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This blog was featured on 11/11/2019
Erin Morgenstern on NaNoWriMo, Gaming & World Building
Written by
She Writes
November 2019
Written by
She Writes
November 2019

In 2012, Erin Morgenstern delivered her phantasmagorical debut novel, The Night Circus, which went on to sell more than 3 million copies. Now, after a long eight-year wait, fans can once more hold an Erin Morgenstern novel in their hands.

The Starless Sea, released this month, is a fantastical fairytale for adult readers about 24-year-old graduate student Zachary Ezra Rawlins, a fortuneteller’s son, who discovers a mysterious library book – about himself. What he finds inside takes him on a mind-bending adventure and promises the same to Morgenstern’s readers.

On Writing Her Sophomore Novel

“I got to write The Night Circus in a bubble,” she explains. “No one knew who I was and no one knew it was coming. I wanted to be able to recreate that bubble, which of course was easier said than done,” she told EW.

On Change

For fans who are expecting The Night Circus 2, Morgenstern says:

“This one still has my sensibility, but it’s a very different book.”

And the author is different this time around, too.

Morgenstern admits, “I don’t feel like the person who wrote The Night Circus. It’s been so long. I’m in a completely different place.” Similarly, near the beginning of The Starless Sea, Zachary notes, “Every seven years each cell in your body has changed, he reminds himself. He is not that boy anymore.”

The excerpt above was originally published on Book Page. Read the full interview here.


With poetic timing, Morgenstern debuted her second novel in November, which we also know as National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO). And it’s the organization within NANOWRIMO that the author credits for keeping her goal oriented.

“I was always the sort of person who thought I might like to write but I would write a page or a few paragraphs and hate it so I would stop. This is not a particularly effective way to learn to write. I started doing National Novel Writing Month because I liked the concreteness of word counts and deadlines and specific goals. And little graphs, I love a good graph.”

This excerpt was originally published in Haute Macabre. Read the full interview here.

On Creativity

Morgenstern is an artist, as well as a writer. Here she shares about how those two skills influence one another.

“I like to say that I can paint what I can't write and write what I can't paint. I think that because I'm used to painting and to thinking of things in a very visual sense, I always picture what I'm writing. It's almost like trying to write pictures sometimes. I sort of know what's going on, and then I distill the pictures into words,” she said in an interview with Powells.

“I'm kind of a messy painter. I get paint on everything,” she continued. “I seem to have adopted the same techniques when I'm writing. I write and write and write, and change things, and move things. I don't try to get it perfect on my first try, which I think is really good for me.”

On Process

Morgenstern admits that in many ways, she’s still looking for her process and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.

“I didn’t set out to be a writer, so I’m figuring it out as I go along. I still tend to binge write. I’ll have days that are thinking days when I just let things stew in my head and maybe take a couple of notes and other days when I’ll write pages upon pages,” she said in a 2017 interview with Haute Macrabre after releasing The Night Circus.

On Inspiration

In her latest novel, Morgenstern’s main character Zachary is studying Emerging Media, and is a gamer. Video games impacted her writing process, she says. Here’s how:

“I think for me, it was one of those lightbulb moments. In 2014, I was playing Dragon Age, thinking about how RPG narratives work and how you can have different versions of the same story based on the player choices you may make. I could play it one way, and you can play in another way and make different decisions. And it’s like, it’s a different story. But what’s the real story?”

This idea got her thinking.

“This is sort of my tagline: I thought I was writing a book about books, but it turned into a book about stories.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Crimson. Read the full interview here.

On World Building

Morgenstern is credited for piecing together some of the most imaginative and fantastical landscapes within her worlds.

“They show up in my head, like someplace I visited once in a dream and can almost-not-quite remember so I have to keep exploring it in my head over and over again. Sometimes it feels more like excavating than building because it’s all there, I just need to figure out how to translate the space into words.”

This excerpt was originally published on Dead Darlings. Read the full interview here.

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