Monday, 20 January 2014

Heroes, Villains and Everything In Between: An Interview With V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab, author of the new novel ‘Vicious’ has kindly taken the time to pop in to the part of the Internet world that COASM lives in to talk about her new book with Patrick Scattergood.

PS:  Firstly, welcome to the COASM site and many thanks for coming in to talk to us all today.
V.E.S:  My pleasure!

PS:  Your new book ‘Vicious’ is an intelligent look at just what would make a superhero and what would make someone ‘bad’ but how would you describe the book yourself?
V.E.S:  I’ve come to call it a supervillain origin story, which is simplistic, I know, but it is an origin story in the truest sense.

PS:  What inspired you to write such an interesting look at the superhero genre?
V.E.S:  I’ve always loved hero/villain culture, but I’ve no interest in black and white notions of good and evil. I don’t find them relatable, and I don’t find them inherently captivating. I wanted to explore the grey zone, the anti-heroes and anti-villains. Because real people very much live in that grey. And I wanted to explore the idea that when real people get superpowers, they don’t automatically become superheroes. They become real people with superpowers. Just as flawed and self-interested as they were before.

PS:  ‘Vicious’ is a rather unique take on the superhero idea in that the characters aren’t always clear cut as to who is good and who isn’t.  Were you inspired by any particular heroes or villains to write the story in that way?
V.E.S:  I knew I wanted to write a villain’s origin story, and I knew I wanted to play with the idea of heroism as a social construct. I was definitely more inspired by the Magnetos of the world than the Jokers.

PS:  You’re best known for your ‘young adult’ novels, so what made you want to step out of that side of writing to create ‘Vicious’?
V.E.S:  I don’t ever set out to write into a genre or an age bracket. It’s very much a case of “story first” for me. I had a couple of ideas that were well-suited to YA, and then I got the idea for Vicious, and it was Adult from day 1. I have never wanted to be an author who wrote in one category. I just want to write the best stories possible.

PS:  How would you say that writing ‘Vicious’ differed from writing your other novels?
V.E.S:  Vicious took much, much longer for one. I wrote it over the course of 3 years, in between other deadlines, and I never told anyone about it, not even my agent. So it was this protected project—it was just for ME—and that was glorious. The absence of pressure allowed me to go down several wrong roads and find the right one, as well as play with that complicated braided narrative structure until I found the place where it flowed and seemed effortless (nothing about that book’s structure is effortless).

PS:  Talking of writing your new book, what would say was the hardest part to write?
V.E.S:  I always say that the beginning is the hardest, along with the middle and the end. But as a writer of supernatural fiction, that beginning—the first 50 pages—is brutal, because you have to set up not only your characters and start your plot, you have to fully establish your WORLD, and you have to do it without infodumping. I spend 3-4 times as long on the first 50 pages as I do on the rest of the book. 

PS:  Do you have any quirks or traditions when you are writing a new book at all?
V.E.S:  Authors are known for being fairly neurotic in this dept, but I try very hard not to become dependent on too many factors when it comes to writing process. That said, every time I sit down with an idea, before I start actually writing chapters, I create plot points. 5-10 of them, moments that are absolutely vital for my story to be my story. If I can get the plot points, then I can find my way between them. Connect-the-dots writing.

PS:  What would you say inspired you the most to become an author?
V.E.S:  I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t know the form it would take until I was in college. I’d taken poetry courses through high school, and then started trying out short fiction, non-fiction, screenplay, in college before finally trying my hand at longer-length fiction. Because of this path, different authors inspired me along the way. Shel Silverstein inspired me to write poetry. Kelly Link came to my fiction 2 class and inspired me to write longer stories, but I distinctly remember reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and thinking, this, this is what I want to do. I want to write whole worlds. 

PS:  Do you have any words of advice to any aspiring authors out there that may be reading this?
V.E.S:  I always give the same advice, but I really, truly believe in it: Be brave. It’s perfectly natural to be afraid—of this industry, of the process, of exposing yourself—but you must always want this a little more than you are afraid of it.

PS:  Where can your fans expect from you next?
V.E.S:  I’m hoping we can announce my next adult book soon! It’s slated for an early 2015 release in the US, and it involves magic and multiple versions of London. And of course, since it’s me writing, it’s chock full of the grey and morally ambiguous ;)

PS:  Many thanks for popping in to speak to us about your new book, it’s most definitely one of our favorites of the year so far.
V.E.S:  I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for having me!

‘Vicious’ is released in the UK by Titan Books on the 10th January 2014.

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