The Arts

Finding the Thrill
Bestselling novels and a popular podcast plumb the criminal and comical

By Liz Krieger ’97 / November–December 2023
November 8th, 2023

Writer Dana Schwartz ’15 hadn’t even finished her AB yet but she was already working on her MFA in writing. On Twitter, that is—under the handle @GuyinyourMFA, the pitch-perfect parody account that sent up a very particular type of faux-sensitive, humility-challenged writing workshop peer who seemed all too real.

Image of Dana Schwartz looking through some plants

Growing up in Highland Park, Illinois, Schwartz had always surrounded herself with the literary world of books, writing, and reading—“My favorite childhood summer was the two weeks I spent at writing camp,” she says—but started her time at Brown quite sure that she’d become a doctor, not a writer. And yet, within five years of graduating, Schwartz had already published her first novel, And We’re Off, as well as a genre-busting, long-form personality quiz–cum-memoir, Choose Your Own Disaster. This switch wasn’t without some trepidation: “I was nervous to try to make this a career,” says Schwartz, who ended up concentrating in public policy, thanks to her love of history and writing. “I’m someone who thrives on external validation and on gold stars—and I didn’t see the concrete steps toward getting to that with writing. It seemed like a nebulous and difficult job.”

But the gold stars certainly have come—in the form of having her 2022 young-adult gothic  romance novel Anatomy hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, which she followed up, in early 2023, with the second in the duology, Immortality. Both novels are set in the macabre world of Regency-era surgery in early-1800s Edinburgh, which helped Schwartz use her passion for science and medicine in ways she never imagined.

Since 2019, she’s also written and hosted the popular podcast Noble Blood, which dives deep into the histories of the world’s most fascinating royals—from the criminal to the comical and beyond. “The thing about doing a show about royalty is that there seems to be infinite stories,” says Schwartz. “Every time I do an episode on one topic, it seems to lead me down a path to three more stories I could do. I could do months of the show just on Marie Antoinette alone!”

Dana Schwartz with fans at a book store in NYC
PHOTO: Philip Romano

Through it all, Los Angeles–based Schwartz is doing what she didn’t entirely think was possible: braiding together what may have seemed like disparate interests—medicine, history, fiction—but ones that all continue to provide her thrills. “I love being able to jump between media, and the person that I’ve always wanted my career to emulate is someone like Neil Gaiman, who has gone between novels and comic books and films and TV—but with a voice and a tone that remains so consistent. For me, my north star is always that it be something that genuinely interests me and excites me. Is it something that if I didn’t write it, would I want to read it? If I am excited by it, then the work doesn’t feel quite as much like work.”

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Related Issue
November–December 2023