Words on Words: An interview with Erin Morgenstern

6 mins read

Every great story is an enchanted mirror, reflecting both the nature and action of its creation and the varied experiences of its audience. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, epitomizes this principle. Consider the Night Circus’ audience. Some, the reveurs follow the Night Circus as it travels from city to city, and experience it many times. Others enter its gates only when the Circus appears in their neighborhood, while still others never seek admission. Anyone who does not enter the pages of this novel will be much the poorer for it. This magnificent tale of tales, of bindings and passionate contests, of adjoining rooms of wonder and intimacy is itself a wonder and a challenge to all who enter. Whether you call it magic or manipulation Morgenstern has employed her art to put on a literary spectacle, and to encourage you to wander through its pages we asked Erin to answer some questions for this hard hitting Daily Bulldog interview.

Kenny: If the Night Circus were the first move in a contest made by your opponent what sort of book would you respond with?

Erin: I am finding myself with a similar conundrum in approaching my next novel, only that involves competing with myself. So I’ll answer with something I am trying to keep in mind while I’m writing: a book that is completely different, but still fantastical.

Kenny: The struggle of completing a book successfully is often reflected in its narrative. Did the strain Celia was under in holding the circus together mirror your task in completing the book?

Erin: It likely did, though I never thought about it in that way before. I had the luxury of letting it go and languish on my hard drive for stretches of time in between revisions, but it was definitely a struggle. I think the theme of balance was repeated frequently because the book felt like a balancing act itself.

Kenny: It sure seems that Celia and Marco are going to have a much more sociable separate heaven than Heathcliff and Cathy do wandering around the moors. Was the Night Circus’ more complex resolution, with its determination to restore the group binding, always rooted in the story or did it develop as the contest unfolded.

Erin: I knew what the resolution would be as soon as I started working with the idea of the contest. I had a lot of different elements throughout the writing process that were revised and reworked but once the pieces started to fall into place there was only one direction I felt really worked. It needed a resolution not just for the contest and for Celia and Marco, but for Bailey and the circus as a whole as well, part of the domino effect that began with the initial wager, all of the pieces needed to fall.

Kenny: The conversation between Widget and The Man in Grey can not be read enough times, it just seems to be on an island of its own. One thing I wish Widget had asked was whether the central difference between the Man in Grey and Prospero was that Prospero had never been in love?

Erin: Such a wonderful compliment for that scene, which has long been one of my very favorites in the entire book, thank you for that. I think that’s a marvelous question but I’m not sure Widget would ask such a thing, as it’s rather personal and Prospero is one of the few characters who Widget never had a chance to read properly. In thinking about it myself I’m not sure the differences are so easily explained, and I think a lot of things about Prospero’s past remain hidden purposefully, as he would have wanted. So had Widget asked that question, I’m not certain he would have received a clear answer.

Kenny:The Circus contained some tents that few ever encountered, even people who had wandered the ground many times. Are there any places or references hidden from view in the narrative that curious readers may stumble onto?

Erin: There are little literary references that I think are obvious and others that are probably more subtle. The lamppost in the Hall of Mirrors is a Narnia reference, of course. The Pool of Tears is a nod to Alice in Wonderland. The twins surname is a purposefully misspelled reference to A Wrinkle in Time, because my memory always insists on sticking an a in Murry.

There are other places and references, too, but I think they’re likely more fun to be discovered on their own.

Kenny: Thank you so much Erin!

Erin: It was my pleasure!

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