Books of Wonder Event Recap with Gayle Forman, Kristin Cashore, and Melina Marchetta!

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July 19, 2012 by Heidi

At some point this year it occurred to me that hey, I live just outside NYC, a place where BOOKS HAPPEN.  Books don’t just take place here, they’re made here, they’re written here, and of course, they’re celebrated here!  So why have I lived here for three years and not taken greater advantage of this fact?  Well this year I’ve started to, I’ve gone to a huge event (BEA) and a couple of smaller ones, including the incredibly fun event hosted last night at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, with authors Gayle Forman, Kristin Cashore, and Melina Marchetta.

These three authors are friends, and since Melina is in the US so rarely, they decided to do an event together!  And we’re all oh so glad that they did.  I was kind of shocked that more people weren’t there, but the short notice (the event was conceived/announced less than two weeks ago) it’s somewhat understandable.  There were still about 80 or so of us crowded in hanging on their every word and enjoying ourselves immensely.  You could tell that these women genuinely enjoy each other’s company, love each others work, and are each thankful and welcoming to all of their fans.

Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Gayle Forman at Books of Wonder in NYC

I was trying to be unobtrusive and not use a flash, so most of my pics were fairly blurry, but THIS one captured the spirit of the authors perfectly.

I loved the format of three authors who know each other and each other’s work well having an open conversation about their writing.  You could tell from the entire evening that they loved being together, from the way that they laughed together and talked about one another’s work, to the way Gayle Forman ripped The Piper’s Son out of Melina Marchetta’s hands to find her favorite sexual tension scene.  They have all written incredibly different books, but they all have similarities in their use of companion novels, their utter fearlessness when it comes to writing for young adults, and their ability to make us love some of the least likable characters.

I went in for the event super early so that I could meet and hang out with Catie from The Readventurer on her first venture to NYC!  We didn’t have a ton of time to warrant anything big like a museum, though it wouldn’t have been the worst idea ever considering it was around 100 degrees out, so we mostly just walked around and saw a bit of the city.  I make a pretty crappy tour guide, and we were dying of sweat and grime by the time we stumbled into Books of Wonder, but it was fun regardless.  She brought me a whole bag of books that I’m dying to read (I’ll post them in a book haul Sunday), and I always have the best time talking to other book fiends who enjoy the same things I do.  We were at Books of Wonder early enough to relax and explore the store (I was shocked it wasn’t like…two times bigger.  I thought, where on earth do they have room for an event?!), picked up some books, and still missed out on seating.  Consequently you can see the back of our heads in about all of the Books of Wonder pics (which are all less blurry than mine–yay!).  We got to spend a bit of time before and after with Janice from Janicu’s Book Blog, Sash from Sash and Em, and Karen of Goodreads renown.  It was a blast!

Heidi and Catie

Catie and I after a long day of sun and heat.

The authors opened by talking a bit about why each of them had ended up writing companion novels rather than strait series.  Gayle Forman (GF) stated that she felt the word “sequel” was kind of a bad word with the connotation that the sequel is always a let down (with the exception of The Godfather II and The Empire Strikes Back). Kristin Cashore (KC) admitted that she kept thinking there wouldn’t be another book, and they all agreed that their further books grew out of the reality that they just couldn’t get certain characters out of their heads.  For example, Melina Marchetta (MM) admits that she didn’t like Froi, but then his story came to her and the series was created.  There wasn’t necessarily going to be a Quintana of Charyn either, but she pulled a George R.R. Martin and realized the story she had planned for Froi of the Exiles was just too big for one book when she hit about page 500.

They also laughingly discussed how you can really screw yourself with unplanned companion novels.  MM admits she hates the name Froi, and would have thought of something less stupid, GF said the same of Adam’s band Shooting Stars.  KC said she put up this impenetrable forest and mountain range to slow Katsa and Po down without realizing that this would hinder movement a lot when it came to Bitterblue.  They also said, however, that they unwittingly planted Easter eggs for themselves in their initial books–lines or characters that later helped to inspire the other books.

Finniken of the Rock, Jellicoe Road, and Fire

The books I bought or took to be signed.

