Le Cirque des Rêves opened 135 years ago, not quite on this date because that was yesterday and with the proper anniversary came impeccably timed website issues, but technically the anniversary of opening night does extend overnight into today. It is Poppet’s birthday, after all.
To commemorate this occasion and bring a month of 10th Anniversary Night Circus shenanigans to a close, I am beyond delighted to present an additional illustration by Ethan M. Aldridge of Widget and Poppet and The Wishing Tree.
A month’s worth of Night Circus anniversary posts can be found on twitter & Instagram under hashtag #NightCircus10
Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart, for embracing and reading and sharing The Night Circus for the past ten years and for visiting le Cirque des Rêves. May all of your candle-lit wishes come true.
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.
This is what book tour looked like, constantly forgetting to take photos of books and people and holiday decorations and only remembering to snap occasional mirror selfies while waiting for elevators or sometimes in the elevators if the elevators had mirrors in them.
Thank you to everyone who came out to events, especially those in inclement weather and the ones I coughed through because of course I have a head cold. Now I am behind on everything and home is made of naps and snow.
Thank you to everyone who has sailed The Starless Sea already and to all of you who might embark on journeys there in the future. (Many of the bookstores I have visited recently have signed copies in-store for your holiday shopping needs.)
I will be out & about again in January for another stretch of US events, everything on the schedule is listed on the events page. There will not be any other events for the foreseeable future, I am only one person and I am tired and I miss my cat and my husband when I’m away from home so much and I would like to write another book someday. Thank you for understanding.
Some things that I have talked about on tour, with links!
Traditional New Year’s Eve post of year-end favorites forthcoming. I hope your holiday season is both merry & bright. A gift for you: Kat’s cinnamon sour cream cookies mentioned in The Starless Sea are, of course, my mom’s cinnamon sour cream cookies. She kindly said I could share the recipe:
Cinnamon Sour Cream Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 cup sour cream 1 tsp vanilla 3 cups flour 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp baking soda Topping: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar
In an electric mixer, cream butter & sugar, then add eggs & mix well. Stir in sour cream & vanilla. Combine flour, salt, baking powder & baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to batter. Beat well.
Drop by spoonful onto greased or sprayed cookie sheets. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping.
Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Bottoms should be light golden brown. Do not over bake.
Note: Cookies will look light and slightly underdone on top. Recipe works best using cookie sheets that are not insulated.
I can’t believe this day is finally here. My eternal gratitude to everyone at Doubleday and Harvill Secker and Umbriel for sending this book out into the world in the most beautiful packages and with such enthusiasm and care.
Thank you to my husband Adam for holding my hand through every step of this meandering, often stressful journey.
After The Night Circus was more than I ever dreamed it would be I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write anything else at all for awhile there. I ended up writing a book about stories and storytelling and why I was writing it at all.
If you choose to sail the Starless Sea and breathe the haunted air I thank you, and I hope you enjoy your time there.
Today I am forty-one which makes the blog/website eleven years old. I would like to apologize to the blog for neglecting it so much in recent years and missing its tenth birthday last year because we were away for my birthday.
(Next year I will remember, when the blog gets to be twelve and I get to be the meaning of life, the universe and everything.)
Forty was momentous. I finished the new book, finally. People started reading it and seem to like it so far. It already has two starred reviews and no one has made bad “starless” puns yet. I got a kitten and Vesper did, of course, help with the book writing.
I watched a kitten turn into a small cat with more personality than I thought could fit in such a compact fluffy package. I read wonderful books and played Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild incessantly. I became obsessed with this smitten kitchen salad and drank a lot of sparkling wine and a great deal of gin. Adam & I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary six days ago in the mountains and had the most perfect anniversary sunset.
Forty-one promises to be a wild and busy and exciting year. Next week I will be at San Diego ComicCon which is apparently a real thing and not just a fever dream I had that one time in 2011. In the autumn/winter when THE STARLESS SEA comes out I will be many places and signing many books, I will post tour details when I have them. I haven’t left my house this much in a long time, I am still remembering how to be a person in the world and not just a writer hermit.
And now THE STARLESS SEA comes out in less than four months. In the meantime if you are looking for something to read I highly recommend my friend Chuck Wendig’s WANDERERS. It’s the most recent thing I blurbed and I don’t blurb for friends as a general rule but I made an exception because it’s truly extraordinary. Here’s my full quote: “WANDERERS is a true tour de force, a feat of storytelling strength that remains with you long after the final page is turned. Epic yet intimate, speculative while hovering at the edges of the now and so masterfully told that it feels as though you are walking alongside these characters every step of the way.”
