The time I was the moderator

Posted May 20, 2014 by Stacee in Signings | 2 Comments

A few days after the Story Crush tour with Kiera Cass, Kevin Emerson and Amanda Maciel was announced, I got an email from Maryelizabeth at Mysterious Galaxy asking if I would be interested in moderating it. Even though it sort of petrified me, I happily agreed. A hour or so after that, I got an email from Lita from B&N The Grove asking the same question. I told her that I had just accepted the offer from MG, but if no one had a problem with it, I would happily moderate both dates. Needless to say, everyone [including Harper] was happy.

I spent the weekend before the event reading all of the books and thinking up questions. Someone from Harper had emailed me beforehand to check in, make sure I was ready and she so nicely provided a list of prepared questions in case I needed them.

On the day of the Mysterious Galaxy date, I met Michelle for a date, like we normally do. We got over to the store around 5:45 mostly to bother Rob to claim seats.

They had the table for the authors set up diagonally and my comfy chair was sitting to the side of it. Michelle and I hung out and chatted and then Beverly showed up, so we got to catch up with her.  I’ll admit, I was super nervous to be moderating.  You would think that as much as I don’t ever shut up and for all of my fangirling, this would be a no-brainer… Any hoo.

The authors got to the store at about 6.45.  After the employees welcomed them, they told me I could go introduce myself.  I ever so awkwardly did.  I said a very brief hello, confirmed how to say Amanda’s last name and then gave them a hint at what my first question would be so that they weren’t blindsided.

Someone had brought cupcakes with the covers on them and everyone took pictures to post on various social media sites.


Right before the event started, one of the MG employees came over and we talked about who was going to say what.  She explained what part she would say and then basically, it was all me!

Note: Because I was moderating, I wasn’t able to type notes, so I recorded everything on my phone.  Who knows what it was able to pick up… All of the photos below were taken by my soon-to-be publicist {*snorts*} Michelle.

When the author’s got to their respective places, someone in the audience said happy birthday to Kiera.  Kevin asked if the audience wanted to sing to her, so that happened.  Then I talked about Kiera’s, Kevin’s and Amanda’s bio and we were officially off and running.


Instead of the usual “tell us about your book”, I’d like you to describe it in 5 words.

KC: I’ve been doing this a lot lately, so I’m sticking with “highly flamable, handle with care.”

KE: Wow. That’s setting the bar.  I don’t know if you guys saw these, but we got some party rats. The description is “great for night blogging”. It shows kids at a rave, but it’s great for night blogging. Because that’s what you’d probably be doing if you got these. So, I’ll say “like party rats, but music.”

A: Those are very good.  My book is Tease and I’m going to say “mean girls maybe caused suicide.”

Why do you love your characters and why should the readers root for them?

KC: I’ll stick with “duh”. America is flawed.  People ask if she and I have anything in common and I always say the bad stuff.  Too stubborn, jump to conclusions, have lots of good intentions, but bad ideas, and I think that makes her real.  She doesn’t necessarily make the decisions I would make, but I love her endlessly.  I don’t know how many of you have read the books or have gotten to the last one, but I think she’s worth sticking with.

KE: This is a book about music and rock and roll, but Summer herself, the main character, is not a musician.  She’s the kind of person who really wanted to do music, but it wasn’t deemed practical in her house. She really loves to be part of songs and sound and that world.  She’s kind of like the ultimate stage manager. That type of person that you know from high school who runs everything behind the scenes.  She wants to live in that world really bad and this is her last chance.  She doesn’t quite make all of the right choices in terms of putting herself first and being as nice as she can to people out there, but you can feel how much she wants it, I think.  And I think she’s worth rooting for for that reason.

