Hi everyone! This is the last of my more regular updates for this section as I don’t have anymore events coming up in the near future, the next one will probably be YALC over the summer. Anyway as I mentioned in my last event recap, Nicola and I had tickets to the Glasgow stop of Victoria Schwab’s UK tour, which was last night.
We actually very nearly didn’t get tickets to this event, they sold out ridiculously fast which we weren’t expecting, but thankfully Waterstones Argyle Street added more tickets, so we jumped on those as soon as they were available. I’d met Victoria a couple of times, at YALC and at an event she did with Samantha Shannon and Neal Shusterman last year but Nicola had missed Victoria the last few times she had been in Scotland, so we were very excited to go to this event.
Nicola had already been in Glasgow for the day with a friend, so we decided to meet up at Waterstones just before the event. I got the train from Stirling at around 5.50 in order to arrive in Glasgow by 6.30. I walked from the station to Waterstones and then met Nicola upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe, the same place as last time. We got slightly better seats this time because we were earlier, but clearly a lot of people had been there for a while, because the room was nearly full even half an hour before the event was due to start.
We had some time to kill, so we sat and chatted for a bit before eventually the guy from Waterstones came out to introduce Victoria and go over the safety rules from the event.
The event was the usual Q&A style, with Lydia Gittins, Victoria’s publicist acting as the moderator for the event, which was quite cool as usually authors are moderated by other authors so it was interesting this time to have someone who is involved in the process of publishing V’s books asking the questions.
Lydia described this tour as the Origins Tour because it was to promote the reissue of The Near Witch, which was Victoria’s debut, so her own personal origin story and the the Steel Prince comics which feature Maxim Maresh’s origins tour. She asked V about how it felt to have The Near Witch return to shelves after so long.
It was so cool to hear Victoria talk about this, because she’s never really talked about The Near Witch at any of the events I’ve seen her at before, and she was clearly so grateful and emotional that The Near Witch is being given this second chance. She spoke about writing The Near Witch at university and being so determined that writing was something that she really wanted to do as a career and not something that she wanted to come back to 20-30 years later. She talked a lot about how she was so excited and happy when The Near Witch was bought by Disney and then what happened to the vast majority of debuts happened to it, nothing. She then spoke about writing her other books and how she wasn’t really gaining traction until Vicious and then didn’t really break out until A Darker Shade of Magic, eight novels into her career. I love hearing her talk about her career and how much time it took her to get established, because as a young writer, it’s so easy to focus on all the breakout stories and feel like you’re going to be one of them and then not expect it when things don’t go as you hope, so I really appreciate how honest she is about the difficulties of publishing and how you have to keep working at it because a career is not made on one book.
She then talked about how excited she was when Titan came to her, offering to publish The Near Witch, as somewhat of a gift for her for doing so much for them. She didn’t revise it at all, and explained that this was because she feels books are a time capsule of who we are when we write them and that the reception to the book now is the to the same book as the one that came out ten years ago, but just in a different context. I’m really glad that she didn’t change it, as I love getting to see where my favourite authors started out. She also talked about publishing not being a reflection on your book but just what happens, and that was really encouraging for me going forward in the publishing process, if my book doesn’t happen to sell well, or at all, then I’ll know that it’s more common than I would have thought before in publishing.
Lydia then asked Victoria about themes that she has returned to from The Near Witch in her later work, and she talked about how The Near Witch was her exploring Otherness as a theme before she had come out and using it as a way to process that even before she had vocabulary to explain it. She also spoke about how her books explore insider/outsider culture and how that’s something that has always fascinated her and will likely be a continuing theme in her books.
They then went on to talking about The Steel Prince, and how it goes into Maxim’s backstory. Victoria talked about how she likes taking villains and then turning them into antagonists and finally protagonists, which having read a lot of her books now, I can definitely see! She spoke about how she’d been approached by Titan and asked if she wanted to do comics but V was hesitant because she didn’t want to play in another writer’s world, however she enthusiastically accepted when they clarified that they wanted her to write comics in the Shades of Magic world. She said however that she decided to do it as a prequel series rather than sequels because she didn’t want the comics to be confused with the forward timeline in the upcoming Threads of Power books and she had written in hints towards Maxim’s backstory in A Conjuring of Light, so it seemed like a natural fit.
