Epic Reads Meet-up Recap

Posted October 4, 2018 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Book Events / 47 Comments

Last night my mom and I got a chance to go to a stop at the Epic Reads tour at Boswell Book Company up in Milwaukee. The featured authors were Kendare Blake, Mackenzi Lee, Elana K. Arnold, Claire Legrand, and Anna Godbersen. (I somehow missed getting a picture with Anna, so she’s not in my little collage above—sorry!)

As I’m sure you can guess, I was super excited to meet these authors. (Can anyone guess who I was most excited to meet? If you’ve been around my blog at all, I bet you can.)

This event was really unique because it was done with a round-table discussion style. So, we sat in groups of eight, and the authors rotated and each came and talked to us about their books for ten minutes. I really loved this format. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like long, but it worked out to be plenty of time to talk to the author and then ask some questions.

I thought I’d share a bit about each author/book (in the order I met with them).

Mackenzi Lee

  • Mackenzi told us about her writing process. She says she actually had an easier time being disciplined with her writing when she had a full-time job (she recently quit her job as an events coordinator at a bookstore, but she still works at the bookstore part-time). She told us how, when she had the full-time job and had a limited amount of time to write, that time was precious. Having more time has actually made it harder to motivate herself. (I can definitely understand that, based on my experiences.)
  • Before Gentleman’s Guide, she was contracted to write a different book. She went through five iterations of the book and finally realized it wasn’t working. She just wasn’t working on the right project. She ended up taking elements of that book idea and putting them into Gentleman’s Guide, which chronicles a nineteenth-century man’s last hurrah before he is forced to settle down. Things don’t go as planned.  🙂
  • Many of the historical women who Mackenzi wrote about in Bygone Badass Broads ended up influencing The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

Claire Legrand

  • Claire told us a lot about the origins of her ideas for Sawkill Girls. She said that nature and the ocean are almost characters in the book. She chose to set the book on an island because of her own fear of the ocean—she couldn’t imagine a creepier setting than being surrounded by ocean on all sides.
  • The book is inspired somewhat on the Slender Man stabbings.
  • The society and nature in the book represent the patriarchy holding the three main women back. She says the metaphor is not subtle. She’s not sorry.

Kendare Blake

  • Queen Katharine’s name is pronounced Kat-uh-REEN. Who knew? (Not me.)
  • Apparently, the Three Dark Crowns Series was originally supposed to end after book two. I feel like maybe I’d heard this somewhere, but the implications had never really hit me before. She said it would have ended basically the same way that it did, with just some of the subplots wrapped up more. Yes, the whole series would have ended with View Spoiler » I think I would have cried if the ending had been that open.
  • Kendare doesn’t know what’s going to happen in these books before she writes them!! She said that at the end of book two she was totally taken by surprise that a certain someone took the throne. As she was writing, she was like, “Oh, wow, I really think she might do this.” She said she didn’t know how book four was going to end until she finished it recently.
  • The two facts above have pretty much blown my mind because I’ve spent SO much time studying these books to try to figure out where the clues are leading us. But the thing is … if Kendare herself didn’t know, it’s impossible for me to follow the thread and figure it out ahead of time. Seriously … Mind. Blown.
    • (Which isn’t to say that the clues aren’t leading us anywhere or that they’re any less interesting—after all, as she’s writing, they’re influencing her. But it does mean that we can’t possibly predict where Kendare was planning to go with the story because she didn’t know!)

Anna Godbersen

  • Anna talked about how historical fiction is a lot like fantasy because it takes you to a setting you can’t physically go to, with its own societal rules, forms of dress, etc. I’d never thought of it this way, but it totally makes sense (and makes me more interested in reading historical fiction, oddly).
  • She chose to write a book about the Chicago Fire because she wanted to chronicle a love story during an epic disaster (similar to The Titanic).
  • She said that the very specific timeframe of the fire (a Sunday night to a Tuesday) made it easy to map out the story because it gave her a very solid framework.

Elana K. Arnold

  • Elana realizes that some people believe Damsel is not YA because of the subject matter (it’s a dark fairy tale in the vein of the Grimm’s Brothers and includes difficult topics such as rape, abuse and suicide). She said that the world didn’t wait for her to be an adult for bad things to happen to her, and that books are a safe space for people to explore and decide for themselves what they can and can’t handle.
  • She says that when she writes she doesn’t think about the audience—she isn’t in control of who reads it. She writes her books for herself and urges other authors to do the same.
  • Again, this book’s messages are unabashedly aimed against the patriarchy. As Legrand also pointed out, Elana doesn’t feel like today’s climate gives us room for subtlety.
  •  As a side note—Elana gave a lot of great writing advice and asked which of us are writers (I raised my hand). Later, she asked me what my book was about. I haven’t really had to talk to anyone about my book in-person (except the editor from Jolly Fish Press, but she’d already read my query and first page, already seemed genuinely interested, and was asking me questions—this is way different than giving a “pitch”). So …
    • After starting in on a too-long version, she pointed out that I need to have my 30-second pitch ready.
    • I got totally tongue-tied trying to remember my Twitter pitch (which is essentially an elevator pitch)—I botched it and threw in the word “learn” (which is a no-no because it makes it sound like you’re trying to teach lessons instead of telling a story—the word isn’t in my actual pitch).
    • Embarrassing, BUT this was a valuable lesson for me—I need to be ready to talk about my book, coherently and concisely at any moment. I didn’t go to this author event thinking I’d be giving anyone my pitch—which just goes to show that you never know when someone might ask. I haven’t practiced saying my pitch aloud at all—heck, I’ve barely talked about the book in-person with anyone. I need to fix that!

