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Leigh Bardugo: 2018 National Book Festival

Leigh Bardugo: 2018 National Book Festival


>>Everdeen Mason:
I’m Everdeen Mason. I’m and audience editor,
and I’m the science fiction and fantasy columnist at
“The Washington Post.” Please subscribe, democracy
dies if you don’t subscribe. Thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: Do it. Do it. Keep “The Post” alive.>>Everdeen Mason: So,
I have some formalities that I have to get
through first. So, “The Washington Post”
is a charter sponsor of The National Book Festival. And we’d like give thanks to
the cochairmen of the festival, David Rubenstein and the
other generous sponsors who have made this
event possible. If you’d like to add
your financial support, please note the information
in your programs. We’ll have some time after this
presentation for your questions. And I’ve been asked to
remind you that if you come up to the microphone you will
be included in the videotape of this event, which could
be broadcast at a later date. Make sure your cell
phones are on silent. The usual. And so, I’m very honored to be
here today with Leigh Bardugo. And I am super lucky, and I got to interview her
like two years ago. And in that time, she’s
published a bunch of stuff. You’ve got “Wonder
Woman: Warbringer.” You’ve released a
collection of short stories. And that’s “The Language
of Thorns.” And she finished her latest
duology, which includes “Six of Crows,” and “Crooked Kingdom” which is probably why you
all are here today, right? How many of you have
read’ finished the series? [Applause] Yeah? That’s really exciting. Those of you who did not raise
your hands, you have homework.>>Leigh Bardugo:
[Laughter] Get out.>>Everdeen Mason:
Okay, I think this is as much loitering as I can do. But, so if “Six of
Crows” is kind of like your straight-up
heist, “Crooked Kingdom” is like a tangle of con jobs. How do you plot these
elaborate schemes?>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh, wow, well
there’s a reason it’s a duology. Because cons and heists are
incredibly challenging to write. And what I usually start
with is with the twists. I start with where I know
I want the heist to end up. And I think it was Ally
Carter who wrote the wonderful “Heist Society” books,
who told me, you’re really conning
two people. There’s the mark in the book,
and then there’s the audience. So, I want you guys to have
experience of reading the heist, thinking you know where
it’s going and then pulling out the rug from under you. But, yeah, “Six of
Crows” is one big heist. It’s really structured
like a classic heist film, or a classic heist story. And I thought of “Crooked
Kingdom” more as kind of a [inaudible] of just
I wanted to get more and more claustrophobic
as you moved through it. As the crew got more
and more trapped.>>Everdeen Mason: And you know,
within your multilayer cons. You also have six
points of view basically, that you’re constantly
cycling through. How do you plan and plot
out all those characters within your cons?>>>>Leigh Bardugo: Well, I don’t
want to give a false impression that I map everything out. I map the plot. I have a basic understanding
of who the characters are and the role they
occupy in the plot. And one thing I wanted
to know going into “Six of Crows” was what was the real
fight for them in the heist? They each have a
task to accomplish, but which thing they were going
to have to face, which fear or danger they were
going to have to face for that character arc. But beyond that, I didn’t
know what their backstories were really. I discovered them as
I was writing them. And some of them spoke loud and
clear at the start of the book. And some of them, it really
took a while to get to know.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah,
and actually, you know, in Crooked Kingdom” a
character that we get to know, that I really appreciated
was Jesper. So, we really get to see
that character and see, and he really holds his
own against the others. Even though his backstory
is not as tragic. And so, the other characters.>>Leigh Bardugo: I
think it’s tragic.>>Everdeen Mason: It’s
tragic, you’re right.>>Leigh Bardugo: I was
like, I’m disappointed. I’m like, I thought
it was tragic.>>Everdeen Mason:
No, it’s tragic, but it’s not like, I don’t know.>>Leigh Bardugo: He suffers.>>Everdeen Mason:
He didn’t have to like ride his
dead brother’s corpse to freedom, yeah so I think.>>Leigh Bardugo: For example,
hypothetically [laughter].>>Everdeen Mason: So, yeah,
but can you tell me a little bit about how you know
jesper came to grow and really flourish
in “Crooked Kingdom?”>>Leigh Bardugo:
Jesper really began as a description,
as a sharpshooter. And then I remember the moment
when I was thinking about, you know, in part of my
research I went to a gun range and you learn to shoot. And the idea of focusing,
and I wanted him to have approached
this particular line of work for a reason. And for him, it’s a
kind of self-medication. Risk is a way for him to
focus his mind and to shut down the noise in his head. And whether that manifests
as something like gambling at Mockers Wheel, or
it manifests as getting into really dangerous
situations, this is maybe not
the best way to go about dealing with
your problems. Kids, don’t do this. But this is something that
he’s doing and something that actually Inej confronts
him about in “Crooked Kingdom” about understanding sort of what
your wound is and seeing it. And healing it. But I just love writing him. I loved writing his backstory. I love writing about
[inaudible]. And I loved writing
about his dad. I mean spoiler, if
you haven’t read “Crooked Kingdom”
his dad shows up. And one of my favorite
things in YA novels is when you have these
kids who are like, yeah we’re running heists
and we’re in a gang. And all this stuff. And then, your dad shows
up and you’re like umm. Everything’s fine here. You know? So, for
me and I also wanted to write a positive
parental figure. Because most of the parents
