The time I had to use a microphone {2}

Posted November 8, 2015 by Stacee in Signings | 6 Comments

I was asked to be the moderator for the event with Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, and Victoria Aveyard and was completely surprised. Even though I was mildly petrified about doing it {you would think with as much as I don’t shut up, it wouldn’t be a problem}, I just had to say yes.

The day of the event, we got to Huntington Beach a couple hours early. Because traffic. I met up with the events manager, Jeanne, and we chatted for a moment about how it was all going to work. She wanted me to be able to meet the authors before hand so we could be a little familiar with each other.


At about 1:40, Amie and Jay got to the store. Hubs and I were downstairs, sort of hovering, so I had seen them walk in. I went over and introduced myself {Michelle, you would have been proud} and then asked one of the BN employees to let Jeanne know they had arrived.

We were taken to the super secret back room and found that Victoria was already there. There was a stack of books on the table for them to sign and I ended up feeding them to Jay while we were chatting. Then I got my three arcs signed.

aj1 2 aj2

After all of the BN books were signed for stock, we had a bit of a photo shoot where things like this happened.

3 4

When it was time for the event to start, Jeanne came and took us to the super secret elevator and we headed over to the table. Jeanne gave a brief introduction and then handed me the microphone.

Elevator pitch your books.

V: I had to take a class on pitching, so this is going to sound really canned. It’s the story of a world divided by the color of blood. If you’re a normal human, you have red blood like you and me. But they’re sort of oppressed by the people with silver blood who also have special powers. The story starts when a red blooded girl named Mare has super powers too. She gets embroiled in the elite world of the silver bloods. I guess that’s a long elevator ride.

A: And I’ll add that there are not 1, not 2, but 3 hot boys. Four if you like Lucas.

V: So many people like him.

A: We originally pitched Illuminae as Battlestar Galactica meets Ten Things I Hate About You. I guess if we’re going for a slightly longer elevator ride, I’d say it was a little bit horror,  a little bit of a thriller, there’s kissing. As much as I could convince Jay to put it in.

V: It wasn’t enough.

J: The unique thing is that it’s a file that has been compiled by a group of activists who are shadowing a corporation. So you as the reader are sort of piecing together what’s happening. It’s all emails and IMs and video footage and as the book gets weirder, we start to incorporate different design elements.


Sort your MCs into Harry Potter houses.

V: I’m Slytherin, so I’m biased towards Slytherin. Mare and Maven are Slytherin. Cal is Gryffindor. Kilorn is Hufflepuff. Julian is definitely a Ravenclaw. Evangeline is a Gryffindor.

A: Really?

V: Yeah. She’s one of my favorites.

A: I’m a total Ravenclaw, down to my toes. I was actually at the WB studios in the UK and part of a big tour. I was with another amazing YA author, Leigh Bardugo, and we were all being asked what houses we were in. You know, all the Gryffindors, put up your hands. Then the guy says Slytherin and Leigh goes *Amie’s hand shoots into the air*.

The she’s has this moment when she realizes that she’s all alone in the group, that no one else has their hand up. And then she’s sort of like *Amie’s hand goes slowly down into her hair, like she’s fixing it*.

I think…I’m kind of torn. On one hand I want to say that Kady is Gryffindor because she is a lot about sacrifice, but I think I’m going to have to put her in Slytherin.

Audience member: she’s like a Harry Potter sort of Gryffindor.

A: Yeah. I’ll probably put Ezra in Hufflepuff.

J: No. He’s Gryffindor. He’s all about bravery.

V: But he’s so loyal.

A: Yes. He’s sooooooo loyal. Like Cedric Diggory.

What would you be doing if you weren’t authors?

V: I would be writing movies, which I sort of still do when I can, but it’s hard. I guess if I wasn’t writing for a living, if I hadn’t gotten into film school. Fun fact, I didn’t get into any normal schools. I only got into film schools. I sort of had to go. I would have probably studied history and archeology and been really disappointed when my life didn’t end up like Indiana Jones.

A: My first degree was in Irish history and even though I’m one of the top Irish historians in the Southern Hemisphere, turns out that doesn’t make you employable. I was surprised to find that there was only one job and my professor had it.

I studied law and realized that was a terrible idea, so I worked for a long time as a mediator. It’s essentially when you get two people who disagree into a room and we talk it out. It’s kind of like a bit of story telling. We would walk into a room all angry and two hours later, everyone was smiling and my colleagues would ask if I hit them with sticks or if it was witchcraft.

J: I used to work in advertising, so if you’ve ever seen Mad Men. It’s a little like that, but with a lot less infidelity and alcoholism. Someone has a car and you need to write a commercial about that car. I did it for 12 years and to everyone who has bought these books and let me do this, thank you.


Are you a pantser or plotter?

