Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of hearing three great YA authors read from their books and meeting one in particular, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab!
Children’s Book World of Haverford, PA, regularly hosts children’s and YA author events and signings. Tuesday night Schwab (The Archived, The Unbound, Vicious, etc), A. C. “Annie” Gaughen (Scarlet, Lady Thief), and Tiffany Schmidt (Bright Before Sunrise, Send Me a Sign) gave us a brief synopsis of their latest books and then opened up the discussion to the floor. Instead of reading pre-selected passages, they asked us to choose between pages 1 and 100 and they would read a sentence (“My sentences are short!” –Schwab) or small passage from that page. Gaughen’s were steamy, Schmidt’s revealed sneak-peaks into the minds of two characters, and Schwab’s were philosophical.
The best moments were when the authors became passionate about why they wrote these particular books. For Gaughen, it stemmed from a love of history, particularly Robin Hood lore and Eleanor of Aquitaine, of creating a fierce, frustrated, independent female character to take place of the poorly represented female of Hood lore. Schmidt wanted to debunk the whole “mean girl” high school hierarchy, that some of the popular girls are that way for being friendly, nice, people-pleasing. The issue lies in identity: if she’s too busy trying to make others comfortable, then who does she want to be? And Schwab’s inspiration stemmed from a desire to write about a hotel-turned-apartment building (setting 1) and a library of the dead (setting 2). The library of the dead came from her fear of death: that, as humans, we are composed of memories and experiences for a short period and then we disappear forever — unless these bodies filled with memories (Histories) are later stored for safe keeping. There’s a possibility for us to wake. Combine the two settings, and voila! rief introductions about their latest books and then opened up the floor for a game: rather than read a pre-selected passage, they wanted us to shout out a random number between 1 and 100 and they would read a sentence (“My sentences are short!” –Schwab) or small passage from that page number. Gaughen’s passages were filled with heavy breathing and sexy times (which we all enjoyed), Schmidt’s had a great selection of two perspectives stating their thoughts, and Schwab’s were existential and philosophical.
I also really enjoyed how fired up they got regarding female authors in the industry. There’s so much I can state on this — how degrading it feels when a male says, “I’m surprised how great you are in this genre even though you have lady parts,” etc etc — and it was clear they had a lot to say as well, but there’s only so much time in an evening. What are your thoughts? Particularly thriller and sci-fi/fantasy readers? Does it matter to you if a male or female wrote the book, and why/why not?
When it came time for signing, I went straight to Schwab and reminded her of my tweet from earlier that morning. She remembered and we immediately went on about YA Gothic, wanting to live in the UK, and her plans to move to Edinburgh for graduate school. She claims her degree has nothing to do with writing, but I suspect what she’ll study will seep into her already brilliant books.
Final plug: when you see A Darker Shade of Magic in the future, note that what Schwab really wanted to call it was Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings.