Person of Interest: Erin Morgenstern

Life becomes fantasy for the author of The Night Circus.

erin morgenstern

Photo by Conor Doherty

There’s no script for emerging as a publishing phenom, so Erin Morgenstern is having to improvise. When the Boston resident’s debut novel, The Night Circus, a tale of forbidden love, magic, and a mysterious game, hit stores in September, critics were quick to call it the next Twilight series, and Morgenstern a future J. K. Rowling. The book, about a secretive circus that becomes the stage for dueling powerful magicians, was optioned for a film by the producers of Twilight before it was even released. And it’s easy to see why.

In The Night Circus, Morgenstern weaves together some of the most popular threads in publishing today: magic, secret identities, and the slow simmer of romance. Her prose lends fantastic (and fantastical) realism to her characters, scenes, and magic sequences. Like both Harry Potter and Twilight, The Night Circus abounds in surprises—almost anything could be waiting through the next heavy curtain.

In some ways, the same could be said of Morgenstern herself. Not long ago, the 33-year-old was an unpublished novelist and artist living in Salem and selling paintings on the online arts bazaar Etsy. Soon, if all goes according to plan, she’ll be a blockbuster author. But after the first week of events to promote her book, she feels like she’s in limbo between the two identities. “Everything is in a weird state of flux,” she says. “New apartment, new book, new everything.”

For now, Morgenstern is going strong on the novelty and energy of her newfound fame, even if it means her quiet and anonymous life is probably gone forever. “I’ve been trying not to take myself too seriously, because this is all so bizarre and strange,” she says. “They don’t really tell you as a writer that you’re going to have to talk a lot. And once you’re successful at it, you don’t have time to write.”