Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Events: Brave New Worlds panel & signing at Books of Wonder

Last fall I discovered the awesome bookstore Books of Wonder when I was searching for information about Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games. I visit fairly regularly and always take visiting friends/family because it's a whole bookstore dedicated to kids books (also: the Cupcake Cafe)! What isn't there to like?

The panel had five guests; originally there were going to be six, but Michael Grant came down with a bug and decided to spare the people who would have shared an airplane with him. So that left Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Kristin Cashore, Libba Bray and Suzanne Collins - who was making her ONLY promotional appearance for Catching Fire! (She is also the only author at the event who doesn't blog - just something I noticed when compiling those links) I'm pretty sure she's almost single-handedly the reason the event neared 200 attendees - everyone else is wonderful and awesome, but I know that Justine and Scott have recently been on tour with their books (Scott has made several NYC stops, including the post-apocalyptic teen lit panel last month), and I know Libba Bray isn't a shrinking violet either, so she's been out and about not too long ago as well. Suzanne Collins, on the other hand, claims she hasn't seen people for the last four months, as she's hard at work on the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy (the title of which she was expressly forbidden to reveal).

Here's a quick rundown of what happened:

Justine spoke first, introducing Liar, which I am eagerly awaiting at the library (seriously, Queens Library: my account page has said the book has been in transit for over a week. I know it doesn't take that long to mail a book from one end of Queens to another). No spoilers, but she revealed that as she was writing she made sure that the reader could make one of two different interpretations of "what really happened" in the book - but then, of course, as readers have been sharing their thoughts with her, they've discovered many more than two interpretations, and all of them work! Sounds like a super complex and interesting read - I need it now!

Next up was Kristin, who really just gave a quick summary of Fire and how it connected back to Graceling. She revealed more in the Q&A and signing time.

Scott spoke next, and did a modified version of the slide show he did at the B&N panel. Modified in part because he had less time to speak, and also because the room wasn't set up well for a real slide show, so he used his iphone and "silly yuppie toy" to project some images on the ceiling! Unfortunately, I was sitting perpendicular to where he was projecting so everything was sideways and hard to make out, but I had seen most of it before, so I'll live. He did have some different content this time, as he spent some time noting that back at the beginning of the 20th century, illustrators of books were often more important in some ways than authors (he had a cover of War of the Worlds that had the illustrator's name plastered across the top, and then a little "H.G. Wells" on the side).

Scott also decided we were a morbid bunch when he got his biggest laugh of the night by very seriously describing how WWI started, and then ended with a rather-glib sounding "And six years later, 30,000 people were dead."

Libba Bray is hilarious as always. After Scott finished her presentation she said she'd either have to "pole dance or self-immolate" in order to follow him up. Didn't seem like the parents of the young kids who showed up thought that was too funny, but the rest of us laughed. Maybe it's because we often see discussions of how to decide what is "appropriate" to put in books for kids and young adults, but sometimes it surprises me when I see these adult authors who write for kids acting like the adults they are. It shouldn't surprise me, but it does.

Suzanne Collins was an incredibly gracious speaker. The Books of Wonder representative said when he was introducing her that she was essentially the reason the whole event had been planned; after he'd read Catching Fire he called up Suzanne to ask if she'd sign stock for them since he knew she wasn't making any appearances, but she said that if he could get together a couple of other authors she'd love to come in for a Books of Wonder event! Suzanne dedicated the first bit of her speaking time to praising the other authors and their books, then summarized The Hunger Games and Catching Fire for the audience - not that I think there was anyone there who hadn't read them both. Seriously, when it was time to get books signed, there were people going up to her with bags filled with copies of the books - she was such a big draw that the Books of Wonder staff started going down the line and any of us who had non-Suzanne books to have signed were told to jump the line, and then we could go back to get our Suzanne books signed.

Q&A session next. I didn't note all of the questions and answers, but here are some of the most interesting:

When the authors were asked how they come up with character names, Kristin said she often watched movie credits, especially to get last names. Suzanne said that Katniss' name comes from a regional name for the arrowhead plant - so of course that makes total sense for someone who is an archer!

What character, from your book or any book ever, would you like to meet? Kristin - Bitterblue, Libba - Winnie-the-Pooh, Justine - Ida Mae (from Flygirl, Suzanne - Simon from Lord of the Flies. Apparently I forgot to write down Scott's answer :-(

Here's the question that made me feel like a bad book nerd: a girl in the audience asked Suzanne to talk about the importance of bread in her books, since it pops up occasionally and, it turns out, Panem means bread! Suzanne explained that she took Panem from a latin phrase for bread and circuses, from an ancient satirist.

There was another question, asking the authors why they think dystopian novels are so big in YA right now (a question I believe was also asked at the B&N event). Justine had the best answer, I think: high school is a dystopia. Truer words were never spoken.

Finally it was time for the signing. I picked up Catching Fire and Graceling and brought along my copy of So Yesterday for Scott Westerfeld to sign (since I technically already have Leviathan, albeit in galley form, I don't quite feel the burning need to pick up the hardback version. Yet. It may be on my Christmas list, because it is a beautiful book). Since there was a huge backup to talk to Suzanne, I jumped ahead to Kristin and Scott and had the chance to talk to both of them for a minute. I was super excited to get to ask Kristin about something I'd mentioned in my Fire review: why did she give both Katsa and Fire such an aversion to having children? Kristin admitted her answer was a bit of a copout, but that's just how the two characters came to her, and it seemed so important to who they were as characters she needed to honor it. She also said it was a perfectly natural thought to her, so we laughed and bonded over that (babies are fine and all, but I'm still nowhere near the point where I actually want to be pregnant). She also pointed out that while neither character wants to be pregnant, that feeling actually comes from two very different places: Katsa draws strength from her independence, which of course includes not having babies depending on her, while for Fire it's a much more tragic stance, because she desperately wants a family. Thanks so much for talking to me, Kristin!

I also told Scott that I felt a little bit like his stalker, since this was the fifth time I've seen him this year. Of course, since he sees so many people he admitted that he didn't remember seeing me before, but when I mentioned I'd given him my thesis on Uglies back in the spring, he remembered who I was (or at least remembered there was a girl who'd given him that paper!) and so he asked what I was up to now and was just very friendly again, until I saw a chance to sneak back over and get Catching Fire signed.

It was a long night, but so much fun. Thanks so much to all the authors who came out!

Finally, Justine has made her own post about the evening, if you want to see it from an author's perspective (also, I'm hiding down in the right hand corner of her picture of Suzanne Collins! Totally my claim to fame now).

1 comment:

Donna Gambale said...

Great post about the event! Thanks for linking it to the First Novels Club blog. So jealous I couldn't go.

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