So, Macmillan sent all of their Fierce Reads authors to me tonight! It was so incredibly exciting to go, as this was my very first book event ever! The construction was insane, so I was really worried I would not make it in time. My ticket said that I had to be in my seat by 6:50, or I no longer had a seat reservation. Luckily, I ran in and up 2 flights of stairs and made it right at the last minute. I should not have worried, though. A lot of people came in a bit late, plus there were a few empty seats. I didn’t bring my camera, so crummy photos from my iPhone will just have to do.
The moderator for tonight’s discussion came in all dressed up in an elaborate costume, and introduced the tour. Then she took a minute to highlight each author separately, play their book’s trailer for us, and then have the author come to the podium to introduce their books and discuss the inspiration behind the story. I got a picture of each author, and took a few notes on what they had to say. A lot of interviews and tour recaps have been posted, so I’ll just say a few things I learned and observed.
– Marissa is adorable! She is so bubbly and energetic. While she was telling us about the synopsis of Cinder, she went through a wonderful summary of the events, and right before she sat down, she said, “Oh, wait! There’s a plague too!”
– She refers to her breakthrough moment in which the idea of Cinder popped into her had as the, “boy sparkling in a meadow moment.” She had a dream that Cinderella was running down the stairs after the ball in her huge ballgown, and instead of her shoe falling off, her entire foot fell off. Cinder was born.
– The remaining three books in the series are about more fairytale characters who all ban together to take over the Lunar people. Little Red riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White each get their own book. I’m so excited!
Anna Banks (Of Poseidon)
– I already knew Anna was hilarious, since I did an interview with her a little while ago. But she’s even funnier in person!
– She showed up tonight a little drugged on Benadryl. Apparently she’s allergic to Seattle, which is where they were before they came to Utah. Plus, she was in high heels (she claims to only do well in those if she’s standing still), so I was impressed!
– She said she gets asked a lot about why she chose mermaids for her book. She explained that everything else has already been beaten to death, except for Sasquatch. She’s not sure the market is ready for that yet. A Sasquatch romance? I could actually see it working!
– She fully believes that mermaids are out there. (I love that. I think they might be too!)
Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone)
– She has another life as a make-up artist! And she sings in a band. :)
– Her book is all about a metaphor becoming literal. She explains that in a lot of fairy tales especially, darkness is a metaphor. “And darkness fell across the land…” She started wondering, what if darkness was a place? What if the monsters you thought were in that darkness really were, and you had to fight them?
– I loved it when she said that no matter how old we get, darkness has this power to scare us.
– Her book was inspired by the world record holder for most lightning strikes survived. He had survived 7! He was a park ranger, and did not quit his job even though it made it easier to get struck by lightning. This made her wonder if maybe he liked it? Maybe it made him feel alive? So, she came up with the lightning addict.
Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14)
– She’s an actress, song-writer, and a teacher!
– She mentioned how much she loves the Provo Library (where tonight’s event was held), and that she was honored to be there. I love how humble she was throughout the entire panel.
– She said, “What’s wrong with me? Why would I do this to such nice characters?” Then she went on to reflect that she realized she did it because she wanted her characters to be able to show their humanity towards each other.
– I loved when she said that in the darkest times of our lives, we humans will do what we can to let the light shine from within us. So Profound.
– When she is not profound, she is absolutely hilarious.
After each author got to talk about her book, a text-in panel opened up. We texted our questions in to the moderator, who then put those up on a big screen. Then each author got to answer (I’m paraphrasing all the answers). I loved the set-up!
1. What scared you most about being a debut author?
MM – She’s been working her who life towards this, so she is more excited than scared. However, she was worried nobody would show up to her signings. It actually did happen to her once, but she was a good sport about it and had fun with the bookstore staff.
EL – She wrote Monument 14 with no audience in mind. She just wanted to tell her story. So she was worried nobody would like it.
JB – It’s hard for her to open up and share the things she has written with anyone and everyone.
LB – Everything. The cover, how much money would be spent on marketing, if people would care about the book, if she needed to go on a diet before tour. Haha. She sounds like me!
2. Was it hard creating brand new wolds and cultures?
MM – She wanted to blend a whole bunch of cultures into one: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, etc. So a lot of research went into play.
EL – Her story takes place in the not to distant future, so it mostly feels like it’s taking place now.
JB – She tore down a world, rather than building one up, by completely destroying Los Angeles. That city is near and dear to her heart, so she kind of laughed and said, “You hurt the one you love!” The cults in her book also angered a lot of people from various religions, so that was a challenge she had to get through.
AB – On land, her story takes place today. Underwater, it’s a completely different world. She mentioned that so many cultures and groups of people around the world have images of mermaids in their museums. Maybe one time long ago, mermaids and humans got along. Now, with all of today’s technology, where are they hiding? How can we not find them? That’s the world she had to create.