I write are kind of horrible. So, I wanted to write
a good parent, yeah.>>Everdeen Mason:
Well, and it’s funny because like the point of
most children’s capers is that they’re generally
unsupervised the entire time.>>Leigh Bardugo: I mean
that’s why there are so many orphans in fantasy. Like really? Well, if you’re going to
go off to save the world, you probably don’t
want to get grounded.>>Everdeen Mason: I’m
at that stage in my life, where I’m starting to relate
to the parents [laughter]. I’m like where are
their parents? What’s going on. It’s funny. But actually, so you
mentioned doing research, you went to actually shoot a gun at a gun range I
didn’t think about that. And one thing that
I was really struck by by our conversation a while
back is all the research you put into Inej’s character and like
getting into her backstory, you told me that you
interviewed three victims of human trafficking
and that kind of thing. You know, what? And that’s really great. Because you have
a younger audience who maybe is not reading those
news stories on a daily basis and they get to learn
about a different thing through your work. And so, can you tell us a little
bit more about what drove you to kind of explore that
theme in your fiction.>>Leigh Bardugo: When I set
out to write “Six of Crows,” one of the things that was a
really an additional character in the story is Ketterdam
and the county of Kerch. And I had known early on that
I wanted to write this country as almost like an anti-Ravka. Ravka was the setting for my
first trilogy and is where most of “King of Scars”
takes place too. And Ravka is kind
of cut off from, oh, I suddenly got very loud. Hello. She said as she looked down at her brassiere
[laughter]. So, Ravka is this kind
of back world place where there’s been a
failure to industrialize. Whereas Ketterdam
is international, it’s cosmopolitan. It’s the hub of all legal and
illegal trade in the world. And I wanted the culture that
had grown up about it to be kind of like an extreme version
of the Protestant work ethic. This is a place where profit
and prosperity is a sign that you were ordained by God. And where they worship Gazan
and the invisible hand. Which anybody who’s familiar
with Adam Smith will recognize. So, this is a place
where the market rules. And if you’re doing that, then
you have to ask the question if profit is seen as not only
a good goal, but a sacred goal. What is the human cost of that? And if you only see
humans as commodities, I think Inej’s story is the
inevitable result of that. So, I wanted to show the
impact that it had for better and for worse, on individual
members of this crew.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah, and so, Inej’s clearly my actual
favorite character. Jesper’s like second favorite. But it’s Inej. But one think I like about
her and I like about Nina, is that they’re dealing
with their trauma. They have these issues
that they’re dealing with and they also still
manage to keep it together, wrangle the boys [laughter]. Get them to put their shoes
on and go do the heist. Like, can you tell me more
about how that dynamic worked out between your characters
as you started writing.>>Leigh Bardugo: That’s
really interesting. I don’t really think of
either of them as being like the mom of the group. Like I’m not sure this
group has a mom, you know? Like, maybe.>>Everdeen Mason: But
they’re more insightful. They’ll be like you clearly
have like ADD and you shouldn’t.>>Leigh Bardugo: Right. I think they are, but well look. This is a requirement
though, in order to survive, both of these women have
had to do certain things. And if they had let themselves
completely fall apart, then they wouldn’t be there. They wouldn’t be surviving. And so, they made certain
choices and certain sacrifices that have allowed
them to keep going. And with Inej, you see that rear
its head in different forms. There are different
battles she has to fight before she can find
her way to really being free. Not just being free on
the streets of Ketterdam. And for Nina, it’s a
journey that has a lot to do with who she is as a
soldier and as a person. And that continues in “King
of Scars” because a lot of people were very angry with
me about some of the things that happened in
“Crooked Kingdom” and I’m not sorry [laughter]. I’m just not. But that for me, was
something that I knew that Nina’s story didn’t end
there, and I knew where I wanted to take her, and you know there
were some casualties along the way.>>Everdeen Mason: Oh,
I hate, I just got sad. I was like oh no.>>Leigh Bardugo: I’m sorry,
but I’m not [laughter].>>Everdeen Mason: Well, let’s
bring it back to something fun. Because I am.>>Leigh Bardugo: What? That wasn’t fun?>>Everdeen Mason: But I am a
30-year-old woman who reads YA for the make-outs if I’m being
entirely honest with you.>>Leigh Bardugo: Wow, my
books must suck for you. Because everybody’s
like don’t touch me.>>Everdeen Mason: Honestly,
that worked for me [laughter]. That worked for me. But you know, did you always
know what these feelings were going to be, or did those
also kind of evolve naturally with their backstories? Oh, you knew?>>Leigh Bardugo: Like, I knew. I love romance. And I love shipping. And I think that there’s this
real tendency to look at romance in stories and somehow try to
say that the story is lesser because it focuses on romance. And it’s something that I’ve
seen from a lot of adults, SF&F crowds that really
distain YA and its focus on emotionality and
relationships. And I find that hilarious,
because so many people spend so much of their lives
looking for someone to share that life with. And I mind Tinder wouldn’t exist
if it weren’t for this drive. And I don’t think that
it makes a book lesser or less interesting. Or, have less gravitas because
it addresses that emotionality. For me, the big thing is that I
don’t want those relationships to all only occupy
romantic space. Friendship is essential. The way these friendships
