Whenever Tahereh Mafi is in SoCal, I try to go see her. So, of course when I saw that she was signing at the Grove after the Dark Days tour was over, it was a definite thing.
We got up to The Grove around 4, bought all of the books and then went to grab some food.
Hubs and I split up when we got back to the store. I went upstairs and got in the already formed line, he went to the patio at Starbucks and started people watching.
I was 5th in line and it started filling up quickly. By 6pm, there had to be around 50 people waiting. They let us in just after 6 and Lita went on to tell us about her battle in regards to buying doughnuts versus candy for Tahereh.
Tahereh got there around 7:15 with Ransom. They decided to do an “in conversation” type thing. Tahereh said that she didn’t need to sell herself because since everyone was here for book 3, we should know what they’re about.
She introduced Ransom and then he talked about the series. There was a lot of staring between them.
R: You have written 3 books and 2 novellas. That’s a lot of writing. Let’s talk about what wrapping up a big series is like.
T: One of the most interesting parts of ending a series that no one tells you that you’ll get a lot of death threats. So I hope that everyone who is here actually likes me. Balancing readers expectations against the journey of the book. The journey has been interesting. I was a reader my whole life. I didn’t start writing until recently. When I finished Mockingjay, I walked around in a fog. I love you Suzanne Collins, but how could you?
I understand the plight of the reader. It’s flattering that people care that much, that people have that strong of an emotion to fictional characters that exist only in my head.
I knew what was going to happen by the ending of the first book. I like to get to know the characters, ask them questions and learn what would kill them to lose. When I finished the first book, I had a very strong vision for how it was going to end.
It has always been Juliette’s story. It has always been about a girl who will save the world. Who doesn’t have to apologize for someone she wants to be.
T: Is Ransom your real name?
R: I’m bound to secrecy. [waits for laughter] Well. I expected that to go differently. Yes, it is.
R: Do you know how to pronounce your name?
T: Yes. I expected that when I got married, I would be living a lifetime never hearing my name said correctly. Ransom says it perfectly.
R: it’s a labor of love.
T: [pronounces name] I will answer to anything. Hey you works. I’ve been called Todd. And that was the lowest point.
R: The book industry must look different than it did 20 years ago. The distance between reader and author is gone. How do you manage reader expectations within the series? She wasn’t kidding about the death threats. I mean, most of them were from teenage girls….
T: I have no answer. This goes back to my roots of being a reader. I don’t actually think these people are serious. I’m sure some of them are and all kidding aside, that shouldn’t be happening. But I think they just want someone to yell at and when you answer them, they just say “Oh.”
I had a friend who was going to see Suzanne Collins during Catching Fireand I made her ask Suzanne ask if she was Team Peeta or Team Gale. I need her to answer, this was a serious problem for me.
And before I entered the realm of an author, I didn’t understand why she couldn’t answer. And now it makes sense. I understand how people read passages over and over again and how you eat and breathe books. I understand how it feels.
R: Shatter Me has a lot of strikethroughs. Unravel Me had a few, Ignite Me has none. Can you talk about that?
T: One of things I didn’t realize when I was writing was that they take a long time to come out. That there’s a year in between books. So people wouldn’t see the grand design I had for the prose. I’ve even gotten email from people asking me if I knew that I could delete words. Or if there was a problem with my copy editor.
I had written 5 manuscripts before Shatter Me in regular, traditional story telling format. Juliette came to me fully formed. I sat down and just started writing it and asking questions. And how it looks now is exactly how I wrote it that first time.
I knew when she was feeling strong, the writing would be strong. And when she was feeling crazy, the writing would be scattered. I knew the prose was always a reflection of her mind.
From there, it was opened up to audience questions.
What did Kenji and Juliette see in each other to become friends?
Kenji’s character is basically the amalgam of my brothers and a little bit of my mom. I squished all of their personalities into one person. We used to beat the crap out of each other, but it’s evolved into a great thing. We’re all really close now.
I felt that Juliette needed someone who would tell her the truth, but still loved her. Someone who could give her tough love. I don’t have sisters, so I didn’t know how that dynamic worked. I gave her a brother instead.
How do you pronounce your last name?
Has there been any new developments about Shatter Me being a movie?
T: No. But Ransom’s book is going to be a movie. And I think you should talk about it.
R: Tim Burton is directing it and I think they’re filming it this year and I think it’ll be out next year.
The books are told from Juliette’s point of view and the novellas from Adam and Warner’s point of view. They all sound so different. Do you have a method for distinguishing all of the different voices?
T: That is very kind and means a lot. I don’t know that I have a method. The way I write is kind of crazy, which suits my characters.
When Juliette arrived in my head, she was very loud. I wrote all of them in these great obsessive bursts. I wrote Unravel Me in a week and edited it in two weeks. I locked myself in my house and worked. It was hard work, like 18 hour days. I think it was specific to this series. The only way I could get into her head was to dive into her head.
I’m working on something new and I’ve been taking lunch breaks and showers. And it’s all because Ransom. He takes walks around the neighborhood or pets the cat or has some espresso. It’s all very normal.
R: But even serial killers can do those things.
Did the characters change their characteristics while you were writing?
T: No. I didn’t ever think that “this character is going to be like this”. In my mind, I could ask what their favorite colors and they would answer. [Someone then asked what their favorite colors are] I’ve always associated green with Warner, blue with Adam and purple with Juliette.
Do you refer to Warner as Warner or Aaron?
There were a couple other questions, but I was busy putting my shoes back on. The signing portion started just after 8 and we were lined up row by row.
When I got up to Tahereh, I apologized for what was about to happen. When she looked startled, I said it wasn’t anything bad, just some interesting inscription requests. We chatted while she signed [she asked if I had read IM and if I still loved her. I said yes and of course] and then we got to Christina’s books. I explained what Christina wanted and told Tahereh that she didn’t have to do it.
But she did. And when we got to book 2? Yeah, she did that one too. Even while saying, “I don’t think I can do both of them.”
After thanking her profusely [and hubs telling Tahereh that she was way too nice], we said goodbye to Lita and headed home.
As always, Tahereh is adorable and a lot of fun. It was a different dynamic seeing her in conversation with Ransom, but a good one. Their chemistry [and long looks at each other] is worth any distance.