyone, but personally I did love it!

Do You Hear the People Sing?

will you get up and follow me?: a book you read due to hype

I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt purely because I saw about a million aesthetic edits for it on Tumblr and I wondered what all the fuss was. I did like it, but…I was very confused for a lot of it. I think this post explains it quite accurately.

One Day More

one more dawn, one more day: a book that kept you reading into the next chapter (and the next and the next)

I couldn’t tear myself away from A Gathering of Shadows from V.E. Schwab. I read it at every available opportunity, leading to various spillages of toothpaste and food on my Kindle. (That thing has seen a lot of wear and tear but it’s still alive.) IT WAS DEFINITELY WORTH IT. And it’s definitely worth choosing for my second Schwab book in this tag. Ahem.

On My Own

still i say there’s a way for us: a ship of yours that isn’t canon

I was planning on trying to…well, keep out of using Les Mis as actual answers for the Les Mis book tag. Since I thought it might provide a nice sense of irony. But I don’t think I can let this one go: Eponine/Cosette. I was reminded of my love for this ship when I saw this excellent Grease AU art and asdfjkl. WHY IS THERE NOT MORE GOOD FIC. Marius is an adorable dork, but Eponine and Cosette are like the even more adorable/scary power. I SHIP IT SO MUCH & I DON’T CARE IF THERE IS NO BASIS FOR THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN CANON AT ALL.

radio silence alice osemanDrink With Me

let the wine of friendship never run dry: your favourite bookish friendship

Frances and Aled from Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence have SUCH an awesome friendship. (And yes, I am going to keep talking about this book forever and ever until you all read it because it’s literally so fabulous.) I feel like they’re so honest with each other! It’s great to be able to be yourself. Also, yay for girl-boy friendships that don’t turn into relationships. 🙂

Bring Him Home

let me die, let him live: that one character you will do anything to see protected

Agatha Wellbelove, obviously. I am distraught at the fandom hate she gets. My friend said she had the personality of a wet dishcloth. SHE IS AMAZING AND BADASS AND SHE IS NOT TAKING ANY OF SIMON’S CRAP. She’s a canonical Doctor Who geek. Support Agatha Wellbelove 2k16. (Although I’m still hoping Gansey doesn’t completely die in The Raven King. I’ll probably know by the time this is published, oh god.) (Edit: I can confirm this I have finished TRK as we speak but NO SPOILERS.)

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

now my friends are dead and gone: a character death you don’t think you’ll ever recover from (spoilers beware!)

Maybe Sam Cortland from Throne of Glass. Until Queen of Shadows I still had my theories that he somehow wasn’t dead, but… I don’t think so. And I know I said I’d keep Les Mis to a minimum, but obviously I’m going to have to talk about the very major character deaths of many significant characters in that. *coughs* WHY, VICTOR HUGO, WHY. Let’s just pretend those parts didn’t happen, okay? would it be cruel to put a GIF of everyone lying dead here yes it would

AND THAT IS THE END. *dramatically sweeps hands* Sadly I couldn’t do all the Les Mis songs, although I did start with almost that number so be impressed at my restraint. I’m not super sure who’s listened to/likes Les Mis, but I’m tagging my usual musical theatre partner in crime Evi @ Adventuring Through Pages. (And here is my reminder that we wrote an excellent fandom war between Les Mis and Hamilton. Which I thoroughly recommend you read.) But feel totally free to do this tag, pick and choose questions + use the title image yourself! My only request is that you link back to this post and keep the image credit. 🙂

Just to recap, because I know how annoying it is to keep copy and pasting, the tag questions are:

  • I Dreamed a Dream: a book that didn’t live up to your high expectations
  • The Confrontation: your favourite literary duo
  • Castle on a Cloud: a book that comforts you
  • Red and Black: an unpopular bookish opinion
  • Do You Hear the People Sing?: a book you read because of hype
  • One Day More: a book that kept you reading into the next chapter (and the next and the next)
  • On My Own: a ship of yours that isn’t canon
  • Drink With Me: your favourite bookish friendship
  • Bring Him Home: that one character you will do anything to protect
  • Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: a character death you don’t think you’ll ever recover from

what books do you love? do you like any musicals? how would you answer my questions?