A: I have what a lot of readers think of as an unlikeable narrator. In Tease, a girl, Sara, has been accused, actually is being brought up on criminal charges of bullying after one of her classmates has commited suicide.  And Sara definitely was a bully to Emma, but I feel for her because I think that high school is weird and it has it’s own set of rules.  You might think you’re just being mean and maybe it’s more than what a high school girl can handle.  And maybe you don’t realize that because you’re handling your own stuff.  The complications of cases like that, and then to have a bunch of adults come in and be like, “what happened?” and “why are you a horrible person?” and it’s so hard to explain.  “Well, she was mean to me and there was this guy and all of this stuff was going on.” It just doesn’t sound good enough when there’s this horrible event.  I really feel for Sara and how wrongly accused she feels and how scared she is. How do you not be defensive when you’re literally on the defense?


What do you guys think makes a good villain?

KE: My favorite villains have really good reasons for what they do and they’re all very nicely dressed.

KC: I think good villains in their head think that they’re the heroes. If you can get in their head and sort of understand why they think they’re doing the right thing and can justify the way their acting, I think that always makes for a really cool bad guy.

A: That’s tricky for me because then I feel like they’re not bad any more.

Are you guys pantsers or plotters?

A: What was the first option?

KC: Panster.  Do you fly by the seat of your pants?

A: That’s a great term. I haven’t heard of that, I’m a debut author.  There’s a quote from a much fancier author than I am about writing being like driving a car at night, you can only see a few feet in ahead of you and that’s what I feel like. I have the idea and I kind of know where I’m going, but as it happens, things sort of present themselves. I wish I could outline.

KE: I’ve learned how to fake it, how to present a veneer. Plotting in confidence because I’m going to have to buy food. But what ultimately happens is that the beginning and the end of those outlines are valid and I’ll know where I’m going.  The middle is a complete mess, it’s like stew.

KC: So what happens is that you take the laser or the party rat and you shine it at the wall and you know how a cat would be all, “Ahhh!” that’s how I look when I’m trying to get stuff.  I can kind of see what’s there, but I’m kinds of like batting at it and we’ll see what I’ll come up with. I think George RR Martin said something about a gardener vs an architect. You put stuff in the ground and you kind of have an idea of what will happen, but you don’t know if anything will grow.

A: I thought I was writing something like Mean Girls that ended up in a huge courtroom Law & Order kind of thing, but it doesn’t really. They do have to go to a courtroom, but it wasn’t as John Grisham-y as I was expecting. It’s completely realistic.


What is the most drastic thing you’ve done for a deadline?

KC: I wanted to be the author that everyone wanted to work with, so I am hard core about “You want me to go where? Done.” “When’s my deadline?” Turn it in 2 weeks early. As much as I can be, I try to be really on top of stuff.  I get notes back, I ask questions. I try to be as polite as I can be to everyone I run across and do what’s asked of me because I realize this is a season.  You don’t get to stay here and do what we do forever and ever, so I want it to be a good experience while I’m doing it.

But so far, when I had Zuzu — I have an almost 2 year old daughter — I was in the hospital, giving birth to her and I had edits with me.  That’s legit.  You don’t get time off, it’s real and that’s how it happened.  So yeah, most extreme? I took my edits to go have a baby.

A: I’m early days, but I’m trying to do the same thing and say yes to everything.  My day job is on the other side, I’m an editor and I never get mad at my authors if they’re late.  I totally understand that there’s life.  I also really want to do the best that I can because it is a job.  It’s amazing to do it as a job and to actually get paid.   I didn’t realize that when you send a deadline email to an author asking if they’ll have that draft finished by the end of  April that their entire stomach would disintegrate.  I knew that they’d be under pressure, but I didn’t realize just how much until I got that letter myself and thought “Oh, I don’t have any innards.”  Thankfully, I had 200 pages in the computer, but it was terrifying.  I think it’s made me a bit more sensitive on the other side of the desk.

KE: I just went through a period where I had to write a book and turn it in.  I’ve been late on everything for the last year and a half, before then I wanted be good.  I’m just so off the rails at this point. I went down to a coffee shop near my house and I bought a mug that I’d been coveting for like four months.  I brought the mug home and I went into this zone where I was like “I’m going to write 50,000 words in 4 weeks. I’m going to do it and it’s going to be great.”  I drank from the same mug every day and I ate the same measured amount of Golden Grahams every night.  And bourbon.  And I watched the same amount of Doctor Who every night — 1 1/3 episodes.  I went into this insanely neurotic phase  and I was awful to live with.  I wrote that whole draft and then when I got done, realized that the draft was a huge mess.  So I’m revising it now, but I’m the new Kevin.  I’m not going to be that obsessive Jack Nicholson typewriter person. I’m going to be calm and I’m just going to let it happen and that doesn’t work.

