The time I got a headstone

Posted October 27, 2016 by Stacee in Signings | 12 Comments

Seeing Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is always a sure thing. Seeing them at Mysterious Galaxy with Marie Lu is just a bonus. I was able to call in and get our numbers before hand, so we got to the store after 4pm and sort of settled in. Well, we ran around in the back room, where I lost my mind over this…


…and got some chocolate mouse at the delicious bakery.

Chairs were put out early because the store was quickly filling up with people. We grabbed front row seats and then I started going through the audience, handing out post its.


Amie, Marie, and Jay showed up around 7pm. I went over to say hi and ended up going into the back room with them to chat for a few minutes. Somehow I got pushed into introducing them.

And after I did that, they started talking about how it was their first tour date and thanked everyone for coming. They said that they were mainly doing a Q&A because they were just unprepared.


Amie introduced Marie and talked about them being critique partners.

A: You know how you finish a book and you’re tweeting an author? I was reading the book while I was in person. I was pacing the room in a circle and every once in a while, I would stop and stare at her. Then I went into the other room to give notes and I was typing and yelling at her that I was really mad.

M: I was the first person to read Illuminae.

A: We should talk about how Marie got involved.

J: When we started with Illunimae, we didn’t think anyone would be publish us. We both followed Marie on Instagram.  And if you don’t, take out your phone now and follow her.

A: We both wanted a female illustrator. And she doesn’t know this.

M: I’m learning this live.

J: And we said “let’s find someone who draws like Marie Lu”, so we would do google searches for it.

A: Then we realized that we knew someone who draws like Marie. She’s sickeningly nice. We figured she wouldn’t say no because we were friends. I wrote an email that gave her lots of options to say no. I mean, I was a professional negotiator in my previous life.

J: There was like a disclaimer at the top.

M: Meanwhile on the west coast… I think I left smoke tracks on my keyboard. And then I thought I should probably talk to my agent.

A: We didn’t want to hope just in case it had to come back and she said no.

M: This is one of my favorite series always. It’s so brilliant. I remember when you were pitching it and you thought no one would buy that. And I told you that if no one did, then publishing was over and we were all going to die.

A: Before we go to questions, lets talk about your books and the first time we talked about this.


M: We were babies.

A: It’s like X-Men set in Renaissance Italy where Magneto was the hero.

M: Yeah, Adelina isn’t the nicest person.

A: What happens in the first chapter in The Midnight Star is really really wrong and you find yourself cheering for her. I can’t say rooting.

J: Yeah, that means something entirely different in Australia. Like the most unclassy, physical thing in the back of a car.

A: What made you write this?

J: Who hurt you?

M: Adelina had a mind of her own. I pitched the book with Raffele being the main character. My agent is really good about not sugar coating things. She called me…

A: She did it on the phone?

M: Yes. She warned me.

A: I want the dignity of an email so I can go cry.

M: Her exact words were “when you gave this to me, did you think this was good?” I mean she was right, but it was a spear to the heart. I asked if there was anything she liked, and she said she liked Adelina. As soon as she said something about Adelina becoming the main character, it was like a light switch flipped.

A: Did you feel different at the end?

M: Yes?

A: I do. To Jay: do you?


J: Yes.

A: We just turned in edits for book 3.

J: We are the worst at maths. We have to keep a list of people who died.

A: And we’re trying to count months and days and I had to do get out my phone for a calculator.

J: It’s not glamorous, people.

M: Is it easier since there’s two of you to close it out?

A: We were always friends, but now we talk all the time. We’re doing another series… When people say they don’t like the books, it’s like a spear to the heart. We don’t just make it up, we pull it out of ourselves. There are parts of us in every character.

What were some of your references that didn’t make it in?

A: There are heaps of references in there. In book 2, there are references from Princess Bride to Star Trek.

J: I put in favorite band members.

A: There are a lot our favorites. People always ask if the Hamilton references are on purpose. In book 2, it was already drafted, so it wasn’t. But those in book 3 are on purpose.

J: I don’t even know one note.


What are your favorite parts about co-authoring?

J: For me the best part is that Amie is the most positive and enthusiastic person. You might not notice that I’m somewhat subdued. There will be times that you’re writing and you think everything is wrong. When you’re co-authoring, the chances that you’re both in that same spot is nil. It’s amazing. Writing Illuminae was the most fun I’ve ever had.

A: We’re convinced that it can’t be any good because it’s so much fun. And with the pictures, we gave Marie some rough ideas of what we needed, but then it was all her. The first time I saw it, I cried.

J: And I was in Starbucks and I started giggling like a 5 year old.

A: When I’m processing excitement, I punch and I was so excited that I punched Jay.

M: That’s the best feedback I’ve ever gotten.

J: I used to work on advertising and you can tell someone who it just punching the clock or someone who loves it. And every time we got something from Marie, she added something even more awesome.

A: We always get asked about how you work with a partner. If you’re working with the right person, it’s amazing. It’s building on each other’s ideas.

J: We don’t fight. When it happens, it will be catastrophic. You’ll just see a red color on the horizon and it’ll be over something like a comma.

Are there pop culture references in Warcross?

M: That’s what I was doing in Tokyo. The book is set 10 years on the future. It’s about 2 bounty hunters who are down on their luck and they’re hired by a billionaire who created a video game to stop a hacker. There are some references, but there small and cheeky.

A: Tell us about the first things you wrote.

M: I was 8 years old and it was fanfiction about Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s running in the forest and a tree falls on him. For the rest of the story he’s contemplating his life without speed.

A: See, the darkness was always there.


How did you know the genre you wanted to write in?

A: We’re very nerdy. I’m working on a middle grade now and there’s no space. For me, once you’re in space, you’re writing science fiction. Really good science fiction asks really big questions and space is really awesome.

