I knew Rachel Hawkins was going to be at SDCC, so when I saw that she was announced to appear at the BN in Glendale I was so happy. Less books I would have to take with me and more time hearing Rachel on her own.
Getting up to Glendale was a horrible nightmare. It was accident after accident and broken down car after broken down car. We left San Diego before 3 and barely got up to Glendale at 6pm.
When we were about 15 minutes away, Anasheh messaged me on GR and asked if I needed her to save seats. When we finally got up there, only Anasheh and her friend were there, so I was able to secure front row seats.
Rachel got there just after 7 and jumped right in.
Gonna use the teacher voice and not use the mic.
Professional writer for 5 years, was a writer before knew how to write. Most intense Barbie stories. Most girls were like “ooh, barbie and ken go to prom!” Hers were abducted by aliens.
Parents supported “creative/weird” and went to a young author conference. Met Katherine Tucker Windham. When getting autograph, the ghost “signed” the book. That was the beginning of wanting to write supernatural.
In college for criminology and left because needed to take statistics. So happy not at a school visit because afraid of getting jumped and stabbed with compasses and protractors by math teachers when she says “boring math classes”.
Switched to English and then found out had to take statistics. Lesson learned: math is always waiting for you. Has degree in English Lit, speciality in 19th century [something something. Rachel talks fast]. Want to identify all of the phallic symbols in the room? Done.
Saw husband teaching and shaping young minds and thought, “Wow. I want summers off too.” Became a teacher. Kids and books, yay! Grading and bureaucracy, boo!
Really good at starting books, wrote 20k words and though this is hard, means the book is bad, so quit. Started reading YA and thought she could write that.
Lots of YA is about how two people see each other across the room and instantly they’re like “I barely know you, but I would DIE for you.” How about let’s make out a little instead? Started thinking about a book to balance that out.
Books set at boarding schools or with MCs that are orphans are done because no one really wants to write parents. It would be a killer. “I don’t let my kid ride his bike to the end of the street, I’m not going to let him fight the dark lord of evil. That sounds dangerous.”
Oct-Feb wrote Hex Hall. Got Holly and sold to Disney Hyperion in April. Went from rock bottom, about to starve to dream job in 6 months.
School Spirits is a spin off. Sophie needed a vacation. “Did you read the last book?” Liked the idea of following the monster hunters.
Other than the misogyny aspect, Supernatural is a good show. Everywhere she goes, people go insane over it.
School Spirits was fun because Izzy has to go to high school. She never had to deal with bells and lockers. How would it look to someone who’s never been to school? A girl who can physically kill monster but a boy asks for her number and she’s like what is that?
All of that was part of Rachel’s “origin story”. The Q&A started after that.
Favorite piece of writing advice?
Read a lot. And read vastly. You want to write YA? Great. Don’t just read that, you need to see how other people are telling their stories. And yes, just do the work.
Did you have Hex Hall series planned? Or were sequels added after it sold?
It was always meant to be a bigger story. Likes to have a tv type structure.
What does your son think?
Was in Sam’s and he saw the book display and said, “Did you write this one too?” And it was Dan Brown. “Pfft. You wish, we’d be living in a castle.”
Ending of Demonglass planed? Did you want to make readers cry?
Yes. That’s how I stay young and strong. I’m really 65. If it makes the reader cry, most of the time it makes the writer cry too.
Do you ever rewrite?
Yes. For myself and my editor. Young writers look at what they’re writing and then a book on the shelf for comparison. That’s not fair, so many eyes see it before it gets to the shelf.
Fave supernatural character?
Who are your favorite authors?
All time favorite is Roald Dahl. Started going through them with son and realized how dark they are.
What are you reading?
Writing a book set in Edinburgh, so reading a lot of historical set there. As research so can just use their street names.
[She listed 2 others, but I didn’t get them down fast enough]
Fave character written?
Archer. Not just because he’s dreamy, but because he came with so much baggage.
Dex in School Spirits. First metrosexual asthmatic in YA. No one loves their purple blazer as much as Dex does.
With Rebel Belle, very invested in it, so in love with those characters.
Trick for getting through blocks?
It depends. Used to say it doesn’t exist, but it’s sort of douchy. Every time sat down to write, after 30 minutes, it was bubbling out. If the book feels broken, take a week off. Now knows to talk things out with scientist hubs.
Do you stock pile things that don’t work?
Never deletes anything. Has an “orphans” file. Used stuff from Rebel Belle for the sequel.
Favorite and least favorite part of writing process.
Being done. When a book is really working, literally feels like you’ve been living in a dream, it’s amazing. Hard to say least favorite. It’s all wrapped up. That’s what authors are so masochistic
When you’re done writing, are characters still in your head?
Doesn’t understand when authors say, “Oh my character would love that!” Doesn’t judge, has friends like that, but it’s not for her. Characters are sort of like puppets: they did what I wanted and that’s all.
Is School Spirits a stand alone?
For now, yes. Very episodic.
Fave part of School Spirits?
Anything dealing with high school.
How do you come up with names?
“I don’t. I’m the worst titler. Do you mean character names?” Sophie Mercer was always Sophie Mercer. Like Isolde and Isabella. Uses baby name books. If the name isn’t right the character isn’t right.
After that last question, Rachel went to the signing table. I had many books, so I went to the back of the line.
When I got up to Rachel, I started unpacking the books onto the table so I could sort of help with them. I thanked her for coming and apologized for so many. She laughed and said something along the lines of how horrible it was that I was buying multiple copies of her books and feeding her kid.
When I opened my copy of School Spirits, I had forgotten that I had asked for Dex on the post it. Or that I had put my Twitter handle under my name. Rachel said, “Oh you’re Stacee” and how it was exciting to put a face to the twitter name.
We chatted a bit about different things: her recent trip to Scotland, the driving distance and geography of California and how Atlanta had lost its southern mystique. We took a picture and [I think] I thanked her again. Before we left, I chatted with Anasheh and her friend [whose name I didn’t get] again.
Rachel Hawkins is hilarious. She’s just as snarky and delightful as the characters she writes. Perhaps even more. She is definitely one of those authors I will always go see. I can’t recommend her and her books enough, so go read them now.