That Time I Felt Like an Idiot in Front of a Favorite Author (AKA a Recap of the Neal Shusterman Signing)

Posted April 24, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Book Events, Let's Discuss / 31 Comments

Ever met an author and ended up feeling tongue-tied or just plain said the wrong thing?


This has happened to me twice. The first was at BEA when I met a relatively popular author in line and couldn’t place her at all. She asked for my card, and I asked for hers, and I think she looked at me as if to say, You’re a blogger and you don’t know who I am? When she told me what book she wrote, I was like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that. Sounds great!” Cue crickets.

Anyway, I’ve been to a lot of author signings, and I’ve really loved them all, but I was INCREDIBLY excited to meet Neal Shusterman because (as those of you who follow my blog know) I think that the Unwind Dystology is pretty much the best dystopian series ever (honestly, even better than those super popular ones that have already been made into movies – though I know lots of you will say that’s impossible).

What makes the Unwind series is so amazing is the fact that it’s so thought-provoking. It brings up so many issues of morality and the atrocities that we, as a society, might accept if they were considered the “norm.” I honestly believe the series is nothing short of brilliant.

But I’ll save discussion of that for another for another time. Let’s move on to how I completely embarrassed myself, shall we?

So, on Wednesday, I had the chance to meet Shusterman for his tour for Challenger Deep. There weren’t huge crowds (I don’t know why – people don’t know what they’re missing by not reading all of his books!), so I decided to wait until the very end to meet him so that I didn’t have to feel bad about the fact that I had five books for him to sign (plus a poster) and so that I could chat with him a little more freely.

It all started out wonderfully. I told him that I completely adore the Unwind series, but then for some reason I decided to admit that I still haven’t read the fourth book (because, you guys know how I am about finishing series – I’m worst when it comes to my absolute favorites because I just have weird phobias about series not ending well or I just can’t handle the idea of them being over or something). He warned me to read the whole thing because something happens midway through that lots of people hated and they stopped reading and sent him horrible messages about how they hated it without realizing that things change.  (Ha! You’ve gotta sympathize with authors, right?) I mentioned that Challenger Deep actually took me until about 50% before I started to understand how everything came together and how I was a tiny bit worried up until that part. (This was purposeful, on Shusterman’s part.)

This is where the conversation went all wrong.

I mentioned that I was trying to wrap my head around what real-life people were represented in the main character’s schizophrenia induced hallucinations (especially with the Parrot and the Captain) and Shusterman said, “But it all came together and you understood it, right? Who did the Parrot and the Captain represent?” He asked me the question and my mind just went completely blank. I couldn’t remember. At all. I mean, I remembered being really confused by it and thinking that one of them represented the doctor in the hospital, but I remember with struggling to figure out which one. And I completely blanked out on the fact that, at the end of the book, it is actually revealed exactly who the Captain was – but until Shusterman reminded me, I had no idea and just stood there looking like an idiot, wishing I could sneak off and re-read the end!


Once Shusterman reminded me, I was like, “Oh, yeah, how could I have forgotten that!” (I mean, it was only the huge reveal that the whole book was leading up to, so … ) And then he told me that the Captain also represented the mental illness, which I actually did get and remembered, but by that point, I’m sure he just figured that I was agreeing with whatever he said and didn’t really understand his book at all. For some reason, the detail about who the Captain actually was in the end just didn’t stick in my head, though a lot of other things about the ending did. I mostly remember the image of hope that was given as the main character reached the very depths of his illness and found his way out – and realized that he might go to the depths again, but that he would be able to resist the Captain when he tried to pull him down again. (Honestly, I feel like this is the type of book that needs in-depth study with all of the symbolism and the themes that are explored.)

Anyway, after that, my mom mentioned that my cousin had schizophrenia and we talked a little bit about how what Shusterman described was so close to our experiences with him, but by then I just felt like I was babbling, and I realized that standing there talking about my cousin in the past tense when Shusterman’s whole book was about hope just felt … wrong.

My cousin was very close to our family, especially to my dad, so I saw a lot of his illness firsthand. Unfortunately, my cousin’s story didn’t end as well as Shusterman’s son’s did – mental health medicine has come a long way since my cousin was young (thank goodness – this is the message of hope he was going for!). But reading this book really gave me a good glimpse into my cousin’s mind – into understanding what he went through and why he said and felt some of the strange things he did. Actually, if I had been able to articulate any of these things to Shusterman, I probably could have redeemed the conversation, but of course, I thought of all the best things to say after the fact.


Instead, I just tried to cheerfully end the conversation and not make myself or Shusterman feel any more completely awkward than I already had. Sigh. He was actually really gracious and didn’t act weirded out by me. I know Shusterman meets tons of fans and this probably won’t stick out in his head as much as it does in mine (though he does have a really good memory – a friend of his from high school showed up who he hadn’t seen since he was nineteen and he remembered exactly what he was wearing the last time he saw her!). Still, it’s hard not to be sad when you really want to meet an author and you feel like you made a WAY less than stellar impression. At least I can laugh about it now!

