Feeling fierce? Toronto certainly was after a fantastic stop by the talented and gorgeous ladies behind Macmillan’s 2013 Fierce Reads. Christa and I were lucky enough to be chosen as the official bloggers for the Toronto stop of the book tour, and we had an amazing interview with all five authors: Anna Banks (Of Poseidon, Of Triton), Gennifer Albin (Crewel), Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm), Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14, Monument 14: Sky on Fire) and Jessica Brody (Unremembered, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father).
Gennifer Albin: Okay so first question is?
Angel: Introduce yourselves?
Leigh Bardugo: It’s gonna be rough for you. Hi! I’m Leigh Bardugo–I was looking at you!
Jessica Brody: I was looking at you!
Leigh: I’m Leigh Bardugo, I wrote Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. They’re the first two books in the Grisha trilogy.
Gennifer: Hi I’m Gennifer Albin and I wrote Crewel and the upcoming sequel Altered, the first two books in the Crewel world trilogy.
Anna Banks: (affects a deep Southern accent) Hi y’all, this is Anna Banks and I wrote Of Poseidon and Of Triton.
Jessica: You don’t have to–
Emmy Laybourne: She’s laying on the accent a little thick…said Emmy Laybourne, author of Monument 14 (all five authors erupt into laughter) and Monument 14: Sky on Fire.
Gennifer: She does that all the time–introduce herself in the third person.
Anna: (pretending to be Emmy) “I mean, those were the books that I wrote…”
Jessica: Hi, I’m Jessica Brody. I wrote Karma Club, My Life Undecided, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and the latest, Unremembered, which is the first in the Unremembered trilogy.
Leigh: Yay! We made it through that.
(Christa and I quickly decide on taking turns for questions, garnering curious looks from the authors.)
Angel: Oh, we’re–we’re friends! We’re also friends with Jen who you guys met in Florida?
Gennifer: She’s great. But does that mean you have questions that are gonna make us cry?
Leigh: Jen was the one who made us cry.
Christa: She took all the good questions.
Anna: We have way too much make-up on for that tonight.
Christa: I don’t think any of mine will make you cry.
Leigh: We’ll be fine, it’s the last night, we are all a little emotional–
Gennifer: We might cry anyway.
Emmy: Let them ask a question before we start crying.
Christa: My first question was, do you have any writing rituals, socks you wear all the time, that kind of thing.
Anna: Let the weirdos go first.
Leigh: Like Emmy Laybourne.
Emmy: I seem to take the cake when it comes to weird rituals. I do have a little routine before I start writing in the morning and I write–I try to write every weekday, Monday through Friday, at the same time and what I do is: I take off my wedding rings, I put on some hand lotion, I dim the shades, I light a candle, I put in my earbuds, and I blast really scary music. And then I say a little prayer to my muse that I write well for the day. And then I let her rip.
Gennifer: And then she sacrifices a virgin.
Jessica: A virgin chicken.
Jessica: My writing routine isn’t quite as intricate, but I do like to reserve coffee only for my writing days, because I find that if I don’t drink coffee in between, the coffee works a lot better. I’m talking to the phone like it’s gonna react. (directs question to iPhone on table) What do you think?
Emmy: The phone did kind of react a little bit.
Jessica: My brain kind of interprets it as creative juice. And I listen to the same white noise track, so it’s basically [imitates buzzing noise]. And I don’t bring my power cord with me when I write outside of the house or even when I write inside the house, I won’t plug in my laptop. Cause I feel like the ticking battery keeps me focused so I don’t get all crazy with Facebook or anything.
Leigh: I need a new 3-subject notebook every time I start a new draft, and that’s probably my only must-have. And I also use Mac Freedom to keep myself offline. It gives you like, fifteen minutes to 8 hours off the internet and nothing would ever get written if I didn’t have that because I would be on Twitter or Facebook all the time.
Gennifer: (whispers) And Tumblr.
Leigh: And Tumblr! My glorious Tumblr.
Gennifer: I can pretty much write anywhere, anytime, as long as it’s after 1 pm, and unless I’m on an airplane. That actually sounds crazier. No but if I’m on an airplane, I might as well work, what else is there to do? But yeah, I can’t write before 1 pm. I’ve tried, I’ve sat down at 9 a.m. and tried to write but I will find a way to spend that much time on Twitter.
Leigh: Have you tried sacrificing a virgin chicken?
Gennifer: Not yet, but I’m actually gonna look into that. There’s a poultry farm down the street from my house.
Anna: I told you to let the weirdos go first. The only ritual I have when I write is just to sit down. That’s it.
Jessica: Oh you’re so weird. We all write standing up.
