V.E. Schwab spoke at Old Town Library tonight, and I did the nerdiest thing you can do when getting your books signed by a critically-acclaimed author:
I pointed out that she and I wore the same silver ring. I held up my hand to show her. She smiled and held up her hand. And I said, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!”
She laughed and said something nice that I can’t remember because all I could think was “I’m talking to Victoria Schwab! And we’re wearing the same ring!”
New York Times best-selling author Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement) and Emily Hainsworth (Through to You), who also spoke about their books at the event, looked on, amused.
It wasn’t until later that I thought: Are they too young to know who the Wonder Twins are?
After telling the audience a little about their backgrounds and how they got into writing, Victoria kicked off the Q&A session with the classic question of whether to outline your novel before writing. “Plotter or pantser. What is your story process?”
Brenna can’t show her novel draft to anyone until it’s finished. “This will sound unhinged…I write my sentences out of order.”
Not only that, she doesn’t complete her sentences. Instead, she leaves a series of commas to fill in later.
“It looks like the longest, most confusing game of Mad Libs you’ve ever seen,” Brenna said. Other writers told her she was doing it wrong. “It’s not an efficient process, but it gets me to the end eventually.”
“However you get to the end, that’s your process and you’re doing it right.”
Brenna’s words comforted me, because I don’t write in chronological order. (Note to self: mention this to my critique group at our next meeting.)
Emily’s process is different. “I have to write in order. I have to outline.” But a friend told her, “I write all the kissing scenes first.”
Victoria’s novel A Darker Shade of Magic began with an image that popped into her head: a boy walking through a wall, colliding with a girl dressed like a boy. “I wanted to try writing about parallel worlds. What if he’s not walking through a wall between rooms, but a wall between two worlds?”
“Most of my novels start this way, like a rock in your shoe,” Victoria said. “Don’t ever discount ideas even if they don’t seem like full ideas.”
All three authors were so friendly, funny, and down-to-earth while describing their first attempts at novels and their writing process, I ended up buying – this is embarrassing – about $100 worth of books. Justification: some for me, some to give to friends.
Okay. I feel better now.
Judging by the tall stacks cradled by 40 other adoring fans, everyone else in the room was on the same wavelength.
(See me in Victoria’s Instagram photo, left of center, wearing an orange scarf, two heads back from the smiling girl with the purple hair.)
“Thank you, guys, for being here tonight,” said Victoria, who heard two hours earlier that she’s now officially a New York Times best-selling author with her new novel A Gathering of Shadows, the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic.
“I think readers don’t realize how much power they have…I get to keep my cult following, and have my new following, which is awesome because I get to pay my rent.”
Part II: In my next post, I’ll share the three authors’ insights about finding a literary agent: “Getting an agent was easy,” said Victoria, who parted ways with her first literary agent after nine months. “Getting the right agent was not easy.”
Katherine Valdez is considering leaving her credit card at home the next time she attends an author event. Follow her @KatValdezWriter on Instagram and Twitter, www.facebook.com/AuthorKatherineValdez and www.KatValdezWriter.wordpress.com/blog.