Author Interview: Stephanie Garber

Readers have been drawn into a fantastical new world by Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series. Finale, the third and final audiobook, is coming May 7, 2019. I spoke with Stephanie at Winter Institute (before I’d read the first two books), and she filled me in on her inspiration, the joys and challenges that came with finishing the trilogy, and the role independent bookstores have played in her life.

I read Caraval just a few weeks ago (and finished Legendary a week after that), and I was blown away by the world that Garber has managed to create around this magnificent, traveling game of Caraval.

“The story and the world took shape separately,” she said. “I had the world before the story.”

As I read, I could see her different sources of her inspiration come into play–the extravagance and the mystery that surround Caraval really define the series.

When Garber watched Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, the party scene inspired her. She wanted to write book that captured that extravagance. She wanted it to be “big and bright and a little obnoxiously over the top. Totally surreal, totally colorful.”

She created Caraval–a magical game, one where no one really knows what is real and what is a part of the game.

Another piece of inspiration came while she was listening to the radio when “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy came on. The lyrics that influenced her?

“Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me, for centuries”

Legend is the name of the character that runs the game. Very few know who he is or how he got his magic, and even those who do are bound by magic not to tell.

“I became obsessed with his character,” Garber said. “And I’d already been obsessed with the game for while.”

However, this character also presented a bit of challenge for her in Finale: “That character was such a mystery, and that character still–I felt like when I was trying to write him–wanted to be a mystery.”

As I read the first book, it struck me how the main character–quiet, cautious Scarlett–grew bolder as the game pushed her to her limits. As she wraps up this trilogy, Garber says she is seeing just how much her characters have developed: “For this book, it’s been so fun seeing all these things my characters wouldn’t have done–couldn’t have done– in the first book that they’re doing now. It’s like the story’s grown up.”

This book was different from the first two in the series for Garber because she knew exactly where she was going with it, how it would end. She’s excited to share the culmination of the story: “I feel like I have really awesome readers, and my readers have been so excited about this book, so it feels really, really special.”

Rebecca Soler has narrated the first two audiobooks, and she will narrate Finale as well. “She’s really performative,” Garber said. “She just brings things to life so much with her narration. I feel like she puts so much heart into what she does, and I’m really really thankful that we’ve had her for the whole series.”

I asked Garber what independent bookstores have meant in her life, and her answer is what most of ours would be: independent bookstores are community.

“Me and one of my closest friends would go there to [Kepler’s Books] book signings when they would have authors in town, and I made a ton of friends,” Garber said. “There was a strong writing community there. I didn’t have community where I lived, I didn’t know anyone. So I really found community going to those events. I learned so much by going and hearing the authors speak, so just personally, it meant a lot —really a whole lot—having that community.”

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