impacts these romantic entanglements matter. And also, the sense of finding
your family is just as essential to me as the romantic
elements of the book.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah, and
I think you know one thing that I really like is because
you have two characters who like cannot touch
each other really. Every single possible
like brush, has the elevation
of like a kiss now.>>Leigh Bardugo: I
do love a slow burn.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah,
you gave me a whole book of like almost kisses,
it’s just as good.>>Leigh Bardugo: Yeah. I mean that’s what FanFick
is for, like go for it.>>Everdeen Mason: Do you have
any pairings that did not exist in the book, that you
like quietly thought of. That you were like,
maybe I’ll pair.>>Leigh Bardugo:
Oh, interesting.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah.>>Leigh Bardugo: No. like if I want a ship to
exist, I’ll just write it. You know, that’s the magic
of canon, I can be like, no this will come to pass. No, I do feel like I had
a million cracked ships in “Shadow and Bone.” Like, I honestly, I’m
one of those people who ships everyone
with everything. I don’t know if any of
you have ever watched “Avatar The Last Airbender.” I’m one of those weirdos who
vote ship Kataang the Zutara. Okay, like I was
like I ship it all. I ship chair with stage. I ship lamp with table. Like, I’m just like, I
really think it’s fun to think that way. And when I was writing “Wonder
Woman: Warbringer” I was like I want everybody to
be attracted to each other at all times [laughter].>>Everdeen Mason: I think
you’ve captured the essence of youth. That’s just I mean it’s
constant attraction. But you brought up the
Alina Starkov books and “Crooked Kingdom” is set in
the same world as those books. But obviously is a
very different book. In what ways do you see
the newer series as almost like a response to what you’ve
already explored in Ravka? You talked a little
bit about the settings.>>Leigh Bardugo: Well,
I think that “Shadow and Bone” is a very
traditional hero’s journey. It’s a chosen one’s story. And I think if you read
“Six of Crows” you can see, there’s even a character who addresses the chosen one
explicitly in “Crooked Kingdom.” And I really wanted to ask
the question, what happens in fantasy worlds to the people
who don’t have grand destinies and who don’t have
secret powers, who weren’t secret princesses. Who are essentially
expendable to the larger plot. What becomes of them? And who really have
nothing to rely on but their skills and each other. And so, for me “Six of Crows”
was almost a direct response to my experience writing
“Shadow and Bone.” And I want to say, too. Like, as much as
I ship everything, like that’s not what all
books have to be about, like, I am one of those people who
will watch a television show and be like, where’s
the romance? Like, great British bacon show,
I’m like okay, but [laughter]. Will they, won’t they? But that said, I don’t write, like I’ve actually gotten
complaints from readers who are like where’s my smut? And I’m like I don’t write that. Like, I don’t know how to;
I don’t know how to do that. Like, I’m not that
kind of writer. You know, like again,
praise the FanFick writers, but I can’t do it.>>Everdeen Mason: I mean if
you do want to write a FanFick of your own, you have
an audience [laughter].>>Leigh Bardugo: I mean, if I
ever go broke, I’m just going to be like darkling
after dark [laughter].>>Everdeen Mason: But,
you know you [laughter]. I’m sorry. You’ve been really prolificate
these last couple years, I’m wondering, you know what are
things that you’ve tried to work on and improve from book to
book, if there are things that you’re like I know I can do
that better in the next one, or?>>Leigh Bardugo: I mean
the glaring thing I think is diversity. It’s honestly a little
embarrassing to look back at the way that I
cast “Shadow and Bone” because it is an overwhelming
white and straight series. And it becomes less
so as it progresses. But I think the question I found
myself asking is why did I write it that way? I grew up in Los Angeles, this is not what my peer
group looks like at all. And I think I was echoing
a lot of the fantasy that I read growing up. So, I’ve tried to move
towards a cast of characters that looks more like
the people I know. And that is more representative. I think also, just I think
I became a better writer. I think writing short stories
made me a better writer. I think, are there any
aspiring writers in the? Wahoo. There’s a
storm coming, no. What I would say is you
know short fiction is incredibly challenging. It forces you to really dig
into your craft in a way that I think has
really helped me. So, the act of writing short
stories as I was writing novels, I think changed the way that
I engage with language too. So, I don’t know I’m in sort of
a constant state of revision. I’m a profound believer
in revision. My drafts tend to be
absolute garbage early on. and it’s very uncomfortable. Like I say that very lively. But it’s an incredibly
difficult state to live in when you know
what good writing is and you know what
you’re doing is not good. But I think that discomfort of
the first draft is unavoidable, and I think it’s something
that if we were taught to live with that discomfort, people
would understand the process of writing much better
and they would get through it more easily.>>Everdeen Mason: And,
the other, you know, sorry you brought up
diversity, and you know, I’m sure you’re all aware that’s
an issue that’s been coming up a lot more, people are
a lot more vocal about it. You know what kind of conversations have you been
having with your peer group of writers about how to
talk about the problem, how to elevate other writers? You know, what’s that
look like right now within like your
cohort of people?>>Leigh Bardugo: As a white
writer, I think the focus has to be on elevating other voices. So, that if you have the
opportunity to do an event with a writer who’s maybe not