Today I am 39. My grandmother used to say she was 39, every year, and when I was young and my dad turned 40 I was very confused as to how he could be older than his mother. Math is hard. Age is just a number.
I believe this means the website/blog is 9 years old. I should bake it a cake next year when it reaches a decade.
Rainy birthday. For a moment it there was hail but now the sun is trying to peek out again.
Hopefully going to have a very interesting year ahead of me.
There is a signed 1st edition US hardcover of The Night Circus in this auction to benefit Planned Parenthood organized by the wonderful Kelly Braffet & Owen King. It is also–because it is the 101st year of operation of Planned Parenthood–annotated on page 101 with circusy footnotes & nonsense, so it is utterly unique. The high bidder gets to find out where, precisely, my glittery red pen ran out of ink. Bidding is open through July 15th.
We are getting used to house things. We had a frozen pipe in the winter and bats in the walls and it seems like a crash course in home ownership but we also have hummingbirds and sunsets and a brief June burst of peonies.
There are several still unpacked cardboard boxes, mostly in the basement. We finally have chairs for the library. My office is still a work in progress but it’s getting there.
We are cooking a lot. We got a grill. Our dish of the summer so far is this Ina Garten quinoa tabbouleh but I replace the tomatoes with diced strawberries dressed in balsamic vinegar. It’s better that way. Sorry, Ina.
I don’t have proper internet right now. I am typing this while running a wireless hotspot off my phone. Supposedly there are plans to get this area of wilderness wired properly in the foreseeable future but for now I am mostly only able to do internet things on my phone or my iPad and I am a terrible touchscreen typist so I have been and will continue to be fairly scarce around the internet in general. It’s hard to keep up with things when everything takes ages to load if it even loads at all. Twitter hiatus continues.
We don’t have cable, either, so no new tv for me. I have been catching up on Adventure Time and binge-watching British Baking when I have tv time.
I have been listening to ODESZA and Oh Wonder and Halsey.
Game-wise I am a little bit obsessed with Horizon: Zero Dawn. Not quite finished with it yet, and I keep randomly stopping because the light or the environment is just so pretty. It does so many things I like in a game and does them really well and thoughtfully and with a strong story line. Super excited that they already announced DLC & I hope they franchise the heck out of it, I would play sequels upon sequels in this world.
Favorite game I’ve played and finished is What Remains of Edith Finch. In certain ways its the best game I’ve read/story I’ve played. It has distinct mini story-sections that are all inventively different and there’s a moment in one of them that when I realized what it was doing with the controls I was probably the most giddily delighted I have ever been when playing a game.
And of course, mostly I have been writing.
I am very close to a new draft. I am not quite where I wanted to be by birthday-time but not too far off, either. It is book-shaped again but the end is missing and there are a couple of holes in the middle.
It is a different book-creature than it was at the beginning of the year. It is stretching its wings and finding its feet and only occasionally hissing at me. Not quite tame but it doesn’t really want to be, not entirely. It’s also very proud of me for not using a cake analogy to describe its current state.
Going to spend the rest of my summer mostly in my head. I don’t get sunburned there and there’s less hail.
Possibly obvious, but I no longer live in Manhattan.
I left the city in a blur of cardboard boxes and craziness and I owe a great number of people goodbye cocktails that never happened and probably even more people a “by the way I’m moving” update. My apologies. Time, as it does, got away from me, and here I am deep in autumn and leaves out in the woodsy mountains and now I have to make my own cocktails mostly but I am very much okay with that.
We lived in Manhattan for almost four years. I am going to miss parts of it dearly and other parts not at all. I already miss the ability to have sushi brought to my door, drinking sparkling rosé and eating pommes frites at Lafayette. Probably most of the things I will miss are food-based.
I will miss Bryant Park and the High Line and the lobby of the Ace Hotel. The Met and the Morgan Library. I will miss walking up Park Avenue very late at night in the winter and buying used hardcover books at the Strand and Shakespeare in the Park but these are all things I can do again, that I may do even more now that Manhattan is for visiting.
So I have a house now, with stairs and rooms and trees outside and mice inside (teeny adorable mice it is difficult to be too terribly annoyed at even when they get into the Hallowe’en candy). I have never had a space of my own that did not come along with a diminishing number of months for occupying it, a space that can be painted and personalized and stayed in and lived in and it is nice but strange and I am still getting used to it.