When addressing people’s reactions to books, they each seem to take reviews in various ways.  KC seemed to be the most negatively affected by bad reactions, and was pretty upset about being labeled as someone who is ‘anti-marriage and hates children’ because of Katsa.  She exclaimed that people should look at the pictures on her phone “My phone is full of babies!”.  She’s found it best just to cut out reading feedback entirely, no longer visits her Goodreads page, and does not have a public e-mail address.  I respect this, and personally think it’s the best route to take for those authors who are hit hard by that one bad review for every ten great ones.  GF wisely stated that “the opposite of love is indifference”, and that even hearing that someone hates a book means that it affected them.  All of them spoke to the fact that a lot of people have really disliked their books, but that those aren’t the readers they’re writing for, and they’re so grateful for the outpouring of excitement and love from the readers who do enjoy their work.  MM joked that as an author, you should just stop reading a review after the words “I really wanted to like this book” and GF added that those are fairly equivalent to “don’t take this the wrong way”.

The authors talked about how great one another are at writing sexual tension, and forced each other to each do a reading from their books as an exhibit, which was both hilarious and a wee bit awkward.  I can’t help but agree that they’re all excellent at this, and the tension/slow burn development of their characters’ relationships is one of the reasons I love them best.  MM says it’s best not to try to make a scene about the sexual tension, it will arise naturally from knowing the character’s insecurities and the situation, KC states that conflict is a huge part of sexual tension–it has to be two characters who can take each other on in a way no one else could, and GF admits that it’s what you don’t say that’s more evocative than what you do.

One of the parts of their discussion I loved best was their addressing what it is like to change points of view.  Personally, companion novels are my favorite, and I’m not a big fan of series.  I get bored reading the same characters, and it turns out they get bored writing them!  KC said that she learned a lot about characters like Katsa and Po by writing about them from someone else’s perspective, GF agreed that you learn new things about your characters by stepping away from them.

Coinciding with the PoV change, is the reality that both MM and KC (who is currently working on contemporary fiction) have switched genres.  MM told us a lovely story about the inspiration for Finnikin (from NYC!) in which it occurred to her how many people are living outside their homelands, but how the story she wanted to tell might be too political to set in the here and now.  She actually asked her publicist to talk her out of trying to write fantasy, but I don’t think any of us are surprised to hear that her publicist’s reaction was ‘of course you can write fantasy!’.  She says that she has to travel to write fantasy, drawing inspiration from the world, and she never knows how it’s going to turn out–sounds like a nice deal to me!  KC said that really all of her books are about the same thing, she just uses various formats to express them.

SAM_1115SAM_1117SAM_1118

My favorite question from the audience was asking them how they all manage to write about these characters that are so unlikable, and then turn around and make us love them?  KC says that the abrasive characters are the most fun to write, GF thinks Adam is most like her, so she hopes she can get people to like him, and MM says that she tries to use little things (like Thomas’s e-mail address) as hints that there is something to this character, and they’ll get better if you just don’t give up on them.

I found it interesting that each of these authors have a similar structure in how they go about writing–for each of them a story starts with character, and character is the most important thing (though MM and KC did both admit this hurt the world building of their fantasy a bit).  They talk about their characters as if they are real people with minds of their own, that drive the story and surprise them every day.  That’s probably why I love their characters so damn much, eh?  They all want their books to be cathartic, to connect themselves and readers to something, and they write for themselves and readers like them.

Fun tidbits:

  • KC bemoaned translation issues.  Po means butt in German, and Katsa is apparently quite close to the Italian word for penis.
  • They’ve all had more complaints about the swearing in their books than the sex.
  • In fact, swearing is the thing MM misses most when writing fantasy (and yes, they discussed making up new swear words for these situations–weasel butter I believe?)
  • KC’s favorite suggestion for a series title for her books was ‘Kick Ass Women Who Kill Their Fathers’–I approve.
  • MM said “said is a great word”…clearly James Preller didn’t get the memo.
  • I think KC’s signature on my copy of Fire looks like it says “Bitch” (see above) and that makes me kinda happy.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening, and a wonderful event!  I felt like the time with the authors flew by, and I am so happy that I got to see these three wonderful women together.  Now that I’ve finally been to Books of Wonder, you can certainly bet I’ll be going back for more in the future!

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52 comments »

  1. mollyspring says:

    Ah! These are three of my absolute favorite YA authors, so I’m so jealous you got to go to go to the event but equally excited to read your take on it!

    In all three of these authors books, it is the characters that really speak to me, so I’m glad to hear that’s the priority in their writing process.

    Thanks for sharing your taken on the event and so glad you got to go!

    • Heidi says:

      Thank you, I wish more people had had the opportunity, but I am so happy that I got to attend! It was fantastic. I am with you 100% that it is these women’s characters that make their books so compelling, so hearing them talk about them as if they were completely and utterly real made perfect sense.