V: I had to look that up the first time someone asked me. I would like to say I’m a pantser, but I make myself plot. I don’t like it, but it’s really nice to be stuck and realize that you have a cheat sheet. I like to use the gardener metaphor. I’m planting tomatoes and I have the sticks and I let them grow to a certain skeleton and then flesh them out as I find out what I’m doing.

A: I used to say I was a plotter, but then I heard Victoria Schwab say she was a join-the-dotter and that’s what I am. I have a lot of points along the way of things I know are going to happen, but then how I’m going to get from point to point is often quite surprising especially when you’re writing together.

J: Typically I’m a pantser. I never have any idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. I have a rough idea of where I’m going to end up, but no clue how I’m going to get there.

V: Typical man.

J: You don’t need maps. Working with Amie was the first project where I had to plot quite meticulously. I had to change my methods a lot. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun.

One of the weird things about writing a book is that it’s a lonely job. You spend hours and hours alone. You’re up at 2am and you’re the only one awake in your neighborhood. But working with another author you get feedback constantly. I highly recommend it.

What book do you wish you had written?

V: I like money, so Twilight. I definitely wish I had written Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but I don’t have that ability. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write this epic fantasy, but I haven’t gotten the practice yet. And obviously Harry Potter. You go back and read Sorcerer’s Stone and you love it, but you’re like why am I even trying. This is perfection. She planted these things in a children’s book and it’s paying off 6 years down the road in a YA book. So thanks, JK.

A: My answer for that changes all the time and it usually depends on whatever I’m trying to work with. Right now, I wish I had written Six of Crows. Turns out, writing an ensemble cast is really really hard.

J: I’m kind of the same. It depends on what I’m writing it reading at the time. The most recent is a book called All the Rage by Courtney Summers. If you haven’t read it, you should go downstairs and buy it right now. The most formative book for me was Where the Wild Things Are. That’s been my favorite book since I was 5 years old.


What’s your favorite word?

V: I like the word constellation a lot and I use it as much as I can. I also agree with Tolkien that “cellar door” is the most beautiful phrase.

A: My favorite word is “longbottom” and it’s a verb. It means to grow up really unexpectedly hot.

J: I don’t know if it’s my favorite word, but there’s a word called defenestrate and it means to be thrown through a window. The idea that it was happening so frequently sometime in history that we needed a term to describe it makes it the most awesome word.

What’s your least favorite word?

V: I think I speak for everyone when I say moist.

A: Yes. Only for the sake of coming up with some thing other than moist. I don’t like the word spiked because it sounds like what it is. It’s horrible and spiky and nasty.

J: I will second moist. In second place would be throbbing.

What’s your favorite sound?

V: I like to curse a lot, so a curse word if that’s a sound.

A: I grew up on the beach. Even though our land is as big as the US, we’re all around the edges because desert. On a boat, I like when it gains speed and you hear the whoosh whoosh whoosh of the water hitting the boat.

J: I don’t know if you’d call it noise, but music for me is really important. I can go a day without reading, but I can’t go a day without music.

A: His music is definitely noise.

V: I sound so crude compared to you guys.

J: It’s good for me because I’m at the end, so I get to think about my answer.


So then Jay first. What’s your least favorite sound?

J: Silence. {and then the mic kept going in and out every time he kept trying to elaborate on his answer}

A: I’m a sympathetic retcher, so definitely the sound of someone throwing up. Closely followed by that sinus clearing sound.

V: I’m in that gang too. I hate the sound of people spitting.

If you could go to dinner with one character that is not your own, who would it be?

V: Let me think about that. Princess Leia.

A: I kind of want to say Evangeline because I still can’t get over that Gryffindor thing.

J: I’m going to say Rob Stark, just to warn him not to go to the wedding.

What is one question you wish you would get asked?

V: I get a lot of repeats. Is it cheating to say I would want to get asked something I haven’t been asked before? Yes it is. Come back to me.

A: My favorite question is “Would you like fries with that?” but I feel like that is not appropriate for this. That’s a really good question. We don’t get asked about favorite lines in the book.

So then what’s your favorite line in the book?

A: Of course she’s asking it. We have a few. I will say that our copy designer hid an Easter egg in the jacket of Illuminae. We didn’t know about it until we got our author copies. If you play around and take the jacket off, you’ll find a secret message and some of our favorite lines.

J: We didn’t find that out until we got our finished author copies. The mic is going to stop working again and save me from this question. {the mic started acting up again} Is it my facial hair that is making that sound come out of the speaker?

V: That doesn’t make sense.

J: I’ve got nothing. I’m putting it on you guys now. You can come up with something.

V: I’m still thinking. I’m not quick on my feet. I guess the line one is good. People don’t ask what the historical inspiration is. They just assume that it’s dystopian.


And then it opened up to the audience Q&A.

How did you get published? If it was through an agent, how did you get the agent?

