Interview With an Author: V.E. Schwab

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author V.E. Schwab and her latest book, Vengeful

Victoria "V.E." Schwab V.E. Schwab has been called “the heir to Diana Wynne Jones.” She is the author of the New York Times bestselling Shades of Magic series, as well as a number of middle grade and young adult novels, including the recently released City of Ghosts. Schwab has a Masters degree in Art History from the University of Edinburgh. Schwab has a penchant for tea and BBC shows, and a serious and well-documented case of wanderlust. Her latest book, Vengeful, is the sequel to her much-lauded adult debut, Vicious, a masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, and superpowers. She recently agreed to be interviewed by Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was the original inspiration for Vicious?

Honestly, it started simply as a writing exercise, something to help me rediscover my love of the creative process as I was learning to navigate the business side. I asked myself what I would write, if I could write anything, what I would read, and the answer was simple: I wanted to write/read about villains. Specifically, I wanted to write about people who did terrible things, and see if I could make the reader still root for one of them. On top of that, I wanted to do something really ambitious with structure, and the braided narrative of Vicious was born.

Did you always plan to revisit this world and write a second book?

I certainly always wanted to, but publishing is a business where writing is an art, and I designed Vicious so that it could stand alone for as long as need be, until the publisher decided it was a smart investment to let me continue. ; )

Are Eli, Victor, Sydney, Mitch, Marcella, June or any of the many different characters in the book based on specific individuals?

I never base entire characters on real people, but I’ve been known to steal fragments of personality, traits, etc. And honestly, every one of my characters has a piece of my own identity, broken off and used to grow a new person. My ambition, my fears, my neuroses, they’re tucked into Victor, Eli, Sydney, Marcella.

How did Vengeful evolve and change as you wrote and revised it?

I mean, it certainly changed a lot. I rewrote the entire book from scratch early this year. Sometimes you have to write a scene wrong in order to write it right. Sometimes you have to write a whole book wrong to find the story you mean to tell.

While Vengeful has a very clear ending, it also seems open to the possibility of additional stories in this world. Do you have plans to write about these characters again?

Check back in 5 more years ; )

If you could be an EO and choose your power, what would it be? Is there a character trait that you think might assert itself and result in a power if you couldn’t choose?

I would choose the power to control time, but only moving forward. All the problems happen when a person tries to go back, but I’d happily settle for the ability to slow down, speed up, or pause. Think of all the reading I could do!

What’s currently on your nightstand?

Bad Blood by John Carryrou.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

  1. Neil Gaiman
  2. T.H. White
  3. JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith
  4. Kristin Cashore
  5. Leigh Bardugo

Is there a book that changed your life?

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It made me eat my words about what I did and didn’t like as a reader.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

I don’t often get evangelistic about books, but when I do, I really do. Recent titles I’ve forced upon people include Circe by Madeline Miller, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, and (a slightly older one but I always rec it) Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

It’s a reflection on how busy my schedule is right now that my perfect day would involve a cup of tea, a good book, a long workout, and a tall whisky.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on quite a few things simultaneously, from short stories to novels, comics, to things in-between, and of course a good number of them I can’t talk about. But I will say that right now I’m revising the second book in the City of Ghosts series, working on the Steel Prince comic, first drafting The Invisible Life of Addie LARue, and writing the short stories for the A Gathering of Shadows Collector’s Edition.

Book cover for Vicious
Schwab, Victoria.