Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus, is one of the most buzzed-about books this fall. She's come a long way from the would-be novelist who worked odd jobs and was rejected by 30 literary agents. Now with her circus-set love story being tipped as the next Harry Potter, Erin's next high-wire act may be fending off the hype.
Like that other creator of unforgettable magic, Morgenstern comes from humble beginnings. Her novel writing began several years ago when she started to participate in National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo). Participants were expected to write a full-length novel, at least 50,000 words, in 30 days. Morgenstern was attracted to this project simply because it forced her to keep writing. "It was a really good way for me to get a lot of words down on a page," she explained to George Stroumboulopoulos in a recent interview. "Even if I wasn't going to use everything, I would have a lot to work from."
It was Morgenstern's 2004 project that would eventually become The Night Circus. Not being the kind of writer who planned her projects, she simply sat down and watched the words flow out. But that year, something wasn't quite working.
"I got so bored with what I was writing that I sent all the characters to the circus," she said. "And the circus was so much more interesting than anything else that was going on."
Now, seven years and several rejections later, Morgenstern has the aura of an overnight success. But she knows she's worked hard and, despite the Rowling comparisons, is keeping her feet firmly on the ground.
"It's been strange," she said. "Nothing is going to be the next Harry Potter."
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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"In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.
The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway — a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in "a game," in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will."