On Friday afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of attending Macmillan's Fierce Reads tour as it stopped at Books & Co in Dayton, Ohio. Young adult authors S.A. Bodeen (The Compound/The Fallout/The Raft), Alexandra Coutts (Tumble & Fall), Marissa Meyer (Cinder/Scarlet), and Leila Sales (This Song Will Save Your Life) were all in attendance to talk about their books and answer questions, but thanks to the lovely people at Macmillan I was able to meet with all four fabulous ladies for a quick Q+A before the event started.
If any of you have read past recaps for various author events I've been lucky enough to attend, you know that I get absurdly nervous when faced with authors and have a tendency to either freeze up and say absolutely nothing, or ramble on and on about anything and everything that pops in my head just to fill the silence. I was of course a little anxious about meeting these women even as I was enormously honored to be asked to be a part of the event, and that anxiousness only increased when it became apparent that, due to a tight schedule (they were only in Ohio for a matter of hours before flying out to Austin, TX), I would be interrupting them as they ate lunch to bombard them with my questions. Super. Thankfully they were all very good sports about me and my wonderful mother-in-law (and partner in blogging crime) Cathy joining them, and were enthusiastic about answering whatever I threw at them.
I tried to come up with questions that were a bit more on the fun side rather than serious questions about their books and writing processes, so I hope you all enjoy! (Please note that if the answers seem overly succinct, it's because I couldn't write fast enough to catch everything, not because they gave short or clipped answers!)
FIERCE READS PRE-EVENT Q+A
If a portal were to open right here and whisk you off to assume the life of any one character in fiction, who would you most want to be?
Leila Sales: Sarah Crewe (from A Little Princess) at the end of the book once she's free of Miss Minchin.
S.A. Bodeen: Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia
Marissa Meyer: Elizabeth Bennett
Alexandra Coutts: Same as Marissa. Elizabeth Bennett
You can change the ending of any one book, movie or television show. Which do you choose and what new ending do you give it?
Leila: Season three of "The OC". Marissa wouldn't die.
S.A.: Titanic. Jack wouldn't die, Rose would make room for him.
Marissa: Les Miserables. Jean Valjean wouldn't die.
Alex: The ending of "Lost".
What's the last word you wrote (current work in progress, side project, outline, or anything fiction-related)?
If you were all able to interview each others' characters, whom would you each choose and what's one question you would ask them?
Leila: Some of Marissa's characters, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't answer my questions! Or Nick from Tumble & Fall (Alex chimed in here to say Nick was based on a friend of hers). Or Sophie from Tumble & Fall, and I would ask "How old are you?"
S.A.: The dad from This Song Will Save Your Life.
Marissa: Same! Or Vicky (from This Song Will Save Your Life).
What's the longest you've had to wait for a book you've been dying to read?
Leila: A decade. There was a decade between two books by Connie Willis.
S.A.: However long the wait was for the 7th Harry Potter.
Marissa: How long was the wait for Bitterblue?
Alex: A decade (she mentioned the titles of the books, but I couldn't write them down quickly enough. Fail.)
Which book has your favorite beginning or end (either that you've read or written)?
Leila: The ending of The Sun Also Rises.
S.A.: The beginning of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.
Alex: The beginning of Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume - "Stephanie is into hunks".
We all have book boyfriends (some of us have more than others O.o). Who tops your lists?
Leila: Michael from The Princess Diaries.
S.A.: Captain Thorne from Scarlet.
Marissa: Besides Mr. Darcy? Brigan from Fire by Kristin Cashore.
Alex: Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars (we both at this point acknowledged that in our heads, our YA book boyfriends are all more age-appropriate. Obviously ;-)). Wait. No. I'm switching to Gale from The Hunger Games.
*Leila said that not too long ago she was playing a Family Feud type game where they had asked 100 people which fictional character they'd most like to take out on a date, and after we all attempted to guess the number one spot she told us it was Hermione Granger. YAY FOR BOOKISH GIRLS!
After a stressful or particularly difficult day of writing, what's your go-to comfort food?
Leila: I eat chocolate chips while writing. I know it's time to stop when I've eaten way too many.
S.A: A hot drink and a Fiber One lemon bar.
Marissa: Any dark chocolate and a glass of wine.
Alex: Mac and cheese.
