Wednesday 8 April 2015

Interview with Victoria Schwab

Now you know how much I love Victoria Schwab, well who was I to refuse posting this fabulous interview with her, talking about life and books, especially her latest A Darker Shade of Magic, which you can buy from Waterstones here. The interview was carried out by Kevin Lawson.
For the uninitiated, how would describe yourself and your writing to a complete Schwab noob?
I’m a 27-year-old with a wicked case of wanderlust and a very dark sense of humour. I write MG, YA, and Adult genre, because I think if you’re gunning for world domination, it’s best to rope your minions young. I tend to write about death, monsters, psychopaths, and hidden worlds.
You’ve been super busy recently – studying for a masters and simultaneously writing multiple books – how have you managed to find the time for so much social media procrastination?
Hahahahahaha. My editors would rather I didn’t make so much time for it. But the truth is, social media isn’t just an avoidance method, it’s also a sanity aid, and when it ceases to be one, well, I log off. Community engagement is really important to me, not just because it’s an efficient, perhaps even necessary, marketing tool these days, but because I genuinely enjoy connecting with readers, writers, and artists.
Tell us a little about your new book – A Darker Shade Of Magic – is about to hit shelves both real and virtual in February. What can seasoned Schwabbers and newbies expect?
A Darker Shade of Magic is about a magician with the ability to move between alternate versions of London, and the cross-dressing thief he crosses paths with in one of them. Officially the magician is a courier, and unofficially he’s a smuggler, and when the thief picks his pocket, and ends up with one of the most dangerous objects in creation, everything goes wrong.
The title character Kell, is a Traveller – a magician able to travel between parallel universes – what is it about the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics that you find interesting? Is it your obsession with doors and cracks?
I think it probably does go back to my fascination with thresholds, as well as my desire to write a second world fantasy that was still grounded, or at least tethered in some way, to an actual world. Plus, I’m always fascinated by the idea of belonging, of outsiders and insiders and the complicated dynamics that come with not fitting in where you should.
Your first ‘adult’ (for grown-ups, not Fifty Shades erotica) book Vicious was very well received by critics and won you a hoard of fans. What is it about the novel that you think has made readers latch onto it?
When I first started writing Vicious, I knew I wanted to play with moral ambiguity. I wanted to write a bad person that people would find themselves rooting for, then feel really conflicted about rooting for, then root for anyway. And I realized, as I was writing, that it’s not what characters DO that makes you love or hate them, it’s WHY they do it. Vicious is all about motive, and its absence. Everyone is a villain in their own way, or by some definition, and they’re all grey. There’s no ultimate good or ultimate evil, and I think we’re in a phase (I hope it lasts) where we celebrate that grey. Look at the wealth of reboots embracing the antiheroic nature of the hero. Look at the villain-as-protagonists. Magneto. Loki. Hannibal. Gone Girl. We find the bad people, or at least the morally ambiguous people, vastly more interesting. I think that’s why people like Vicious.
You’ve gone on the record as a fan of comics like Watchmen, what graphic novels/comics do you enjoy? And would you cite any of it as significantly influential to your own works?
Not really. I’m a bit of a cultural sponge. I soak up a bunch of different things, some consciously, others subconsciously. I draw as much inspiration from TV and movies and music as books or comics. I’m more interested in individual characters than plots. That’s what inspires me.
And how about traditional sci-fi writers like Philip K Dick?
Confession: My sci-fi education has been retroactive. I don’t consider myself a sci-fi writer, though sometimes Vicious gets classified that way, and so I’ve kind of been playing catch-up in the classic sci-fi department. So now, I’m more likely to be inspired by more modern pop culture.
The shifting timeline of events, the less than perfect characters and academic take on the origins of Superpowers, Vicious gives the book an almost Chris Nolanesq film feel. Are comparisons with other forms of Superhero lore and pop culture something that irritates you? Or does it just come with the territory?
Not at all. One of the things about Vicious is that it’s not tongue-in-cheek, per se, but it’s VERY self-aware. I’m playing with heroes and villains and labels and connotations, and I’m doing it in a very intentional way.
Speaking of the film industry, a film of Vicious is in the works isn’t it? Can you tell us more about how that came about, who’s working on it and when we might expect to see it?
It is! God knows if it will actually happen. There are SO many doors a project has to go through to get made into a movie, but Vicious has been lucky enough to cross a few of the most important thresholds. Scott Free and Story Mining bought the rights in late 2013, and they hired screenwriter Alexander Felix last fall, and I got to read an early draft of the script right before Christmas! It was so surreal and exciting, and no matter what happens, I feel lucky to have an amazing team of producers and financiers and talent behind it.
Before working on Vicious, your books were very much more YA orientated, what was it that made you want to work outside of what appeared to be an established comfort zone?
It’s not about comfort zones, just ideas. I didn’t trade YA for Adult, in fact, I have three books coming out next year, and one is Adult (the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic), one is YA (Monster), and one is MG (Spirit Animals #9). I follow the ideas. Sometimes those ideas are girl whose job it is to hunt down the memories of the dead, or teenagers living in a city where violence breeds monsters, and sometimes the ideas are psychopathic super villains or world-crossing magicians. I like to think my work has a bit of cross-over, either direction. My YA tends to appeal to adults, and my Adult books appeal to teens.
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.
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