getting as much attention, but who has written a
fantastic fantasy that is set in a different kind of world
than what we are used to seeing. If you have the opportunity,
when you do book lists, of you know what are your
fav this, or fav that? That is your chief obligation. And also, and this is something that I think everybody is
always trying to work on. To know the difference between
trying to write representatively as opposed to taking
somebody else’s story. And I don’t think that
there’s a perfect answer to that, or a balance. Everybody’s always learning. And the best advice I can give
to people who are attempting to do that and the
thing that we talk about most is just
listening to each other. Like, make more friends. Like, and I know that’s hard
because writers are weirdos and we like to stay home, and
we don’t really need friends, other than fictional characters. But having friends who do not
come from your background, who you grew up with,
or who you encounter through critique groups,
or whatever it is, like make those friends and
engage those relationships. Follow those artists on Twitter, and read their books,
read their blogs. That is the best way to sort
of fulfill that obligation and to try to engage with other
people without bothering them.>>Everdeen Mason: And, I wanted
to ask, you know going back to the books, what scenes
were your favorites to write, that you just go
really excited about? Without, I mean most of you
have already read the books, I guess you can spoiler, but.>>Leigh Bardugo:
In “Six of Crows” like my favorite scenes, or?>>Everdeen Mason:
Yeah, that series. Or, “Crooked Kingdom.”>>Leigh Bardugo: I
think that, oh man. I don’t know. So, there’s a fight, there’s
a fish fight between Kaz and Jesper in “Crooked Kingdom.” And I love that scene,
because there’s a little, because the audience knows, the reader knows how much
emotion is wrapped up in it. But it’s also just two guys who
really don’t know how to talk to each other and are like ugh. And I loved writing that. And I also loved writing
Colm Fahey just being like, you just stop. You just stop it. I loved writing that. I will say that the most
challenging scene to write was, there’s a scene between
Kaz and Inej, that is where he’s
tending to her bandages.>>Everdeen Mason:
That’s my favorite scene.>>Leigh Bardugo: I’m
glad you liked it. But there are probably
32 different versions of that scene. It was one of the most
challenging scenes I’ve ever written. And I’m proud of it. Like I’m proud of
where it ended up. But there were moments where
I thought I don’t know how to get this right. And you know I didn’t
want to not do justice to for those characters
in what they’ve been through int hat scene. With “King of Scars” I
was kind of surprised because Zoya’s chapters turned
out to be the most fun to write.>>Everdeen Mason: Really?>>Leigh Bardugo: No, Zoya’s
mean and I love writing her. She’s so unapologetic. And I loved discovering her and
her history, and writing her. She was really, I love her
journey in “King of Scars.”>>Everdeen Mason: And so,
besides Zoya and I assume also who else is going to be?>>Leigh Bardugo: Nikolai
has his own POV obviously. It would be hilarious
if he didn’t. If he was just like, I’m
going to sit this one out. There are three primary POVs. You guys know I like to throw in an occasional red shirt
who’s going to get murdered. But, there’s Zoya,
Nikolai and Nina from “Six of Crows” has a POV too. She is in Fierda, basically
on an undercover mission. And also, I don’t want to spoil
“Crooked Kingdom” for anybody who hasn’t; but she has another
mission, a personal mission to accomplish there as well. Yeah.>>Everdeen Mason: And
nothing else you can tell us about the book [laughter]. I’m working for you guys.>>Leigh Bardugo: I would say that it probably has the
most magic on the page that I’ve ever written, the Grisha magical system is
fairly tightly constrained. Right? And this is a story where
you really find out the roots of Grisha power and where
there’s a lot of blurring of the line between
myth, and religion, and science, and superstition. And it was really
exciting for me to write. Like all I will ask is if you
guys do read it when it comes out and I hope you will, please
don’t spoil it for other people. Because there are some sort of ginormous twists
in it, so, yeah. Fingers crossed.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah. And so, you know I’m glad
you’re sticking with fantasy. You know what is it about
fantasy that you enjoy?>>Leigh Bardugo: You know,
it’s so rare that I don’t seek out something with a
fantastical element. I love genre, I grew up
on genre, it was the thing that really saved me from the
absolute mundanity of my world. I hated school. No offense to school
but I was miserable. I was in this weird
all-girls private school. And they were just like
strange goth girl what are you doing here? But it was not; it was the
90s it was a terrible time. But I was utterly
miserable there. I was having a really
rough time at home. My mom had just remarried. Like, that was when
I discovered genre and writing fantasy really
was like a survival mechanism. And I think, I don’t know I
think fantasy readers have an edge on everyone. Like, we never stop
believing in weird, magical, incredible stuff. You know for us the call box
is always bigger on the inside. We are always waiting for
the invitation to Hogwarts. We always think there’s
something lurking in the woods. And it’s the best way to live. And I would not want to
live any way else, you know. So, yeah, fantasy or die.>>Everdeen Mason:
I know, although.>>Leigh Bardugo:
Everybody’s like yes. Weirdness [applause]. Don’t encourage me.>>Everdeen Mason: No, but
it’s funny because I feel like so much fantasy is
centered around youth, and like who’s going to write
the magical anime for us? Like, woman turns 30 had
certain cellulite ratio.>>Leigh Bardugo:
I really wanted, I pitched a screenplay
at one point. It was about a chosen one
