Morgenstern gave a heartfelt talk about her career and personal life at Magic City Books.
On the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 15, Magic City Books partnered with IDL Ballroom for their first author event of 2020. Erin Morgenstern has garnered quite the literary following, as evidenced by the fact that about a third of the crowd at the event had driven out of state for her talk. If the evening was any indication of what’s to come this year, 2020 is sure to be magical and exciting.
Fans of Morgenstern’s No. 1 national bestseller, “The Night Circus,” had been expressing discontent over the last eight years at the fact that the author had not written another book and was less than forthcoming with information about anything being in the works. Morgenstern joked during the event that once you write something people like it’s much harder to work in peace because, with the advent of social media, fans and readers can bombard you all day long with questions and requests.
Conversely, during the development of “The Night Circus,” she was lucky to have no publisher or deadline and therefore no real expectations for the book. Morgenstern confessed that during her writing of her newest novel, “The Starless Sea,” which came out last November, she had to sort of artificially recreate the environment she organically had during “The Night Circus” by turning off her phone and really isolating herself with her work. She further explained that this is a common dilemma for prolific writers who are encouraged to produce more work but are no longer afforded the luxury of virtual anonymity.
Morgenstern did try to reason with her fans by saying that she had posted flash stories on her website every Friday for five years-totaling in about 260 micro-stories. She also explained that this had a dual purpose of keeping her constantly in the practice of creating with the written word.
A fan asked Morgenstern how she keeps all of her characters straight, seeing as how both “The Night Circus” and “The Starless Sea” have quite the ensemble cast and plots that span centuries. Morgenstern responded that she uses a writing program called Scrivener, in which she can create folders for each character and plot line so as not to get confused while constructing her books.
The author also informed the audience that she is an incredibly visual person, which prompted a conversation about what license Morgenstern has over the design of the physical book itself. She discussed how she is very insistent on certain colors being present on the jacket covers and how there are little details in the book design that she feels really adds to the overall “Erin Morgenstern aesthetic” that she’s trying to cultivate now that she has multiple novels under her belt.
The end of the evening involved some very earnest questions from the audience and equally genuine answers from the author. Morgenstern talked about how her husband had gotten her a kitten and a Nintendo Switch for her 40th birthday, “because he never wants me to get anything done ever again.” She then plugged her kitten’s Instagram account and joked that her “entire book tour is a ploy to get people to follow [her] cat on Instagram.”
When asked about how she came up with the concept for “The Starless Sea,” Morgenstern described a myth that involved time falling in love with fate. She then confessed that when she read this she immediately stopped looking into the myth further so she would be able to construct her own take on the subject. She explained that with anything she writes, she always starts with the space-taking elements from worlds she’s enjoyed such as Wonderland and Narnia.
My favorite part of the evening was when Morgenstern described how honeybees insisted on being in her latest novel. She said that she had the image of the honeybee in her head but hadn’t written them into the book yet because she was unconvinced they belonged there. However, after her friend sent her a mystery stuffed animal and it was a giant plush bee and a week later a bee flew into the window of her study, she took the hint and added them into the book.
Morgenstern’s appreciation for childlike wonder and whimsy from an adult perspective made the evening have both a nostalgic and hopeful feel to it. I, like all the other event attendees, are not-so-patiently awaiting the next masterpiece from this singular voice in fiction.