Gennifer: I tried that–I tried that and it lasted two weeks. Don’t ask me how.
Leigh: That’s pretty impressive.
Gennifer: I had a treadmill desk and I did the treadmill.
Leigh: That actually blows my mind that you managed that for two weeks.
Gennifer: It was a great two weeks.
Anna: The first ten minutes, I’d be like (mimes falling down).
Gennifer: But then we bought an iMac and my husband said we couldn’t put it on the treadmill desk, and I loved my iMac so…
Jessica: Next question?
Angel: This [discussion] actually leads really well into it, since you guys seem to know each other really really well.
Angel: Don’t ruin my illusions–I’m still young!
What is one thing you’ve learned from each other on tour?
Leigh: Oh no, I’m gonna cry.
Emmy: That’s a great question.
Angel: And you can be sentimental, it can be funny, whatever you want.
Emmy: I’ll go first. So Monument 14, my first book, came out last June, so I’m really a very new, very new at this. And we’re not all really new at this. So I’ve learned a lot from these guys about book publishing, about marketing, about how to connect with your readers–I am getting a little misty. Leigh has these incredibly dedicated fans, and the time she takes with each fan when they come to the table is really touching, and it–I’m learning–you can’t possibly transcribe all of this (transcriber’s note: Emmy, I am TOTALLY transcribing all of this) so just pick a snippet. I’m learning from her because she lived in this world of the fandoms. And she knows how to connect with fans. It’s something she learned from experience, and I’m learning through her. It’s not something she told me, it’s something I’m watching that she really learned as a person, but I’ve learned from all of these beautiful women.
(Leigh and Jessica begin crying.)
Leigh: Okay, okay, I learned from everybody. From Jess, I learned the power of being a f*cking optimist all the time. Because I tend to see the storm cloud, and she definitely sees the silver lining, and it won me over! Like at first, I was like “Oh my god, this girl’s gonna kill me with sunshine!” And now I’m like “How am I not gonna see her every morning?” I’m taking Gen’s napkin. (sobs) You made us cry too! You and Jen…you horrible, evil bloggers.
Gennifer: I think any question would have made us cry tonight.
Angel: Jen and I met through Sailormoon, so…
Leigh: So you know feelings. Why did I do heavy eye makeup today?
Gennifer: Do you want me to make an inappropriate one?
Gennifer: I learned that the proper term is “blowout” from Anna, after she used the wrong term…and I’ll just leave it at that. It’s what happens in a hair salon. It’s “blowout” and not certain other words that are similar, but mean very different things.
Anna: I knew something was off when he said “Excuse me?!”
Emmy: In one of the hotels we stayed in, I called the concierge to say something about an appointment for a blowout. And I said something like “I’m having a blowout.” And he said “oh my god, is it very bad?!” And I think he meant a tire blowout on a car. Or even a blowout sale.
Anna: Oh, I’m not crying this time. Last time, I was reduced to like, a ball of like…plasma. I am not doing this. I love you all.
Jessica: I can’t really pick one thing, but (clears throat)…from Leigh, I learned about gel manicures.
Leigh: Life lessons.
Jessica: I will echo Emmy’s life lessons as well. From Anna, I learned that one, that humour is just irreplaceable. But that surprisingly, Anna has a deeper side to her. Which I didn’t see, and even though she’ll claim that she doesn’t, I will go on seeing that. I was also very inspired when her book hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Because I think that it was a book that not many people expected to the NYT list, and it just–
Anna: (starts crying) I hate you.
Jessica: I learned that belief in yourself and standing up to people who don’t believe in you can pay off.
Leigh: (offers napkin) Want the cumulative napkin?
Emmy: If you get the tears of all five Fierce Reads authors on one napkin–
Leigh: It forms a horcrux!
Jessica: Thanks, Leigh, I needed that.
Emmy: Which we could give it to one of your readers!
Anna: What I’ve learned is, no matter how much Starbucks you’ve had, if a mean, dirty blogger asks you a sentimental question, all of us can be reduced to tears in a space of five minutes. No matter how much makeup we’re wearing. …Bet y’all didn’t expect that!
Christa: Now I’m scared to ask my question.
Leigh: We’re scared of you!
Emmy: We’ve been on the road for sixteen days. 15 cities in 16 days.
Leigh: So it’s like leaving summer camp, but like, the most exhausting summer camp. The summer camp where every four hours, they’re like “Wake up! Get on a plane! Go through security!”
Christa: Which of your characters was most difficult to write?
Emmy: I’ll go first.
Jessica: Wait, I learned that Anna Banks is really good at inserting the word “crap” into any subject. Sorry!
