The Night Circus was published ten years ago today. To say this book changed my life would be a massive understatement. It shifted my entire world. I have been to so many places because of this singular imaginary ambulatory location that used to live only in my head and now lives in so many more.
I’ve gotten to meet so many people I wouldn’t have otherwise, including the wonderful Ethan M. Aldridge who has lent his extraordinary talent to commemorate this occasion with the above illustration of Bailey in his tree.
I don’t tend to post a ton of Night Circus-related stuff on social media but from now until October 13th (which is, of course, the 135th anniversary of opening night of le Cirque des Rêves) I’ll be posting circusy things on twitter & instagram to celebrate 10 years of Night Circus: old photos and different editions, cocktails and red yarn and whatever other dream dust I can dig up. Do please share your own Night Circus memories or shenanigans or tattoos or cosplay or cupcakes as well with hashtag #NightCircus10
Thank you seems too small a phrase to encompass ten years worth of gratitude but thank you. Thank you to everyone who put so much work into publishing and promoting. Thank you to librarians and booksellers for championing a strange debut by an unknown author. Thank you to everyone who has turned these pages and found themselves walking through circling paths amongst black-and-white striped tents, where the night air smells of caramel and bonfire smoke.
Thank you for visiting le Cirque des Rêves.
It has been my honor to share this place with you.
I began this year on airplanes. In bookstores and in theatres, meeting hundreds and hundreds of lovely people and signing so very many copies of The Starless Sea. Drinking post-event Cabernet and trying to remember what day it was or what city I was in, pausing too briefly in hotel room after hotel room and the whole time I had a head cold and I joked that I didn’t want to leave my house for the spring and then I didn’t.
I didn’t leave my house in the spring or the summer or the fall and now the snow is falling again.
Things that were happy-making in a long dark year:
I didn’t read much this year at all. I’m always a slow reader and I never get through as many books as I would like but this year was particularly bad for my attention span. I did procure a lot of books so I am well-stocked for 2021 and beyond.
Of the handful of things I did manage to read this year, these were my favorites:
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, the witchy 80’s Massachusetts field hockey novel I never knew I always wanted. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, who is a genius. I laughed, I cried, I laughed until I cried, all while our power was out, reading by flashlight. The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained by Colin Dickey. I adored Ghostland and this is just as fascinating. One of the things I love about Colin’s work is how much of it is about the stories that we tell. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. In many ways this book is to The Starless Sea what Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is to The Night Circus, which baffles and delights me. It is a treasure. Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, like Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter had an Australian baby. It is moody and dark and has sharp teeth like the best of fairy tales. Beowulf translated by Maria Dahvana Headley is a luscious, lyrical gift of language that feels old and new at the same time.
This year I started writing a book that will very likely end up being the new book. It has been a file filled with notes for awhile but now there are pages of prose and characters who haven’t found their names yet and bits of impermanent imaginary architecture. It is a long way from being a book but it is more than it was at this time last year, a million years ago.
In the meantime The Starless Sea came out in paperback in August of this year which already seems like ages ago. You could purchase it or any number of other wonderful books (everything in the pile above is highly recommended!) from an independent bookstore near or far, might I suggest Print: A Bookstore or Gibson’s Concord or Odyssey Bookshop or Oblong Books & Music
I played a lot of games this year. No, more than that.
My game of the year is a fairly even tie between Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Hades. I bought pink rain boots because I liked my Animal Crossing ones so much. Hades made me realize I’m actually pretty good at the kind of game I sometimes find intimidating. (Current record clear time is 19:39.55)
Ghost of Tsushima was epic and stunning and the end of Act II made me cry more than any single moment in a video game ever.
I love a good visual puzzle game and Superliminal was just what I wanted, quirky and smart and beautiful.
I finished A Short Hike in one day and I still think about it, it is a perfect little story game. It is, as the name implies, very short. “a little exploration game about hiking up a mountain.”
I replayed a lot of things this year for purposes of comfort and familiarity including BioShock 2 (I had never done the Minerva’s Den DLC and it’s marvelous) and Horizon Zero Dawn and I am currently in the middle of my fourth replay of Dragon Age: Inquisition which is of course my most favorite game. I am taking my time with it but afterwards I am probably going to replay Origins & Dragon Age II as well, because it’s been that kind of year.
