Last night, as part of its fall tour for this season, Fierce Reads (a YA branch of Macmillan) came to a bookstore near me. There were four featured authors, and they answered questions about everything from writing advice to fall must-reads to Twilight. I took some notes during the presentation (I hope they didn’t think I was texting…), and from those (which were an absolute mess to reread this morning), I’ve compiled a short list of memorable moments so that those of you who weren’t there can, you know, pretend that you were or something.
* Note: for all the quotes I have listed, bear in mind I may have slight errors in transcription. These aren’t deliberate; it’s just hard to keep up with human speech sometimes.
Katy Rose Pool, author of There Will Come a Darkness
For some reason, my notes on her are very short? She was adorable and enthusiastic, talked about writing five different POV characters, and told us about the importance of the so-called “kernel scenes,” where when writing she would finally realize, “Oh, that’s who this character is! Their whole personality makes sense now, and I know what I’m writing.”
– “I think the only traits I write into my characters are my flaws…because I really know those flaws.”
– “If I had to murder people for my sister, I would!”
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow
Margaret was hilarious. A little bit crazy, but in that awesome way that makes you think she would be fun to constantly have around. I mean, look at those jazz hands! (This was from when she was talking about how someone should write a musical spinoff of An Enchantment of Ravens called An Enchantment of Raisins. Yes, there was a whole train of thought that led to this, but I don’t know how to explain it all.) Anyway, here are a few cool takeaways from her answers to questions:
– She first thought of her main character for The Merciful Crow when she imagined someone in a plague doctor mask reaching down to pet a cat.
– She gave one of her “dirtbag” characters a tendency to speak inappropriately on whatever first pops into her mind. When writing the character, she took that trait from herself.
– Interesting tip for writers: if you aren’t sure where you want your book to go, try to write the query before writing the book itself. Then, when you have questions for yourself, use the query to guide what you write.
– Another writing tip: always remember consequences of actions and personal significance of choices.
– As a kid, she once wrote a story about saving her best friend from a goblin king. She made sure many times in the book to explicitly state, “He’s just a FRIEND. There’s nothing there!”
– The most unexpected part of being an author for her is social media feedback. Like seeing people take lovely pictures of your book for their Bookstagram but then to have really negative reviews of it in the caption, or with snarky hashtags. But there’s also joy on social media, like when a stranger tells you that she totally got what you were doing with a specific scene or how much they loved the book overall.
– “I was thinking about a girl with a sword stabbing things, working out some of my problems that way.”
– “Snitches get…uh…cookies!”
On a personal note, she also complimented my shoes, so I felt pretty cool for that.
L.L. McKinney, author of A Blade So Black and A Dream So Dark
This woman. Where do I even start? She was sarcastic and so funny, always ready with an answer to a question, a compliment to a fellow writer, or a cute anecdote. She was supremely geeky, referencing Dance Dance Revolution (multiple times), Supernatural, DragonCon, and more. And her lipstick and beanie were fantastic. Here are some big moments from her talk:
– She deliberately wrote her main character to be geeky like herself, though her character is way better at DDR.
– A Blade So Black is going to be adapted for television. If McKinney were to make a cameo in that show, she would love to be at the arcade when the main character walks in, absolutely failing at DDR. Maybe being carried out on a stretcher because she was so bad.
– In her freshman year of high school, her English teacher told her that writing was a distraction for her. Well, now she’s published two novels and is actually going back to her old high school to speak as part of her tour. She sincerely hopes that teacher is still there so she can smugly show off her books.
– Once, while in a sort of writing slump, she read Twilight. And saw the movie. And she thought, “Wow, someone made this thing into a movie? I could do that easily.” That was what got her to start writing again.
– Writing tip: don’t stress about your genre or target age demographic. Just focus on the story, and do the rest later. It’s easier to change the language to sound more YA than it is to totally rewrite the plot. (Sara Faring expanded on this, saying you can also let your publisher help you determine what to market your book as.)
– She talked briefly about how interesting it is to view books like Harry Potter and Twilight through the lens of 2020 YA fiction, seeing how much those books did but also how far the genre has come.
– On other people saying that writing is easy: “Where do the books come from? They just sprout from the ground like Cabbage Patch Kids!”
– On the stress of writing her sequel under a deadline: “I snipe a lot of people in video games to deal with that.”
Sara Faring, author of The Tenth Girl
Though a bit more reserved than the others on the panel, Sarah was incredibly polished and precise in all of her comments, never stealing the stage but always perfectly interjecting opinions when needed. Her outfit was also adorable, though you can’t see it in this photo, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. When I talked to her while getting my book signed, she was super sweet, too. Some notes from her responses:
– She is going to Argentina soon to visit her grandma, who is turning 90! Fun fact, she told us that apparently in Argentina there are more psychotherapists per capita than anywhere else.
– Like McKinney, she reflected on how many YA authors today got started specifically because they read Twilight and knew they could do better. In that context, she said, “Twilight did a lot for the genre!”
– Fun story: she actually started her career in finance. Every day she would walk past the Random House office, and one day she decided to write a super ballsy cover letter, applying to a job she was sure she wasn’t qualified for. The HR person replied though, saying, “I like your gumption.” So she interviewed, got the job, and realized once she was there that she really did need to be working with books. While there, she started writing as well, and…well, here she is now!
– Writing tip: if you’re feeling burnt out on your novel, ask yourself: What made you excited about it in the first place?
– Her favorite fall book, though not YA, is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. She also strongly recommended one of Pessl’s other books, Neverworld Wake, if you want a book that is more YA, though it isn’t specifically fall-themed.
Two things all the authors agreed on:
1. It is so dang stressful getting your second edit letter back from your editor and finding it shorter than the first one. Impostor syndrome is real, and you can’t help feeling like they’re not telling you everything you need to fix, like you’ve still done something wrong.
2. Fall is for rewatching Hocus Pocus over and over.
All in all, super cool event. I bought a few books and got them signed, and they gave us some cool swag. I’ll put up a separate haul post with all that fun stuff later! [UPDATE: that haul is now posted here!]
Did the tour come to a city near you? Find anything useful in this post? Have you read any of these authors’ books yet? Let me know!