who was in her thirties. And like the dark immortal shows up to find the chosen
one, and he’s like what? Like [laughter],
because it’s so creepy that the dark immortal
one is always like, uh, teenage girl, excellent. You know, like I just wanted,
I was imagining like Tina Faye or like you know just
being like, what?>>Everdeen Mason: I know it’s
like teens don’t have like jobs that they have to go to.>>Leigh Bardugo: I mean
it’s easier to save the world when you don’t have to
worry about like benefits, or you know, like, but I
will say too, like I do think that those stories
retain resonance for us. And I just don’t; I don’t think
the idea of the magical journey, or of these secrete spaces
ever lose their excitement as we get older.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah,
and you know one thing that I’m very impressive
by you, just in general. But you’ve had a lot of
jobs that are not writing. And you know, you’ve been a make
up artist, you’re in a band.>>Leigh Bardugo: I mean
it’s not a good band.>>Everdeen Mason: Are
you still in a band?>>Leigh Bardugo: Yeah, we actually just recorded
two songs, if you follow me on the Instagram, like I actually posted
a couple of clips. And we’ll see how
the songs turn out. If I actually am
not too embarrassed by them, I’ll post them. I think it’s a good
idea to keep your toe into other creative things. I think it’s good to
rest the writing muscle and engage the creative
muscle elsewhere. I also think you know, I think
it’s good to have a lot of jobs. And to have had to hustle. Because writing is hard. It’s a hard business. And I think people sometimes
forget it’s a business. And that can be really difficult
to balance the creative and this other side of it. But yeah, I don’t trust people
who have never had a bad job. I really don’t. I don’t trust somebody
who’s never had a bad job or a bad boss. I’m like what do you
know about anything, if you have never had a Sunday
night when you’ve been like; and it’s the same as school. Like I used to feel this
way, I would just be like oh, Monday is upon me. You know, like I
remember that dread. And I think it’s
made me grateful for so much that’s
happened sense.>>Everdeen Mason: And so, I
forgot my line of questioning, I’m going to turn to my phone. I’m sorry guys [laughter]. I don’t do this very often.>>Leigh Bardugo: It’s
okay, I just overwhelmed you with my wisdom [laughter].>>Everdeen Mason: I know,
you’re so much wiser. So, tell us what
you have beyond. So, “King of Scars” is
coming out next year in 2019. And you have an adult fiction
book coming out after that.>>Leigh Bardugo:
Yeah, my first novel for adults I guess is
called “Ninth House” and it is also fantasy, but
it is set at Yale University. It is a cult murder
mystery set among the secret societies there. And it’s definitely a bit
different from what I’ve done. But I think that people,
especially people who liked “Six of Crows” and “Crooked Kingdom”
will find the same elements of dark magic and
power operating there. But that is set for
September of next year. Yeah, assuming I finish it
so keep your fingers crossed. And “King of Scars
comes out in January. “King of Scars” is a duology. So, those are the two big
things on the horizon for me.>>Everdeen Mason: Okay, and
can you tell us a little bit about you know what’s
inspiring you these days as far as your writing goes. Like what are you reading,
what are you listening to?>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh gosh. I mean I have listened to the
same album, music composer to draft all of my books in
“Six of Crows” and it was, his name Luadbi Ganaldi
[assumed spelling] and he’s an Italian composer. And I know it’s not
like hip or cool, I don’t know what
the youth listens to. but I love his music and
for whatever reason it trips something in my brain and really
allows me to go into this kind of deep, productive
mode that I love. Also, you know forever
Stevie Nicks, like I listen to Fleetwood Mac on a regular. And that’s to me. And also, I’ll say Janel
Monet’s last album was for me, like the most joy bringing, like
angry making, wonderful thing to listen to when I need like
to break and like refresh.>>Everdeen Mason: Yeah,
and how am I doing on time? And I good? Okay. Sorry. So, I kind of want to go back. I just want to keep talking
about Jesper [laughter]. I have a crush on him.>>Leigh Bardugo: I’m so glad.>>Everdeen Mason: He has the
same last name as my husband.>>Leigh Bardugo: No
way, you’re a Fahey?>>Everdeen Mason: I
guess, technically yeah.>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh my gosh. Well, he was named after
my friend Morgan Fahey. So, there you go.>>Everdeen Mason: We’re all
related actually unbeknownst to you. No, but you know when coming up
with that character, you know, can you tell me a
little bit more about when you were
designing his relationship with his father? I think it’s interesting,
he’s biracial. His father does not
necessarily look like him. And you kind of intermate
you know, the way that that
role was made up. Can you tell me a little bit
about what went into that, what kind of research you did?>>Leigh Bardugo:
I mean, I again, my peer group is largely
made up of biracial couples. And for me, they’re
the first people I come to even though they are not
writers per se, if I’m going to be addressing the experience
of a character of color. And, when I was creating
[inaudible] there were a lot of questions for me and I
think that there are things that I could have done
better, or done differently in the construction of
that world, but for me, I wanted to create a nation
that was people of color who had the most
advanced technology, and who had pushed back any
kind of colonial impulse, and that had this
thriving culture. And where they approach
Grisha power as something very
different than Ravka does. And where Jesper’s mother
really would not have wanted him to go fight for Ravka,
just because he happened to have been born
with this gift. So, they have a very
