Fierce Reads Tour Recap

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On October 10th Katie and I attended the Fierce Reads tour stop in the Chicago area, and it was delightful. We got to hear from and meet authors Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles), Gennifer Albin (The Crewel World Series), Nikki Kelly (The Styclar Saga), and Jessica Brody (The Unremembered Series). These four awesome ladies, who wrote some amazing books, had the whole audience laughing while also delivering insightful answer to the questions asked.

The event was moderated by The Book Addicts Guide who asked some fantastic questions! Check it out.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Marissa Meyer: My favorite character to write is Iko, who is Cinders android best friend and she’s also a fan favorite so I love it when I say her name and fans are like “yeah! She’s our favorite too”. She’s super super fun to write. When I first had this idea that Cinder was going to have this robot friend I imagined her being very logical and computer like, and then I started writing the book and Iko shows up in the first chapter, and she’s like “That’s a stupid idea, I’m going to be into fashion. I really want to go dance with the prince, and by the way can I have some shoes even though I don’t have feet?” And I was like ‘Who is this crazy robot character?’ but she’s been a lot of fun to write and she kind of continues to surprise me and grow with every book… sometimes literally.

Jessica Brody: My favorite character to write is Cody, who is the 13 year old foster brother that kind of takes Seraphina in and teaches her about the world which she knows nothing about. I came from a contemporary background, I wrote 3 contemporary novels, comedies, The Karma Club, My Life Undecided, and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father so when I’m set up to write this kind of more serious, sci-fi thing I was like “But I need that funny person who’s going to talk like a regular teenager, and not like an amnesiac super model.” Which is Seraphina, so I put this character in named Cody and he kind of responds to Seraphina the way I think I would respond to her if I met her on the street. Which is she’s kind of ridiculous because she knows nothing. She doesn’t know what the internet is she doesn’t know what a television is and he’s just kind of like “really? what?” So he was really fun to write and then I turned in my first draft and my editor wrote back and said “Yeah can we cut Cody? Because he’s really kind of annoying” and I was like “but he’s my favorite!” So I fought back, which you can do, this is a misconception that you cannot disagree with your editor, I disagree with her all the time. And I said “you know, we need Cody, he’s like the touchstone… the real person to reflect back on the reader.” And so I fought and I won and now he’s kind of become a fan favorite. I have team Cody buttons and all that, but every time I get a fan letter about Cody I just forward it to my editor. She’s since rescinded her decision about Cody, but I think that’s just because all of the fans.

Gennifer Albin: My favorite character to write is actually my villain. Which says just a lot about me. I write evil mothers, I like my villains… “Therapy”. But Cormac Patton is my favorite character and he is compulsively clad in a black tuxedo and swilling bourbon, and I think that’s all you need to know about him. If all they wear is a black tuxedo to everything, like breakfast, you kind of get a sense of who they are and how important they think they are. But he has the best lines, and he really challenges my character. She gets thrown into this situation where a lot of people are trying to control her and he’s trying to control her but he also is the one person that kind of gives her credit for being a strong female and speaks to her as an equal, so they banter a lot and it’s very 1940s screwball comedy and I love writing them. It was the most fun ever to write those characters, so I was thrilled because he’s not in the second book as much, not a spoiler, but maybe. He comes back in the third book and things are even weirder between them which is awesome. So there’s something to look forward to and he’s still wearing a tuxedo, but maybe he has a reason this time *wink*

Nikki Kelly: I shift between my characters, sometimes I really enjoy Brooke. My characters are all quite different. I’ve got two Irish characters, I’ve got two English characters and two American characters, and when I started writing Brooke she was kind of the all American kind of fashionista sort of Floridian girl and I remember writing in my manuscript when Lailah first meets her she’s kind of assessing her and called her all American and my editor wrote back to me and circled it saying “what’s all American? What does this mean?” and I was like “she’s American” and she’s like “yes but why? what makes her American? How does she look what does she think of her?” and I ended up calling her every inch of the valley girl with a vogue underneath her arm. Which I still think is slightly stereotypical but then equally my English characters walk around drinking tea and eating biscuits so equally it works both ways people. So I’d probably say Brooke because I think she probably brings a bit of banter to an otherwise very tense and intense situation which is the majority of the book. So ya know… there’s a line where Lailah says “she wasn’t half bad when she wasn’t trying to kill us” and I think that probably speaks fondly about Brooke.

