The Shadow And Bone author is hopelessly addicted to adverbs
What is your daily writing routine like?
I’m up around 7.00am. I walk and feed our dog Freddy, have my breakfast and coffee, and then I write. I try not to look at email or get online until after lunch. I used to write long into the night, but now I stop around sunset.
Describe the room in which you typically write.
Our house was built in 1918 and the living room is small but has this wonderfully high ceiling and great big windows. It’s always flooded with light. I can sit at the end of my green velvet couch and stare out at the garden, listen to the fountain and watch the birds. I do have an office, but I can’t write in there. I need a couch so I can do maximum damage to my lower back.
Do you find it helpful to listen to music?
I draft every book to [Italian pianist] Ludovico Einaudi. There’s usually one or two of his pieces I’ll lock in on for a novel and I’ll listen to them again and again. It puts me in a kind of creative trance. When it comes to revision, I’ll often find my way to songs that embody the spirit of the story or the characters. For Ninth House and Hell Bent, it’s a lot of Sisters of Mercy, Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus and Joy Division.
Do you have any writing “bad habits” you try to keep in check?
I tend to be too plot-focused.
I like to build these heists and puzzles, and I have to keep checking in with my characters so that I don’t lose their emotions in all the clockwork. Also I love an adverb. Unabashedly.
Were you a keen reader as a child?
Dune was huge for me, a kind of high school survival guide. Louise Erdrich changed the way I thought about fiction. Stephen King taught me so much about story. I remember sitting around a campfire with my sixth-grade class and reciting “The Boogeyman” from memory. They asked to hear it again the next night. For an awkward, nerdy kid that was a real taste of power.
What’s the best feedback you’ve had from a reader?
Several people thought Harshaw’s cat was a spy in the Shadow And Bone trilogy. No, just a cat. Though you can never really be sure with cats.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about being an author?
Social media has really messed with our understanding of what it means to be an author. I don’t post pictures of myself in rumpled pajamas, ambling around my living room, trying to crack a scene. If you look at social, you might believe that it’s all packed tour stops and set visits and cheering crowds at Comic-con. But the job is really not about that at all. The bulk of your professional life is just you alone with the page.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received or read?
I just saw an old interview with David Bowie, where he talked about wading into the sea and that sensation when your toes just barely touch the bottom, and you can just hold your head above the waves. It’s not comfortable. But you’re not drowning. He said that’s the space you should be creating from because that’s where you do your best work.
Hell Bent is available to buy from 10 January, published by Gollancz.
I have to keep checking in with my characters so that I don’t lose their emotions