different relationship to magic, than the Ravkans do. It’s not militarized
in the same way. And there’s actually a character
in “King of Scars,” Lani and that’s all I’m going
to say about her right now. She’s from Noviazem
[assumed spelling] and some of you may recognize her
from “Crooked Kingdom” too. She was a minor character in it.>>Everdeen Mason: All right. So, I think we’re at
the time for questions. And I’m sure you guys
have lots of them. So, why don’t’ you guys
come up to the microphone and start lobbing
questions her way.>>Leigh Bardugo: Hello.>>Speaker 1: Hi.>>Leigh Bardugo: She’s
dressed as Laura Jean and she looks amazing.>>Speaker 1: Thank you so much. So, if you could like drop
another character or a bunch of characters from another YA
series into the grishaverse, who would you drop in? Personally I would suggest Lia
Sara [assumed spelling] meets Inej and they just have teeth.>>Leigh Bardugo:
Wait, who was the?>>Speaker 1: Lia and Inej.>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh,
I like that idea a lot. Oh wow. That’s really hard. I’m always afraid of dropping
characters in my world, because I’m pretty sure
they’ll get murdered [laughter]. You know, I’m a huge
Laney Taylor fan. You know what I would do, I would grab Brimstone,
and I would save him. Yeah, I would save him, and
I would put him in a palace in Ravka because he’s one of my
favorite characters of all time. Yeah, oh and I’d grab Howl
from “Howl’s Moving Castle.” And I would just have him in Ketterdam living the
life, like [laughter].>>Speaker 1: Thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: Yeah.>>Speaker 2: Hi, I
have a writing question. So, I was just wondering do
you have any advice for writers who are like at the
so close stage. Like polishing up their
manuscript, about to query, editing and all that and
just kind of so close.>>Leigh Bardugo: I
mean I assume you have critique partners.>>Speaker 2: Yeah,
betas, critique partners, editors, lots of queries.>>Leigh Bardugo: Okay, I mean
look, querying is terrible. It’s a horrible,
frightening experience. Querying is when you write
a letter, or an email, and you go out to agents hoping
that someone will represent you. My best advice for querying is to treat your query letter
the same way you treat your manuscript, your critique
partner should be reading that too. And you should have people who have never read your book
read the query to make sure that your pitch makes sense. Keep it short. Be really careful in your
querying, like really know who you’re going after and
query in small batches, so that if you’re not
getting the response you want, you can tweak your approach. Because it may not be that
your book isn’t interesting or isn’t right for the
market, it may just be that you’re coming
in the wrong way. My agent, I never let her
forget this, she literally said, she’s like well the
letter wasn’t very good, but lucky for you
the pages were. You know? So, but it’s very hard
to get your foot int hat door. And I would say too if you’re
going out on query and then if you happen to get represented
and go on submissions, if you don’t get the
response you want right away, do not give up. Okay? The market is fickle. Publishing is difficult. And people get shutdown. All it means is you may
have to put that book away for a little while, be working on something else
while you’re querying. Because it is not
the be all, end all. And if you sell that next book,
the first thing they’re going to say is what else do you have? And you’ll be like, oh, hello. Look what I have for you. But don’t let it make you
think it has something to do with your talent or the
quality of your work. It is a market. It is a business.>>Speaker 2: Thank you.>>Speaker 3: Hi.>>Leigh Bardugo: Hello.>>Speaker 3: So,
clearly in your work, you’ve extensively researched
like real history and cultures and countries to influence
your world building. But how do you draw the line
between like real history, and how do you decide when
to shift things and when to keep things the same
as they are in reality?>>Leigh Bardugo: Look, I can’t
pretend to be an expert on that. I’ve taken a lot of heat
for some of the choices that I’ve made in
terms of language and culture and history. I create historical inspiration
as a point of departure. The thing I would say is what
makes a fantasy feel real is to me, that grounding. So, if you’re going to
write about dictatorships, you should read about
dictatorships. If you’re going to
write about farming, you should read about farming. I hate nautical research,
I will never write a book on a boat again, because “Seize
and Storm” is set on a boat, and I was like if I have to read
the word mizzen mast again I am going to lose my mind. But, these are the things we;
and the thing about research is that you’d know what
you’re going to call, and so you really have to use
the kind of soft focus view, and to really always be seeking
inspiration, and to try to fall in love with history as much
as mining it for information. But, I don’t know if that
actually answered your question, but that’s my best shot.>>Speaker 3: Thank you.>>Speaker 4: Hi,
so I had a question. I know you mentioned that
your first drafts are normally garbage.>>Leigh Bardugo: They are.>>Speaker 4: And
I really wanted to know how they compare
to the final copy. Because it is hard like to stop
comparing your work to others.>>Leigh Bardugo: I know. I know.>>Speaker 4: And I
wanted to like really know like the details, like.>>Leigh Bardugo:
So, let’s first, so what I write is what
I call the zero draft. This is a draft that
nobody will ever see. Not my editor, not
my friends, anyone. This is where I’m
telling myself this story. And it’s full of placeholders. And it’s quite short. It’s almost like an
elaborate outline. The first zero draft of “Six of Crows” was 30,000
words long, okay. The final draft of “Six of
Crows” is 130,000 words long. Okay? So, but I still
have a whole book, so I can see the beginning,
and middle, and end. I can see where there
