So, as some of you may know if you follow me on twitter, I attended my very first book signing last Tuesday, March 22nd at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, to hear Veronica Rossi, Kierstan White and Mary E. Pearson speak. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was a little nerve wracked at first, but I’m so glad I went!
I arrived at the store just a few minutes before the authors came out, and there were rows chairs set up in the middle of the room, with a desk and 3 chairs at the front of the room, facing the small audience. When Veronica, Kierstan and Mary came out, we were greeted with warm smiles and waves, and Veronica was the first to speak regarding her new release “Riders.”
She told us a short anecdote of a Navy Seal who had provided her main inspiration for the story; he’d died in combat and refered to himself as a ‘warrior’ and a ‘man of faith’ and those words had stuck in her head as she wrote the book, which she admitted she’d had no plans to publish at first. The story is about four teenagers who die and come back as the four horsemen, and features a main character who’d been determined to become a U.S Army Ranger until his untimely death put an end to those plans. Veronica told us a little about her decision to write Gideon as a very harsh, arrogant and callous character rather than a more sensitive or sympathetic one.
From there, Mary and Kierstan each gave quick explanations of their most recent works, and then moved on to accepting questions from the audience, starting with the straightforward question:
What inspired you to write?
Pearson: I always loved to read. I think anyone who’s an avid reader has entertained the idea of writing at some point, you’ll read certain parts in books and think “oh, I would’ve written it differently!”
I loved the idea of stories. Stories are what make the world go around, it’s how we pass down history.
Rossi: I actually started as a visual artist in college. I would occassionally write angsty poetry about boys in highschool but I’d never actually thought that I could be a writer. My older brother was the kind of person who’d read a book a night and I was intimidated by that, because I would read only about a book a month, sometimes re-reading single pages five times. I never really considered myself a writer until I decided just to try it for myself, and I fell in love with it.
White: I always wanted to be a writer. I was originally going to write childrens books until I realized you actually have to have some artistic ability. We all wanted to be writers, but first you have to admit to yourself that you really want it.
Rossi: A lot of people don’t even take you seriously until you sell a manuscript. When I sold Under the Never Sky, friends and family kept begging to read it, and I was like “Where have you been all this time? I’ve been working on this for three years and now you want to read it?”
White: Yeah, I’ve been a published author for six years and I still get the question “oh, are you still doing that writing thing?” And I’m like “well, yea.”
Because you have a background in art, is it easier to write setting?
Pearson: It’s not easier, but it’s always at the forefront of my mind, it’s a main focus.
Rossi: Setting is very important to me. I became obsessed. In Under the Never Sky, the aether-which was a kind of electrical storm-became like a character to me. It’s all in images for me. In Riders, part of the book takes place in Norway. It’s really hard for me to right a book that takes place in a place I’ve never been to, so I took a trip there.
White: I had to work really hard on setting with my most recent book. It was really hard for me. I’m more dialogue oriented. I’d have to leave myself notes to myself in brackets to remind me to add more description.
Do you ever watch movies for Inspiration?
White: Oh, definitely. Even bad movies can provide you with just enough inspiration to jumpstart
an idea. For instance, the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which wasn’t good by any means, gave me inspiration for one of my characters. There was this mermaid who appeared very delicate and fragile on land, but once she was in the water, she became this fierce, powerful presence. I wrote an entire book based off that one scene.
Rossi: Yes, I think we’re the sum of everything we see and read.
Pearson: When you think about it, we’re all story tellers, and movies are just another way of telling a story.
Do you write all of your ideas down?
Pearson: They’re usually just there, in my head. If something triggers an idea for the book I’m working on, then yes.
Rossi: I email and text myself a lot. I do have a notebook, but I usually forget to bring it. I’ll often tell my husband my ideas but then he’ll get annoyed with me cause he has to remember them too.
White: I have to write them down if it’s something I can’t stop thinking about, because then I know it’s a good idea. Sometimes when I go through my old notes, I find pages of things I don’t even remember writing, and that’s how I know it’s probably not something worth following through with.