J: Everything is better with “in space” at the end. Think of the best thing…like pirates fighting dinosaurs…in space. Or take the worst thing like stale doughnut and then add “in space” and it’s awesome!!

M: I think the first book I read, I become obsessed with it. It was Red Wall {I don’t know if that’s correct} and it was so much fun. There’s something special about fantasy, that anything can happen. It’s shining a light on our world, but with dragons. Or in space.

J: See, dragons in space. It’s amazing.

What is your process for developing a character?

A: She just reached inside.

M: She had a mind of her own, which makes me sound like a crazy person. I have never written a character that difficult. There’s something magical about the creation. When they hit the page, they take on a life of their own. Then I started fighting her to see if I wanted to make her something that people didn’t like.

J: That’s the best part about characters, when they do stuff you don’t expect. And it does sound crazy. To me, it’s the most fun. If you’re the person who is writing it and you don’t see it coming, your readers definitely won’t.

A: I try to take one thing about them and try to build on that. For Kady, it was the sarcasm. For Hanna was the idea that she was both physically kick ass and also had killer fashion sense.


Favorite thing a character did you didn’t expect?

J: It’s hard to say without spoilers.

M: Is there a character that didn’t make it that you didn’t see coming?

J: I think that’s the worst fight we’ve had.

A: We were on a writing retreat and they saw mommy and daddy fight.

J: Victory without sacrifice is meaningless. We were talking about how we were going to end the series.

A: I was there for you guys. He wanted to kill everyone. In the end, we reached total agreement. It’s not about picking an idea, it about what’s driving those ideas.

J: There’s a lot of maiming, but not real death.

A: By the time book 3 comes out, you’ll forget this and it will shatter you.

Which of your characters is most like you?

J: Aiden.

M: I like Aiden. He makes sense. There’s a little of me in all of my characters. Tess in Legend is most like me. She’s very much who I was in high school.

A: The heroine in book 3 of Illuminae is most like me. There’s a lot of me in Kady. We respond to a crisis the same way. When things genuinely go wrong, that’s when I step up. {This then started a conversation about Amie’s plan for a zombie take over.}


Is it hard to write the villain for the character you really identify with?

M: It was easier to write Teren than it was Adelina. I didn’t have to walk a line with him. He knows what he wants, Adelina needs to figure things out.

A: We’ve been talking about the characters who think they’re doing the right thing. That’s what makes for an interesting antagonist.

J: And the take away is that heroes could be villains and villains could become heroes.

What is your advice for authors, for the drafting stage and query stage?

J: Those are two entirely different levels of hell.

M: For drafting, my advice is: don’t be afraid to write down a bad thing. I used to write and revise and then end up with ten 50 page stories. The first draft is fine being bad, it just has to be finished, then you can revise. I treat the first draft as draft zero.  As for querying, only do a few at a time. You can only query an agent one time.

A: Just finish it. Author Ryan Graudin says drafting is like filling the sand pit with sand. You’re just shoveling it in and then the second time around you’ll make pretty things. For querying, I’ll say that the pitch needs to be less than 200 words.

J: For querying, read the submission details. Usually it’s an assistant that’s reading them first on top of their other job duties, so they’re looking for a reason to delete so they can get to work. If there’s a spelling error, they’ll probably delete it. If they asked for 10 pages and you sent 15, they’ll probably delete it.


A: My agent deletes queries that start with “Dear Sir” because she’s a female.  She figures if they haven’t done even that amount of research, they don’t actually want her as an agent, they just want an agent.

J: For drafting, it sounds corny, but believe in yourself. You’re going to meet people who will call you a fool and tell you that you can’t do it and they’re the enemy of creativity. You’re doing an amazing thing, something that calls to you, so believe in yourself.

From there, the signing started.  Anyone who was numbers 1-30 was to line up in store, 31 and above were to line up outside.  I ended up going through the line again and giving post-its.

When it was our turn to go up, Marie was first.  I had a stack of books for her, since I had some from the giveaway.  She commented on the bound MS and how she didn’t get to see them often.  I asked if she was signing Gemina and she said yes, that it was probably going to be the only time she was.

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Amie was next and I don’t even know what I said to her…I swear, I think my brain just turns to mush. When my book got to Jay, I asked if he would sign the page where my name was.  He asked me what I wanted and I said I didn’t care, as long as he didn’t sign over my name.  He ended up drawing a small headstone with grass and “RIP Here Lies” above my name. {And I just realized I don’t readily have a photo…mental note to take one}

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From there, we made the rounds, saying goodbye to everyone there.  It was pretty cool to meet Sierra and Anastasia and see Jessica. And as always, Marie, Amie, and Jay are amazing.  This recap doesn’t even cover all of the fun stories, random tangents, and arguments about The Wire.  It also doesn’t cover the game that was played to give away a death in book 3.

Just do yourself a favor and see them ASAP.


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12 responses to “The time I got a headstone

    • Stacee

      Amie and Jay are hands down some of my favorite authors to see. They’re always hilarious and I never actually capture the entire conversation.

      I am so excited you’re finally starting Illuminae. I can’t wait to see what you think.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

    • Stacee

      I’m planning on taking photos of it this weekend, so I’ll definitely post!!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  1. Thank you so much for writing this! It’s so great to be able to relive it and look back on their answers to the Q&A in their own words. In hindsight, I’d regretted not recording them, but because I know this is here, we’re all good. :) And it was lovely to meet you, too, even if only for a few minutes.

    • Stacee

      I really should record then just so I can go back and laugh at their stories.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  2. Eee, I aaadore these three authors. <3 Gorgeous recap post sweetie :D So glad you got to meet them all. YAY :D And yay for signed books. <3 And gah. Sounds like it was such an amazing event. Thank you for sharing about it :)

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