might be pacing problems. And I know what some of the
questions are when I come out of it, before I
get too deeply in it. Then, the first draft is
still, pretty terrible. It really is. That’s not where I’m; I think it
was my friend Jess Brodie said, you know you can’t decorate
the house before the walls are built. So, that’s what you’re doing. You’re telling yourself
the story. And you need to give yourself
permission to be as obvious and ridiculous as
you need to be. And you need to give yourself
permission to have moments where you feel like a hack,
or you feel like a fraud and you just keep
moving through the story. I always describe writing a book
as not the process of falling in love, but of staying in love. You fall in love with
idea, but there’s a moment where you’re going
to fall out of love. And that moment can
last a very long time. For me, I loved the
idea for “Six of Crows” but through drafts
one, and two and three, I kept thinking wow this
is a great idea for a book, and somebody else
should write it. Somebody smarter. You know? Like, I thought
I was not up to the task. And I did not fall back
in love until I was really at the last pass before copy
edits, and I thought, okay, this is actually working. So, you’re not alone. You just have to keep going.>>Speaker 4: Okay, thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: Yeah.>>Speaker 5: All right, hi. I just want to say, I’m
just a big fan of your work. I’ve been reading it
ever since it came out. And something I thought
was interesting is that you are coming out with
an adult fantasy series. And I think, like
fantasy is becoming more and more popular among YA books. And I kind of want to know
like what’s the difference between like a YA
fantasy and adult fantasy. Like, how does that make
it like a different story and affect the characters?>>Leigh Bardugo: You know,
that’s a great question. And I found myself
asking it too. Because people kept saying,
well what makes this different from your other books. The closest I can get to
telling you is that part of it was just a gut thing. I knew that Alex’s story
did not belong in YA. And I can’t give you like a
concrete reasons for that. But the closest I can get is
to say that YA tends to deal with a specific moment in time,
particularly fantasy, right? You’re leading up to a heist,
or a revolution, or a prom, or whatever it’s going
to be that is kind of this one clear moment. Whereas I think that
in my adult fiction, it’s really about the long game. Because this is a
girl who has come from tremendous disadvantage and
who really just wants to survive in a world full of people who have a lot more
privilege than she does. So, I think that that for me
is maybe the dividing line, but it’s definitely
a blurry one. And you can see there’s a
tremendous amount of crossover and readership between
adults and YA fantasy.>>Speaker 5: All
right, thank you so much.>>Leigh Bardugo:
You’re so welcome.>>Speaker 6: Hi. So, I’m a huge fan
of “Six of Crows” and as a writer I’ve been
always really impressed by like how intricate
the plot was of that and “Crooked Kingdom” like
just how many good plot twists there are. So, I guess my question is like,
what is your thought process when you go about coming up
with Kaz’s plans and his heists?>>Leigh Bardugo: So, again,
there’s a reason it’s a duology. Here’s the thing about plotting. I plot, I use the
screenplay method, the three-act structure to plot. And what that helps me do,
is it helps me see things like where the midpoint
turnaround is. Where the end of the first act
is, and it’s very useful to me in terms of pacing
and understanding where I need a big
moment in the story. When it comes to the complexity
of the plot, what I am trying to do is throw up as
many obstacles as I can. And I don’t want them
all to be the same. I want to really, like
one of my favorite, one of the things I learned from reading George RR
Martin was kill everyone. No, [laughter] but
it actually wasn’t. People are always like
who are you going to kill. And I’m like who I
kill isn’t important. What matters is if
you take a character and what is most
important to them, and what they think defines
them, and then you take it away. And that’s what makes
a plot interesting. Not how many twists
and turns there are. Those you will get to. But in that first draft
when you’re figuring it out, really be thinking about character I think
more than anything else.>>Speaker 6: Okay, thank you.>>Speaker 7: Hi. I really love the world
building in the “Six of Crows” books particularly. So, something I was wondering is
you were talking about research, but what is your process like
in terms of how much you know about the world as
you’re writing. Like do you feel like you
really know it early on, or is it something that comes through later in
other revisions?>>Leigh Bardugo: I know
some things going in, but I don’t know
everything going in. I tend to break world
builders into two categories. There are the Tolkien’s
and there are the Martin’s. And that is not to say that
you have to be an old white guy to write fantasy, you don’t. But those are you know
these are worlds that a lot of people are familiar with. And Tolkien knew everything
before he sat down to write. He had built these
languages and these histories. And Martin didn’t. You know when people ask him, you know where’s the
rest of the Dothraki? Before the television
show, it didn’t exist. He wrote what he
needed for the page. You can be either. All right, there’s no
right way to build a world. You just have to be careful
of the parallels within them. I tend to know the
structure of the world and the way power operates
in it; magical, political, personal when I’m going in. And sometimes I know
a little bit more about why the world
operates in this way. But it’s really not until the
later drafts when the texture of a place, the smell
of a place, the way its economics work
really come into play. And I think a story really
only begins to walk and talk when those two things,