  2. reynje says:

    Fantastic recap, Heidi! I’m really intrigued (and excited) to read a contemporary by Cashore. Also – that signature totally looks like “bitch”. Nice! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, doesn’t it? It made me laugh, I think Kristin Cashore would be okay with that revelation. Really interested to see how a contemp by her pans out as well. Apparently she’s written two previously, which she says are terrible and in her closet, but hopefully this one works!

  3. Lauren says:

    What an awesome recap of three fabulous authors! Your post makes me love them even more. You must have taken notes to get so many details about the event. Thanks so much for this!

    I especially love what you said about companion books. I didn’t even think about the fact that these authors share that in common. Companion novels are a great way to build on a story without making it boring or falling into some of the traps YA authors get into – like creating un-needed conflict to keep the story going (or love triangles *shudders*). Let’s convince Asheley to read Finnikin soon!

    Now I wish that I’d driven the 4 hours to NYC so I could see it myself.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Lauren! Yes, Catie, who I spent the day with, DID take a bus up from DC just for the day–I hope she thought it was worth it! I agree with you on companion novels 100%. I think they’re the best way to go, sure I LOVE certain characters, but I don’t want their story to go on forever, because it’ll be weakened if it does.

  4. Really great recap Heidi! I also really loved that they all seemed to be such fans of each other. I loved seeing their personalities come through as they interacted and played off one another. It was such a great talk! Thanks again (and again, LOL) for taking me around – I had a great time! I still can’t believe we didn’t get seats. *grumbles*

    I can’t wait for you to read some of the books I brought up!

    And stop saying you were a crappy tour guide! Did I not see the giant staircase?!!! I ask you.

    • Heidi says:

      Bwhahaha, you DID see a giant staircase. Oh! And the Flatiron Building which is the name of that long skinny building that I said was ‘FAMOUS’ but I couldn’t remember the name of. 😛

      I had SUCH a great day, I’m so happy you came! Even if I couldn’t move the next day…heck, I barely stayed awake on the train ride home. I’m sure you will hear LOTS about the books you brought me as I read them. =)

  5. Grace says:

    This looks like it was a wonderful event! I love it when authors write companion novels instead of a straight series; with Cashore, I jumped in with Bitterblue without reading the first two and was still able to understand and enjoy it, which makes me happy. :)

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! I really think that’s the best way to go. You could read any or all of Cashore’s books and be fine! It was a wonderful event. =)

  6. Chachic says:

    Great recap, Heidi! So jealous that you got to attend this awesome event. I’ve read and loved books from all three authors so I would jump at the chance to meet them in person. I probably would have brought copies of all of their books if I had the chance to go to this event. It’s nice that they’re all friends and they’re fans of each other’s work. Glad you had a lot of fun with Catie (and you met Janice too!) 😀

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Chachic! I wish I’d gotten to talk to Janice more, just a few minutes at each end of the event. I thought I showed remarkable restraint by only buying 2 books, but I could have been in big trouble if I’d liked most of the American covers more (WHAT did they do to Finniken/Froi?! The Aussie covers are 10x better!). It was a lot of fun!

  7. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being excited that you two got to go see these three authors together. However, reading both of your recaps makes me feel ecstatic that I live somewhere that never really gets too hot. WHY ARE YOU BOTH WEARING LITTLE CARDIGANS/SWEATERS?! I’m hot just looking at you.I am sweating just reading about your day.

    So many little tidbits of awesome. If I was an author, I don’t know if I could actually ever read a sexual tension scene aloud in front of a group. Anxiety.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, lol, I think the only really awkward one was Gayle Forman’s scene because it was pretty intense. Kristin Cashore’s was short, and Melina Marchetta’s was mostly funny (you could tell she felt awkward reading a more intense scene).

      And yeah, I don’t know why I wore a sweater (and yeah, it’s wool too), partially because I knew if I didn’t cover my shoulders I’d look like boiled crab by evening. And Catie only put hers on in the air conditioning. =)

      It was SO much fun to go to this event though. The authors were all so lovely. And yeah, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t love living in Washington for 9 months out of the year, but summer? Freaking perfect.

  8. How awesome that you guys got to meet those cool authors all in one place! If only it had been a weekend event. *sigh* Next time for sure! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I know! I think that a LOT more people would have been able to make it if it had been a weekend, but I suppose it’s tough to put things together on the fly when Melina’s in the country for such a short time. Next time for sure!