Kevin, you mentioned Doctor Who. Who is your favorite Doctor, favorite companion and favorite episode?

I like the Tenth, but I like bow ties. I haven’t found a good fez yet.  I prefer the style of the Eleventh, but the personality of the Tenth. The thing is, when you start with Rose, you can’t ever…no one is ever going to replace her fully.  They’re always going to be in her shadow.  And I think the library is my favorite episode.  I know I should be saying the weeping angels.


Amanda, you wrote a book from a bully’s point of view.  What has the reader response been like?

I’ve had so many people say that they wanted to throttle Sara or that they wanted to shake her. I understand the impulse, but I’m like, “Wait, she’s a person. Please don’t physically harm my character.” I think I’ve been so pleased, I’ve been really pleased to see how many people have connected with the book, that means so much to me.  I’ve also kind of pleased by the people who get so angry at the girls in the book and think they’re terrible.  It gives me hope that maybe high school isn’t like this for everybody.  Or if it is, that people are really seeing it and noticing the bad behavior. I think that since we’ve labeled the bullying, we think we know what it is or what it looks like, but it’s not necessarily clear. It could just be that one day, it could be that one day you’re on top and the next day your not queen any more.  Even with people who are saying that they couldn’t finish the book because the girls are so mean, I’m thinking that it’s good because it’s good to have a low tolerance for bad people.  It was difficult at first because I empathized so much with her.  I don’t think I could have written a whole book if I didn’t really feel for her.

Kiera, how does it feel to have a finished trilogy?

Strange? I’m going to be real.  I’m really good at starting stuff, but I’m crap at getting to the end, so to actually have a whole story that exists is kind of phenomenal for me. {At this point, one of Kiera’s party rats broke and she started saying that he was too young.} I was terrified to get to the third book because — I made a video about this because people are not really happy when you get to the end. It doesn’t matter how it ends, if it doesn’t get there the way you wanted, you’re still kind of angry. Or just the fact that it’s done makes you angry.  So, I was a little scared, I wanted to hide.  It’s been pretty good.  The death threats have pretty much stopped, which is awesome. It doesn’t ever feel done for me, America is still in my head.  Most people know that we’re doing a novella from Amberly’s point of view, so you get  prequel.

You can only read one book for the rest of your life.  What is it?

{There’s a collective gasp from the crowd}

KC: Today I would say — like if you asked me next week I might say something different — but today I’m stupid in love with The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is the only book to date that I’ve ever blurbed because I’m nervous about doing that, but I really really love it.  I think it’s stellar.  I wouldn’t mind being stuck in that world for a while.

KE: I would either read the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, but probably not. I would probably pick Cat’s Cradle. I love that book.  I like to pick any little spot of the book and read it.

A: I love chick lit and I read so much YA, but if I had to pick just one, I would pick Cloud Atlas just because you could keep reading that for a really long time before you got everything out of it.  The first time I read it, it was so maddening in the beginning.  Part of my day job is to write the stuff on the flaps of books.  When I was a kid, I would spend my allowance on books and I used to hate it that they would always give away like 3/4 of the plot. I stopped reading flap copy a long time ago, but my boss is like “you have to write it” and I tell her that I don’t give anything away.  I write the sparest copy that I can manage and hope that it makes you want to buy the book without making you feel like you’re wasting your money. But, I started reading Cloud Atlas, I hadn’t read anything on the jacket and about 50 pages in, I was like, “oh my god, what is this book about?” I turned it around and it was just all blurbs about what a genius David Mitchell is.  Then you get about 75 pages in and it’s the most amazing thing ever.