Also recently acquired the Annapurna Interactive Deluxe Limited Edition collection, I’ve played and loved some of these games already (particularly What Remains of Edith Finch and Gorogoa) and I am very much looking forward to the rest of them.
In related gaming news I still don’t have a PS5 despite trying several times to get one (I blame our comparatively slow internet speed) and right now my main goal is to get one before Horizon Forbidden West comes out.
I barely watched any tv this year but I did rewatch all of Adventure Time including the final seasons which I’d never seen and I sobbed my way through the final episode which was bananapants and perfect. I might need “Will Happen Happening Happens” embroidered on something.
We’ve been getting into Critical Role this year, we’re 30-something episodes into the second campaign and I love it, my attention span for watching anything has been terrible but with Critical Role I can sit and knit or whatnot and still follow fascinating complex narratives and it has been soothing in a chaotic sort of way. And there is so very much of it! We are like two years and a bazillion hours behind! It’s kind of nice to have so much catching up to do especially since we don’t leave the house and it is helping me sort of understand Dungeons & Dragons finally. I’ve never played! Everyone always thinks I have! I haven’t! But I’m learning! (Once in awhile someone tags me on twitter about doing campaigns based on my books and whether or not I mind and of course I don’t mind I am flattered beyond belief please please have all the role-playing fun with them!)
I keep neglecting the poor blog. It sits here gathering digital dust and I feel bad about it but there is actual dust to be dealt with in my house (most of it is Vesper fuzz) and “update blog” keeps slipping down the to-do list and now here it is September again so I’ve collected a bunch of little things and links and wonders to put here.
The Starless Sea is now available in beautiful new paperback editions in both the US and the UK. Translated editions are beginning to appear in German and Slovak and Spanish and French (I don’t have a copy of the beautiful Italian edition yet) and there are more on the way.
You can get The Starless Sea in hardcover or paperback from bookshop.org & help support indie bookstores, or even better: order directly from your local indie or a far-flung indie, many independent bookstores will ship & stores that I went to on tour back when I still wore shoes and left my house may still have signed copies.
You can still order signed and personalized books from The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts. (Personalized ones will take awhile but they usually have signed copies in stock.)
The official playlist for The Starless Sea can be found with explanations for each song choice over here via Largehearted Boy. I went through a lot of different versions through the years it took to write but this is the definitive one.
Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi comes out on September 15th and it is a treasure.
Some circusy things as we roll into autumn, which is, of course, circus season:
If you are looking for official Night Circus merchandise there are fantastic collections at both Storiarts and Out of Print
The Night Circus will be 10 years old when autumn rolls around in 2021.
I have no concept of time anymore. There are crows in the yard, too scattered to count, and the air is starting to get that crispness around the edges. The leaves are thinking about falling.
I’m working on something and I’ll need to lock myself away with it soon so I can listen to it whisper. It is currently bits and pieces and cherry blossoms and secret histories and closed doors and lost time. Eventually it will be a book, someday far, far in the future.
I will likely be away from the internet for most of the autumn/winter with occasional photos on Instagram or Vesper’s Instagram or both. Probably both. I will be mostly away from Twitter but if there is anything worth mentioning I will mention it there.
At some point in the foreseeable future this entire website will need a proper dusting and update so it might disappear for a bit and reappear again a short time later, like magic.
It feels like it’s been forever and a day but The Starless Sea came out less than a year ago. Thank you for supporting this book in this long, strange year. Thank you for sharing this story about stories. Thank you for sailing the Starless Sea.
This year was so many things. It was book finishing and book tour and head colds (so many head colds) and BookExpo and San Diego ComicCon and so much traveling and new friends and I am exhausted and happy and glad to be home for a little while, with the snow falling outside.
Adam and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and his 40th birthday and my 41st birthday and Vesper’s 1st birthday and there was a book birthday in there, too. It was a very celebratory year. There was a great deal of sparkling wine. It felt like multiple years rolled into one, book tour alone was a bazillion years long and so many countries and cities and wonderful people. (Tour will continue a bit in January, too.)
This was the year of The Starless Sea in so many ways. It’s still hard for me to believe that it’s out in the world but it is and it is finding its readers and having a life of its own and for me it is strange and lovely and bittersweet. So much gratitude to InkWell and Doubleday and Harvill Secker for sending it out into the world in such tremendous style.
