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 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 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.
- 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 »Katharine winning the crown and the other girls heading off the island into the unknown. « Hide 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 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:
- The Spy with the Red Balloon, Heroine, Escaping from Houdini, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (ARCs we received for free)
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Girl of Nightmares, Winterspell (purchased using our giftcards)
That wraps it up! Have you met any of these authors (or do you wish you could)? I want to know!