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Literary Easter Eggs

Artists, programmers, and other professionals have been known to hide signatures in their work. In computer programming, it’s the “easter egg” you find in many video games; for example, there’s a reference to Star Wars in Skyrim if you know where to look. Authors and publishing professionals are not immune to this urge to leave their mark on their work.

Lewis Carroll left the name of the person who inspired the character of Alice in Alice in Wonderland hiding in a poem within the novel. But it’s not obvious to everyone who reads the book—it’s a little hidden secret left to be found because there is simply a joy in finding these little references.

Every Stephen King novel references at least one other Stephen King novel. For fans of the author, it can be a fun detail to spot in each novel, especially since they are stand-alone novels that can be read in any order.

Another literary easter egg highlights a friendship between authors. In her book, King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard names two guards “Caz” and “Brekker.” To those who aren’t a part of the readership overlap between Victoria Aveyard and fellow fiction writer Leigh Bardugo, these names likely seem like odd fantasy names. Within the overlap of their readership, it’s an obvious easter egg pointing to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows character, Kaz Brekker. There was excitement and questioning from fans over this easter egg, but it was confirmed by the author on her Tumblr.

I experienced my first dose of literary easter egg excitement recently, which is what got me thinking about the idea in the first place. I spent my spring break reading Christopher Paolini’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. Having read the Inheritance Cycle novels that he had written at the start of his career, I spotted something that really connected with me: a reference to a character from his earlier novels, Angela.

As a reader, I see literary easter eggs as a little signal to the fans. It’s like an inside joke. A way to let their readers know, “Hey, I see you.” Or at least that’s the feeling I get when I spot them.

As the Digital Manager, I primarily work in computer coding, though I can say that it’s easy for me to hide little jokes in the code for other programmers to find. There’s a joy in creating easter eggs in our work, just as there is joy in finding them. To all my fellow authors and publishing professionals, have fun with the little marks that you once worked on that piece, even if it’s only for you. There’s a real joy in it.

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