  9. Gosh, you’re so lucky you got to go to this event Heidi! Kristin Cashore and Melina Marchetta are two of my favorite authors ever and I love Gayle Forman’s writing too! I actually live only an hour away from NYC by train, but I didn’t get the chance to go to this one! :/ I love your recap of this event though. 😀

    I think one of my favorite things that Cashore mentioned were how people seem to think they know who she is based on the ideals of one of her characters. I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews about Graceling with those same ideas and they have often confused me since Kristin seems to be so much different from Katsa, especially on her blog. I’m glad she addressed that issue though. I also love that all three of them spoke about the sexual tension in their novels as it can really skyrocket in novels such as Jellicoe Road, Saving Francesca, Fire, and Where She Went. Essentially, I loved the way their conversation seemed to flow with such ease!(:

    Once again, thanks for the wonderful recap Heidi! 😀

    P.S. – I think Cashore’s signature looks like “bitch” too! In fact, I had to look more closely to make out the Kristin Cashore within it! 😉

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks so much, Keertana! It’s a shame you couldn’t make it in for this one, hopefully you can make it to other events in the future! I agree, I don’t understand people judging an author’s character based on one of their chracter’s ideals, particularly when Katsa is just ONE character, and she has many others who are very different. I was sad to hear how much this bothered her, but happy to know that she’d found her own ways to deal with this, and obviously she has huge fan support from those of us who know better/love the fact that Katsa is who she is. =)

  10. VeganYANerds says:

    What an awesome recap, Heidi! I am so glad you and Catie got to meet and listen to three fantastic authors!!

  11. Alyssa says:

    I am so glad that you did this!!! I am going to have to go an event ASAP! I don’t know why I don’t take advantage of living so close to the city! It seems like you had a great time and when I first looked at your picture of Fire I thought it said Bitch too 😀

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, right? I love it. If I EVER see an event I know you’d love, I’ll bug you till you give in and come. Hard for middle of the week ones. I wish I’d taken advantage of more in the past, there have been some at the NYPL that I’ve thought ‘that would be cool’ but it just seemed like too much work. It really wouldn’t be!

  12. Kristen says:

    Wow, this sounds like fun! I haven’t read the other two authors, but I love Kristin Cashore’s books. If I had one of her books signed I would want it to be Fire.

    I also thought her signature looked like it said “Bitch” before I saw you thought that, too! Glad to know it’s not just me. I was actually looking at it pretty closely and trying to figure out how it didn’t say that. 😉

    • Heidi says:

      Hahaha, I’m so glad so many people see the same thing. I feel like there’s so much Fire love out there, that even though I haven’t read it yet I’m glad I had it signed (it IS my favorite of the covers). Are you planning to read Melina Marchetta’s fantasy at any point?

      • Kristen says:

        I hope Fire lives up to your expectations after hearing so much love for it!

        Actually, I haven’t heard much about Melina Marchetta’s fantasy, but I should look it up and see if it sounds like something I’d like! Is her fantasy book one of hers you’ve read?

  13. Awesome! I loooove signings with multiple authors! And you are right, KC’s signature does look like bitch hahahaha

  14. It is now my goal in life to make my signature look like a curse word.

    Your picture of the three of them is perfect! I still can’t believe all three of them were together in the same place — and in such an intimate venue. Thanks for this fantastic recap, Heidi! Keep going to more events. :)

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Maggie, I will! It’s still kind of mind boggling to me too, it was such a tiny space, but that made it really fun and intimate. I loved that picture, I was so happy I captured that moment!

  15. Brandy says:

    Thanks for the great synopsis for all of us who couldn’t be there.

    (I confess of all the tiny details that make Tom awesome in The Piper’s Son, his email address is the one that makes me smile the most.)

  16. Amanda says:

    Wow this sounds like an amazing experience! I’d love to have the opportunity to meet Kristin Cashore and Melina Marchetta! I love the little anecdotes you included. Now with your recap I can almost imagine that I was there myself haha. I don’t think there are many author events and signings out by me, but I should start looking them up. How did you find out about this one?

    • Heidi says:

      I found out about this one through Twitter, actually. I follow all of these authors, Gayle Forman in particular Tweeted about it a lot.

      I feel like I need to pay more attention to the ones I have access to as well! Glad you enjoyed the recap. =)

  17. Michelle says:

    Oh man, I heard about this event from Janice and would have given most of the toes on my left foot to have gone! Thank you for the wonderful recap tho! I love all three of these ladies.. especially Melina Marchetta. Annnd you got a signed copy of FIRE!!! I have to reread that sucker every 6 months or just to remind myself how amazing it is.

