I was unusually in high spirits (though I woke up around 3 am) as I was mainly looking forward to seeing Robyn Schneider, because I love and worship her writing and The Beginning of Everything moved me so much but I got more than what I was expecting. They were a riot! It was one of the longest Q&A's we've had and one filled with so much laughter!
It's been a while since I've been starstruck and made speechless but when all three of them walked towards the stage I was just that and I know I just had this huge grin on my face because they were there sitting in front of me, answering questions fielded by bloggers.
So what has been asked and how were they answered? Read on for some of the most interesting Q&As in the forum.
Is there a genre all three of them would like to explore other than contemporary?
Katie is most interested in realistic contemporary because the problems she experiences in life are small and interpersonal, plus she's not really fighting the government OR blasting into space. But she is interested in fantasy and magical realism.
Melissa would love to write historical fiction though it's daunting for her because of the amount of research she needs to do. She does love reading fantasy and science fiction though.
Robyn had to clear up that Extraordinary Means is NOT dystopian. Though it is set in an alternate present, with tumblr still existing but a world where the kind of TB (which was medication resistant) in her book exists. That kind of story gave Robyn the appetite to explore "strange currents", like writing contemporary realistic (ish) but also has horror and/or fantasy elements. (Example: Doctor Who or Buffy with real world problems.)
As for tough reads with mixed reviews, Katie experienced it on both her books. Characters who make lots of mistakes are what feels real for her and that's what she's interested in telling stories about, that's what speaks to her. She's not interested in stories about perfect people with perfect lives.
There is a quote in The Beginning of Everything which goes: “Everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary – a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.".
Robyn wasn't sure when that moment was for her. She used to think she knew but she didn't, and that was where the book came from, the idea of what her big moment was and then realizing that becoming a doctor, changing what she was studying, working really hard to accomplish it, suddenly felt like not the best idea in hindsight. Her big life changing moment was deciding to finish writing The Beginning of Everything. She stopped writing, said she couldn't do it and threw the book away and a few days later crept back to it. When she decided to pick it back up and see if it can be fixed, Robyn thinks that was her moment. In retrospect, those moments are small every day decisions. You never know what it'll be.
So what drew them to YA?
Katie fell into YA, as she started writing her first book when she was 16 when she was still in high school and she just wanted to write a story about a cute boy and a girl whose her age going through the same things she's going through (with feelings of not being seen and watching a guy from across the room and knowing you're not in his radar at all). What kept her writing YA is that feeling of everything being so important as a teenager. It's a rich ground for telling stories.
It's the same thing with Melissa, because of a friend of hers who is a YA editor and told her to try writing YA. Teenagers, like Katie said, are allowed to feel each huge decisions, are allowed to feel devastated as adults dismiss them saying they're just kids. Some of the most emotional things happen to you when you're a teen. Unlike when you're an adult, then you just have to deal with it. For Melissa, writing that is what's exciting, in a way that writing adults wouldn't work.
For Robyn, there's an exciting factor in YA. Writing YA gives her an opportunity to write really impactful firsts, and she's obsessed with that. Everybody always remembers their firsts. Like first kiss, when you won't even remember your seventh. Robyn won't even remember the name of some boy she kissed at a party when she was 24, but the first boy she ever kissed, every single book she'll write will secretly about that. (Or not so secretly.) It's a great opportunity to remember what it was like to try to find a part of herself in a book or a song or a line of text. You don't get adults highlighting the books they're reading or writing quotes on their notebook, they read to past time while teenagers needed to find themselves and find answers about who they are in the world, which was so cool for Robyn.
As for their creative process...
Katie's took a very long time as she worked on her first book when she was 16, which didn't get published until she was almost 30. She worked on it and put it aside for two years and work on it for a week and a half which went on for years. It's a patchwork quilt of her experience for 10 years.
Once Melissa has the initial idea, she outlines. For Melissa, it's important to figure out the process that works for a person and then seeing how it's most fruitful. Melissa doesn't like to sit down and write for the day if she doesn't know what's going to happen, but other people will want to sit down and discover for themselves.
When Robyn comes up with an idea for a story she also has this tiny spark of what could happen and she figures out who it happens to. It's not just the one character. You're not who you are without an input from your best friend or boyfriend or sister. Just figuring out who the character is isn't enough, she has to build a world for that character. A lot of the time it's trial and error but oftentimes she pulls from her own life or start asking her friends about a certain theme. She gathers her materials and just fill in the fine lines of her characters and once she knows what she's working with she writes the story. It's usually a little different than what she initially thought because people are different than they are when she first meets them and it's also true for book characters.
Do any of the guys in their books come from any place in particular? Movie stars? Partners? Past partners?
The guys in Robyn's books are portraits of herself. The girls she writes she has no idea where they came from but the guys would be her if she was a guy. Ezra is very much like her when she was in high school and Lane was like her when she was in college. (And Robyn goes "Oh, this is how I am. What's going on? Why is my psyche coming out fictionally male?" and we all loved her again.)
A character in Melissa's book, The Break-Up Bible, was based on an ex-boyfriend. A friend read it and said it was based on Melissa's ex-boyfriend Andy, but was actually based on a guy named Steve, which was another ex-boyfriend of hers. People will attribute names to their book's characters whether an author choose to do that, people assume that they did.
