Fantasy writer Victoria "V.E." Schwab has written an astounding 17 books, with her 18th, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, set to hit bookshelves on October 6. She's also a guest this week on Inverse Happy Hour to discuss everything from the arduous writing process — sometimes spanning a decade — to dealing with adulthood in your 30s when it feels like you've looked up and 10 years have flown by.
Schwab gives us a sneak preview of her newest novel, reading a never-before-heard excerpt in which Addie, a woman living in the early 1700s, tries to summon an old god and make a deal for her soul out of absolute desperation.
"The novel follows a woman who is living the kind of life where 20 years pass and you blink and it’s just gone, and suddenly, you’re afraid that your whole life is going to follow suit," she says.
Schwab also took the opportunity to recommend Prodigal Son, the kind of network series you don't expect to love as much as you do but is actually "just really delightful and refreshing and taps into all my favorite kind of, like, Hannibal feels from TV." It stars Michael Sheen as a serial killer navigating his relationship with his son — who just so happens to be a criminal profiler.
Below are the highlights from Inverse Happy Hour:
On the inspiration for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue— "I started this book almost a decade ago, which is surreal to think now. I was living in an ex-prison warden’s garden shed in Liverpool, which is a very weird story for another day, but I was so miserable in this garden shed that one of the other people living in this house let me kind of tag along on these adventures. She would essentially drop me places and I’d be wandering for like seven to eight hours, and then she would come and pick me back up."
“This is a story about that cusp of adulthood, where you feel like you’re suddenly supposed to know what you’re doing and you don’t.”
"So I was in the Lake District in Northern England and I was just having a wander in a place called Ambleside, which, until the electricity kicks in at dusk, you can imagine it’s 200, 300 years ago. It’s a village that looks really timeless. I was having a walk and a wander, and I was thinking about Peter Pan because it’s one of my favorite stories and how intensely sad the ending of Peter Pan is, that he begins to forget. I was thinking about memory and time, which are kind of the two themes in the center of this book, and I was thinking, as sad as it is to forget, it’s so much worse to be forgotten. Because the thing is, Addie’s memory is flawless. She can remember every moment of her 300 years and nobody can remember her, and I was thinking about how lonely time becomes when you don’t have the mirrors of other people held up to you."
On juggling more than one book idea at a time— "Some stories we're retelling across our careers in different forms, and other stories we feel like we really only get to tell once. And Addie for me was that book that I knew I was only gonna get to write once and I wanted to do it right. And I hit 30, and it became the last piece of the puzzle that I needed."
"In so many ways, this is a story about that cusp of adulthood, where you feel like you’re suddenly supposed to know what you’re doing and you don’t and you just feel intensely lost in your own life and scared of how fast it’s going by."
On fighting imposter syndrome and the self-doubt inside of you— "It’s super important to deromanticize the creative process and talk about how, whether or not you’re working on your first project or your 20th, we all struggle. When we don’t talk about the struggle, what happens is, those who are struggling feel isolated in their struggle and they start to think of it as a qualitative measure. Oh, this person’s successful and they’re not struggling, so I must be struggling because I’m not good enough."
"The truth is, self-doubt doesn’t go away. I just start cutting down all of my projects to the smallest bites possible. I think on bad days it doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be something. You can’t fix a blank page, so how do I get something down on paper that I can work with, that I can make better."
"It’s amazing when you take the wall down to a step how easier it is to get over."
A huge thanks to Schwab for joining us!