Emmy: The character that’s continued to be the most difficult for me to write is Astrid. For some reason, she’s very wild. She shouldn’t be so hard. She’s a seventeen-year-old champion diver, she’s like a really kick-butt kind of girl, but she’s just elusive. And everybody else in the series has come over to me and allowed me to know them and write them, and I know that sounds weird but it’s true. But Astrid is like cagey. She will not sit still. And I get the most notes of everybody from my editor about Astrid, like “Would Astrid really do this?” I don’t know! Ask her.
Jessica: I think my hardest character to write is my main character Seraphina, because she has no memories and she has nothing to draw from. Because she doesn’t remember anything–like, I know her past, but at the same time, I have to write from her perspective. So it’s a really interesting balance as a writer, like I know what happened to her and she doesn’t. And I have to hold those things back from her, and protect her from them, but at the same time make her an authentic amnesiac.
Leigh: I think the Darkling is both the most difficult and most gratifying character for me to write, because he’s so in control and has had so much practice at being in control. So I like playing with the moments where you don’t know if the cracks in that control are real or they’re things that–or if it’s another level of pretense. So it’s also very hard to get information out of him about that.
Gennifer: I would say that the character that’s hardest to write is a character you haven’t met yet, and his name is Dante.
Leigh: I like all characters named Dante.
Gennifer: You will like Dante. Dante is hugely important to Adelice, and I can’t tell you why. But this relationship that they have is really really tricky to write on many levels, emotionally, plot-wise. And to get him right, to get how he would be feeling right–I don’t know he was very elusive to me.
Jessica: And the…age gap between them as well.
Gennifer: Yeah, but not in any way you’d ever expect. I’m gonna blow your minds! Cause my mind is constantly being blown by this character.
Anna: I think my character is gonna be Grom, because in the first book, he’s kind of one-dimensional. He’s the older, wiser brother, but he takes on a bigger role in Of Triton and the dynamics of his relationship with everyone get deeper, and it’s hard to be able to know how he–I’m just exploring him more as a character, and it’s difficult because he’s so reserved yet now he’s been SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER, helping him deal with that has been difficult for me.
Jessica: I have a fabulous idea. I want us to write a scene with all of those characters in a group therapy session.
Leigh: The Darkling would just sit there like (Leigh crosses her arms). “I’m not talking about this.”
Anna: So would Grom.
Leigh: That would be a very quiet group therapy session. I feel bad for that therapist.
Emmy: Astrid too, she would be totally belligerent.
Jessica: Seraphina would be like “I don’t know, I don’t remember!”
Gennifer: Dante would be making diagrams trying to figure things out.
Angel: Which of your characters would you travel with on tour?
Jessica: Oh you mean, who would we bring on the Fierce Reads tour? Great question! From our own books?
Angel: One from your books, and one from the other ladies’ books.
Leigh: Okay, from my book, I’m bringing Genya, and you can all thank me. Cause we are gonna look phenomenal. I need a minute to think about a character from another book.
Emmy: I would bring Jake, because he’s really fun. And tour is–it’s a lot of work and travelling, but it’s also fun and I think he would be fun to party with even if he’s young. We can’t time-jump them.
Jessica: I would bring Dr. Maxxer. She would have all the right apps and schedules–
Emmy: You could just relax!
Jessica: Right, I could just relax and she would have everything under control. From someone else’s book, I would bring Sturmhond from Siege and Storm because he’s a navigator.
Leigh: I love how practical your answer is–yeah that’s the reason we’re bringing him. We have navigation!
Jessica: And he’s a world traveller, he’s used to being on the road. I feel like he wouldn’t have baggage. And maybe he could carry the baggage–no he won’t. But he could be like (snaps fingers) “baggage!”
Leigh: No, you’ve got him pegged.
Gennifer: I would bring Eric, and then I would bring the Darkling and we would work on our own little love triangle. Eric’s got surprise things about him.
Anna: I would bring Rayna along because everyone needs a bodyguard, and she’s like a hag and a half.
Jessica: She’d put us all in our place. I’m afraid of travelling with Rayna.
Leigh: Ooh, can we bring Toraf? I’m bringing Toraf! Because he would confound Rayna at every step. And because he’d be a hoot. And because he’d screw everything up. I don’t know what Dr. Maxxer would do with him. It’d be awesome. She would erase everyone’s memories–“it never happened, never happened, we were on time for the flight.”
Anna: I would bring Nico from Monument 14, because he is a Boy Scout and if I wanted to venture out into the city and Google Maps is like “head west,” and I would be like “Nico, which way is west?” (laughter) Because I do not know. Left and right, I understand. West, no.