In Katie's case, she wasn't sure if any of the boys in her books were based in real life, but she met her husband when she was in high school (they're together for 15 years!) and she feels that portraying the experience of falling in love in her books and what it feels like was based on her own life.
Their favorite parts in writing contemporary romance?
Melissa loves writing kissing scenes, the 'I saw him across a crowded room' scenes. Katie also loves to write kissing scenes, but for her it's also about figuring out how to feel about things in the world. Writing contemporary helps Katie understand the world. Robyn loved writing pop culture references and fandom moments! (And then Robyn goes on about how her life is exactly like Seth Cohen from The OC and laments the fact that she's not cool.) Robyn thinks it's fun writing nerdy pop culture references.
What two important things has Katie learned while writing contemporary romance?
The first thing Katie learned goes back to writing complicated characters, the idea of writing a character that people weren't going to like was scary. The idea of putting a character in the world feels like having a child, having spent so much time creating them and people aren't crazy about them. What she learned was all she can do was write a book that she'd want to read. The other thing was? You can never have too many make-out scenes.
(Katie's next book is coming out next spring, still without a title. It's a tragic romance! It takes place in the 1990's in Orlando, Florida about two young not quite famous popstars with a star cross romance!)
And for my question, which was asking Robyn what it was like to write in a male perspective and what the experience was like to write Ezra and then Lane. (I insisted that she had answered it at some point, but Robyn said 'That has not been asked yet!'.)
Robyn prefers writing from a male perspective (she doesn't know what it says about her but she just does!) because she knows the character is not her. It's like writing fantasy. She tries to make the story not too close to home because it's not her, it's somebody else. Ezra is so much easier for her to write as she's really drawn to his brokenness, she understood the story in a really deep way. It was harder to relate to Lane (as of course she's not dying of tuberculosis) but she very much understood his personality as Lane is like a version of herself that she's horrified to turn around one day and find out that she had become, she wanted to write through that.
When Robyn wrote The Begininng of Everything she was writing it for herself. She didn't have a book deal and she was just a student. It was what she did because a boy broke her heart and she was sitting in a coffee shop all summer. Extraordinary Means is what she wrote for her publisher, for her fans and it's a lot harder to do. It's harder to write from a teenage perspective than it is to switch gender. (And then she had to ask why no one was asking her how hard it was to write a character who's 15 years younger than ask how hard it was to write a character without boobs. :D) Robyn likes the double challenge it presents.
If they were to write a book about their lives, what would its title be and why?
Melissa's would be "Don't Press Send", because she spent a good part of her life wishing she hadn't sent some of what she had written via e-mail.
For Katie it would be "Places I Have Fallen Down and Injured Myself". As she is very clumsy and not in a charming, romantic comedy way but in an 'I'll fall down the stairs on a subway station and break my arm' kind of way. A chapter would be dedicated to an injury she got.
For Robyn, it's The Beginning of Everything, because it's pretty much an autobiography to her teenage years. She doesn't want to write a book about her life, but many small books in a two year period about her life, which was what she's trying to do right now with her books. But if she had to give a title to her book it would be "#ihatehashtags". She herself was so baffled by how internet savvy she is but how angry internet culture makes her.
You can listen to the full audio here.
Highlights of the signing:
I tried doing this thing I call "#kaiselfie" (because I'm very creative and can't think of a better name for it) where I take a selfie during each blogger forum and see how many people I can fit in, and see if it won't be blurry or if any one of my blogger friends had funny facial expressions when I take photos. But! For this edition, we had a record of 18 people and one very sneaky author who I didn't realize was there until they were about to leave.
Robyn: I hope I got in on your selfie! *waves*
Me: Wait, what? *checks photo* OMG she's here!
Which is the photo you'll see below:
When you take a selfie & your fave author joins in the fun. *cue question where's @robynschneider?* @epicreadsevents pic.twitter.com/C1tS7Sotd9— Kai A. (@amaterasureads) July 5, 2015
We almost got Melissa Kantor in the frame as well, but she got lost in the sea of eager bloggers when I took the second trial shot. I'll get better next time. Haha!
I also have an ARC of #TBoE with the original title (still called "Severed Heads, Broken Hearts") and cover and Robyn signed it for me, bless her. She was so fascinated when she saw I had marked some passages and she keeps on saying "Wow, I wrote this sentence!", sounding so giddy every time she takes a peek. Aww.
Once again, thank you to National Bookstore for this great opportunity to meet such wonderful authors. I got a birthday greeting from Katie Cotugno and got to talk to Melissa Kantor who was so nice and got to take a couple of photos with Robyn Schneider and just chat with her for as long as we could. Wow.
|Group photo with the #PHYaBookBloggers and three lovely authors!|
And a bonus video of Katie, Melissa and Robyn giving a message to their Philippine readers. Sorry if it's shaky.
And for the giveaway!
WIN A SIGNED ARC OF MELISSA KANTOR'S BETTER THAN PERFECT + SIGNED BOOKMARKS! (PH ONLY)
I have an ARC of Better Than Perfect lying around and had Melissa sign it to give away. I also had 2 bookmarks signed by all three authors and I'll be giving them away as well.