Erin Morgenstern backstage at the Fitzgerald Theater before her Nov. 9 Talking Volumes appearance. / Photo by Claude Peck

She labored over scraps and fragments for years, saying “I always thought about writing more than I actually wrote.” But when Erin Morgenstern finally gathered her pieces into a whole, she created an atmospheric world in her debut novel, “The Night Circus.” It captivated readers and made her a bestselling author.

Still just 34, Morgenstern appeared Friday, November 9 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul and charmed a nearly full house with stories about her characters and her creative process.

Morgenstern was the final guest in a 2012 Talking Volumes author-appearance season that included Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin and Abraham Verghese. She was interviewed by Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio.

Among various things that influenced the Smith College theater major and visual artist was the British troupe Punchdrunk Theater and its “Sleep No More,” which sends audiences through an elaborately decorated series of rooms in a giant New York City warehouse to experience a wordless, nocturnal “Macbeth” based mostly on movement and atmosphere. “I loved that production,” Morgentstern said. “It was immersive and unforgettable.”

Morgenstern also credited her own “vivid dreams" for helping her develop the circus world surrounding her novel’s cast of characters.

A lifelong reader, Morgenstern said the as a girl she often took books into her closet, where nothing could distract her entry into fictional worlds. When she started trying to write her own fiction, she said, she “learned that writing is a really messy process” full of re-ordering, tossing out and revising. “I don’t write in chapters, and I don’t write in order,” she said. “I’m not really an outliner, as is probably dreadfully obvious.”

Morgentstern’s fans keep urging her to come out with another novel. She has three or four ideas in progress, but “my next book will be a while.” And it won’t be a sequel to “The Night Circus,” she said.

The Massachusetts native is in the process of moving from Boston to New York. There, she said, she hopes to get back to writing after a long period on tour to promote her first novel.

Star Tribune interview with Morgenstern, and review of her novel. 

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