So, this is a continuation of the first day of the conference. Yesterday I summed up thoughts from the keynote speakers. Today, I’ll give some fun facts that I learned at the panels I went to. And then tomorrow, I’ll summarize the Fandom Frenzy day (with a giveaway!).
Day 1: YA Lit Conference (Panels)
This is where I’ll give you some bullet points and fun facts that I learned from the authors who attended the panels. There were only three sessions and seven panels to choose from, so obviously I didn’t get to see them all, but I was pretty happy with the ones I chose!
Love Contemporary Style:
David Arnold, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Emma Mills, Jackie Lea Sommers, Nicola Yoon
- Nicola Yoon was reading Harlequin romances at eight. Don’t worry, she didn’t understand what most of it meant. (What are these “mounds of flesh” they keep referring to?)
- David Arnold read Jurassic Park over and over until the cover fell off. He said, “I got into YA on the other side of Y – I was an A.”
- Huntley Fitzpatrick was always looking for more romance in her books. She’d turn to the end of Little House books and think, “That’s it? One kiss and then they get married?” She would re-write book endings (for instance, putting romance into The Secret Garden with Dickon) and even songs (“Poor Eleanor Rigby. Things just have to end better for you.”)
- Emma Mills started writing her current book (First & Then) when she was seventeen (and wrote until she was twenty-two).
- Jackie Lea Sommers loved to read scary books when she was a kid, but she was so scared that she would go sit at the top of her silo to read them – she figured that was the only place that nothing could sneak up on her because she was so high and could see for miles around.
- Nicola got up every day and kissed her Michael Jackson poster. The lips were worn out.
- David was a freelance musician, but had to quit when his wife got pregnant (she had a steady income). So he decided to write and wrote Mosquitoland.
- Emma narrated the audiobook for her book (now I want to hear it!!)
- Jackie had undiagnosed OCD from the time she was seven until she was twenty-seven. She went through some very dark times, including a period where she suffered from solipsism, which is what the character of Laurel has in the book Truest. She originally wrote the book as a memoir, but couldn’t sell it. Then she suddenly realized it would make great fiction!
I got to chat with Jackie for a while during the lunch signing time (which was much less busy), and I was so happy to get to meet her in person. Her book truly touched me (check out my review here) – it’s an all-time favorite of mine!! There’s actually a giveaway for Truest going on right now on my blog as part of my September wrap-up, so make sure you check it out and enter to win!
I want everyone to read this book!!
Me and Jackie Lea Sommers
Magical Realism Past & Present:
Renee Ahdieh, Katherine Howe, Laura Ruby
- Renee Ahdieh thinks The Wrath and the Dawn would make excellent anime. (I can totally see that).
- Laura Ruby would love to see her first book made into a ghost movie, but she’d be mad if it wasn’t scary (she hates ghost stories that aren’t scary!)
- Katherine Howe does doodles on Instagram and might do her own doodle illustrations for a picture book she has coming out that involves a groundhog.
- Renee and Katherine both plot extensively via Excel spreadsheets (Renee calls herself a control freak). Laura doesn’t plot – she has an idea of where the story is going but then meanders.
- Katherine needs help with a title for her new pirate novel. She said if we came up with a really good one, she’d doodle us as a groundhog!
- Renee’s next book is going to be the first in a fantasy series set in feudal Japan, involving ninjas.
- Laura’s writing a middle grade trilogy (which she says is nearly impossible for her since she’s not a plotter)!
- All three authors edit extensively as they write. They all said that it’s very hard for them to stop editing and their publishers have to pry their books out of their hands.
- Katherine said she cut 30,000 words from her first book (House of Glass) without cutting any actual plot or characters!! (She fully admits that she likes to add a little too much description to her books.)
- Laura said she originally wrote Bone Gap as straight realism, but even her realism ends up seeming weird and slightly magical. All the comments on her first draft were, “I want more magic!”
During the signing, Renee had a copy of her book that she had all of us sign. I thought this was the most awesome and amazing idea ever! (She doesn’t claim to have come up with it on her own – she said both Ally Carter and Sarah J. Maas have done something similar.) If I were an author, I would totally do this because I would LOVE that keepsake!!
World Building in Fantasy & Dystopia:
James Dashner, Colleen Houck, Bethany Hagen, Marie Lu, Morgan Rhodes
- Colleen Houck says she’s not a plotter, she’s a pantser – it’s all in her head. James Dashner and Marie Lu both agreed, but Morgan Rhodes says she’s a plotter. Bethany Hagen called herself a “pantyliner” (a mix of a pantser and an outliner). 🙂
- Marie loves to do research, though. Her favorite piece of research was when she was reading about tortures during the renaissance period. She learned that they used to pour salt water on people’s feet and then have a goat lick them!!
- Marie wanted to be a fighter pilot when she was a child and Dashner wanted to be an astronaut. Colleen would be a party planner if she couldn’t be an author. Morgan found a journal from when she was a kid that said she wanted to be a jewel thief when she grew up!
- Bethany is working on a sci-fi project next that takes place in the near future.
- Morgan is co-writing a top-secret project, but she’s not sure if it’s going to go anywhere
- Dashner is going to write a horror novel after his prequel to The Maze Runner.
- When asked why there’s so much violence in today’s YA, Dashner said he writes what he would like to read. Marie said that in dystopians sometimes the story just requires it. Morgan pointed out that war happens in the real world, so if it’s portrayed in books in a non-gratuitous way, it can help people process those real world events. Both Marie and Bethany talked about the double standard about how people often seem to be way more concerned about sex in books than violence.
- Bethany also said that books are a safer lens to examine violence through than movies because they’re more intimate. Since we experience the characters’ thoughts and feelings, you can’t separate yourself from the violence the way you can in movies.
- Dashner said that the first version of The Scorch Trials movie was so violent, it would have been rated R.
- Morgan said that Prince Magnus started out as a cross between Prince Joffrey and Draco Malfoy.
- Colleen said that Kadam was inspired by a mixture of Mr. Spock and Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island.
On the Fandom Frenzy day of the conference, my son came with me – pretty much entirely so that he could meet James Dashner. He was thrilled!! Dashner was fantastic with his younger fans and totally focused on Jaden when he was at our table, which I thought was so sweet. Jaden got all of the Maze Runner books (which we already owned) signed and personalized and then we bought all of Dashner’s other books so he could get those signed and personalized too. I’m pretty sure meeting Dashner made his year!
And that was it for the first day of the conference! (Well, that and the autographing at the end).
Come back tomorrow for a quick recap of the rest of the Fandom Frenzy day, more pictures and a giveaway!!