My last question will be what is the one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

KC: Maybe time. In the beginning, from coming up with the idea for The Selection to seeing it on the shelf was a 4 year process.  That’s a long time.  It was even 2 years from signing the contract to seeing it on the shelf.  I hated that time, how slow it was.  Can we just get there? When the book came out I was like “where did all of my time go? Can I have some of it back?” Everything after that just feels so {insert some noise that I can’t spell}. Enjoy the time before that because it’s the last that you have. And be prepared to keep up with the time frame post publication.  I would have liked a little primer on that.

KE: For me, it would have been if someone would have told me that I really needed to build my own life. My own life as an author with my readers, like my own interaction and relationship with the people out there who are reading my books.  I kind of thought that with publishing books, someone would be taking care of that for me, that it would just happen.  And I was not at all pro-active when my books came out.  I just sort of sat at home and was like cool, so this is going to happen. I didn’t take charge and I spent a lot of time being mad at people in publishing for not doing that, but I realize is that they’re quite super busy and you can go out there and find your own people.

A: I thought I knew how this would go having worked with authors through this process. Publishing is a lot about the production of the book and then it’s out there, especially from the editorial stand point, you’re still the point person for the book forever, which is an amazing honor, really. But, I thought I would be cooler and not be nervous, but that didn’t happen. I’m totally nervous all the time because it’s just so personal.  I’ve heard from other authors that with the first novel you get to spend some time writing it and you never get that back.


For Kiera: I know that you said The One was the easiest book to write.  Why?

I’m not sure.  For the first book, I was still getting to know America.  A lot of people know that I got to the end and then I rewrote it.  It’s like getting to know Kevin, I’m going to know him a lot better since we’re stuck together for the next 5 days. The friendship now will be different than the friendship then. It’s the same with any person that you write about. It takes time to get to know someone and it took a while to get to know her. The second book we completely gutted.  Twice.  I’ll go look for plot points, for things that America told me happened and they’re not there. She did not get drugged.  There is not this whole sleepy middle.  With The One, I knew the choices they would make, I knew there was a point that we would get to go beyond the palace walls for a second, I knew the junk that was going down at the end, so I started at the end. I wrote the ending first of The One and wrote backwards.  I knew where it was going.  I think that with spending so much time with her and getting to that point, it was easy to know how it was going to unfold.

How do you choose to kill a character? Do you know that you’re going to kill them or is it like boom, dead?

KC: I’m not going to speak for everybody, but for me, I don’t kill anyone.  They die. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s a person in my head and she’s telling me what happened and I’m putting it on paper. All I am doing is telling you what she told me.  I know that sounds…there’s a little bit of insanity that it takes to do this job in the first place.  So, I’m just trying to be very honest with what I’ve been told.  I know that not everyone works that way.

A: My book centers around a suicide, so that happens before.  You know it basically from the first page and that’s why the story happens.  I’ve been trying not to kill anyone with the story I’m working on now.

KE: I just roll dice. I find that there’s…in the Atlantean series, there’s a character death that upset some readers, very significantly.  It’s interesting because when I saw that it was going to happen in the plot, I just thought “okay, this is going to happen.”  I didn’t like that character yet.  Once the event was on the horizon, I really liked the character and by the time it happened, I was like “oh, that’s a really cool character, but you’re still gonna die.”  And then it was really emotional to write.


When you write your books, do you write in chronological order or do you write chapter 7 and then chapter 1?

A: Tease is told in alternating chapters from after Emma’s suicide and then before. It actually came out that way.  After I drafted most of it, I think 3/4 of it was done, I broke it out in chronological order to make sure it flowed and made sense.  Then I realized that the chapters of the post-suicide were much shorter.  I guess I didn’t find it interesting for her to go to her laywer’s office or to see her therapist.  So I had to really beef those up.  I think it really depends on the story and how it shapes.

KE: I’ve gone and written pivotal scenes when I’m trying to start a book.  Sometimes I’ll get inspired to write something, but that scene almost never gets in the book in the way that I wrote it.  By the time I get there, there’s all sorts of other information.

A: I always think that’s such a good idea, but I always have to start at the beginning of the story.