    • Heidi says:

      Yay! SO much Fire love, I’m going to have to put it off for a while because my expectations at the moment have been blown up to the extreme. It was a lovely event, so happy I had the chance to see Melina Marchetta in my lifetime. I’ve had the chance to see the others before, but would totally see them again–they’re great!

  18. Heidi this is such an amazing post! Girl, you either take awesome notes or you had a tape recorder, because this is SO thorough!

    If I could pick any event of the many I see bloggers attend, this one would be IT! I adore all of those authors and now I feel like I know them so much better. It makes me want to re-read Finnikin, Graceling and Where She Went:) I loved their different viewpoints on negative reviews (especially GF) and I love their opinions on Companion Novels vs. Series. I’d read before that MM hated the name Froi, and I love KC’s patricidal series title! And yes, her signature does look like Bitch, too funny!

    This was such a wonderful recap, Heidi. Thank you for letting all of us experience it with you:)

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks Heather, I’m so happy to hear people enjoy reading these (I know I always have, but this is the first I’ve written). It IS fun to get to know the authors a bit better. =)

      I totally had a little notebook with me that I was scribbling in, or I wouldn’t remember nearly so much!

  19. […] friends! I (obviously from that stack) had an AMAZING week in books what with getting to see Gayle Forman, Kristin Cashore, and Melina Marchetta in person AND spend some time hanging out with awesome bloggers, including Catie who brought me an entire bag […]

  20. Nice recap! Very detailed and thorough. Now I feel like I was in your shoes. Have you read Jellicoe Road before? I need to reread it. It’s been awhile.

    • Heidi says:

      I just read Jellicoe Road this week before going to the event! Still in that book hangover state after having loved it…it’s one of those book that was so fantastic I almost don’t know what to say about it (see: why I still haven’t reviewed Daughter of the Forest).

  21. Holly says:

    Oh, I hope you like The Lost Conspiracy and A Monster Calls! I thought both were amazing. And for the record, I did not love Fire. I think I’m the only one, and I’m positive it was overly high expectations after loving Graceling. I’m sure you’ll like it more than I did, though. Everyone does.

  22. Jasmine Rose says:

    I just wish there was some way to instantly jump to where you are so we could visit and do fun things like this. I want to go to more author events and such, but it’s not quite so fun to go by myself. Looks like it was a great event too 😀

    • Heidi says:

      I know, right? I was really fortunate to know a couple of people who were going to this one so that I wasn’t totally on my own, but I would have gone by myself anyway because it was such a fantastic line up!

  23. Cassie F. says:

    Okay, I am SUPER jealous you got to go to this event! AH! I wish I lived more up north. Someday, I WILL meet Kristin Cashore and Melina Marchetta some day. I WILL! <333

    Anyway, glad to know you had a lovely time! Enjoy your signed books. 😀

  24. cannefrye says:

    Okay, I am SUPER jealous you got to go to this event! AH! I wish I lived more up north. Someday, I WILL meet Kristin Cashore and Melina Marchetta some day. I WILL! <333

    Anyway, glad to know you had a lovely time! Enjoy your signed books.

  25. […] recaps (check these out for more pictures and other details of the event): Bunbury in the Stacks The Readventurer Share this:PinterestTwitterFacebookTumblrPrintEmailMoreRedditDiggStumbleUponLike […]

  26. janicu says:

    I need a camera with better zoom, my pictures were rather blurry! :) Such a good recap, I am very impressed you got it all in a few paragraphs. That was a good time, although I was very hot and melting that day, so I probably wasn’t at my most lively.

    Good point about the store not being as big as you’d think. But they got over 80 people in there -I was eying people’s numbers when they were queued up for the signings and saw them go up to at least 77. Where did the people come from?

    • Heidi says:

      I know, right? That’s how I was judging the amount of people there as well, I knew you were around 60, and couldn’t have been the last. I was so hot and melty that day too! It would have been nice if the event was on a cooler day, or a weekend.

      The pic I posted was the only one that I got that wasn’t pretty blurry! I was really glad since they were all laughing in it though. =)

  27. […] agree that their characters don’t “speak” to them in a way that you often hear (Melina Marchetta comes to mind), they emphasized that the characters are not external, they make them […]

  28. […] of the Rock is another of those gems in fantasy that works as a stand alone, in fact, I know from Melina Marchetta herself that it was initially intended as such.  Her world building is so adept it causes me to […]

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