Possibly helpful information before we get to questions:

  • If you want me to appear somewhere or do something or write something, please contact InkWell Management or Todd Doughty at Doubleday or the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.
  • Film rights to THE NIGHT CIRCUS have already been optioned by Lionsgate. No, I do not know when (or if) the movie is coming out or if you can be in it. When (if) there is ever news I can share I will share it.
  • My second novel, THE STARLESS SEA, will be published in the US, UK & Canada on November 5th, 2019. More info here. For foreign rights information please contact InkWell.

There is also lots of information in this interview I did with Writer Unboxed (part I & II) and I am particularly fond of this hostile Booklist interview as well.

How long have you been writing?

I wrote little random things when I was in junior high and high school but never really thought of myself as a writer. I studied playwriting in college but never finished any plays. After college I thought about writing for good long while before I started actually putting pen to paper in my mid-twenties. (THE NIGHT CIRCUS was sold when I was 32.) I do not write every day, I tend to be a binge writer.

I do not have an MFA or any other formal writing training. I love adverbs. I still do naughty things with commas.

I mostly write in Scrivener, or in fountain pen on unlined paper.

Did THE NIGHT CIRCUS really start as a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project?

Yes it did indeed. The longer version of this answer has been chronicled several times (including this blog post about how I got an agent) but the short version is that NaNoWriMo is an online based challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I tried for the first time in 2003 & failed but succeeded in 2004 and in 2005 I started a project that I got bored with and sent the characters to the circus and that circus was immediately much more interesting than anything else so I spent the next two years of NaNo writing exploring that imaginary circus. It went through a great many changes between that double NaNo draft and the finished version. (An example: that entire 100k worth of original circus stuff? Celia isn’t in it. Seriously.)

I think NaNoWriMo is a brilliant idea and gives you two magical things: company and a deadline. Before NaNo I was the sort of person who would write a page and hate it so I’d stop, when really you need to keep going and write more pages and NaNo is a wonderful way to learn that.

I am eternally grateful to Chris Baty for coming up with such an outlandish idea, he has forever changed the way I feel about the month of November and also he has very good taste in wine.

How did you get a literary agent?

I sent out query letters and sample pages and followed agency guidelines. I got several requests for the manuscript because my query letter made it sound like the book had a plot and many rejections because at that point it really had no plot whatsoever. Eventually I was fortunate enough to find a few agents who thought it had potential but needed a lot of work and after talking to them I reworked the manuscript (twice) and eventually signed with one of them. The longer version of the “how I got an agent” story is over here. My agent is Richard Pine at InkWell Management. I suspect he might be a wizard.

Is there going to be a Night Circus movie?

Possibly maybe someday. That is all I know. Really. The film rights have been optioned which means Lionsgate has the option to turn it into a film. People probably have meetings where they talk about things but no one tells me about them.

Are there particular books that influenced THE NIGHT CIRCUS?

The circus had a lot of influences, some of the stronger particular ones were Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and The Prestige by Christopher Priest (as well as the film version of the same).

The vignette format of the book was inspired by Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, one of my favorite books of all time.

In a general flavor sense there’s a heavy dose of Shakespeare and Dickens with a sprinkling of Roald Dahl around the edges and an Edward Gorey aperitif.

Do you have discussion questions about THE NIGHT CIRCUS for book clubs, etc?

My publisher does, there’s a great list here. I’m not even sure how I’d answer some of them.

Is there somewhere I can buy chocolate mice?

Yes. Yes there is.

When is your next book coming out? What’s it about?

THE STARLESS SEA. November 5th, 2019. It’s about stories and storytelling and fate and time and video games. There is a lot of snow in it. And also bees.

What happened to flax-golden tales? Will there be a book?

I wrote flax-golden tales (ten sentence stories inspired by photographs taken by my friend Carey Farrell) from July 2009 to July 2014, they are all archived and can be read here. I started them for my birthday to make my blog look more like I was an actual writer. Five years and 261 stories later I decided it was time to stop.

There may be a book someday, I think that would be nice. If and when there is news on that front I’ll announce it here.

When is the tarot deck going to be published?

Someday, hopefully, though today is not that day. The paintings for The Phantomwise Tarot can be seen over here. A very limited edition of the Major Arcana was published several years ago, once in awhile a copy turns up for resale somewhere on the internet.

In the meantime I highly recommend the beautiful Wild Unknown Tarot, pictured at the top of this page. I am also very fond of Uusi’s Pagan Otherworlds Tarot.

Do you have writing advice to share?

I borrow my favorite writing advice from Neil Gaiman, which is “keep writing and finish things.” The finishing things is important. I also like to amend that statement with a Da Vinci quote, which is “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

If you want in-depth, practical, smart writing & publishing advice complete with creative use of profanity, I highly recommend listening to my friend Chuck Wendig. Also do please check out his book Damn Fine Story.

Can I send you books to be signed?

No, but you can order books for me to sign including personalizing or birthday or wedding or other sorts of wishes from The Odyssey Bookshop. They will ship internationally. (Do please order far in advance for anything time sensitive as I will only be able to stop by to sign things every few weeks.)

Can I send you other things?

Non-perishable things can be sent care of InkWell Management. Please do not send perishable things, like cookies or ducklings.

Can you do a Skype chat with my class/book club/etc?

I would like to because I am fond of Skype but I just don’t have time or a truly reliable internet connection, so I have to decline these sorts of invitations across the board at the moment.

Can you come to {insert city or town here}?

I will be touring in autumn/winter of 2019/2020 when THE STARLESS SEA comes out. If you would like me to visit someplace for a speaking engagement please contact the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.

Upcoming events will be posted here.