Yesterday, my local bookstore, Anderson’s Bookshop, hosted Leigh Bardugo as part of her tour for Ninth House, and I was lucky enough to snag a ticket. The entire house was packed–sold out show, plus extra people who only got tickets for the signing line later–and everyone was super into everything she had to say. I figured I would share a few of my favorite takeaways from her presentation and answers to questions: the funny, the weird, and the downright awesome.
Note: all these are paraphrases of her answers. Even when I use quotation marks, they’re not necessarily verbatim. I apologize for any inaccuracies!
– There are two types of fantasy writers: the J.R.R. Tolkiens, who obsessively plan every intricate detail of their worlds (and write entire languages like Elvish), and the George R.R. Martins, who create only what they need to and just kind of figure it out as they go (like how the only Dothraki he wrote was what was in the book–no extensive grammar or anything). The two have different types of stumbling blocks. For the Tolkiens, it’s that it is easy to get carried away with the planning and never actually start. (As someone who totally is a Tolkien, I can confirm this statement.) For the Martins, it’s the difficulty of ensuring internal consistency and making sure you don’t break the rules of your own world. Leigh considers herself more of a Martin, which makes the editing process tricky.
– On a related note, she always finds it strange when fans ask her weirdly specific questions, like what the Darkling’s favorite dessert is, because she doesn’t create all the extra lore on the side! Or they ask when the Darkling’s birthday is, and she’ll go, “Uh…April 6th?” And people will respond, “No, that’s Kaz’s birthday!” And she’ll go, “Wait, when did I say that? I probably only said it because that’s my birthday!”
(Fun fact, that’s also my birthday! I share a birthday with the legendary Leigh Bardugo! How cool is that?)
– All of the locations in Ninth House are real locations, and Leigh has been to all of them. The two exceptions are Darlington’s house, which she created for the book, and the insides of some of the “tombs” (meeting places of Yale secret societies), because they’re members-only. She has considered going back to some of them to try and get in now, saying that, as a woman with a cane, she can always just ask people to hold the door for her, and like, what are they going to do, not hold it? Do you want to be that jerk?
– There is a story in Ninth House about a skeleton washing up in the roots of a tree in a park in New Haven. That story is 100% true.
– It is so important as a writer to know when to take breaks, but also to make your breaks ACTUAL breaks. Not checking Twitter, or worrying about your draft, or answering messages from fans. It should be something like chilling on the couch watching The Great British Bake-Off. Personally, she prefers lighter TV since all of her books are so dark.
– If all of her characters were on The Great British Bake-Off, Matthias would win. Kaz wouldn’t care because nobody’s betting on it, so there’s no money involved. But Matthias would totally want to impress Nina, so he would put a lot of work in, and he would be like (and she says this in a deep, very serious voice), “Here. I present this soccer tart.”
– Speaking of Matthias, when listening to the audiobook for Six of Crows, she loved how absolutely stoic and serious the voice actor for Matthias sounded…so in Crooked Kingdom, she made a point of writing Matthias some of the most ridiculous lines possible. She wanted him to be in the recording booth going, “What the heck did she write this for?”
– Leigh considers herself like Michael Bay when writing. He likes to think of ideas with lots of explosions and gets weirdly excited about them; she likes to think of ideas that are really dark and gets excited about them. She hears an idea and thinks, “Oh, that’s so dark and creepy. A bunch of thugs and thieves on an impossible heist? That will be a romp! And then next thing you know, you have Kaz riding his brother’s corpse to glory.” (Yes, the part about Kaz and his brother’s corpse is a direct quote, assuming I didn’t accidentally change a word or two.)
– The hardest part of writing is finishing your first draft. Just get out of your own head and be willing to write some absolute garbage. You can edit it later.
Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything she talked about. I don’t want to give everything away 😉
She is truly a brilliant writer but also a talented speaker, with great stage presence and a knack for finding humorous answers to questions totally on the spot. I’m so glad I got to see her–hopefully, I will get to see her again sometime in the future!
Have any of you gotten to meet Leigh? Or any other favorite authors of yours? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,