Neal Shusterman
Me (looking cheerful and feeling dumb) with Neal Shusterman.
Has this happened to anyone else, or is it just me? Ever meet an author and felt like you said or did all the wrong things? I want to know!

Oh, I guess I should mention some actual Shusterman news in this “recap.” One exciting bit of information – a compilation of Unwind short stories is coming in December! Glad I can end this post on a positive note!


31 responses to “That Time I Felt Like an Idiot in Front of a Favorite Author (AKA a Recap of the Neal Shusterman Signing)

  1. Ok, so I was about 8 months pregnant and my wonderful husband had gotten me tickets to see and meet Diana Gabaldon. I was through the moon as Outlander is a HUGE favorite series of mine. I had convinced my aunt and cousin to go with me too (they were not huge fans but appreciated it nonetheless). And as I step up to meet and great after her reading, I begin to have some contractions. Completely sucked any thoughts out of my brain!! Thankfully she was all kind and sweet and it probably just made me look like a crazed fan-girl but I was disappointed I did not ask her what I wanted to. And thankfully I was just experiencing Braxton Hicks – my others though came super early so I was preoccupied. Ugh. I totally know that feeling!

  2. I’m actually terrified to go to an author signing or anything because I’m always convinced I’ll get up there, hand him or her my book, say hi, grin like a crazy person, and not be able to say anything. A conversationalist I am not.

    And I get those memory flub moments just talking to friends about intellectual type things — I need to see things written down or write them while I hear them to really process; otherwise it goes in one ear and out the other, and I just won’t even understand the question. Blagh! So I can’t even imagine how bad I’d be in the kind of situation you described — kudos for going up there and engaging!

    • I would have sworn that I remembered the book, but then I just couldn’t for the life of me think of how that part of it ended! Oh well – I guess if I don’t try to talk to authors, I can’t make a fool of myself, but I also lose the chance for some awesome interactions! I’m willing to take my chances!

  3. Um, this is my biggest fear. I haven’t met any authors, ever. But I will, I am sure, at BEA. And I will be you, only worse. I will be frozen, as though I have never spoken to humans before. Okay, so I mean, the conversation could have gone better BUT, it could have gone much, much worse. You could have said something like, insensitive, or I don’t know, puked on his shoes. My point is, try to look at it that way, so you can at least have some good memories of this! (Incidentally, I would 100% lose my mind if I ever met Neal Shusterman. He is a GENIUS.)

    And SHORT STORIES?!?!?! GAHHHHHHH I needs! Also, I think those fans might be crazy? I loved the last book!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: This Week At Midnight (58)
    • I knew that you would understand, Shannon! I mean, it’s Neal Shusterman! Normally, I’m an intelligent, coherent human being, I swear – but apparently all of those qualities left me in Shusterman’s presence. 🙂

  4. I have never met an author. I have attempted to schedule author signings into my life, but it seems I miss out on most events. I cannot even imagine meeting an author and then forgetting the twist to the story. That totally sounds like me. I can fake it in most social situations but forgetting details is something I do very regularly.

    Karen Blue recently posted: May Clean Sweep Reading Challenge
    • Yeah – I just stood there, looking at him, thinking, No, really, I did read your book. And I really loved it. I just can’t for the life of me think of the answer to your question. Sigh. Oh well – life goes on! At least I can laugh at myself!

  5. Okay truth to be told,this is actually a bit funny.I can totally imagine you behaving all awkward in front of your favourite author!You sound like a Sophie Kinsella heroine:)
    But I think I would probably end up in the same situation if I ever meet my author superheroes,which is pretty much impossible,no bookish events occur in my country,and I live far away from the places where these happen.But well,a girl can hope,can’t she?*sighs*

    Mishma @ Chasing Faerytales recently posted: Why do we need more diverse books?
  6. Joycedale Chapman

    This completely cracked me up as I could see it happening to me. Now I’m curious who the author you met in line at BEA was?

  7. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of my favorite authors, but always turn mute when we’re face to face and the only words I can manage are “hi” and “I love your books”, so don’t feel bad. To make matters worse, I once ran into one of my faves in another author’s autographing line at BEA and didn’t recognize her at all! I was standing right next to her and didn’t know it! Major duh!

    Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such... recently posted: Review: She's The Boss by Lisa Lim
  8. I was at the bookstore tonight, and in one of the YA aisles, a young man was talking to a young woman about the Unwind books. I heard him say, “No, it doesn’t matter what order you read them in,” and I was all, “Whaaa?” But then he figured it out, and said “Wait, it’s a trilogy now?!? How did I not know there were more?” I had to lean over and say, “There are four books, and they are awesome.” I agree that this series deserves more fame. It is so multi-layered, and brings up so many interesting ideas and questions.

    Wendy @ Falconer's Library recently posted: 2015 Book Blog Discussion Challenge
    • Not read them in order?! I’m so glad they figured it out – otherwise you would have had to set them straight. Can’t wait for the Unwind movie – that should give this series the boost it needs hopefully!!

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