If you had $20 and 5 minutes in a bookstore to make a purchase, which section (other than YA) would you run to first?
S.A.: The adult recently released paperbacks section! (Leila agreed with her)
Marissa: Either the recently released paperbacks section or self help books.
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After all the questions were answered and everyone had finished their lunches, we headed across the street to the bookstore for a quick photo op before heading upstairs to the event itself.
Left to right: Mary Van Akin (publicist), Leila Sales, S.A. Bodeen, Molly Brouillette (publicist), Marissa Meyer, and Alexandra Coutts
There was a really great guest moderator from a local high school who asked a series of questions before opening things up to the audience, so below are some of the highlights of what was discussed; a combination of my notes and Cathy's since she was nice enough to jot things down as I popped up now and again to take pictures.
• There were originally going to be 5 books in The Lunar Chronicles series, with the last being "Puss in Boots", but it ended up being cut very early on and Marissa decided the series would end with Snow White in Winter.
• S.A. Bodeen originally never planned on writing a sequel to The Compound, but she was continuously asked what happened to Eli, so she started wondering that herself and came up with a twist which led to book two, The Fallout. It took 5 years for the sequel to happen though.
• Leila Sales has a background in psychology, her major in college, and has always been fascinated by the more social element to to it – how people interact with one another rather than the science of the brain. One of the studies referenced in This Song Will Save Your Life about people liking someone more if that person smiles at them, is a real study.
• Marissa was asked what attracted her to classic fairy tales and what her thoughts were on the damsels-in-distress-needing-princes-to-rescue-them aspect. She said she loved fairy tales in general, but wanted to present stronger, more diverse female characters who have dreams and ambitions far beyond meeting a handsome prince.
• All four authors were asked how they write full character arcs. S.A. said her characters always start out really flat, and it then takes draft upon draft for her to build their flesh. Alex said she always thinks she knows the full character at the start of their story, but the journey usually changes as she writes. Marissa said she focuses on a character's strengths or weaknesses and then builds up from there, asking herself what her characters are afraid of. Leila said her characters always start out flawed, and then hopefully over the course of the story they find a resolution for some of their problems and end up better than they started.
• Audience question: What is your favorite book of all time?
Leila: The Little Prince. Said it's such a simple story, but one with so much depth.
Marissa: Pride and Prejudice. It's the only books she's read multiple times, she's not a re-reader at all.
S.A.: A Prayer for Owen Meany and Shadow of the Wind.
Alex: The Sound and The Fury. When she was a senior in high school she had to write a paper on it, and has re-read it 3-4 times.
• Audience question: Which character in your book was the easiest to write or do you most relate to?
Leila: Said there's a piece of her in all her characters, even the secondary ones, but she related to Elise most when she was writing This Song Will Save Your Life.
Alex: Surprisingly, she said male characters are often easier for her to understand and therefore write, stating growing up with 2 younger brothers was helpful in that regard. Her female characters all start out similar to her, and she finds it much easier to separate herself from a male character, so Kayden in the book probably came easiest for her.
Marissa: She most related to Cress. Cress has been stuck in a satellite for 7 years at the beginning of the book, so she often escapes into her own imagination and has a profound fantasy life, which Marissa said of course could be said of her as well.
S.A: Eli was easiest for her. She said she enjoyed getting to delve deeper into who he is in The Fallout.
After the Q+A all the authors signed books and handed out fun swag goodies. It was a truly fantastic event and drew the biggest crowd I've seen yet at this bookstore which was really fun and exciting, and I want to say a huge thank you to all four authors (and the awesome Mary and Molly!) for letting me be a part of the event, I had an absolute blast. The second leg of the Fierce Reads tour is coming back to Ohio November 5th, this time passing through Cincinnati, so if any of you are in the area, I hope to see you there!
A few more pictures from the event:
Left to right: S.A., Alex, Marissa, and Leila; Alex answering questions
S.A. signing books; Marissa and Leila listening attentively :)
Marissa signing books; her tin full of Lunar Chronicles-related goodies
S.A., Alex, Me, Marissa, Leila
• • • • • • • • • •
Thanks to the amazingly generous team at Macmillan, I have a truly awesome giveaway for you all today. Up for grabs are signed copies of The Compound, The Fallout, Cinder, Scarlet, Tumble & Fall, and This Song Will Save Your Life. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.
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