Read the interview and do the task by choosing the appropriate question.
Erin Morgenstern, a self-taught author of ‘fairy tales’, has written a brilliant first novel.
The Night Circus is magical, thrilling and intense - a wonderful piece about two rival magicians locked in a competition neither of them can abandon despite their feelings for each other. The scene is a night circus, where all is not as it seems. We caught up with Erin to talk about the book, its humble beginnings and whether magic exists...
I can create people and places and things with various combinations of 26 letters. That’s fairly impressive, isn’t it? I’d like to learn card tricks but I’m not sure I’m coordinated enough.
Shh, don’t let too many people know that clowns are a hallmark of a great book, I’d hate for them to get trendy. I’m not sure anything made me write the book, specifically. I had this place in my head and I needed to put it down on paper. Everything started with the circus, the mystery and love and action was layered into it as I wrote, but the clown was there very early on.
I do find magic interesting, I haven’t studied much of it in depth but I find Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin fascinating, partially because he was also a clockmaker. And I have to say I love the show The Prestige of the Illusionist, the way so many of the magic tricks stayed unclear with that old-fashioned illumination.
I did very little study, most of it is purely my imagination influenced by the amount of experience I’ve had before. I attempted to avoid historical mistakes as much as I could but mostly I was just making things up based on what felt appropriate to the world I had created.
It was a long road, I started the original manuscript as part of National Novel Writing Month and then spent about two years adding to it and revising it. I started looking for a literary agent and got a fairly good initial response that turned into a number of rejections because at that point the book had no plot. I was lucky enough to have that ‘plotless’ manuscript end up with a few agents who were interested in it if I revised the entire thing, which I did, which lead to actually signing with my agent and a bit more revision before the book sold.
My biggest lesson learned was, perhaps obviously, about the Importance of revision. I learned more about writing and how I write during that process than I did just free-form composing.
I love Margaret Atwood’s rhythm, Douglas Adams’s humour, Shakespeare’s drama, Jhumpa Lahiri’s emotions, Lewis Carroll’s whimsy, Nick Bantock’s intersection of words and pictures and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History because I love that book like candy.
I tried to be a coffee shop writer but I didn’t succeed in it, I get too easily distracted. I alternate writing at my desk in my office with writing curled up on my couch with my laptop. I don’t prefer one or the other, it just depends on my mood. The most important is that I write at home.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint my biggest inspiration. There’s a heavy Shakespeare flavour and hints of Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens around the edges. I’m influenced by a lot of non-book things, perfume and immersive theatre and music.
Of course, it is. This is a silly question. Real magic simply isn’t as easily contained as a rabbit in a hat.
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