The time I tried again

Posted July 17, 2014 by Stacee in Signings / 7 Comments

Queen of the Tearling came really highly recommended.  I’ll admit that I did DNF the book after 30% or so, I didn’t connect with the main character and just couldn’t get into the world. When I saw that Erika Johansen was going to be at Warwick’s, I told  Michelle that she needed to read it and tell me if we were going.  After she finished the book, she was gushing about it and told me that I needed to read just a bit further than I did for it to really get interesting.

So I tried again and she was right.  I ended up really enjoying the book {changing my 1 star DNF review to 4 stars}.  Michelle ordered the books and we were 1 & 2.

We got down to La Jolla early and killed time eating.  We got back to the bookstore right before they closed to set up for the event.

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They reopened at 7pm and Erika was already there.  The event was listed as starting at 7:30, so we asked about book 2 made some small talk for a bit.  One of the employees asked if we wanted to get our books signed while we were waiting for other people to show up, so we did.

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She told us that early copies of book 2 should be out by the end of the year and laughed at our mustache post it notes.  She even moved my post it from the flap side to the page she signed.  After she signed my book, I asked if I could get a photo with her.  Erika said yes, but asked that I didn’t post it on any sort of social media sites.  I said that I wouldn’t and then mentioned that I was working on a blog post, would she rather there not be photos.  She said that blogs were fine, she just had a problem with Facebook and Twitter and didn’t have any social media accounts.

The event officially started around 7:15 or so.  Erika started by talking about how she got the idea for the story. In 2007, Erika was in second year of law school and saw Obama give a speech on tv. She had a dream about ships going over the horizon and had an idea about what would happen if someone got into power who really wanted to do right.

Wrote over two years while in law school. Out of law school at 2009 which was the worst time, new lawyers weren’t being hired.

Went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and had confidence destroyed because she was trying to write literary fiction. Decided to work on what she wanted to. It was important to write a heroine who wasn’t pretty. There’s an entirely different set of problems that women who are not standardily pretty have to deal with.

Erika then asked how many people had read the book and gave a synopsis to the book.

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I wanted it to not have a romance. She has better things to do. Even in books like The Hunger Games, romance is being pushed in when it’s not needed. I was told by the publisher to up the romance, but I find it insulting to women. Publishers assume that women wouldn’t read the book if there wasn’t a romance.

I’m always asked about the main character talking about not being pretty. Growing up as a teenager who wasn’t attractive, it came at me 30 times a day.  You could be having a great day and then something would be said and all of the self-confidence is gone.

Erika then read part of chapter one before opening it up to a Q&A.

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How did you come up with the concept?

I needed an outlet for my political views and it’s always been writing. I needed something that I could shape. I wanted to have a queen who had power, not a ceremonial position.

What happened before?

It’ll be told in future books. I’ve read several hilarious negative reviews. I love when authors don’t tell me everything. The comparable thing would be the American revolution. No one ever thinks of it the way it’s explained in dystopian books. I’ve purposely constructed it as a mystery. It’s enough to follow the story, but not with all of the answers.

The film rights were optioned so early and Emma Watson was immediately attached. Do you have any issues?

I always figured that it wouldn’t be my book. I do talk to the screenwriter every couple of days, but only because he has so many questions. Hollywood has the right to fill in the holes to what I haven’t told yet.

They told me early on that because it was such a huge project, they would never attach a plain looking actress to it. I’m happy that Emma Watson is attached because she projects intelligence and my main character is smart. That aspect is important to the story. I was secretly hoping for Ellen Page. I think she’s gorgeous, but she’s not classically gorgeous.

I thought the Harry Potter movies were just okay. I didn’t think they did the books justice. But the production company has done other movies that I loved.  I think it’ll be a good movie. I don’t have an artist’s ego, it won’t kill me to have it changed. If it’s entertaining, I’ll enjoy it.

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Are you well read in fantasy?

My genre is horror and I tried so hard to be a horror writer. {There was more to this, I missed a bit while taking photos}

Favorite horror author?

Stephen King. He’s my favorite author. Always and forever.

Are there other writers who influence you?

It’s books more. For this one, it’s Dune. I don’t want to say that I stole it, but the beginning of each chapter has a bit of the story that is like written history. {There were several other books mentioned, but I couldn’t type fast enough}  I  think about what I wanted to see and look for ideas.

How difficult was it to get published?

