It was a crisp, warm day. I’d stepped out of the train station with a deep, anticipatory feeling racing in my veins. Not exactly adrenaline, this feeling, but something much lighter, something celebratory. Something free. The sun’s rays stretched into Georgia soil, warming it and my skin so comfortingly. Today was the Decatur Book Festival. Many different organizations were in attendance. I’d seen the AJC, Georgia State and Emory University tents. Each had representatives present as civilians chatted on the sidewalks. Food trucks were parked in between the strips of green that served as family parks and the trendy, uptown shops. They had such a variety of foods, from Louisiana cuisine to authentic Chinese cooking to even homemade beer, they were all fascinating little blocks of history and culture delivered through food. They looked delicious. My mouth watered in hunger, but I was broke, and that food, while great-looking, was expensive.
There were so many different things! Books on different religions, Native American studies, and a writer’s association devoted to collecting and celebrating the works of famous authors. There were also many other authors I didn’t know who were promoting their own work.
I was there to conduct an interview with a pretty famous author. Her name is Victoria Schwab. She’s a Southern bestseller who’s written novels for all ages, including the one I’d read the night before, “This Savage Song.” I’d made my way into Little Shop of Stories, a brightly colored book store filled with yellows, light blues and oranges. The walls are filled with Dr. Seuss designs and colorful photos. The lights are chandeliers, hung fashionably low but not so low as to distract from the sense of family friendly fun bouncing from wall to wall. Children were also bouncing from wall to wall. Children here, there, children everywhere! I was so glad I didn’t get caught up in all that energy and hype.
Pretty soon I was upstairs in the store’s loft, interviewing Schwab. She has red hair and a kind face with glasses, and she’d written the amazing book that I loved. I really connected with her on how she viewed books and what books mean for the reader. Fiction, I found out, had been life-long love for her, despite truly committing to the act of writing a novel in her college years. When I asked about the impact fiction had on her life, she replied, “I was 11 when the first Harry Potter book came out. I’d read many other novels before, but that was one of the books where reading became fun — where I would read and the world around me would dissolve.”
I’d had my own fair share of dissolving in books, but I’m a character-driven kind of girl. I love exploring connections between people. So I’d asked, “Would you say you learned more about how people connect with each other as a writer?”
Schwab said, “I’ve become a kind of psychologist in trying to draw out my characters. What they fear, what they want. And in that, I’m assessing people and how they work.”
Characters are an integral part of “This Savage Song.” August and Kate advance the entire plot of the book. I’d gushed over them because they’d affected me so. The book holds many themes like man vs. self, control over your environments, dealing with anxiety and so on.
The book also tests the limits of what is considered humane and monstrous.
The conversation went on. I got to know more about how Schwab views her work. Relationships are a very important theme, but not the ones you’d expect. She’d told me something significant: Non-romantic relationships, while not as common in YA fiction, are just as important, if not more important to the character. She told me about facing your fears as a writer, the relevance of “getting to the end,” and how writing her first novel became one of the most exciting things she’d done.
I learned about characters and their importance and how much of yourself to put into them. But one of most important things I’d been given was a reason to read her novels. So why read a Victoria Schwab novel? What does she want readers to take away from them?
Said Schwab: “I write from the perspective of outsiders because I’ve felt like an outsider. So even if you don’t see yourself in other people, you are not alone.”
Catherine, 19, a teen reporter for VOX who enjoys all things monstrous.