sense of power and sense of place start to work together.>>Speaker 7: Thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: You bet.>>Speaker 8: Hi, I really
absolutely love the characters in “Six of Crows” and “Crooked
Kingdom” I love them a lot. So, who is your favorite
of all of the characters in that duology and what’s
your inspiration for them?>>Leigh Bardugo: I don’t
really, I mean look. I don’t have a favorite. Like, they have all
been favorites of mine at certain moments, and
I’ve wanted to murder all of them at certain times. It’s just the reality of
writing a character’s journey. I think that some characters
were more natural for me to write, like Kaz and Nina. And I think some were
harder to write; well, no. Nina was tough actually. Nina was tough until I
really got to know her. But I think that in
terms of inspiration, there’s no particular
person, or actor, or character who inspired them. They really came to life. I will say that some
of the fanart I’ve seen of them has actually changed the
way I imagine them in my head. And I didn’t set out to do that. But you know Kevin Wada tells
you what Jesper looks like, and you’re like okay [laughter]. Right?>>Everdeen Mason: So, good.>>Leigh Bardugo: So good, yeah.>>Speaker 8: Thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: You bet.>>Speaker 9: Hi, so, obviously
places in “Six of Crows” and the grishaverse trilogy,
a lot of them are inspired by real life places
and cultures. So, I was wondering if you had
like a specific maybe place or culture in mind that you kind
of wanted to write about next or may be incorporate and
give some like recognition to?>>Leigh Bardugo: That’s
really interesting. I feel like whenever I
travel, and I haven’t been able to travel a lot in the
last couple of years because of issues
related to my disability. But, I think that when I travel, I find myself looking
for influence. I think you know, I think
there’s already a little bit of Venice in Ketterdam, but it’s
my favorite city in the world, and I wouldn’t mind writing, but I feel like Jay
Kristoff already got there, but maybe I’ll write my own
Venetian inspired fantasy some day.>>Speaker 9: Thank you.>>Leigh Bardugo: You bet.>>Speaker 10: Hi. So, maybe you already
answered this. I know you talked about revision
earlier in the interview. So, I was just going to ask
any sort of tips you have for revision, or maybe what some
of your like, prominent stages and steps are in your
revision process.>>Leigh Bardugo:
Revision for me is, again, in the first couple of drafts to really let yourself
off the hook. You are really trying to find
your own way into the story. Then, as I get deeper I really
rely on the editorial process. You have to have good readers
who you trust and who are going to be able to divorce their
own likes and preferences from the way that they
give you critique. So, find good critique
partners and then listen to them with an open mind. As authors we are asked to
walk a line between delusions of grandeur and abject humility. And that is a hard thing to do. And you’ll find yourself
flopping either way. There are days, where
you’re like, I’m a genius, and then there’s day where
you’re like I am nothing. So, you have to;
that is the challenge of being a creative person. I think we can do one more
question and I’m sorry.>>Speaker 11: Hi. So, I’m taking a
class this semester where we apply legal theory
to sci-fi and fantasy. So, I’m wondering
how you constructed.>>Leigh Bardugo: We can take
no more questions [laugther]. Sorry.>>Speaker 11: So, I’m wondering
how you constructed the legal/political system
in your books.>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh, for me, those inspirations really
did come from history. There’s a strong resemblance to
Imperial Russia, particularly of the 1800s in Ravka. The Dutch Republic of the
1700s was a huge influence on Ketterdam, particularly
in the way that they operated
their shipping. But there are also elements of
those places that have to do with Las Vegas, and early
New York/New Amsterdam. But I really go to
existing systems to guide me in those things. That was hard. Hard question. I need more about like who’s
your favorite character and what cappuccino
do they drink, no.>>Speaker 11: Thank you.>>Everdeen Mason:
Well, I think, we can take one more, probably.>>Leigh Bardugo: Oh.>>Everdeen Mason: Just one
more, can we take one more.>>Leigh Bardugo: All right.>>Speaker 12: Hi, Ms. Bardugo.>>Leigh Bardugo: Hi.>>Speaker 12: This might seem
like a kind of weird question, but Kaz like is one of my
favorites and he makes some at least questionable
like decisions, like during the books,
and like before the books. And I’m just wondering how
did you make him so likable. Because like I love
Kaz [laugther]. And like he just like
murders people like, oh, yeah. Here. He put this rod into his
eye and pushed him off a boat, so like how did you do that?>>Leigh Bardugo: All right. All right. How did I like Kaz likeable? Some people don’t like Kaz. And when I wrote [laughter]. Get out. No, so some people
don’t like Kaz and you have to be comfortable when you
are writing a morally great character with not
everybody liking that person. I think likeability is boring. I think what’s interesting
is competence. What’s interesting is reality
and feeling like you’re engaged in that person’s struggle. And I like when people
question why they like or don’t like a character. Well, let’s be honest,
YA loves evil white boys. You all love it. You give a character
dark hair and an agenda, and all of the sudden,
people are like, I know he murdered 50 people, but love my small
cinnamon roll [laughter]. Like, you know so
this is the thing. But I love anti-heroes and I
think I’ll always write them because I think they bear
a greater resemblance to who we really are.>>Speaker 12: Thank you.>>Everdeen Mason:
All right folks, that’s all we have time for. Thank you so much,
thank Leigh [applause].>>Leigh Bardugo: Thank you.

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