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The Night Circus Paperback – July 3, 2012
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Q&A with Author Erin Morgenstern
Q. This is a lovely and unique story. Why a circus? How did this story first come to you—through a character, a plotline, an emotion?
A. The story came as a location created out of desperation. I was working on a different story altogether, one that was becoming progressively more and more boring because nothing was happening. I needed something exciting to happen and I couldn't figure out how to do it with the locations I had so I sent the characters to the circus. That circus was immediately much more interesting and eventually I abandoned that other story and its characters entirely and focused on the circus instead. What eventually became The Night Circus started from exploring that spontaneously-created location, figuring out who created it and who performed in it and what its story was.
Q. What was your inspiration for some of the amazing acts in this circus?
A. Some of them were traditional circus acts or attractions made a bit more unique, like the acrobats performing directly overhead or the carousel that doesn't simply go in circles. The Cloud Maze is a play on a climbing maze I hazily recall from childhood visits to the Boston Children's Museum. Other tents were created based on color, or lack thereof. I had a lot of dark tents and wanted something lighter and white, the Ice Garden developed from that relatively simple starting point.
Q. Do you have a favorite character?
A. It's impossible to pick a true favorite, though Poppet & Widget are very dear to my heart as they're the first of the characters to turn up in my imagination. They're also just plain fun, both individually and as a pair.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of developing this story?
A. It didn't have a plot for a very long time. Really, my biggest challenge was finding the actual story within all the atmosphere. I had the place and the characters and the feel of the book long before it had a proper story structure to tie everything together. The novel went through a great many revisions before it figured out what it wanted to be, I tried things that didn't work and then things that sort of worked and replaced old ideas with new ones until I got it right.
Q. Is there an emotion that you had to spend a lot of time with that made you uncomfortable?
A. I'm an emotional sort of person in general and I have a vivid imagination, so I feel the whole spectrum of emotion strongly when I write. It's something I'm used to, though, so nothing in particular made me uncomfortable. There is a lot of frustration felt by various characters, which is not the nicest emotion to be spending a lot of time with, but it helps to drive characters to actions which bring different emotions along.
Q. Tell me about your writing life. Do you have any rituals?
A. I binge write. I think it's because I started seriously writing by participating in National Novel Writing Month, an online-based challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I don't have as tight a time limit anymore but I still write in long marathon sessions and then I won't write for a while, I'm not a write-every-day writer. I go back and forth between input phases where I'm reading a lot or trying to get out and explore the world a bit and soak up inspirations and then I'll get back into output mode and write and write and write.
I don't have any particular rituals, I sometimes like to write in longhand when I'm searching for ideas but I do the vast majority by typing, I can't always keep up with my thoughts longhand. I'm not a coffeeshop writer because I feel obliged to order more coffee and then I end up over-caffeinated.
Q. What's the one true thing you learned from your characters in this novel?
A. I think it's something that I knew already but explored more with these characters, that nothing is as simple as black or white, good or evil. There are all those shades of grey and everyone acts from a place that they see as right and true. (Though they are allowed to change their minds.)
“Magical. Enchanting. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing.” —Associated Press
“Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Get ready to be won over. . . . Part love story, part fable, and a knockout debut. . . . So sparklingly alive, you’ll swear the pages are breathing in your hands. . . . The Night Circus defies both genres and expectations.” —The Boston Globe
“A riveting debut. The Night Circus pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully-realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.” —Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“The Night Circus is the real deal, the kind of novel that will appeal to romantics, history buff, circus aficionados, mystery fans, and lovers of a good story. . . . Steeped in circus lore, filled with evocative scenes of magic and illusion, enriched by characters as varied as the clockmaker who crafted the circus’s iconic timepiece . . . The Night Circus is worth staying up for.” —Bookreporter
“One of the best books I have ever read.” —Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader
“[A] few pages in . . . and you know you are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller.” —The Daily Beast
“Echoing the immense pleasure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Night Circus presents a sprightly version of 19th-century English magic. . . . A love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic.” —The Washington Post
“Dark and extravagantly imagined.” —People
“Pure pleasure. . . . Erin Morgenstern is a gifted, classic storyteller, a tale-teller, a spinner of the charmed and mesmerizing—I had many other things I was supposed to be doing, but the book kept drawing me back in and I tore through it. You can be certain this riveting debut will create a group of rêveurs all its own.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“[Morgenstern] employs her supple prose to conjure up a series of wonders: A maze made of clouds, a ship of books floating on a sea of ink, a tent that seems to contain a vast desert.” —Salon
“Reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream, in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical.” —Newsday
Top customer reviews
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If you like Harry Potter, you'll probably like this, though it is very different.
If you, like me, adore this book and are looking for something else to read, go try Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and it's sequel Court Duel.
If you want another wonderful way to experience this book: listen to the audiobook. It's read by Jim Dale, and it is magic.
I also liked Marco and Celia as a couple, even if their relationship wasn't fleshed out much. Usually, insta-love turns me off a romance immediately, but in this sense, it kind of worked since three years passed before they were professing their love for each other. Bailey and Poppet were cute, too, but there wasn't enough written about their relationship. And, I did enjoy that the story was told throughout a long period of time, so you get to see the characters (albeit sometimes, briefly), when they're kids, and again as teenagers/adults.
Unfortunately, that's where it ends. Again, the imagery and prose are wonderful, but at the expense of plot and characterization. Lots of characters introduced, but I never felt a connection to any of them, even though (of course), you learn a little more about our two (three?) lead characters. 3rd person Omni POV meant that you never really get into any particular character's head. They all sounded the same when they spoke, and at times, I found myself having to re-read a particular paragraph or page to find out who exactly was speaking or being talked about. Also, lots of time jumps. And reading on the Kindle meant it was harder to flip back and forth to get how old the characters were.
That being said, our leads' relationship also felt very under-developed, because you never get to actually see how they fall in love, and are just told that they are after a 3-year time jump. Which brings me to my other issue, too much telling and not enough showing. The blurb promised an exciting storyline, but in that sense, didn't get what was promised. I never felt any sense of urgency, or any fear that one of the MCs might actually die as a result, and I found myself scratching my head at points wondering "Wait, where is this duel that this book is supposed to be about??" Lastly, no rules for the magic. It seemed like magic could be used anytime, at any point it was needed. Minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, though.
The resolution comes quickly after a very slow start and middle, comprised of only several chapters, and quite frankly, it felt rushed, almost as if the author realized she had too many loose ends to tie up and not enough time to do it. On the bright side, our characters do get a HEA (or in some cases, a sort-of HEA).
The book is written in 3rd person Omni (so you read about the thoughts of everyone in the scene, even if they're not major players or major supporting players), with a few chapters woven in written in second person. I liked this book a lot, but didn't love it, as I was left wanting at the end, with a feeling of "what happened? That's it?" Ms. Morgenstern is obviously an incredibly talented writer, so I was disappointed that there wasn't more of an actual story. I would definitely see the movie when it's released, to see all the scenes and quirky characters brought to life.