Bonnie from A Backwards Story has graciously brought us another fantastic interview, as always combining her great questions with our fun silly ones! Today she chats with debut author Victoria Schwab! Enjoy!
Victoria Schwab’s debut novel, The Near Witch, is gorgeously descriptive and brimming with original folklore. It reads like a fairy tale, but is full of ideas out of Schwab’s own imagination. The novel tells the story of the Near Witch, a woman who supposedly lived and died centuries earlier. When children go missing in the village after a stranger arrives, a girl named Lexi must figure out what’s happening before it’s too late... For a teaser of The Near Witch and to learn more about the novel, please visit A Backwards Story. A full review is scheduled to post on ABS July 26 (my birthday!), one week before the launch of The Near Witch on August 2, 2011. Please add it to Goodreads and your TBR now!
1) What were your favorite fairy tales growing up? What drew you to them?
I grew up with Grimm. Well, I grew up with the toned-down versions of Grimm, and then later discovered the originals in all their morbid glory. But what's always drawn me to them, and why I decided to write one, was the FEEL. Fairy tales have this archetypal quality. They SEEM simple, but there's so much at play, and we as readers are only glimpsing a small portion. We never get full lives, only moments, only days. But those glimpses are so chock full of culture and character, and usually magic, that I was and still am captivated by them. It's as much to me about what we don't see, what's already there, as what we do see.
2) Can you tell us more about your upcoming novel, The Near Witch?
The Near Witch is a fairy tale. It's also a ghost story. And a mystery. It is a glimpse into a world where there are no strangers, where there are shadows of past magic. It's a world that's asleep until a set of events--the appearance of a stranger, the disappearance of children--begins to wake it.
3) I would love to know more about how you came up with the story of The Near Witch. What gave you the idea?
It actually all came about from two sentences thought up about six months apart. One was "There are no strangers in the town of Near" and the other was "The wind on the moors is a tricky thing." I knew immediately I wanted to put them together. My first thought was, "Where's Near?" I started to ask questions and explore the village in my head. It was very exploratory at first, organic, just getting to know the place, as told through this girl's voice. Then the mystery began to form from those two sentences.
4) How did you come up with the nursery rhymes and all the back story told in bedtime tales?
Much of it came out of that early exploration. I love, love oral history, the way stories are passed down, so I knew that this would be a part of my fairy tale world. That's how people learn, and truths can be so relative and warped when passed down that way. There is no objectivity, and that was key to this story.
5) What, if any, lore did you use as a model/starting ground when weaving together your own tale?
I didn't really have a model, but I knew the world had to be small. The only way I was going to get the level of detail and believability I needed was if the physical size was confined. Doing that made it so the reader could really (hopefully) visualize, even with less description. Then, there was the issue of the magic. I needed to create a very intuitive system for it, something that felt natural in the truest sense but still had order, rules. So these were the guiding principles of Near--small, tightly woven, natural, intuitive. I knew if I could pull off that foundation, it would help the reader stay in the world, and hopefully, after finishing, cause the world to stay with them.
6) What other ideas are you working on right now?
Right now I'm getting ready to send the draft of my next book, The Archived, off to my editor! It's currently scheduled for next fall, and it is not set in Near. It is Buffy meets The Shining meets a library :p
7) Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building? How did you bring everything together?
YES. That was single-handedly the most difficult and the most exciting part of this project. I wanted to create a world that would read like it had decades, centuries, of folklore. Everything had to be nuanced and intuitive, and believable, and I wanted it to read like a fairy tale as opposed to a fantasy, which largely came down to tone and execution. It was very messy at first, with scribbled timelines alongside scribbled nursery rhymes, but in the end I hope it feels right and real to the readers. It feels real to me.
8) What are some of your favorite fairy tale inspired novels and/or authors?
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. One of my favorite novels of ALL TIME.
9) If you could live out any fairy tale, what would it be and why?
Little Red Riding Hood, without a doubt. I just love the idea of the big bad wolf (and apparently readers do too, just look at trends in YA), and, in many of the early versions, Little Red is pretty fierce herself. I wrote a short story once, about how MY Little Red would go. You can see it here.
Time for some fun, quirky questions!
~Best fairy tale villain and why?
Villains are my favorite archetypes. I'm going to say Maleficent, for sheer epicness of name.
~Favorite tale from childhood? Favorite tale as an adult?
Again, Little Red. I can't help it.
~Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale?
I think I would be named after a cloud formation, or the sky, or the stars, because I'm always looking up.
~ Using that name, give us a line from your life as a fairy tale:
Sky goes for a walk while watching clouds and accidentally stumbles off a cliff into a land of magic and evil and magically evil unicorns.
~Would you rather:
-- eat magic beans or golden eggs?
Beans. I'm not really an egg person. Something about the texture. I wonder if golden eggs have a different texture than regular ones. I wonder if they taste expensive. But now I'm also wondering if magic beans cause gas, or if I'm going to end up with some trippy hallucinations or something...
-- style 50ft long hair or polish 100 pairs of glass slippers?
I'll polish those slippers. I can't even keep my own hair styled, and it only comes to my shoulders.
-- have a fairy godmother or a Prince Charming?
Ohhhhhh. Yeah, I am going to have to go with the fairy godmother, because she can help me get Prince Charming, and all that other stuff I probably want.
Thanks Bonnie and Victoria for another awesome interview! Victoria's debut, The Near Witch, hits stores in August, but reviewers can read it and help spread the word now by checking it out on Netgalley! You can find Victoria online here: