Monday, May 30, 2011

Teen Author Carnival - Female Author Panel

Part of the reason why the Teen Author Carnival was so neat was because there were four author panels. Katie already talked a little about the Debut Author Showcase and now, for your enjoyment, a wrap up of the super awesome feminist panel: Kick A** Girls (official title! parents, don't blame me) and why we need them!

So, picture yourself in a very hot room in the bottom of a library in New York City, in front of you are nine of the coolest writers in YA and they all happen to be females who write strong women characters. Below are my notes, I was writing as fast as I could- so they won't be an exact transcription, but hopefully you'll get a feel for the event.

Moderator: Lisa Desrochers
Malinda Lo
Andrea Cremer
Michelle Zink
Courtney Allison Moulton
Carole Estby Dagg
Elizabeth Scott
Michelle Hodkin
Kirsten Hubbard

Q: Did You Know You Were writing a Kick A** Heroine from the beginning?
The fabulous Andrea Cremer
Kristen Hubbard: I write contemporary fiction, so the girls are not literally kicking a**. Instead, another way of being kick a** is by growing, being strong and being comfortable with her self.
Michelle Hodkin: I knew I was writing a bad girl, one who was so bad she was almost unlikable. But then I got the advice to make her "more Harry, less Bilbo" and she became likeable, even though she's naughty, so my readers will stay interested.
Elizabeth Scott: My heroines do kick a**, by becoming who they truly are.
Andrea Cremer: The whole point of writing my book was to have a girl who was in charge. I wanted a female alpha wolf.
Courtney Allison Moulton: I don't write anything except kick a** girls. No one's born knowing that she's kick a**, what's important is finding out how to be one!
Michelle Zink: I have two daughters and I wanted to write gothic novels with them in mind. With my characters it's all about finding your inner strength and fighting for who you believe you are. It's about standing up against who everyone thinks you should be. Also, in my book there's a fork in the road, either choose boy or journey and I love that she takes the journey option.
Carole Estby Dagg: My great aunt Clara and her mother walked 4,000 miles to prove that they could do anything the boys could do. I think that's pretty kick a**.
Malinda Lo: Huntress is a book with a girl with a weapon on the cover. But before then I knew that it was going to be the origin story of a huntress and how she becomes who she is going to be in the rest of her life. It's also the story of two girls and it's easy to say that one is weaker or stronger, but their romance is what makes the stronger one strong-- they are both kick a**.

Like Mandarin's Kristen Hubbard
Q: How would your character's story been different if she wasn't kick a**?
Kristen Hubbard: Like Mandarin is really all about the journey to become kick a**. I was really aware of how we need stories to help not only raise a generation of feminist girls, but also one of boys who are not intimidated by them.
Michelle Hodkin: It was always going to be about her. There is no story without my kick a** girl.
Elizabeth Scott: In my books, because they are contemporary fiction, what really stands out as the kick a** scenes are where the girl comes into her own.
Andrea Cremer: If my main character were not kick a** someone very important in her life would be dead.
Courtney Allison Moulton: She has to be kick a** or she's going to die. Basically she's thinking, I have got to learn to use these swords and slice and dice these monsters, or else I am going to be toasted.
Michelle Zink: In my books, there is no conflict without her being kick a**. If she wasn't, then she'd never stand up to her sister and basically her sister is evil incarnate.
Carole Estby Dagg: My characters also needed to be a little kick a** to survive. At one point they needed to use a pistol to defend themselves, at another they needed to camp with Native Americans, whom they would have believed it would be very dangerous to associate with.
Malinda Lo: If my characters were not kick a**, their whole world would be over. But you can be kick a** without using weapons or looking tough. Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, and in the scene where her stepsisters humiliate her by stripping her bare of all her princess finery, that is the scene where she kicks the most a**, just by giving them a look.
Michelle Hodkin,
we are soo excited for your book!
Who are your literary influences that inspire you to write kick a** characters?
Elizabeth Scott: I write the books I wanted to read at 16. When I was that age basically the only thing that was written with teens in mind was Sweet Valley High. I would read that and it just seemed so fake.
Andrea Cremer: Margaret Atwood and Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Courtney Allison Moulton: I was inspired by Anita Blake, but also by comic books and movies. I'm a huge Xmen nerd and I think that Emma Frost is pretty kick a**. Also Selene from Underworld, I'm pretty psyched that they are making more of those movies.
Michelle Zink: I was influenced by the Mists of Avalon series and also by some of the horror I read, but also by the beautifully written (but not at all in my genre) White Oleander. If you haven't read this book, do it, and watching the movie doesn't count.
Carole Estby Dagg: I was very inspired by the true stories, biographies or real women. Especially the stories of Clara Barton, the early suffragettes and Nelly Bly.
Malinda Lo: I was really inspired by Robin McKinley's fairy tale retellings. Especially her darker, adult book- Deerskin. I'm also inspired by Madeline L'Engle, she alwas has smart, funny and wonderful characters.
Carole Estby Dagg, Michelle Zink, Courtney
Allison Moulton and Andrea Cremer rock
the teen author panel.
Q: What does Kick A** mean to you?
Kristen Hubbard: It's different for every woman. But, becoming your true self is a journey that every woman needs to go on for themselves.
Michelle Hodkin: Being a survivor. Getting through and coming out of it, being able to endure- that's being kick a**.
Elizabeth Scott: Standing up for yourself and what you believe in.
Andrea Cremer: Being able to admit how vulnerable we all are instead of pretending to be strong.
Courtney Allison Moulton: Recognizing your fear and embracing it. Also being kick a** is very different from being a bully. Some girls see being mean to others because they are stronger than them as being brave, but really being a bully is cowardly.
Michelle Zink: Holding yourself with dignity when things fall apart. Being strong, getting through it and continuing to hold your head up.
Carole Estby Dagg: Perseverance. Not giving up. If you feel strongly, in the core of your being, that you need to do something, doing it.
Malinda Lo: Being kick a** is feeling the fear, acknowledging that you have it, and doing it anyway.

