Author & Editor Teams: Writing a Fantasy Novel with Stephanie Garber

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Ever been curious about editor/author relationships? In honor of our newly announced acceptance of All YA, we’ll be featuring different editor/author teams in different genres each week. Next up, Fantasy! Stephanie Garber, author of Caraval, tag-teamed with her editor, Sarah Barley, to answer some burning questions about crafting fantastical stories and the importance of staying on top of your TBR. And if you missed Stephanie's questions for Sarah yesterday, catch up here.

Can't get enough of spellbinding magic, ferocious monsters, unforgettable adventures and more? You've come to the right place!


Sarah Barley (SB): What is the most rewarding part of writing fantasy?

Stephanie Garber (SG): I love your answer, Sarah—I’m a big fan of books that have lots of geek-out potential as well. 

When it comes to writing, I love creating new worlds. I spent most of my childhood hoping that if I opened the right door or closet (there were no wardrobes in my house), I’d be whisked away to a world full of magic and wonder and fantastic dresses! Unfortunately, that never happened until I started writing fantasy. Now, whenever I open a new document and create a new place I feel as if I’m traveling there as well and experiencing the magic I always dreamed about as a child.

SB: What is the most challenging part of writing fantasy?

SG: World building. I love creating new worlds but it’s also really difficult for me. When I’m drafting I spend a lot of time thinking about my world, how to make it unique and creative and unexpected. But sometimes (or most times) I struggle to then convey all these ideas clearly on a page. I love fantasies that fully submerge readers into a different world, but it’s difficult to put lots of details and descriptions on the page without slowing the story down too much, or confusing the reader with too much information. So, my constant challenge is figuring how much to show, what to explain, and where and when to explain it, which is why it’s so awesome to have Sarah! She’s great at asking questions.

SB: What advice do you have for writers interested in writing fantasy?

SG: My answer is very similar to Sarah’s, but I’m not going to change it because I think it’s so important to read widely. Read authors better than you. Read inside your genre and outside of it, and never stop reading books on craft. I’ve found that since selling Caraval, I don’t nearly have as much time to read as I used to, but I still try to carve out time to read every day because I think it’s so important.

SB: Can you describe the writing process?

SG: My writing process has changed with every book, but one thing has remained constant. Whenever I begin writing a new book, rather than plot everything out, I begin by coming up with one idea that I am brutally obsessed with, and then I slowly explore it. For Caraval, it was the idea of creating a game that was fanciful and magical yet dark and possibly dangerous, because it left the players constantly questioning what was real and what was really just part of the game. I then built my entire book around that one idea.

SB: What's the last fantasy you read and loved? Why did you love it?

SG: The last fantasy I read and loved isn’t out yet—it’s the sequel to A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess and it was amazing. I think the thing I loved the most about it was how surprised I was by Jessica’s characters. They made a lot of unexpected choices, and as a result their character arcs did not end in the places I’d anticipated, which was awesome. I also loved the world in this book—for those of you who haven’t read the series, it take place in an alternate version of Victorian London, full of magic and monsters, yet it still has all the constraints and fantastic fashion that comes with this intriguing time period.    

SB: What would you wear to Caraval?

SG: This is a great question! I would want something beautiful, because it’s Caraval and I’d want to fit into my magical surroundings. However, I’m also kind of competitive, so if I went to Caraval I would want to win the game, which means I’d probably run around quite a bit. So I’d want a dress that would be easy to run amuck in. Then I’d top it off with fancy gloves, fun jewelry, and fashionable yet comfy boots.    

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