I didn't arrive late! Some of my friends from NBS and a few bloggers were still teasing me because of my blunder (a.k.a my late arrival) at Steph Perkins' Q&A, so I made sure I arrived early this time around. I am proudly the second person who was there at the venue. Admittedly, I have only read Proxy because of my busy schedule at work, it was my first LGBT YA themed book in quite a while and I had no idea how to approach Alex when I ask my question. But all my fears went kapoof when I saw him! He was such a fun person! He had a lot to say and share to us and I find myself sitting there just enjoying while I listen to him speak.
|Alex looking all suave and hunky before the Q&A starts.|
He was all smiles and waving at us. Around 10 - 15 minutes before the event started, he was checking the shelves for books he wanted to buy. The result of his brief browsing? He carried a book towards the stage, which he jokingly said he wanted to buy. We burst out laughing when we saw the title. A very sexy paranormal romance book called How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying).
|Alex holding Kerrelyn Sparks' book.|
When the laughter died down (and after we got over the initial shock of faulty microphones and feedback), we got down to business and asked Alex questions about his books, his writing and his life. My question was:
"I've read in an interview that you got a Masters in Library Science. Did being a librarian help while you were writing Proxy and in what way?"
He said being a librarian helped him a lot, but he wasn't consciously using it while he was writing. Alex was a teen librarian, so he knew the literature, and he had a strong sense of what teens are reading, what books he enjoyed reading in the teen space and what wasn't there. He wanted to write a book for his teenage self, and he wanted to write a book for teens who didn't get to be heroes in the sort of books they read.
Important points of his Q&A:
- Asked if Alex has determined if there will be no middle class from the very beginning, he said that there's no need for them in the story. There's robotics, computers developing in his story, so there's no need for "middle workers", as there are no good jobs and if there are, they're being done by machines.
- A fellow blogger (who has a degree in Molecular Biotechnology) asked what kind of research he did for the biotechnology part of his books, Alex said he did almost no research, he was terrified people will read it and say "he is an idiot!". Alex started writing Proxy around 2008, and initially the characters had really advanced cellphones called "tablets" but then Apple came up with the iPod so he had to come up with new ideas. He took what existed in nano technology and bioengineering and pushed it into an imagined possible future, with the scariest version of it. It was mostly daydreaming.
- If he lived in the world Proxy is set on, what will be on his purchase history? Alex said there will be a lot of books (he spends too much of his money buying them) and take out food (he likes Thai food!). He's a curious person so there will be strange, embarrassing things from goofing around and his research for writing. He tries to make his buying history unpredictable as he hates being treated as a data point, like how Syd is in Proxy.
- Asked what made him write Proxy as a story set with a person as a "back-up", as what the word itself means, it's an idea that happened throughout history, like the "whipping boys", poor children who were sold by their own family to the Royalty and if the Prince or children of these families misbehave, the poor children were whipped in their place, or if there's a need for conscription, these kids go in place of these rich children. He took that idea and projected it to the future with debt, economics, religious references and the idea of sacrifice to repay debt all mixed in on one pot.
- He feels horrible when he kills off characters in his books. As much as it hurts his readers, it hurts him much worse, as he's like their parents and lover at the same time, he spends more time with these characters than his family. When they die, he feels hurt, and he knows it's his fault. He even tried rewriting a death scene because he didn't want it to happen, then he wrote it 3 times and it became worse so he decided to just go with the 1st version. After that, he poured himself a stiff drink of whiskey and cried. He didn't want his story to be sugar coated so he did what he did. It wasn't planned though, but Alex was setting up the story for it to happen.
- Egan is the most based on a real person. He's very much like Alex's best friend in high school, Tim. When Syd was outed to his class, it was something that had happen in Alex's life minus the technology.
- Punishment (a prequel) was written because Alex just wants to hang out with his characters more and get to know Knox more.
- Knox is based on who? Alex said it was based on a classmate. He went to a very fancy school in Baltimore and there was a kid like Knox who was rich, obnoxious and Alex, for some reason, liked him. He wondered what it would be like to be that confident, with swagger, a person who gets what he wants, so he got to live the experience through writing Knox.
- Are the characters in Proxy hinged on his teenage self? Alex said very much, as he was an angry teenager before. He was afraid and very reserved because people might find out his one big secret of him being gay and he would miss a lot in his life and he was angry because of that fact too.
- If he's Knox, would he want his Proxy to take the fall for him? Alex said no, that he's a much better person than that. But at 16, he would have behaved like the way Knox behaved but be more guilty. But with maturity, he wouldn't. He's not evil. He can't watch his Proxy suffer and he'll probably be good after the punishment, which is the idea of the system. He'd like to believe he'd be better. If he was Syd though, he wouldn't be as generous, as honorable as he was. He'll be average.
- There's a wide representation of LGBT in YA books in the US. What is it in the publishing in the US that does that and can it be replicated here? Alex said yes, and that it's a process. It started 10 years ago when brave editors and publishers stepped up. It started with Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan's book, as well as Malinda Lo. They worked hard to bring out the LGBT voice to publishers. Pop culture also goes a long way and opens up the space more to allow editors and publishers and let them know that there's a market for LGBT books. But there's still a long way to go. The Diversity conversation is still ongoing, it's an endless process.
Fun side facts:
- Alex was supposed to be in his honeymoon on his visit here. He just got married!
- Alex tried beat boxing when our mics didn't work because of too much feedback. He failed miserably.
- When asked what he's done with the Hunger Games ARC he got, he said he just gave it away. He had no idea it was going to be big at the time he'd read it. If he did, he could've hold on to it and maybe sell it on eBay.
- He buys his underwear online.
- Alex was interested in reading Sangu Mandanna's The Lost Girl as Proxy is somewhat similar to that.
- Alex dyed his hair green when he was 16.
- Alex said he will dye his hair green (again) and get a tattoo when his book becomes the #1 New York Times betseller. It was the first time he was glad he didn't sell 10,000 copies of his books at once.
A recording of the Q&A session:
As always, I got to hang out with my book blogger friends! It's always fun seeing them all and talk about books that we liked, we've read and what we would like to read in the future.
We went to the public signing as well and I was so happy that there were people who supported Alex and his signing! There were a lot of readers who hung out, excitedly waiting for him and I loved how he shared his stories with us, more than what he had already shared at the Q&A.
Alex shared this heart warming story when he was still a journalist overseas, during the public event, which I think you all need to listen to. Check out the recording I attached below. It's worth a listen, I promise.
I can honestly say, and this one comes from the bottom of my heart, that this is one of the most memorable book signings I've been to. Alex London is such a wonder to watch, and I can just listen to him speak all day. He's also a funny guy, so what can I say? He's adorable!
Thanks very much, National Bookstore, for the opportunity to meet such an amazing person!