If you could have the special powers or abilities featured in another panelists book which would you pick

MM: I want to do everything Seraphina can do, I always want the violet eyes

JB: I would really like Adelice’s ability to weave, and particularly rip people that are mean to you {from time and space.}

Katie and Kylie with Nikki Kelly

Katie and Kylie with Nikki Kelly

NK: I’d actually say Seraphina because of the quick math, and the many languages that she seems to be able to speak. So she’s just talking to somebody and suddenly she’s speaking Russian. HA! Can you imagine? Yes I can speak the French, defluef defluef. Actually I’m a bit like her because when I go to France… did you watch the episode of Friends when Joey learns French and he’s like defluef defluef and phoebe’s like “nooo” and he’s like “yes defluef defluef”? When I went to France I decided to adopt the Joey etiquette with the French. I did a lot of research for the book in the South of France, because they eventually go to the south of France, because we’re very cultured in this book. Culture *pats book*. But I adopted this process and I made the mistake of trying it out as you walk through customs in the airport and they were like “Bonjour!” and I’m like “defluef” they’re like “yes, passport please” “Oh defluef defluef defluef” and they did actually take me off to the side, but that’s another story.

JB: Knowing the French I’m sure they loved that. They don’t even like when you try to speak their language with real words.

NK: there’s no point, don’t bother, just speak English.

GA: I would say actually I would like Lailah’s ability to like come back to life. I have this morbid thing where I can always imagine a really bizarre way to die. I think it stems from watching too many episodes of the show Dead Like Me, people die in really weird ways, but I’m constantly like “Wow I’m bending over this thing and there’s this thing above me and if someone were to hit me right now I’d just be decapitated” Could Lailah come back from that?

NK: Headless, yes. She’d have to stick her head back on, but ya know.

GA: I’m good with that, so yeah I would take Lailah’s ability to come back to life because danger is everywhere.

What’s the biggest challenge when creating the worlds in which your books take place?

JB: People ask me “how do you recommend world building” and I’m like “well I’ll tell you how to not world build, and that’s how I did it.” See the problem with writing this book is that Seraphina, without giving away too many spoilers, Seraphina is not technically from our world, she’s from somewhere else and she doesn’t actually return to that place until the third book. So I was just having fun sprinkling in these fun things about her like oh she could do this and she could have this and oh wouldn’t be cool if she says something like this and then I got to book three and I had to actually make all that make sense. I was like ‘that doesn’t make any sense…’ So I had kind of written myself into many many corners and my lesson learned is that if you’re going to write a series in which the main characters from somewhere else and doesn’t return there until later, make sure you think it all the way through first. So book three was really challenging for me because I had to kind of figure out what that world looked like and make all the little fun things that I came up with make sense. So that was probably the biggest challenge for me was having a character outside of the world and not having known what the world really looked like in great detail.

NK: My worlds are a sort of a spin on heaven and hell so a lot of angel books tend to use heaven and they tend to open with a biblical quote. Mine opens with a Dark Knight quote from Batman, because it’s me and this is my book. So that probably gives you a sense of the world, there’s three of them and they are a sort of modern twist on heaven and hell, and then earth is as it is because it was too difficult to do anything with that whilst trying to do two other worlds. But I didn’t really find any challenges with it really. I took the mythology that we have and then spun it a different way, and then I wanted to answer the question that in most vampire books you never really know where the first vampires came from. Like where was the first one, you know the one that bit the first person? Who’s that person? Who’s the one we point the finger at? Nobody seems to know who it was, and then there are some originals but who made you? And it goes on and on and on. So the world building in my book gives some answer to where vampires came from in the first place and to where angels came from in the first place and what they’re all doing here and what their intentions are with the rest of us.

Katie and Marissa Meyer

Katie and Marissa Meyer

MM: So for me I think that for me the biggest challenge of world building is also the thing that I enjoy most about world building and in this series I really wanted this series to have a really global feel to it with this plague kind of spreading over the planet and this species of lunars wanting to control earth. I wanted it to seem like these problems were affecting every person on the planet, not just this small town in America or this city. So I knew early on that I wanted the books to take place in different parts of the world, so Cinder mostly takes place in futuristic China. Scarlet mostly in France. Cress is mostly in Africa, and then Winter will be on Luna; on the moon. So for me taking these countries that are modern countries, France, Africa, continents, Asia and kind of foresee hundreds and hundreds of years in the future what are these cultures going to look like, and I had a lot of fun picking for the Eastern Commonwealth, which is a conglomeration of all of modern day Asia plus parts of Russia. I had a lot of fun picking from different cultures, what traditions do I pull from Korea and the Philippines and India and just kind of trying to merge them all together into a culture that felt believable and authentic and rich and had of a lot of history to it. So yeah It’s a challenge trying to make that all work and not make it seem like you’re just throwing chop stick in there and “oh look its Asia” but it’s also a lot of fun too.

GA: Okay, so when I’m world building… I kind of started with the idea of The Crewel, it came to me because of a painting. So there’s this painting called Embroidering the Earth’s Mantel by Remedios Varo, and this is a real painting, and it’s mentioned in the book The Crying of Lot 49 which is where I heard about it. But in this painting there’s this room in a tower, and there are girls sitting in a circle and they’re all sewing, and there’s this shadowy figure watching over them and kind of stirring this pot where threads are coming up and those are the threads that they’re sewing in the fabric, and then the fabric is going out the windows and creating the world. If you look really really closely at the picture where she’s sewing one of the girls eyes is averted, like she’s aware of the audience watching her, and then if you look super super super closely, and you probably have to have an art book or hunt down the private seller who owns it, but you can see that she’s actually embroidering herself into the world. I did a paper on this in grad school and I read what Remedios Varo said about that and she was like “we create our own reality” and I thought that was so interesting, and one day I was walking by my bookshelf and I saw that book, The Crying of Lot 49, and I just sat down and wrote the prologue of Crewel and it pretty much exists word for word. So then I started thinking ‘okay so there’s this world that girls can create the world through fabric, right? No, they can create it using threads on a loom but the looms are scientific machines but it’s actually time and space’ So then I started reading books on quantum mechanics and I didn’t understand a word. But Stephen Hawking uses a really good limerick in A Brief History of Time or whatever it is he wrote. So every once in a while I would go to my husband and be like “okay so string theory…?” and then he’s very patiently explaining it to me for like 15 minutes and I’d give him a really really terrible “so that’s what this means” and he’d be like “yeah… go with that”. So I used all this science fiction and I decided to kind of marry those two concepts together with this strange fantastical painting, so I created this very beautiful very atmospherically world where I think you’d want to live. They wear red lipstick and high heels and fedoras and everyone’s very posh.

NK: They should have bowler hats, not fedoras.

Katie and Gennifer Albin

Katie and Gennifer Albin

GA: It’s not really time appropriate cause there’s a secret about that, but I’m not gonna go there. Anyway so, but my big world building problem, I’m getting to it I promise, is that I put all of these insane scientific theories and then my editor and my agent are like “…. what?” and I’m like “it’s really, it would actually make sense”, and they’re like “… noooo.” And I’m like “you guys don’t watch doctor who do you?” and so I literally starting sending like, there’s a timeline thing in the second book, and there’s an episode of doctor who that I discovered later that I was like “Oh this explains it a lot better than in the book” well more concisely and it has Matt Smith so it’s a winning situation. So I was like “watch that episode, you’ll get it.” So I put a lot of science into my books and that’s probably the biggest world building issue is that I didn’t pay attention in science class.

For more check out The Book Addict’s Guide for her own exclusive interview and some extra highlights of the night.

Also, check out Katie’s Twitter giveaway for these awesome Fierce Reads titles, including Lailah by Nikki Kelly and more —> @polishedpage’s twitter giveaway

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Kylie (and her lovely friend Layla) with Marissa Meyer

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