I didn’t read quite as much as I’d thought I would this year mostly due to exhaustion and head colds but when I went to make my favorites list it was actually quite hard, I really enjoyed most of what I read this year so these are the ultimate favorites among a great deal of competition. (Note: these are all personal favorites. I have developed an aversion to calling such lists “Bests” because these are just my opinions and I cannot deem bestness because I cannot read All the Books.)
Favorite Books That I Read in 2019
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger. I met Paul serendipitously at San Diego ComicCon and after cocktail-drenched California adventures we’re friends now, he has to deal with that. So I was nervous starting this book because I really wanted to at least like it but oh, I loved it, so much. It’s bright and bold and has so much heart and it made me cry in that oh-no-the-book-is-over way, where you miss being in it as soon as the last page is turned.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I’d been meaning to read Robin Hobb for ages but I think the fact that this year was the 25th anniversary of Assassin’s Apprentice bumped it up on my list. This was my tour book that lived in my carry-on and I read bits in different states and countries and it was like having a familiar place to return to. I am so, so delighted that are many more volumes in this series and I found editions in the UK that I loved so much I ordered them when I got home.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow At some point in the last few years Alix and I apparently shared a brain because this book is a perfect complement to The Starless Sea and vice versa. It is Doors and Keys and Books and Vermont and star-crossed everything and so, so beautiful. I will be in conversation with Alix at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, January 11th and I am excited about it.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. This book got me out of a reading slump where I was picking up things and putting them down after a few pages because nothing was really doing it for me but this one sucked me right in. A gorgeous, compelling suburban courtroom drama that is the very definition of a page-turner.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep. At the American Bookseller Association Winter Institute in January I asked booksellers what I should pick up from the advance copies table and this was their instant recommendation. They were right, of course. Like true crime and literary history had a book baby.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. I was lucky enough to read this book early because Colson is a fellow Doubleday author and a reminder of the extraordinary author company I’m in there. In retrospect Nickel Boys feels more like something that really happened that I remember someone telling me about in great detail than a book that I read and somehow that feels appropriate.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid which comes out TODAY, go get it! Go! It is a testament to the fact that all of those “Best books of [YEAR]” lists should be posted in January of the following year because it should be on the lists. It is real and raw and sharp and funny. Please tell everyone to just pretend it came out in 2020 and put it on all of the lists, thank you.
And possibly my very favorite thing I read this year that I am OBSESSED with comes out on February 11th 2020: The Unwillingby Kelly Braffet. It is a big, delicious fantasy to sink into and it is divine. Much like Steel Crow Saga I missed the world and the characters as soon as it was over and I’m going to re-read it soon. Also I have been keeping my post-tour February-May calendar as empty as possible but I am making a single exception for Kelly: we will be discussing The Unwilling with Oblong Books on Tuesday, February 18th.
I spent a good part of the year working my way through Assassin’s Creed Odyssey which I enjoyed immensely but there was also a lot of it. Though now I find myself wishing I could Sparta kick people off cliffs in other games.
I have only just started Baba is You but it is genius. I’ve also only played a bit of Link’s Awakening but I’m looking forward to playing it more.
I spent lots of travel time replaying Skyrim on my Switch. And at home I started my third replay of Dragon Age: Inquisition mostly for anxiety soothing purposes. Playing a rogue this time and it is very satisfying to be able to unlock things myself.
(I also spent a good amount of head cold time watching Adam play Jedi: Fallen Order which was excellent and BD-1 is now my most favorite droid.)
Seeing out the decade with a sidecar, no sugar, waiting to see what adventures and cocktails the ’20s will bring. I started the decade unhappy and not knowing what I wanted and I’m ending it with two published novels, sitting in a house that I own with the best husband and the best cat, surrounded by snow-covered woods.
I always pick a song for the year and though I’ve had Toss a Coin to Your Witcher stuck in my head for over a week (it’s still there) and by the way I love the show SO MUCH (tv favorites this year are basically just The Witcher and honorable mention to Baby Yoda) I wanted to pick something that felt like The Starless Sea because this year was all Starless Sea, all the time. Awhile back I mentioned on twitter that in a perfect world the Starless Sea playlist would include a Ramin Djawadi Westworld-style cover of the Legend of Zelda theme, but for now it does include this, which is also appropriate.