It was easy. I got so lucky. At the Iowa workshop, agents walk around every ten minutes. I gave my literary fiction book to one and 6 weeks later, got the letter that it was horrible. And it was.  I kept writing because if I don’t, I can’t sleep. I went back to the same agent because I appreciated her honesty. I understand that it’s very hard for many people, but it was sort of like magic. Now I get to write for a living.

My life changed overnight.  I thought I would sell the book for a small amount and have a small core group of fans who would buy everything I wrote.  I asked my agent to send me an email with the number because I knew I would wake up and think it was all a dream.

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Do you have the rest of the book mapped out?

I do now. I’ll have a mediocre outline, but it’ll change because all of my great ideas come while I’m writing.

Do you want it to extend past book 3?

It already has. When I have a block, I’ll work on other things. There are other characters who have some interesting stories, that may or may not be more interesting than my main character’s story.  They deserve to be told in more detail than just a back story. It just depends on whether or not it’ll be published. They’ve told me that I can write forever and I don’t see myself running out of ideas.

What about your magic?

I know it all. It’s all mapped out in my head. I don’t like the info dump, it’s like the author got into the main character’s head and is controlling them like a robot.  I don’t like rule based magic. I love the Harry Potter books more than almost anything, but I didn’t like that there were so many rules to it. I like magic to be magic.

How long did it take you to write?

4 years, but 2 years I was in law school and I was only writing maybe 1 hour a week. Books 2 and 3 have to be written in a year.

What did you find most difficult while writing?

Plot. Character is easy. I’m most interested in how people change, I’m not a plotter. I need to come up with more ideas, my books are never going to be action packed because it’s not interesting to me.

How does a character death effect you?

This just happened. I cried at the end of this book. The reaction that the reader has is usually the reaction the author has. I’m getting to the part of the book where characters have to die and even though they’re characters I care about, the book demands it.  If the book demands it, then it’s easy.

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Do you have a favorite character?

Father Tyler. I am a stone cold atheist and writing about someone who was so religiously devout was interesting. My friends were laughing. It’s fun to write about someone who’s beliefs are so different from mine.

You wrote from 4 character’s point of view, how did you decide?

I take a look at the scene and decide who will be the most fun to tell the story. Usually it’s the character who knows the least. If the reader knows, but the character doesn’t, it’s fun.

Is it hard to create a different voice for each?

Hard only because I’m not a fan of the info dump. I can’t have a character just tell everything. No one thinks like this, so it’s difficult to create characters without giving exposition.  My editor always points out places where I could write some exposition, but I just can’t. I have to stay true to myself.

With that being the last question and our books already being signed, Michelle and I slipped out of the store while the rest of the audience lined up.  Queen of the Tearling is an interesting read.  I highly suggest it — and definitely make sure you give it a chance or you might miss something.

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7 Responses to “The time I tried again”

  1. Wow!! So jealous!! I tell everyone I recommend the book to that you have to push through the beastly long, information laden first chapter (which makes me titter to what she said about not liking info dumps, I think every TQotT review I have read has had that as a descriptor for the first chapter), and then around 25-30% into the story it grabs you. After reading the book I too had a little raised eyebrow about Emma Watson playing the MC, and yes, Ellen Page would have been perfection. Thank-you for this post. It is wonderful to finally see something of her personality. She has been so sequestered during all of this. For some reason Harper Collins sent me the hardbound edition with the cool ribbon bookmark attached (I am a sucker for details like that); no note, so I am scratching my head. I hope she is at BEA next year because I will certainly buy a front of the line pass to have it signed!!

      • Stacee

        She definitely doesn’t strike me as someone who would do a large event like BEA, but I could be wrong. She didn’t seem too comfortable talking in front of the small crowd that was at the signing, but like she said, her life changed overnight. She told us that she was recently recognized at a coffee shop when she was writing and wasn’t too thrilled about it.

        Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Hmmm, I’ve had my doubts about this one, but with you DNFing at 30% and then giving it another try and ending up a 4 stars… I’m quite intrigued!

    • Stacee

      I don’t read a lot of “adult” books and I’m painfully picky about high fantasy, but it was really good…once I pushed through. If you’re going to try it, definitely read a bit further than I did at the beginning. :D

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Seems like a very interesting event. Thank you for sharing her responses. I DNFed this one too in the beginning and also went back and tried again. My results were a bit different than yours but I do think it’s interesting to read the author’s thoughts. I’m very curious how the movie adaptation will go–I think it could be very successful if the right people are involved in making it.

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