Author Confessions: Leigh Bardugo
Acclaimed YA author Leigh Bardugo took time out of her whistlestop tour of the UK to take her turn in our author confessional. Read on, we say, read on.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
That to be a writer you have to write 1500 words a day – I used to think that if I took a day off, I was failing, and I wasn’t a real author; I was a fraud. But the truth is that I don’t work that way. I work in big bursts of creativity that will last a few weeks at a time, and then I need a few days off when I don’t write anything at all, and when I don’t even look at the draft. I don’t feel guilty about those days anymore.
Which author or fictional character would you most like to party with?
I wouldn’t mind partying with Prince Nikolai from my own books, because I happen to know he doesn’t stint. A celebrity? I think Gwendoline Christie - I love her.
When I'm making choices, I like to think to myself: what would Helena Bonham Carter do?
Have you ever pretended to have read a book to impress someone?
Yes, regularly. I have incredibly smart, well-read friends and I frequently nod and say 'hmm,' when they refer to books I haven’t read. I’ve gotten through quite a few brunches pretending to have read Jonathan Franzen.
Who would play you in a movie?
I would really like to be played by Helena Bonham Carter because when I am making choices, I like to think to myself: what would Helena Bonham Carter do? and then do it.
How do you arrange your bookshelf?
I don’t. My bookshelves are complete chaos. I occasionally try to group research books; my history books tend to be organised by country. But I'm really messy with my shelves. As a treat to myself, I hired an organiser who colour coded my fiction books. It does look really beautiful, but I buy books so frequently the colour structure has already started to break down.
What would your dream job be if you weren’t an author?
Keeping in mind that I cannot sew, or draw, and I have no knowledge of textiles, I would love to be a fashion designer.
Which book should every child read?
I’d like to recommend two books: one is called Many Moons by James Thurber. I don’t understand why more people haven’t read it: It's a story about a princess who grows ill from a surfeit of raspberry tarts, and she feels that the only thing that will make her well is the moon. So all of the King’s advisors are brought together to acquire the moon for her, but as it turns out, it’s a jester who knows the answer to the riddle. It is a beautiful, perfect story.
I would also really love it if every teenage girl would read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's the book that I wish I had read when I was twelve.
What is the strangest thing about the place you grew up?
I grew up in Los Angeles, so you’d need a solid two hours for me to list all the strange things about it. I guess, the weirdest thing is that nobody is any one thing. Everyone is an aspiring novelist, an aspiring actor, an aspiring screenwriter or an aspiring model. So it’s a town that has this continuous thread of striving—and occasionally the whiff of desperation—hanging around the heads of spectacularly beautiful people. We have the best looking waiters in the world.
My bookshelves are complete chaos.
What’s your most embarrassing moment as an author?
I was at an awards ceremony once, and they had these big gentlemen to escort us across the stage – this was in front of an audience of around a thousand people. I was very nervous, and everyone only had a very short time to make their speech. I get up there, I’m shaking a bit, the large gentleman escorts me across the stage, mutters congratulations. I get up to the podium and get through my speech, and then he’s walking me back and I’m almost off the stage when my sleeve catches on the railing of the stairs and he continues, pulling me down the stairs, and so I scream at the top of my lungs, in front of a thousand people, ‘I’m attached! I’m attached!’. It was a good moment.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Finish a draft. Finish a messy, crazy, terrible first draft. Get the beginning and middle and end down on the page, because you’ll learn more from that draft than you could learn from a thousand perfect beginnings. Don’t believe that you only have one idea. As soon as you finish one thing, put it aside, start something else. You can always go back to that first idea and revise it. But don’t think that there is one book that you have inside of you, and that one book has to mean everything. It will paralyse you.
When was the last time you cried?
I cry often. I cry very regularly, and if someone cries in front of me, then I start crying. So it would be last night; a girl teared up at the event, and then I teared up and it was just messy. And I don’t cry cute either – I go red and puffy.
Who was your childhood crush?
There was an American actor named Ricky Schroder, whom I loved. He was on a show called Silver Spoons. Later he went by Rick and he was on NYPD Blue. Much more gritty. Oh, and Westley from the The Princess Bride.