Friday, November 15, 2013

Bringing YALLFest: The Masked Sci Fi and Fantasy Panel (Which had no masks)

Our librarians Nico and Rachel L went to the fabulous YALLFest (young adult literature lovers) in South Carolina this past weekend and they want to get you as close to being there as possible. For the rest of the week Nico will be sharing her notes from several panels. Hopefully you'll get a taste of what the authors had to share!

On the panel (from left to right):  Leigh Bardugo, Lev Grossman, Mike Johnston, Marie Lu, Myra McEntire, Branden Reichs and David Macinnis Gill with Victoria Schwab as a moderator

This panel had a broad look at fantasy and science fiction authors.Victoria asked the panel to begin by going down the line and sharing the seed of inspiration for their books.

David Macinnis Gill: With Soul Enchilada, it features magical realism in El Paso, Texas. It was inspired by a Halloween story dare from a friend writer who requested three things: car wash, roses that cry and a statue that bleeds. It grew from a short story into a novel.

Brandon Reichs: His book, Virals came about in part because he was hating his life as a corporate attorney and wanted to do something else. His family adopted a puppy that got a very bad virus that humans were immune to. He thought about what would happen if this virus COULD spread to humans. Led from this thought to thinking about how to combine it with forensic science.

Myra McEntire: Hourglass (see our posts) first book, so she was just writing without a real idea what else she was supposed to do. There's a paranormal hook in the first book, where she discovered that she was actually writing sci-fi. The guy that her main character meets has something special about him, but she knew he wasn't a werewolf or a vampire or a ghost... he's a time traveler? She does not suggest this as the way for others who are working on their first novel to go.  Like David Macinnis Gill, her next book came from a friend request: "bird, music and someone who is alive, but not really."

Marie Lu: Legend (see our posts) came directly from watching the Liam Neeson version of Les Miserables. She thought how interesting it would be to do a modern version of Val Jean and Javert. But it was her boyfriend who came up with the idea that the main character should be a girl. To pay him back she let the main dictator have his name (Primo).

Mike Johnston: Had read an article about a the Pactific Gyer: a huge current that's been collecting trash and now there's a trash island two times the size of Texas. This intrigued him and he wanted to know what would happen if this went to the extreme and there became a trash continent, this led to Frozen.

Lev Grossman: The Magicians was actually supposed to be a distraction from a very long and extremely long and literary novel that he was writing but that turned out to be claw your eyes out boring. Also the wait between Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the next one coming out seemed so great that he just thought he wasn't going to make it. So he started this book almost as a fan fiction project.

Leigh Bardugo: For the Grisha trilogy, (see our posts) she thought about what if darkness was an actual place instead of just a feeling. Also what are the consequences if you wave a wand or cast a spell.

Victoria Schwab, our moderator discussed the fact that authors all write another version of our world. Sometimes its very subtly different and sometimes its vastly different. She then asked the panel about the inspiration for their settings:

Leigh Bardugo, Lev Grossman and Michael Johnston
(Editor: we are sorry that our photos are so terrible!)

Leigh Bardugo: She loved reading fantasy a lot and noticed that so much of that was inspired by medieval Europe. She wanted to take her readers somewhere different. She started the first draft and world building without really knowing where she wanted to set the story, but she knew that she wanted it to be tethered to a real place so that her readers could have an easier time understanding how everything in the world worked. She went to a used bookstore and found a textbook about Soviet Russia. She realized that this world fit so much of the world that she had been thinking of. There are so many powerful images tied up with Russia and she was able to use these visceral feelings to build around.

Lev Grossman- The world of The Magicians came out of a trend to push a little harder and a little bit more literally on the traditional fantasy world building. For instance, he loved CS Lewis, but there were some major holes in his world building. For instance Narnia is supposed to be build with feudal world tech, but Mrs. Beaver has a sewing machine?? He thought about what would happen if you had a country where magic was a real thing, there was a political civil war and you dropped five kids into it. Probably they wouldn't end up saving the day. Leigh asked him if there was any Dungeons and Dragons background to his writing and he said that definitely there were, D&D was all about taking myths that are very squishy and nebulous and trying to put them in a table with numbers and the weird things that occurred when you did that- and that went into his world building.

