Confession: before tonight, I had never, ever been to Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. It turns out it’s not actually way outside of town. It’s an easy SoundTransit bus trip (less easy because like an idiot I let my Orca card go empty, but that’s my problem). Anyhow, fun atmosphere, great staff, and I got to meet Flannery of The Readventurer, so that was neat. I will be returning there not to just buy more books I don’t need but for future author events.
The Fierce Reads tour is 4-6 debut authors who write YA. Also I’m totally using the following picture because all of the authors look “fierce” and not because I’m a crappy photographer who took photos with an iPad rather than my canon, which I did not want to carry:
From left to right: Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder; Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone; Jennifer Bosworth, author of Struck; Anna Banks, author of Of Poseidon; and Emmy Laybourne, author of Monument 14.
The presentation started with a book trailer for every novel and then a few words from the author about the book’s plot and where its inspiration came from. They went right to left, but I’m going to stick with this order and go in reverse. (Direct quotes are in quotations, otherwise I’m paraphrasing and/or summarizing.)
McBride. It’s a book about a slacker who learns he’s a necromancer. It’s funny, lighter stuff (if you consider talking human heads in bags light). She often gets asked why she writes a male protagonist, but no one ever questions why someone is writing, say, a werewolf. She never thought about it. The character Sam showed up in her head and he was a guy.
Meyer. She used to write Sailor Moon fanfiction. (I may have been Sailor Jupiter for Halloween once upon a time, so I dig it.) She entered a fan contest where she had to write a story using two of ten elements and she chose the future and a fairy tale. It ended up being some warped version of Puss in Boots, but she thought it was really fun, so began playing with the idea of future fairy tales. Then one day she had what she calls her “Boy Sparking in the Meadow Moment.” She had this mental image of Cinderella running down the stairs away from the Prince and the Ball, only instead of her shoe falling off, she lost her entire foot. Thus the idea of a cyborg Cinderella was born.
Bardugo. Her book is high fantasy, and at first she had a really time shopping it around because everyone wanted dystopia or fairy tales. But now, thanks in part to Game of Thrones, people are looking at high fantasy again. Her advice to writers: “Don’t chase trends because you’ll get left behind. Write what you want to write.”
Bosworth. She likes to base her supernatural in the natural. She saw a documentary about a guy they call The Human Lightning Rod. He’s been hit by lightning seven times and has to keep water in his truck in case he needs to put himself out after catching fire. It’s a sad story. But the guy is a park ranger. He could quit and go work indoors, and move to a place with less thunder, but he doesn’t. So she jokingly got to thinking, “Maybe he likes being struck by lightning, maybe it makes him feel alive like a drug.” Thus she came up with the idea of a teenager addicting to lightning.
Banks. She gets asked, ‘Why mermaids?’ “I didn’t think the YA market was ready for a Sasquatch romance.” Her protagonist can talk to fish, but not psychically. She can get her voice to the right wavelength to communicate with them, and a mer-prince wants her to use her ability to help him merge two kingdoms.
Laybourne. Her novel is about fourteen kids (a few teens, but a lot of younger children) who get trapped inside a superstore during a bunch of end-of-the-world type chaos. She muses, “What is wrong with me? Why would write such a dark book….what kind of a mother would torture children in this was?…I think is that as scary and as tense and volatile as the world of the book is… It’s about what we do when we’re really scared…I hope there’s a light that redeems me.”
*PHEW* That was a lot. All right then! Audience Questions!
Q. To Banks: Any chance we’ll get that Sasquatch Romance?
Banks thinks it’s a joke and asks who would read it. A surprising number of people raise their hands. She says, “That’s very weird. Yes, I guess I will.” But McBride already has a sasquatch character named Sexy Gary, so Banks decides she’ll have to come up with something else.
Q. To Bardugo: How did you come up with the Russian spin, as opposed to Medieval Europe?
Her world is inspired by Czarist Russia, and that’s precisely because it’s NOT Medieval Europe. She was in a book store when she came across a book about Czarist Russia and flipped through. She found a photo of three men in fur hats in front of a palace and began to examine their war plans and living conditions, and a lot of that mirrored the world of her book, with poverty and power struggles, so it fit. She says a lot of fantasy isn’t set in the Medieval Europe, but then people are always like “So.. is it steampunk?”
Q. For Meyer: Do we follow Cinder throughout the Lunar Chronicles?
Yes! There will be four books in the series, and in them we meet Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, but the story always follows Cinder. Their lives and goals just become intertwined.
Q. How, as a writer, do you stay with your book until it’s finished and in its upteenth draft, without losing interest (my favorite question, by far):
Laybourne says she was really lucky. She sold her book after a 100 and some pages, so she was suddenly a paid writer and a professional author! She rented a hotel room and hunkered down, but also, that was a lot of motivation to write.
For Banks, it’s impossible not to. Once she gets an idea, the whole thing sort of spills out (I feel like this similar to Claire’s method, which I envy endlessly).
Bosworth says she needs to state the obvious: “Writing a book is hard.” Struck began as a totally different book, but she took some of the characters, started over, and wrote. She would get sick of it, so she’d put it to the side for a day or two, but she kept making herself go back to it. It came down to the message she wanted to convey. Why this story? And eventually she got it out.
Bardugo says, “I outline.” By which she means, she barrels through a very rough draft (a zero draft). When she gets stuck somewhere, she makes a note like ‘Add this,’ ‘Fix this,’ or ‘Insert X’ and moves on so she doesn’t lose momentum. And then when she’s done, she has a beginning, middle, and an end. And a novel is in there. It may be 40,000 words of crap, but something good is in there. (This is exactly how I write. I look forward to reading your novel, madam.)
Meyer suggests picking a project you can’t get out of your head. If you’re really passionate about it, you’ll keep returning to it.
McBride says the best advice is the oft repeated “Get your butt in the chair.” (Yes!) “Part of me wonders if writing isn’t a mental illness.. it’s almost like a compulsion.” I agree entirely.
There were a few more questions and a lot of fun stuff, but I think that’s the bulk of the important information. Except that Laybourne began her life as an improv artist and actor, and she uses those methods sometimes to develop characters. Like she’ll pick a person to follow and try to mimic how they walk. “We’re all stalkers,” says McBride.
After the questions, all of the authors signed books. They are a funny, awesome group of ladies, and now I have yet another stack of books I need to make time for. I wish I could take a week off just to read, seriously.