Jessica: I just want to add, I would want to bring Adelice, because if we missed our flight, she could just go “weave weave weave, all fixed!”
Gennifer: She could take us directly there.
Jessica: Yeah! But I don’t know, rebounding sounds super uncomfortable.
Gennifer: The first time is uncomfortable, but once you vomit, she could just weave all the vomit out.
Leigh: I think between Adelice and Genya, we would be totally set. No issues.
Emmy: I’m gonna take Adelice from you, Jessica, so everything that Jess said, pretend it was Emmy.
Christa: I just saw Man of Steel last night, so I’ve got superheroes on the brain.
Gennifer: It’s always good having Henry Cavill on the brain. Do you remember Captain America? Basically the best part of that film is Chris Evans running in khakis. I’m just gonna be watching his upper body.
Christa: Do you have a favourite superhero, and what would you want your superpower to be?
Jessica: I don’t know a lot of superheroes, so I don’t know which one to pick. Definitely don’t like Spiderman because he’s a bug. But superpower…I would totally pick immunity to calories because then I could eat anything I want and never gain a pound. Cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a Pixy Stix chaser.
Leigh: Oh my god! You’d die of a heart attack.
Gennifer: You would also need immunity from diabetes.
Jessica: Immunity from all ill effects, I will amend my answer.
Leigh: Oh see, if this was some Monkey’s Paw stuff, you’d starve to death because you would be immune to all food effects, so you could never take in calories.
Jessica: Oh stop!
Leigh: No, you have to be careful when you make wishes, Jess! Didn’t “The Gift of the Magi” teach you anything? O. Henry aside, I think my favourite superhero is Black Canary. She doesn’t get enough love. Favourite superpower? That’s always really hard for me. I’d be able to write in my sleep. So I’d be able to write twice as many books.
Gennifer: I just think “who plays them, and what does their upper body look like?” (laughter) I watch a lot, I watch them all, my son is obsessed with them, and I’m gonna go with Spiderman because I really like his powers, but also he has really good one-liners. And I like his backstory. I think it’s the most compelling out of all of them.
Jessica: Bitten by a radioactive spider?
Leigh: You think that’s the most compelling of all superheroes?
Gennifer: Average, everyday person who chooses to go and do this. Like Batman has his whole dark my-parents-were-murdered-and-I’m-super-rich-so-this-is-how-I’m-going-to-spend-my-time, and you know I like Batman too but I don’t know…and he’s a kid! He’s young and he makes this decision. So I am all for Spiderman, which would make my son very proud. As far as abilities…that’s really hard to say. Ooh, I don’t wanna have to sleep. I could get so much done! I mean, I barely sleep as it is, but three hours a day? It’d be awesome.
Anna: My superhero is Iron Man. Because he speaks my language.
Anna: Fluently. And schools me in it. And my superpower would be I’d love to be able to fly, because I’m constantly in need of having to have a fast escape route. I don’t know why, but it’d be great if I could just fly away after whatever it is that I’ve done.
Emmy: I’m gonna go with the patron superhero saint of all mothers everywhere, Elastigirl from the Incredibles. Because her–that movie was so brilliant with the way it took the nuclear family roles and made them into superhero abilities, and that Mom ability to hold, to keep everyone together and to also become whatever is needed in the moment.
Leigh: That’s such an awesome Emmy answer.
Emmy: And for my power, I would like to challenge my 9-year-old self because we used to play superheroes a lot when we were kids, and mostly the game was talking about what our superpowers were, and then never playing. So the superpower that I wanted when I was 9 years old was to be able to sing in harmony with myself.
And this power would make people like, faint because the music would be so godly and unbelievable that they would just pass out.
Leigh: Okay that is not dissimilar to Black Canary, we’re like two sides of the same coin.
Emmy: I don’t know Black Canary, but I will get to know her.
Jessica: My favourite superhero is Taylor Swift.
Leigh: She can break up with someone like nobody’s business.
Jessica: And sing about it! And make a billion dollars.
Gennifer: And her hair is great.
Leigh: And her lipstick’s really amazing.
Jessica: She looks good in bangs, whatever.
Whew! Thank you so much to the Fierce Reads authors, who spent a hilarious and amazing half-hour with me and Christa! Thank you to Ksenia and Kate @ Macmillan who organized all of this, and to Indigo Yorkdale for hosting the event!
For those of you who couldn’t make it to the event, Macmillan has provided an amazing package with all five Fierce Reads novels, along with signed swag! All you have to do is answer one question: Which character did Emmy steal from Jessica to bring on tour? Tweet/Facebook about the contest, and you get an extra entry for each link you send me! The contest will end on June 30, so get those entries in!