This weekend, our friendly neighborhood indie bookstore, Parnassus Books, hosted a pretty fabulous event. I actually heard about it a few months back at C.J. Redwine‘s launch party for Defiance, where Myra McEntire was in attendance and gave me and a few other book bloggers a heads-up that something big was in the works for the end of October. So of course, I promptly Twitter-stalked* Myra until she gave me a definite date and time to mark on my calendar.
Then I realized that not only was it scheduled on the same day that we were going to be coming back from visiting friends in Arkansas, but it was also on the same day as our church’s Fall Fest, which the kids had told us in no uncertain terms that we had to attend OR ELSE.
So what’s the solution? Obviously, it’s to leave Arkansas at 7 a.m., drive six hours, make a super-speedy stop at home to grab a book for the event that had been delivered from Amazon while we were gone (and to take a gander at the über-nasty vinyl flooring in our kitchen that the owner of our townhouse decided to replace our wood floor with while we were gone — SURPRISE!), and then for me to go to the author event while my husband** took both of the kids to go jump in bouncy castles and get their faces painted and eat lots of cotton candy.
This may seem extreme, but I think the lineup of authors excuses the crazy, crazy day that was Sunday. Here’s who was there:
Tessa Gratton, author of the Blood Journals series
Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe series
Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door
Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch and the upcoming The Archived
Myra McEntire, author of the Hourglass series
Sonia Gensler, author of The Revenant
Pretty impressive, right? And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The place was pretty packed, and while I probably had one of the farthest drives to get there (I don’t think anyone topped 6 hours, but then again, I didn’t poll everyone because that would be weird), I had a scant 30-minute drive home, whereas many others had to traverse state lines after it was over.
So what actually happened during the event?
Well, first they gave us candy, which is ALWAYS a good way to begin an event. Always. And this doesn’t just apply to author events. I bet everything from school board meetings to sessions of Congress would be more pleasant if they opened by passing around buckets of candy.
I will attempt to recap the highlights of the event for you, but first, a warning. I normally take copious notes at these sorts of things, but I didn’t this time because I woke up at 6:00 and drove six hours that morning and my brain wasn’t entirely present. So I’m going to recap this from memory.
If When I screw up the details, feel free to let me know.
Ghost/Spooky Stories/Weird Research Happenings
Sonia: She’s pretty sure her dad’s house is haunted, and when she was little, she thinks she may have trapped a ghost in a closet, thus demonstrating her mastery over it. It didn’t bother her after that.
Myra: She went to New Orleans to research Infinityglass, and after taking pictures of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for inspiration, she looked at the photos and is pretty sure there are four ghosts in one of them. Of course, she didn’t bring the picture to show us, and so now I must bug her some more until she shows me.
Victoria: While living in London, she heard a story from a man who, while visiting an old house in some other country heard footsteps on the abandoned floor above him every night, like someone up there was having a party, but there was no one there. And when she got home to her house in London, she started hearing the same thing, except there was no abandoned floor above her. It was just the roof. (Others tried to convince her the footsteps were Santa, scouting the location, but she remained unconvinced).
Stephanie: Worked for a couple years in what she was pretty sure was a haunted library. She would hear bookish sounds like someone was moving books around while she was there alone, and came to find out that happened to all the librarians, with the same sounds coming from the same location, whenever they were alone in the library.
Beth: Didn’t have a ghost story, but once she took a group of students on a ghost tour of London, where the tour guide was being super-creepy and telling a story of a murderer who dismembered his victims and tied their body parts up in brown paper and string, and a student of hers broke into a hilariously inappropriate-yet-appropriate rendition of My Favorite Things.
Tessa: Also didn’t have a ghost story, but once upon a time she gave herself an impressive accidental cut with a kitchen knife, then instead of immediately bandaging it, she decided to do an impromptu experiment on whether or not vinegar really does slow coagulation. Using tupperware, because she is not crazy enough to pour vinegar onto her bleeding wound.
Where do they get inspiration?
Stephanie: Inspiration for Anna came in a dream, dramatically retold to us by her obliging husband, in which she saw Étienne St. Clair waiting for her on some steps in front of a white dome, and she knew she loved him and was in a boarding school, and he was American but with an English accent. She woke up and wrote it all down, and thus the book was born.
Beth: Wanted a murder mystery in a confined space with explosions, and her first idea of setting it on a cruise ship was hokey, so she put it in space.
Sonia: Had always been intrigued by 19th century boarding schools, and during a visit to one in Oklahoma, she got the idea for a story.
Myra: Wrote the first chapter of her book, and in asking herself why, at the end of the chapter, the man knows Emerson’s name, she eventually landed on her time travel theme after dismissing all the paranormal elements that she’d heard of before.
Victoria: In The Near Witch, she wanted to write a fairy tale where setting was as much a character as the people, and she also wanted to feature witches because she thinks they’re awesome archetypes.
Tessa: She settles on an emotional reaction she wants to elicit, then figures out what story would best accomplish that.
On the writing process:
This can really go all over the place. Some have a set process, some change it up. Some write linearly, some write scenes here and there. Some write a bit every day, some do nothing for days at a time then crank out 10,000 words in a flood of inspiration. Some crank out a first draft in a month, others take over a year. Basically, as long as the finished product is a book, there is no wrong way to write.
Also, if you want to make a career of writing, then just keep writing books. If the first one doesn’t sell, write another. And another. Beth Revis wrote 10 novels in 10 years before getting her publishing deal.
On the querying process:
Be professional, follow agents’ submission guidelines, and listen to the common querying advice that writers give on their blogs. As simple as that sounds, apparently those little things put you ahead of the pack.
On crossing genres:
None of them want to be put in a box, and several of them have other, unpublished novels in genres vastly different from what they’ve published. They just write what they’re interested in.
After the Q&A (during which local authors and event audience members Ruta Sepetys and Kat Zhang also weighed in a bit), the authors chatted, signed books, and were just generally fabulous. They also fangirled all over each other and traded copies of their own books for signing, which just drives home the point that authors are people and readers and fans too. It was fantastic to get to hang out with most of them, see some lovely blogger friends, and finally meet Sarah from Breaking the Binding (who drove 4 hours each way for the event), which was good considering she’s the one who gets subjected to the crazy randomness of my brain on a daily basis, and therefore it was about time that we actually meet.
So, once again, I leave you with the information that Nashville rocks and our authors are fabulous. And for those authors that aren’t Nashvillians (which was all of them except for Myra and Victoria), please come back, because we’re fun here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stare at my ugly kitchen floor some more and try to morph it into something acceptable using the powers of my mind.
*Not really. Okay, maybe a little.
** He’s the best ever.