I am organizing books on shelves. My new office is not office-shaped yet. Many things are still lost in cardboard boxes, waiting to be found again and put in new places.
Also I am quite literally in the woods. My internet is currently questionable at best though supposedly that might change in the future. I will try to keep up with things as well as I can. I am remaining on Twitter hiatus for now but I might drop in now & again more often than I have been.
I am still writing. New book is book-shaped but is not the right book-shape yet, which is a fussy confusing stage that there is probably a cake analogy for but I’m not sure what it would be. I write things wrong before I get them right, apparently it’s just a thing I do.
I am tearing things out and rewriting and replacing other things and trying to figure out which parts are book and what parts are not book and how to put them all back together properly and in what order. If this were indeed a cake analogy it would involve a very messy kitchen and there would probably be gluten-free flour in my hair. Sometimes in this non-existent analogy kitchen I sit on the floor and cry amongst broken eggs and ruined cake layers and sometimes the mice come out and whisper baking tips and advice to me before running off with more chocolate.
So, yes, still writing.
Every time I crawl out of the writing cave to peek at the internet someone somewhere is asking when my next book will be out. Here is your answer: I don’t know. If I knew I would tell you. I’m busy trying to get it right and make it good and find the proper way to tell this particular story, which feels more important than doing it quickly.
(I don’t have circus movie news either. No one tells me anything. It is, apparently, how such things go.)
A few new circusy things:
This very fancy, very limited, very pricey but very beautiful leather-bound, signed & gilded edition of The Night Circus is currently available from Easton Press. (They also have a very shiny edition of Ready Player One.)
Here we are at the end of the year again. I have had my least productive blogging year possibly ever. I am sorry, blog. I think this post will knock the last 2014 post off the front page, so that’s something. I have spent a lot of 2015 not on the internet, which has been good for me. I’ll be spending parts of 2016 offline as well, beginning with a very hermity writing January.
I started this year hibernating. I am ending it at home in New York, just back from a surprise trip to Hogwarts, about to hibernate again. In between I went to South Bend for circus shenanigans and Toronto again after too long away. I turned 37. We celebrated the first of hopefully many, many wedding anniversaries. I had a lot of cocktails with new friends and old friends. I learned how to make a proper carbonara. I added many, many bottles to my BPAL collection. I was a crossword puzzle clue.
I wrote a lot. I am well out of word soup phase and probably somewhere nearing the word cake phase, though not quite fully baked yet and there will be layers to carve and frost and a great many fussy bits to come. It’s almost a book. It’s thinking about it, really hard.
It was a more eventful year than it looks like through the lens of the internet. Much of what is going on in Erinland is still hidden behind curtains, waiting. Preparing. On one hand I feel badly about not being able to share and on the other I am trying to savor the quiet times because I know they are temporary. I am still trying to learn to balance living in my head which I need to do to write and living in the actual world with people and social media. The easiest way for me to manage is in extremes, and now is a mostly in my head time. Sooner or later the contents of my head will be properly captured in words and then put on paper so they can spill out into other people’s heads, which is magical but intimidating when it’s just me, just my head and just my thoughts, trying to keep them clear and finding the best ways to translate the spaces and people in my head into words. It’s difficult and then it’s easy and then it’s difficult again, like the optical illusions that shift depending on how you focus, though the image always stays the same.
In 2015 for the first time in a long time I started to feel like I’m getting to where I’m supposed to be. That there’s some forward momentum.
No stars in my hair this year. This year there are bees. It is time for new things. Time for changes.
No proper list of favorites this year, either. My favorite book I read out of an embarrassingly short list was Speak by Louisa Hall. I spent most of my non-writing story consuming time this year playing video games, mostly Dragon Age, mostly out of order (Inquisition, then Origins, then II, then the epilogue of Inquisition which made me cry and then laugh through my tears and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love that game). I liked a lot of tv, consumed mostly on Netflix: Black Mirror & Broadchurch & Sense 8 & competitive British baking. I really liked the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I didn’t go to many movies but I did just see the new Star Wars and really liked it, and I am not really a Star Wars person.
I’m going to try to read more in 2016.
Lots of good music this year, which made it difficult to choose a song of the year. If I wanted to be really honest my most-played track is the main theme from Dragon Age: Inquisition but since that’s not precisely a song I decided to be a bit more traditional. This artist & this album were very much exactly the right music at exactly the right time.