Last week I went to Victoria Schwab’s signing on July 7 for This Savage Song at Books of Wonder. This book was the only ARC I asked my BFF Nicole to try to get for me when she went to ALA Midwinter a few months ago. I added the event to my phone calendar almost as soon as it was announced and adjusted my work schedule to be sure I could be there early. I went alone because no friends could accompany me and it was that important for me to be there.
It was a great event. Victoria talked about how the main characters of this book, Kate and August, both explore different sides of anxiety. She mentioned that a theme she returns to often in her stories is an exploration of what it means to not feel comfortable in your own skin. She also explained that August’s voice came to her very early on in the writing process while Kate remained much more reticent–forcing the entire story to shift into third person so that Victoria could tell both characters’ stories throughout the novel. It’s a common pattern in her novels having tough, non-talkative female characters contrasted with more emotive male characters.
During the Q&A, Victoria imagined that her characters Delilah Bard and Victor Vale would be the most interesting ones to see locked in a room together. She guessed that neither of them would talk but that by the time they were released they would have a grudging respect for each other. Victoria discussed how she explores archetypes in many of her books but always strives to create something new (witches in The Near Witch, monsters in her latest novel and so on) and how her degree in the portrayal of monsters factored into her writing This Savage Song. (Spoiler: The way monsters are perceived has everything to do with humans and not always a lot to do with the monsters.)
During the course of her career (eleven books so far) she has realized that every character she writes represents one aspect of herself whether it’s something she strives for (Delilah Bard) or something closer to her reality (Victor Vale or Holland–jokingly). She also talked a bit about organizing her owned books by color and how she isn’t a re-reader which, as someone else who doesn’t re-read, I loved. She explained how her calendar method of tracking progress on various projects helps her to be a consistent writer even if she is not a fast writer. (I adore this idea and use star stickers and a monthly calendar to track my blog and work stuff–working on adding writing back into my routine too.)
I try to attend Victoria’s signings whenever she’s in New York (just about a year ago I was at McNally Jackson buying a red-endpapers copy of A Darker Shade of Magic) and this one obviously didn’t disappoint. At the end of the night I returned my newly signed copies of This Savage Song and A Gathering of Shadows to their spots on my bookshelf.
After staring at my books I started thinking about a lot of things (like how lucky I am to be in New York where so many author events happen). This signing was an interesting full circle moment for me.
Four years ago, in 2012, I worked at Books of Wonder for eight months. It felt like my library degree was a mistake and although I desperately missed librarian work, I had begun to wonder if it was ever going to happen for me as an actual career. Last week, while I waited for my number (61) to be called I considered that point in my life where earning more than minimum wage seemed like a pipe dream compared to now when I just marked my second anniversary as a full-time librarian in June.
Five years ago, in 2011, I discovered Victoria Schwab’s debut novel The Near Witch at a signing at Books of Wonder. I had just started attending book signings as I became more aware of the book community in New York through a combination of blogging, getting review books through Amazon Vine, and being in library school. I was at the signing for a different author but gave myself permission to buy one book. After much agonizing, I picked up The Near Witch. I read the book soon after and reviewed it on here, as I’m wont to do.
A few months later I met Terra McVoy at another signing (at Books of Wonder) and she offered to participate in a blog interview. And honestly, that changed my life. Because of that meeting with Terra, I began reaching out to other authors, including Victoria Schwab to talk about The Near Witch.
The rest is history.
Of course I snapped up The Archived and The Unbound. How could I not when I was a librarian and these books featured a library where the dead rest on shelves like books? Vicious became a point of pride book to get at BEA 2013 and a favorite read that I think still find myself thinking about to this day. And I can’t even tell you how often I’ve been recommending A Darker Shade of Magic (which I was lucky enough to read just before its release thanks to a very generous librarian who saw my tweets asking for ALA attendees who got an ARC to think of me). When I received an ARC of A Gathering of Shadows after requesting it from the publisher, I really felt like I had arrived as a blogger. Then, of course, there’s This Savage Song which might be my favorite Victoria Schwab book to date of the ones I have read.
Victoria talked about her “overnight” success on Tumblr last week. Specifically, about how framing her career that way isn’t the most accurate portrayal. Reading that post, seeing Victoria at a signing and knowing we are solid acquaintances now thanks to Twitter, and admiring my own books on their shelf, I realized what a privilege it is to follow an author from their beginnings. It’s crazy to think about who I was when I attended that small panel signing where I bought my copy of The Near Witch compared to who I am this month when I was 61st in line for Victoria to sign copies of her eleventh book.
I am so grateful to be where I am and, silly as it is, a bit humbled when I think about how many opportunities I have found and received surrounding Victoria’s books (and so many other books that I have discovered because I started blogging and going to book signings).