The awesome Elizabeth Scott and Michelle Hodkin
Q: Do books with kick a** girls as their main character appeal to boys?
Malinda Lo: If the male reading is a discerning reader, then yes.
Michelle Zink: I think it's one of the last acceptable prejudices for boys to be able to say, "oh, that's a girl book." Why do girls read Harry Potter, but boys can't seem to handle the fact that everyone, male or female, is struggling through many of the same things.
Courtney Allison Moulton: My books are full of action and they have a lot of comic book influences. I think they're also pretty cinematic- and all of those things seem to appeal to boys. I hear that they are passing it around because I get emails saying, "more blood!" I think slowly more teenage boys and twenty something guys are starting to read more of this.
Andrea Cremer: I also get emails from male readers, but there's always an apology in them. They say, "I know these are more for girls, but..." It's also problematic that we still believe the universal character is implied to be male. Hopefully this is starting to change. It's not that boys only like literal battles. We have to keep this conversation going.
Elizabeth Scott: My books often have very pretty and pink covers. I do hear from teen boys who read Living Dead Girl and Grace but it is still much less likely to find a boy who would pick up a "girly" cover.
Michelle Hodkin: My book isn't out yet, so I'm not really in the space to comment on guys reaction to the book yet. But, half of my readers were my brothers, guy cousins and male friends. I hope that there will be male interest.
Kristen Hubbard: I think there's definitely a prejudice. It's a struggle to have boys read my books. Sure books like The Hunger Games and the Mortal Instruments series reach boys, but for contemporary realistic fiction there's still definitely a struggle. How do we put the books in their hands and make them read?
Authors kick butt in their Chucks.
Q: Does a love story dilute the Kick-A**ness of your heroine?
Malinda Lo: The Kicking A** would not happen unless my main characters fell in love. Romance does not necessarily detract.Carole Estby Dagg: Adventure runs through the book and the fact that there is a bit of a romance does not dilute it.
Michelle Zink: In my book there is a metaphorical choice between love and your own path. I like to think that my main character makes the right choice and hods on to herself. I'd say that the answer to the question depends on the choices that the main character makes.
Courtney Allison Moulton: Ellie's guardian is more of a partner who pushes her to learn how to save herself. He literally says to her, "I'm your protector, not your crutch." I don't think the girl should be dependent on the love interest, but I think it's true for everyone that you really can't do everything on your own.
Andrea Cremer: The most difficult struggles you will face in life will be those in relationships, whether they are familial, friends or love. The biggest risks in life have to do with opening yourself up to others.
Elizabeth Scott: There is nothing scarier than falling in love. What is a more frightening question than, "What if they don't love me back?"
Michelle Hodkin: The relationship is 100,000% necessary to my story. The romance is central and really the most important part of the Arc.
Kristen Hubbard: Like Mandarin does not have a romance. Instead it is about a young girl who is obsessed with this older, wild girl. She compromises who she is to be more like Mandarin. Grace's disillusionment is what drives her journey.

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