So, a strange thing happened with this event—there was a mix-up and the bookstore hadn’t received any of the books except Kendare Blake’s from the publisher. So, instead of getting our books signed, we had to get bookplates (um, plain white, not-quite-straight-cut stickers) signed, and the bookstore is going to be mailing our books to us later. The owner of the store was incredibly apologetic and took full responsibility (though I think the issue was not truly the store’s fault, more follow-up could probably have been done), and he allowed us to each pick two ARCs off their galley cart and gave us each a $5 giftcard. Have to say, I was pretty happy with that arrangement because, well … books.

Anyway, so my mom and I have Sawkill Girls and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy coming sometime soon, since we each got to pick a book as part of our admission price. (I also plan to buy Damsel or maybe listen to the audiobook via Audible, since Elana mentioned that there’s an awesome narrator with a British accent. And I might listen to When We Caught Fire, too, even though historical isn’t usually my go-to genre—the Chicago Fire is an event I’m interested in since I live in the suburbs).

Here are the other books we ended up getting from this event:


That wraps it up! Have you met any of these authors (or do you wish you could)? I want to know!




47 responses to “Epic Reads Meet-up Recap

  1. Oh, Nicole, this sounds like a fabulous evening! That’s so cool that they did rountables with each author! I find it fascinating that some authors plot so meticulously and others literally don’t know where they are going with the story until they see what they end up with.

    I love that you learned you’ll need to be able to nail your elevator pitch, and how kind of Elana to give you feedback.

    ***SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!!!*** Because yeah, subtlety is not working.

    Wendy @ Falconer's Library recently posted: An Evening With V. E. Schwab
  2. What a cool event! I haven’t been to Milwaukee in ages.

    That is so amazing about Kendare! I’ve heard authors say before that they sometimes go where the story takes them, and don’t have it all figured out beforehand, but in this case I’m just floored! And she just finished book four recently *gulp* I can think of several people I hope she didn’t kill off!!!

    Oh and ending after book two? Eek I’m glad the series got extended- ending it THAT way would not have been cool!!!

    I love those first two points by Elana K. Arnold. I’m one of those who sometimes gets annoyed when I think a YA book has objectionable content for younger teens, but her point about writing it for herself and not trying to predict her audience- I ca see that point too. Sounds like a very thought provoking discussion!

  3. *Excited screeching* You got to meet Mackenzi Lee! *More excited screeching.* I loved Gentleman’s Guide and This Monstrous Thing. I preordered Lady’s Guide, but it keeps getting delayed for some reason. I kind of hate Book Depository. Anyway, this sounds like a cool event. It’s also cool that you got to talk about your book. If an author I liked asked me about ANY book, I’d probably just stare at them blankly.

    • I’ll admit that this is a series that was sort of off my radar before this event, but I really loved Mackenzi, and I was convinced that I needed to read her books. And, yeah, I’m not necessarily surprised that I was tongue-tied—just maybe wish I hadn’t been. BUT this was a great eye-opener for me. I don’t really think about pitching my book most days, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it at this event. But I’ll be heading to a conference at the end of the month where I’ll be doing just that—I’ve got to have my pitch down perfectly.

    • Milwaukee is an hour and a half from me, but it was worth it to see Kendare (and everybody else, but let’s face it, Kendare was my main reason for going). The bookstore that I go to most often is Anderson’s, which is an hour away. I wish it was closer, but on the other hand, it would probably be dangerous if it was—I would be there ALL the time.

  4. Hello Nicole, do you have any tips for new bloggers wanting to make a post similar to these I will be going to my first book fair thing and wanted to know how / what to take notes of ect. also I totally agree with Anna Godbersen talking about historical fiction like you I never thought of it that way. however now as i’m reading a historical fiction novel I see exactly what she is talking about

    • Hi, Emily! I don’t really have a rock solid method or anything—I generally just take notes on anything that I find interesting. 🙂 When I do a post about the event, I always try to use bullet points because it makes it easier for people to get the highlights. If you want to check out some of the past posts I’ve done about bookish events, you can check out my Book Events posts. Maybe they’ll give you some ideas.

      Hope you have a great time at your first event!

