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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
“Morgenstern’s exquisitely realized world will have [you] wishing to run off and join the circus.” —USA Today
“Morgenstern’s novel feels crafted from the fabric of a dream, and the circus itself never fails to astound. For me, the only real disappointment was that I couldn’t buy a ticket.” —Yvonne Zip, The Christian Science Monitor
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Step right up and prepare to be enchanted. . . . [Will] make you sit right down on the floor of your library or bookstore to see what Morgenstern conjures up next.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“The Night Circus is a gorgeously imagined fable poised in the high latitudes of Hans Christian Anderson and Oscar Wilde, with a few degrees toward Hesse’s Steppenwolf for dangerous spice. The tale is masterfully written and invites allegorical interpretations even as its leisurely but persistent suspense gives it compelling charm. An enchanting read.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
“A Victorian curio cabinet. . . . In The Night Circus, Morgenstern makes the artificial real, turning atmosphere into art.” —Kansas City Star
“The world of The Night Circus is elaborately designed, fantastically imagined and instantly intoxicating—as if the reader had downed a glass of absinthe and leapt into a hallucination.” —Rachel Syme, NPR
“[A] dazzling foray into the dreamscape of illusion.” —Family Circle
“Every once in awhile you find a novel so magical that there is no escaping its spell. The Night Circus is one of these rarities—engrossing, beautifully written and utterly enchanting. If you choose to read just one novel this year, this is it.” —Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology
Top Customer Reviews
Within a few pages, I found out. This book is MAGICAL. The publisher's blurb doesn't really do the plot justice. Here's a modified one: There are two illusionists, chosen at a young age to be bound to one another in a contest that will span their lives until one wins. They have been given no rules, other than that they must perform in some way. They have no idea how one wins, or what one must do to win. Their sponsors in the contest create the circus as the arena for their players. One will travel with it, the other will not. Their story is interspersed with the perspectives of several other characters within or affiliated with the circus, all of whom enrich the plot and provide a deeper look at the workings of the circus and those it touches.
I love the structure of this book. Too often a book with split narratives lingers too long on one or another of the characters, to the point that the reader forgets the other tale being told. Not with "The Night Circus". Most chapters are less than 5 pages long. Any character whose story you long to continue will return again soon. There are no boring narratives. Each is carefully constructed to yield more detail or nuance to the contest, the circus, or the sinister dealings of the competition sponsors. There are many two-page intervals designed to lead the reader through a tent or aspect of the carnival as if the reader were a patron on a tour.
The prose is beautiful - not too verbose, not too simplistic.Read more ›
I began reading this with very high expectations, which probably contributed to the major disappointment I felt fifty to one hundred pages in. From the glowing reviews, one even comparing it to Harry Potter, I was expecting to be riveted. And...I wasn't. The first few chapters were promising. Breathtaking descriptions and imagery, and mysterious characters, brief scenes with magical undertones, and an intriguing set-up to the conflict had me thinking the following chapters would be fast-paced. Not so.
This book dragged painfully in the middle, piling details and uninteresting characters on top of each other until I was literally counting down the pages. This is not to say that the fantastic imagery and description stopped; it didn't. Morgenstern's figurative language and imagery are top-notch and enchanting, fitting of the visually captivating circus she creates.
My main problem with the narrative were the characters. Good god, the characters. The protagonists, Celia and Marco, were as flat as cardboard. I didn't understand either of them, despite the surplus pages featuring their boring interactions. Maybe this is being nitpicky, but it bothers me when characters laugh too much in dialogue. "Celia laughs" seemed to be the main reaction of our heroine, in every scene with dialogue. For one, it's tedious after a while. For another, it's almost like the author is pointing out the wittiness of her own dialogue. Also, Marco and Celia were just too...Read more ›
"The circus arrives without warning ... The towering tents are striped in black and white ... No color at all ... the black sign painted in white letters ... reads: Opens at night fall / Closes at dawn. 'What kind of circus is only open at night?' people ask...
Le Cirque des Reves
...The Circus of Dreams."
This is hands down the best book I've read in years. I want to use all the cliché reviewer terms like "astounding debut" and "richly imagined" and perhaps even - heaven forbid - "tour de force"!
Some people will call this book magical realism. I will not. For me, it's flat out magical.
There is a lot of descriptive detail in this book, but none if it is superfluous. The circus Morgenstern has created is astonishing, and she conjures it beautifully with her words. There are no other books I would compare this to, but if I had to pick a mood to compare, it would be to Murakami. The sense you get while reading is so encompassing I felt jolted when I'd look away from the text and find that I was in my home.
Katherine Dunn said it perfectly, this book has a "leisurely but persistent suspense." I wanted to savor every word, but couldn't wait to get to the end.
Even though it is couched in the context of magic, this book contains one of the best descriptions of physical (romantic) chemistry I've ever read. What is chemistry if not magic?
I wish I could emphatically state that this book is for everybody, but it isn't. I think of readers I know well ... My step-father will love it, my mother might, my father won't. Then again, this book is so surprising, I could be completely wrong.
For me, it was flawless.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read over a book a week. This book is not only dark but depressing. I read the last three chapters three times. Read morePublished 3 hours ago by Jim Sterzinger
The story, the writing style, and the circus all combine to create an otherworldly experience. This is the quintessential novel for the fantasy-lover-turned-realist. Read morePublished 8 hours ago by Vjstar
Wish there was more back story of the characters, but it was good.Published 2 days ago by Julie Sullivan
Amazon would only let me write a review of this book if I clicked on one of three choices describing the plot. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Liz
Luminously written, a story of lives and dreams and even nightmares intertwined. This book will speak both to adolescents and adults alike. And it will enchant you.Published 5 days ago by T.Hitchens