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How to Find Fantasy in the Real World: A Conversation with V.E. Schwab

The ProWritingAid team ran another amazing Fantasy Writers’ Week earlier this month. I loved joining the live events whenever I could, but they had so many great sessions that I couldn’t keep up! Fortunately for us, all sessions were recorded and made available afterwards so I could catch up on those I missed due to other commitments or being in wildly different time zones.

Screenshot of Victoria "V.E." Schwab on video call during the ProWritingAid Fantasy Writers' Week session with Hayley Milliman, "How to Find Fantasy in the Real World: A Conversation with V.E. Schwab"

Hayley Milliman interviewing V.E. Schwab was one session I knew I had to watch. I’ve finally been able to catch up and wow, those 40 minutes were stacked with advice and inspiration, reassurance and motivation. I took PAGES of notes and had to keep pausing and rewinding to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. I’ve jotted a few quotes from the interview below.

If you’re a ProWritingAid Premium Member, you can watch the full interview yourself right here: Fantasy Writers’ Week Premium Hub.

A brief introduction

V.E. Schwab is the author of over 20 books, including some of my absolute favourites, like the Shades of Magic series, the Villains series, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Her books have quite the presence on my bookshelf (see below)! I have another copy of Addie too, which I thrust on a friend who recently asked for a book recommendation.

V.E. Schwab books on my bookshelf

A few quotes from the interview

These are just a few snippets that particularly resonated with me.

On writing her first novel:

“You can do a lot of studying, you can do a lot of reading, but at the end of the day, the act of writing is how you become better at writing. And so because of that, your first novel is itself an educational experience. Mine certainly was.”

V.E. Schwab

On starting and finishing a book:

“I would say that starting is the hardest part besides keeping going and finishing. The thing is it’s a hard act.”

V.E. Schwab

“You will cross so many thresholds in a publication journey and so many rejections that not finishing is like rejecting yourself before it starts.”

V.E. Schwab

“I’m on my 22nd book now and finishing is still so hard, but I know that the only thing I can’t fix is a blank page. The only thing I can’t make better is a blank page. I know if I can just get to the end – and so that’s actually the advice I give to most aspiring authors – whatever you’re working on, just finish it, because you can make it better. But the only way to guarantee you don’t end up with a book is if you quit before you have the draft.”

V.E. Schwab

On magic:

“What if the world looked like ours, but…”

V.E. Schwab

“I still just want it to feel like you took one step off the path you knew was true, and ended up in the woods with the old gods.”

V.E. Schwab

On planning:

“I like to build a map. Not so that I can follow one exact path, but so I don’t accidentally step off a cliff.”

V.E. Schwab

On the craft of writing:

“I believe in the theory of the story demon. The story demon lives inside your chest and it eats all the stories that you consume. What happens is, if you consume enough stories in enough forms – music, shows, movies, books – you will tone that little story demon and it will become better and better at feeling when something’s right and when something’s wrong.”

V.E. Schwab

On the life of the writer:

“Writing […], it really is a marathon, you need to do what you need to do so that when you get up the next day you can do it again.”

V.E. Schwab

“Whatever feeds that story demon in your chest, do it.”

V.E. Schwab

There were so many more juicy bites of inspiration and wisdom, and I would wholeheartedly recommend watching the recording yourself if you get the chance. ProWritingAid Premium Members can watch the interview in full on the Fantasy Writers’ Week Premium Hub.

In Search of Doors: V.E. Schwab speaking at Oxford University

I also heard V.E. Schwab speak in person a few years ago during a guest lecture she gave at Oxford University’s Pembroke College. The recording is available here, and is also highly recommended viewing:

Have you seen either the interview or lecture above? Or V.E. Schwab speaking elsewhere? Did any of these quotes resonate with you? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

And if you want to be notified of other authorly, bookish goodness, or find out more about my own writing, jump on my mailing list – I’d love to have you on board.

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