  5. That sounds like a fun event. And the round table set up where each author talked for ten minutes sounds like a fun way to get to talk to all of them for a bit. I always like learning those interesting tidbits about authors and their writing. That’s great one of the author’s asked about your book and good idea indeed to make sure you have your pitch ready. Too bad about this mix up where they didn’t have the books, but sounds like they still handled the situation as well as they could.

  6. Sounds like you had an awesome time! Never been to an author meet-up. Others have spoken about Epic Reads tour. Wish one came near me. Round table is a great way to have discussion, question time with each author. It’s interesting how differently each author writes. How wonderful you were asked about your own book! Thanks for sharing ❤️❤️

  7. Ah, I’m so jealous! I’ve seen Mackenzi in person before and she was fantastic! I didn’t realize she only works part- time now. That’s awesome; I guess her writing is doing well, which I love hearing. I can see how having more time makes it harder to figure out when to write.
    I knew you were most excited about Kendare! LOL Glad you and your mom had fun, and bummer about the book plates but the bookstore was awesome about it!


  8. I’m so envious, it’s seem like we don’t get very many author events here in Colorado. Every so often there is something in Denver, but I haven’t had a chance to attend.

    That’s too bad about not having the actual books to be signed. I’m glad everything worked out in the end. Have a great day!

  9. Wow, that sounds like such an amazing evening!

    I did my entire outline for my NaNoWriMo novel this year already… I was thinking about what was going to happen at work, still figuring out what was going to happen, and I got to one of the very last scenes in my head. Then what happened shocked me, and I realized that so-and-so was a villain and a war was about to start and this was going to have to be a duology (I think… I won’t outline the second book until I write the first so maybe I’ll be surprised again). So I can see how Kendare didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve also written stuff that I knew what was going to happen as soon as I start writing/planning, so I’ve done both.

    I need to practice the short version of my story a little more. I’ve done tweets of the synopsis for Twitter games, so I could probably bumble out something, but it would be nice if it was more polished (and I am SO bad at thinking on my feet… that’s why I write!). When my dh asked me what the story was about, I spent about five minutes telling him, and I wasn’t even halfway through! To be fair, that was the first time I had told anybody about it though.

    Brooke Lorren recently posted: Everless was Endearing
  10. Oh wow, this sounds like it was such a cool event! I like the idea of sitting in smaller groups with the authors going around. That’s so crazy though that Kendare Blake was going to leave the book with the ending of One Dark Throne…I would have been so shocked if that was how it had all ended!
    I’m glad you had a good time! 🙂

  11. This sounds amazingly fun! Did Legrand talk about the second book in her Empirium series at all or just Sawkill Girls??? I just want to go to all of these events but none are ever close by. Such a bummer! Glad you had such a great time.

  12. Oh this is so exciting! I think I’ve seen you more excited about Kendare Blake’s Dark Throne series 🙂

    OH MY! To be in a round-table discussion with these authors!!! AHHHHH so exciting!

    I think I can related to many things they said! I do much better under pressure like Mackenzi, I like to write about things that scare me to like Claire and I can definitely relate to Kendare in that I don’t fully know what’s going to happen in my series either. That’s why I sometimes have the same Qs my CP has and it’s hard to clarify for them LOL *winks*

    And of course after reading this I HAVE to read Damsel! That subject matter! YEAH

    I AM SO GLAD you raised your hand and got to tell Elana about your book and yes it is HARD to talk about your book so I’m proud of you for seizing the moment even though you were not ready!

    Sorry to hear you didn’t get your books signed 🙁 but look at all the beautiful books and ARCs you got and that awesome experience

    Very Happy for you 🙂

  13. I’m curious about the other book Mackenzie was contracted to write. Five iterations, that’s a lot of time.

    I would love to meet Claire Legrand, I still need to check out Sawkill Girls!

    Great recap Nicole!

  14. This sounds like it was a really cool opportunity! I haven’t read any Kendare Blake books, but I always find it interesting that some authors can write without knowing where the story is going. That sucks about the bookstore mix-up, but it sounds like they handled it really well. Even though you didn’t get to get the books signed, at least you still got lots of books!

  15. I didn’t go to this, but reading the recap makes me seriously want to read all of these books now! The only one I’ve heard of is The Gentleman’s Guide. I especially love all the trivia, though! I’m big on trivia, so this is like?? I have to read these now, haha. Especially about Queen Katherine.

    I totally get you re: knowing your book, etc. I’m working on a food blog, set to soft launch next year, and I go to these food expos as a blogger every year, and it still throws me for a loop when people ask me questions about it. I got a little tip from someone else, though, when it comes to this: jazz it up like you’re talking about your favorite movie/book/TV show/restaurant/etc. It’s a bit easier this way, especially since it sounds less like a verbal press release and tends to lack in the jargon (because not everyone understands the industry jargon).

    Jane recently posted: One step at a time

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