She also talked about expanding the magic system in the Steel Prince comics and getting to explore bone magic more which she found a lot of fun (as did I, reading about it!) and how difficult it is to convey a non-visual power in writing and comics and how they showed the bone magic through sections of the skeleton lighting up, which is super cool.
Lydia then moved on from asking about origins to asking about what is coming up next, no spoilers allowed. Victoria spoke about how hard it is not to spoil entire plots of her books and how her publishers have had to reign her in because she’s prone to spilling the entirety of her plots to readers at events, which we all found incredibly funny. She gave a brief rundown about what is coming up, Tunnel of Bones, the second City of Ghosts book, set in Paris, the second arc of The Steel Prince comics, The Night of Knives, which start next month and her next big project, her adult standalone novel, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which will potentially be coming out towards the end of next year.
She then went on to talk a little more about Addie, how it’s about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever and then he curses her to be forgotten by everyone she meets and how it covers 300 years of Addie’s life. She then spoke about how the book will have been in development for 10 years by the time it makes it to shelves and that even though it looks like she is a fast writer, she’s actually not, because ideas sit with her for a long time.
The floor was then opened up to audience questions, with Lydia asking everyone to avoid questions that contained potential spoilers.
Someone asked about language and how Victoria had built the languages in the Shades of Magic world and V explained how she builds the grammatical structures from the ground up, filling in the vocabulary as she needs it, which has only caused a couple of issues with words that have multiple meanings but V explained that she wasn’t that bothered by that because it happens in English as well. She wanted to make sure that the language wasn’t prohibitive though, that it added to the experience rather than put readers off.
She was then asked about pseudonyms as she had mentioned before that her publishers had considered a pseudonym if her books had continued to not sell as well as hoped. V explained that publishers do this because it is seen as a fresh start in readers’ minds and allows them to market differently, but that she was very hesitant to use one because it felt like an erasure of her identity.
She then responded to a question about becoming peers with authors that she grew up admiring, and V expressed her appreciation that these authors had always treated her like a peer, a colleague and that this is something that she tries to pay forward but that it never stops being weird when someone you idolise treats you like a person.
We then got onto worldbuilding, as someone in the audience asked for worldbuilding tips. This was quite a meandering answer as V explained she had no easy tips for this as she finds it very intuitive because she consumes media which fills the part of her brain. The metaphor she eventually landed on was that of a house, that some fantasy authors build a house and give you a key, letting you wander around all the rooms i.e. basically tell you everything about the world, and others just leave the curtains open and allow you to see into each room as and when you need to (her preferred method). She also talked about how important it is to use your characters as conduits for your world and how their viewpoint changes the world you see, using Kell and Lila as examples.
The final question was about piracy and whether that is wish fulfilment for her and V made all of us burst out laughing by her passionate dislike of water and that the appeal of piracy to her is the sense of lawlessness and the intimacy of the setting of a ship.
When the audience questions were done, we joined the massive signing queue and waited to get our books signed, chatting in the line to pass the time. The queue did actually move relatively fast though and it wasn’t long before we were at the front meeting Victoria.
I wasn’t really quite sure what to say, but luckily Victoria helped me out on that one, as I had worn my As Travars Fable and Black necklace to the event, so she complimented me on that, I explained where I’d got it from and that I bought it because I mostly had fanart of her works and I wanted something I could wear. She had apparently met Fable and Black at one of her events and gave me a recommendation for an Etsy shop called InPages which she said did great pins. It’s so nice when authors manage to break the ice, because I am never sure what to say, especially with authors I love so much! Nicola and I both got our books/comics signed and then we got a photo before saying goodbye. I loved that V asked everyone if they had a good time at the event, it was so sweet!
We then headed back to the train station and had a bit of an issue because our train basically left without everyone and then had to turn around and come back, so we were waiting a good 40 minutes at the train station for the train, whilst trying to have a conversation over the building works and barrage of announcements!
Did anyone else go to any of Victoria’s UK events? Or are planning to go to any of her international events in the next few months? Let me know in the comments!