As the New York Times bestselling author of the Grishaverse novels—three million sold worldwide—Leigh Bardugo has kept many a young adult up at night with her gripping fantasy tales. (Netflix is currently making a TV series out of the books.) Now she brings her brand of alchemy to the adult world with the publication of Ninth House (Flatiron, Oct.), a fantasy tale of power, privilege, and dark magic set among the Ivy League elite—in particular, Yale’s storied secret societies. Show Daily talks with Leigh Bardugo about this turn in genre, among other things.

What inspired you to enter the adult field?

It wasn’t that I wanted to leave YA behind, but this story pushed me into adult. I think the violence feels more visceral, maybe because it’s more explicit, maybe because it’s set in our world. And I think my heroine’s goals are a little different. Alex isn’t working toward a single moment of revelation or revolution. She’s living with the terror of trying to build a life and a future.

Will Ninth House be a standalone or the beginning of a series?

I definitely conceived it as a series and I’ve left quite a few questions unanswered. But for readers who are hesitant to get involved in a series, I think the book could stand on its own.

This is set at Yale. Elite colleges have been at the center of much discussion these days about the privileged and powerful. Was this a deliberate choice?

I went to Yale, and the idea was born of being in that environment where there are actual secret societies with actual “tombs,” or clubhouses, scattered around campus. I thought, what if these weren’t just old-boy networks? What if they were repositories of arcane knowledge? I wanted to write a dark, magical romp. But you can’t explore these ideas at an institution like Yale without discussing privilege, and I couldn’t dig into my own time as an undergraduate without confronting issues of gender and power.

What attracted you to the science fiction and fantasy field?

Science fiction and fantasy saved me. When I went to junior high, I started a new school, my mom remarried, we moved. I was having a really tough time. That’s when I started reading and writing in these genres. It became a survival mechanism—these worlds were expansive in a way that my world was not. They showed me places where being clever, brave, and dangerous mattered more than being cheerful and cute. It was a lifeline.

Today, 1:40–2:20 p.m. Leigh Bardugo discusses Ninth House on the Downtown Stage.

Today, 3–4 p.m. Bardugo will sign 100 galleys at the Macmillan booth (1544).