KC: With The Selection, I wrote from beginning to the end, basically asking America what happened next. Okay, what happened next.  For The Elite, I knew there were scenes that happened so I wrote those first and then strung them together. For The One, I started at the end and worked my way back, so it sort of depends on what the story calls for.

How do you feel about social media?

A: It’s so useful and it’s so great to have it there.  Even a few years ago, authors would build entire websites and they still do.  I think it’s wonderful, I still haven’t done that because I feel between Facebook and Twitter, I have a good interface and I just have one book out, so I don’t have a ton of information for people. Hey, it’s a nice, cheap way to keep in touch with everyone.  I have a small child and it’s a way that I can his grandparents what’s going on.  I think it gets tricky when you start being mean to people on social media, which I explore in my book.  I think that as long as it’s nice, it’s a great moment to be in.

KE: I think that it’s fun, except I waste an incredible amount of time staring at it and going like this {mimes scrolling on phone} “wow, someone got a dog.” My family is on Facebook, but not on Twitter so I feel like there’s this invisible wall. “Ooh, don’t say that there, do it over here.”

A: I call Twitter high school because my parents aren’t there and I’m friends with all of these people.

KC: It can get a little overwhelming. I think I could make social media a full time job with the amount of time that I am on it. It’s fun there.  Especially finding new…the way that I hang out on Tumblr is different from the way that I hang out on Twitter and different from the way I hang out on Instagram. It’s fun to find different pocket of the fandom in different places and to get excited about the things that they’re excited about.  I think that’ really cool, but it wastes a lot of time.

{This is where one girl asked Kiera a couple of spoilery questions that I refuse to post here, just in case…}


When writing love triangles, are you biased towards one character from the beginning?

KE: I’m never happy when that happens. I always feel as confused as they do.  I’m like, “Oh man, she’s cute. Probably better with him, but okay.” I feel like there’s a reason that it’s pervasive in literature.  Triangles are a very strong shape.

KC: For me, people have always asked if I’m Team Aspen or Team Maxon and the truth is that I’m totally in love with both of them. These boys are based off of my husband.  If you dig how passionate and driven Aspen is, that’s Callaway. If you like how nerdy and romantic Maxon is, that’s Callaway.  I was never leaning towards one of the boys because the example of the love in my life is basically every romantic boy that I write. I could have never chosen and I’m glad I’m not America and I didn’t have to.

What are your favorite colors?

A: Right now, I’ve decided that I’m going to match my book in every way possible.  I haven’t worn pink in about 10 years and now I”m wearing a lot of it. I live in New York and I don’t wear a lot of black.  I have a white cat and she sheds a lot, so it’s not really safe to wear black in my house.

KE: I like metallic hues and blue.

KC: I like purple and grey.

{This is where that same girl asked another spoilery question and I refuse to post it here}

After that, the Q&A was over and the signing part started.  Since I was the number one ticket, we were able to go up right away.  For Kiera, I gave her the bound galley that Harper gave me.  She said she was really surprised to see me with it because not very many people have one.

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When I got to Kevin, I thanked him and mentioned that I would be moderating again at The Grove and I promised not to ask the same questions.  Kiera said she was excited for that.

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Amanda snuck away right after the talking was done.  She was signing books and chatting with a couple of people at the register.  She came back after a few minutes and signed my things.

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I briefly said thanks again to all three authors before making the rounds to thank the staff at MG.  I thought moderating would be crazy scary, but these three authors were a lot of fun and definitely made it easy.  Huge thanks to everyone involved for giving me the opportunity and definitely check out Kiera, Kevin and Amanda if you get the chance.

I’m also giving away some signed copies of the books that Harper so graciously gave me.  Details to win signed arcs of Exile and Tease are here.  Details to win signed copies of The Selection and The Elite are here.

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2 responses to “The time I was the moderator

  1. Ooh, great recap! Glad moderating went well. :) And funny coincidence – Kiera gave the same answer about a cat and a laser at the Dark Days stop in Chicago.

  2. Oooh how exciting! Getting to moderate a panel is super cool and now you’re a legit blogger lol. OK you were a legit blogger before, but I bet you felt all super special for being asked to do it. Great recap and awesome questions.

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