3. How is your book different from your first draft?
AB – She received her editorial letter, and after crying and drinking wine, and sleeping, and crying more, she knew her editor was right. She ended up cutting 17,000 words and writing 18,000 new ones.
LB – She did not have to make a ton of changes, but did have to let go of a few things, which was hard for her.
JB – Her draft started at about page 199 of the book she ended up publishing, so she had to do quite a bit of backtracking. She also did a TON of revising.
EL – She sold her manuscript based on the first 150 pages and proposals for the others. After writing and writing, she submitted the rest of her book and her editor wrote back saying, “This is very hard for me to say, but the book you have written is not the book we bought.” She also had to do quite a bit of re-working to make the second half match the first half.
MM – 100% different. There is not one sentence in Cinder that was in her original manuscript. She completely re-wrote it.
4. Discuss your writing environment. (The focus was on food)
MM – She writes in cafes and restaurants. She’s a picky girl. These places must have a plug for her laptop, beverages, and a chair. Haha!
EL – She fosters her ideas in her brain for 12 hours before writing! Before she gets in bed the night before, she thinks about her scene for the next day. Then she sleeps and lets her brain work. Then she wakes up, takes her kids to school, walks to work, turns on some classical music, and writes. And she loves sunflower seeds.
JB – She has to eat continuously. (And she’s cute and skinny!) She writes a few words, then eats, then writes, then eats. A bowl of popcorn and some lemonheads always accompany her.
LB – She goes out to places wearing her bluetooth headset so that she can pretend to have a conversation with someone, but instead talk to herself about her plans and her goals. CLEVER. and SNEAKY. If she’s writing at home, she tries to stay healthy and eat raw broccoli from a huge bag. One time she went out, though, and found it in her hair. Whoops!
AB – She gets up at 4:30 AM to write in her comfy chair, wrapped in a comforter with some coffee. At night she drinks wine and then writes. She does not eat while writing, because crumbs get stuck in the keyboard and you can’t get them out. Blowing and vacuums don’t work. She does take breaks for fried chicken and cheesecake, though.
5. Best experience since you’ve been published?
EL – Us. I got a little teary-eyed. She stood up and told us that we (her fans) are the best thing that’s happened to her book-wise, of course. She then proceeded to tell us that we had the best turn-out of all the other tour stops they went to (so far), and took our picture. She laughed and said we were so big that we did not fit in her camera’s lens. I think it was Anna who said, “That’s not very nice of you to say, Emmy…” :P
MM – Every person she knew showed up to her release party, but one little girl in particular made her night. She walked up to Marissa shaking and said, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done!!” and Marissa said, “Really? Me too!!!” SO cute.
JB – Filming her book trailer was the best, because the cast filled her vision of her characters so well. It’s like she got to meet them. Movies are a huge part of her life, so combining her book with film made her cry.
LB – When people tell her that they were up all night reading her book, because that’s how she is. She also cried when she saw the design of the map of the store in her book. Actually, everything made her cry.
AB – Her elderly mother was a skeptic the entire time Anna was going through the publishing process. She thought for sure Anna was being scammed and stolen from. When Anna got her first payment, she took the statement to her Mom and got to prove that this was the real deal.
Fun, huh? Then we got to get our books, posters, and swag signed! This was so much fun! I saw Anna first, and told her that I interviewed her on my blog, and she said, “And you are…” I told her I was Jana, and she lit up and said, “You’re Jana!!?!??!?” It made my entire week that she remembered me and knew who I was. She personalized my book, and even took the time to draw a really awesome shark on the title page. I am so happy I got to meet her. I’m not sure she’ll know how happy she made me! I’ll admit, I felt a bit famous.
Then I went to Leigh. She signed my things, and then said to me, “Are those your natural eyelashes?” I said yes, and she said, “I am going to punch you in the face right now.” I took that as a major compliment, seeing as how she’s a make-up artist and all! She also knew my name once she heard it! She knew I was a blogger! I swear, I felt so wonderful. My words are getting out there! Then Jennifer signed my poster and bookmark, and I moved on to Emmy, who is SO sweet. We talked a little about her next book (Monument 14: Sky on Fire), which I’m way excited for! I ended my signing with Marissa. She was not on the poster, but brought stickers to stick on the posters and sign her name under. She was so happy and smiley, and seemed really excited to be there! She also let me in on a few confidential secrets. :) I’m going to show off my signatures, poster, and swag this Sunday in my vlog. :)
All in all, this was such a wonderful experience for me! I loved meeting and talking with the authors, and connecting with them on a more personal level. Sometimes I feel like authors are on a different planet than I am. The Author Planet. I don’t run into them. We don’t all pal around at Denny’s late at night. It was fun to see them as real people, who just want to share their love of writing with us. They were all so funny and it was interesting to hear about their experiences as authors so far, their fears, their triumphs, their inspirations, and their quirky personality traits. I know that this is the beginning of a serious addiction of mine. I will be eagerly seeking out more opportunities like this. I’m even more excited to go to ALA now to meet more authors like them!