Michael Johnston: Also talked about D&D and how his time running games had contributed to his Frozen he wanted to take elements of the real world and turn them science fictional, this was pretty easy actually when he looked at how far into the realm of science fiction our food, medicine and tech already has gotten.
world building in his books. He liked the quantification of all of these fantasy elements. Also with

Marie Lu- For Legend she was completely inspired for her world building by reality. The trials were inspired by her incredible fear of the SATs. As a high school student she felt that if she did poorly on those exams that her life would be over. She built on this idea to create the trials. She also pulled from Eugenics, North Korea, the Holocaust, all sorts of real horrors to build the horrific things that happen in Legend.

Myra McEntire- Her entire life she was teased about being from the South and about being a "hillbilly." She wanted to set her trilogy in the South that she actually knew, where there are people with cell phones and fashion sense. She wanted to give her readers magic in amongst the everyday.

Brandon Reichs- His books are set in Charleston and he tries to be as literal with his world building as possible. He did make up a couple of places (he didn't want to write murder scenes at real places). He is writing Virals with his mother, who is the writer of the Bones series. They knew that they wanted the series to be about forensics with a teen detective who was Temperance Brennan's grand niece, but the publishers were really looking for a sci-fi element and so they started thinking about biology gone wrong...

David Macinnis Gill - His books are set on Mars, so he has a lot fewer readers fact checking how many steps it takes to get from one place to another than Brandon does. His inspiration really comes from his memories of his favorite Marvel comic series- What if. He loved to ask himself these questions as he was building his world. What if humans destroyed this planet? They'd need to find somewhere else to live. What if they didn't change how they were living once they got this new planet? They'd destroy the next one too.
Several of the authors on the panel had recently finished or were finishing trilogies, Victoria asked them to speak about this a little.

Leigh Bardugo: She had this idea, because she's a big planner that the third book would be the easiest because she'd know exactly where she was going. This did not turn out to be the case. Instead it took her forever to fall back in love with the story. And she used to laugh over authors who said they cried over their characters and what happened to them. But, then when she was finishing up her own characters stories she also felt like blubbering.

Marie Lu- She is not an outliner, so it was just chaos the entire time. Everyone had told her to be
prepared to hate book two, and she totally did. By the time she got to book three she thought she would coast through till the end of the story-- but it turned out to be the hardest thing she had to do, because she had to wrap up all the threads that she'd been adding to the first two books in a way that made sense and satisfied the story. Leigh added that the first and second books are all about opening doors while book three is all about closing them, both are hard but for different reasons.

Lev Grossman asked the ladies with finished trilogies how they were able to write the last lines on their series. Leigh said that she had to write past the last line and then go back and cut. She had to trick the book.

Myra McEntire: She rewrote Infinityglass three times in nine months. Because of that she had no time between when it went to her publisher and when it went to press to distance herself from it. She didn't have a chance to put it to bed. It was the hardest thing she's written and she still doesn't want to read about it online at all.

Someone in the audience asked the panel if they worried about not being taken seriously because they are sci fi/fantasy writers. Leigh Bardugo advised the crowd not to worry about that, but instead worry about writing a book that you fall in love with and that your readers will fall in love with. Lev Grossman pointed out that if you dig into literature and go back far enough everything is fantastical, the idea that now it should be something lesser is ridiculous. Myra McEntire said if you're not writing something you enjoy than you're going to be miserable because this is the work that you have to face every day.

The last question from the audience was about how much world building the authors do before they start their story. Marie Lu does some before hand, but most of it will start to show up slowly as she adds drafts. Myra McEntire has been doing a ton of research for her new project and is enjoying it thoroughly.

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