Lev Grossman Talks the Joy of Writing for Children in His Newest Novel, The Silver Arrow

Lev Grossman in 2007.  (Photo: Amy Sussman, Getty Images)
Lev Grossman in 2007. (Photo: Amy Sussman, Getty Images)

If you’ve come to Lev Grossman from his most popular work, The Magicians series of novels, his newest is going to be something of a departure. The Silver Arrow is his first middle-grade book, a story of an 11-year-old girl named Kate and an enchanted train given to her as a gift by her eccentric uncle. But even though it’s a book for kids, it has a lot to offer.

In a new interview with Syfy Wire, Grossman discussed his experience writing for children and what virtues The Silver Arrow has that his more adult novels might not. He also talked about his process for researching the book, which involved, naturally, reading a lot of kid’s stories.

“This was a good excuse to re-read all those incredible books you read as a kid that were so formative and really shaped you,” Grossman said. “They’re so wonderful, so powerful, and so emotional. When I was thinking about, ‘What stories do I want to be telling now?’ I naturally thought about trying to write something in that mode. Like Roald Dahl or E.B. White. I wanted something that had that slightly classic feel. Those were books for kids but they have very grown-up emotions in them.”

In that way, Grossman seems to be hoping to capture the power of timeless children’s novels that have more than a little bit of appeal for adults as well.

“here’s one in particular in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when Lucy steps through the wardrobe and into Narnia for the first time. She sees this light up ahead in the middle of this forest and she begins to walk toward it,” Grossman explained. “There was this moment of stillness and magic and anticipation. And there’s a moment like that in The Silver Arrow. That’s one of the stars I steer by as a writer.”

The Silver Arrow, he found, let him tap into emotional ranges that were harder to access in his adult works. It also let Grossman do something he really loved: writing talking animals.

“For some reason, I find it so much easier than writing people,” he told Syfy Wire. “When there’s an animal on the page, they’re not self-conscious, they just kind of do what they do. It’s much easier to write a talking porcupine than a talking human.”

If you’re interested in the book, Syfy Wire has an excerpt of it alongside the interview, which is well worth reading in its entirety. The Silver Arrow is out September 1, via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.