When you kill off a character, do you feel any ounce of remorse?
Rossi: I sort of agonize over it. I love all of my characters, even my villains. I don’t take it lightly at all. There was a major death in my first trilogy and I sent it to my editor asking if she thought I should change it. I don’t always trust that I’m doing the right thing, I need a sounding board.
White: I had an editor suggest that we kill off a pretty central character, but I didn’t think it would open up the main characters choices, so I didn’t do it. I think you need a good reason behind doing it, it needs to help drive the plot in some way.
Pearson: I actually unkilled a character in my third book. I felt really bad about it and ended up killing off someone else instead.
What is the hardest part of the writing process?
Rossi: Starting, the middle, and the end.
White: Then your reward is the reviews.
Rossi: Writing is hard work. You could be afraid that it won’t live up to what it’s like in your head. Or there’s writers block. Or having to walk away from a character. An enjoyable part is the public part. I wrote this for me, I didn’t think that anyone would read it, so I just wrote what I wanted to see.
Pearson: It doesn’t matter that 1000 people loved your book and raved about it, it’s that one person who hated it that we remember.
Rossi: And it’s a lot different now, with socia media and the internet, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.
What’s the weirdest critique you’ve ever gotten?
Rossi: I can tell you the most traumatic. It was when I was writing the second book in the trilogy, I turned in the book I’d been working so hard on, my editor called me, and I’ll never forget what she said, she told me: “I had a really hard time getting through this.” It worked out though, because I ended up re-writing it several times, and now I think it’s my strongest book.
Pearson: All constructive feedback stings at first, because you’ve worked so hard on something and you want other people to like it. I always say to give it a week, and after I’ve got my hackles down, I usually realize that what they’re saying is true.
White: Once, on Goodreads, someone wrote a comment about a not yet released book of mine that said “’please please please don’t let Kierstan White ruin Egyptian mythology.” And I just thought she was giving me a lot of power by saying that I, singlehandedly had the ability to destroy egyptian mythology. I mean, it’s pretty solid. She never followed up with a review, so I don’t know, maybe I did ruin it, who knows.
Is it hard to come up with a new plot that hasn’t been used?
White: Well, I’m writing history.
Rossi: They say there’s no such thing as an original story.
White: That’s why your voice really matters.
Rossi: I mean, I wouldn’t recommend writing about twelve districts and a televised game. If you’re really trying to copy, then you’re going to copy. But if you’re trying to tell your own story after being inspired, then you will.
Pearson: There are some universal themes that could really inspire you.
What are you working on right now?
Rossi: I’m working on the sequel to Riders and I’ve started working on my first adult historical novel.
Pearson: I’m working on the last book of my trilogy. It’s sort of consumed me. It’s a 680 page manuscript. After I get sometime to take a break from finishing this series, I’ll start working on something else. I always do.
White: My next book And I Darken comes out in June. I’ve drafted book two and I’m working on outlining book 3, and I’m also working on my first middle grade novel.
After that last question wrapped up the interview, the room was cleared of the chairs and we were able to buy any of their books and proceed to stand in line and wait for an autograph. I only had enough money for Riders so I spoke to Veronica first, and told her that I’d greatly enjoyed her previous trilogy, Under the Never Sky.
I then briefly spoke to Kierstan to tell her how I’d loved Paranormalcy and was anticipating the release of And I Darken, the release party of which I’ll hopefully be attending in June, as it takes place in the very same bookstore. I have not yet read anything of Mary’s, but after hearing her talk briefly about Kiss of Deception, I immediately put it on hold at my library. It was a very interesting evening, and I can’t wait to dive in Riders and get my hands on Kierstan and Mary’s other books.
I’ll be attending another book signing event this wednesday at the same place, with Rachel Hawkins, Sabaa Tahir, Alison Goodman, Alwyn Hamilton and April Genevieve Tucholke. I can’t wait!