V: I came into this non-traditionally. I came from the film side of it and I pitched the idea of packaging a YA novel that was Red Queen. They told me that was my priority and I started working on it. Six months later, I had a manuscript and I gave it to my screenwriting manager, but he wasn’t doing it any more. He was also writing, but he passed it to someone at New Leaf who passed it to Susie Townsend who is now my literary agent.

I did a round of edits with her and cut about 40k words and then she signed me. We went through a round of submissions with 10 publishers and the first 5 rejected it. The 6th was Harper Teen and gave us an offer.

A: I think there’s something really important in what Victoria says. Every single book that you have ever read, even your favorites, has been rejected by someone. Never let that get you down.

I got my agent with my first series and I did it by writing a query letter. That means you introduce yourself and your book and pitch something like what’s on the back of the book. More like hooking them, without telling them the ending. If they like it, they ask to read it. If they like what they read, they become your agent and they pitch it to publishers.

Jay and I were both already published when we pitched Illuminae, so we had already proved that we knew how to finish. We put together a 130 page thing, including the design of what it would look like and that’s how it went out.

J: I’m very similar. I wrote a book in the middle of the Twilight hysteria that was about vampires and that was a colossal waste of time. But I got some encouragement from a few agents and that encouraged me to write my next book. Which then got rejected 100 times trying to find an agent. Rejection is just part of the process. It makes you a better writer.

For Amie and Jay: did you think of the plot and then the media you wanted to put it in or vice versa?

A: Plot first. We go to the pub. I’m not much of a drinker, so Jay drinks and I eat chips and we brainstorm about the next 100 pages of the book. Then we decide what the best format will be. If you have two teenagers, they’re not going to say, “Well, as you know, we’ve been on the run for the past 6 months.” But if it was someone giving a status report, they would be formal.

J: It was very important to us to get the plot right first and then have the design augment the book rather than have the book rely on the design. The design was a secondary consideration. We wanted people to walk away and have a conversation about what it was about.


Which character in your book most reflects your personality?

J: I’m probably going to say Aiden and for those of you who have read the book will probably think bad of me. Aiden to me reflects my uncertainty about our place and my place in the universe. It was a really great place for me to ask those questions. But I’m not quite as crazy.

A: For those of you who haven’t read it, Aiden is an insane computer, so that’s what Jay just told you.

For me, I would say Kady because I get a lot of comments about her snark and her sass and to be honest, that’s my inner monologue most of the time. It’s a lot of fun to just write what’s going on up here *points to head*

V: Ditto. Definitely Mare. I think that with the nature of writing first person, you have to put a lot of yourself in that perspective. I put a lot of myself in her. I enjoyed being sassy and I had to tone it down a little.

Just to add to the publishing question, something that people don’t seem to realize is that the door is open. You send a query letter to an agent and if they like it, they’ll request to read your work. There’s an idea that the door is closed. Top agents across the board they read everything. They check their inboxes every day. They’re looking for the next big thing. They want you to succeed. That takes a little bit of pressure off.

J: There is no secret handshake that will get you in. There’s no password.

How do you deal with writers block?

V: A little bit of help comes from deadlines. I always ask for hard deadlines so I know when I have to crack the whip on myself. I’ll also do a little bit of literary cheating where I’ll chip away at another project to free up the brain on the other project. I wish I could still write fan fiction because that did me a lot of good.

A: Totally writing on something else helps. For me, writers block is a bit like getting lost. I backtrack to the last place I definitely knew where I was. Probably what happened was that I made a wrong turn and I need to go back to where I was certain that it was working. Also, I walk the dog a lot and don’t come back until I have it worked out.

J: I distract myself. I’m horrible at math and I had a math teacher who would say that if you got stuck on a question, to move on. Have another project to work on or get out of the house and see your friends. Have a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with your story or with books.

There were a few more questions, but somehow my phone didn’t record them.  I think I may have hit something when I was checking the time or taking photos…

When the questions were done, Amie explained that they needed to do the book wave and how that was all going to work.


Before the actual signing started, I thanked all of them and told Amie and Jay I would see them again on Tuesday in San Diego. Victoria thanked me for coming up and said she liked my questions. Then I thanked Jeanne for the invite to be moderator. She said they’re getting more requests for moderators at events and I offered to do it for any other events needed. {!!!!!!}

I think by now you guys know of my undying love and affection for Illuminae. Amie and Jay and Victoria are all lovely, fun people. If you get a chance to see them, definitely do it.

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6 responses to “The time I had to use a microphone {2}

  1. This is so awesome :D Stunning recap Stacee. <3 Thank you for sharing about it :) You were so amazing for doing this event. I wish I could have been there too :) I aaaadore Jay and Amie. <3 And Illuminae. Swoon. Perfect book :D So happy for you that you got to do this. <3

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