The time it was incomplete

Posted June 23, 2015 by Stacee in Signings / 2 Comments

Any time Jennifer Niven is doing a signing in SoCal, I’m going to try to go. When I saw the date at The Grove, it was a sure thing. Even more so when all of the foreign copies of All the Bright Places I ordered showed up before the signing. Turns out her appearance was part of a panel for More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, so I was extra excited because I’ve heard so many good things about it.

Michelle and I got up to the store just after 5. We followed a couple of people into the event area and even though it was closed off, they sort of started a line. So of course we waited.

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Lita came around at about 6 and let us into the seating area and we were able to get front row. We chatted for a bit with her about upcoming events and various baked goods. All of the authors got there just after 7. Lita introduced the authors and then each author gave an elevator pitch for their books.

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H: Adam just turned 25 and yesterday was in the NYT and LA Times for a book that has 5 stars. He’s going to tell us about how he came to be a writer.

AS: I didn’t have the traditional author training. I didn’t go to college and I don’t have an MFA. I had too much debt and got a job at BN and was working at the cafe and hand selling children’s books. I ended up getting a job at Books of Wonder. I tell people that I built my own MFA.

I may have written some slash HP fan fiction. I’m not Team Harry/Draco like everyone else.  I think Harry and Cedric is where it’s at. They had something.

AH: When did you start writing?

AS: Maybe when I was 20? It started out as a dystopian trilogy and it was about people who were hunting down homosexuals.

AH: How many pages did you write?

AS: 10 pages. There was nothing going on and at one point, the dad pulled out a gun that he didn’t have before and shoots the mom.

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AH: How long did it all take?

AS: It took 2 months to write and then it was about 1 year of edits before it sold.

JCW: what does “leteo” mean?

AH: it is the Spanish word for leafy and I had been calling it the Leafy Institute. {I’m not entirely sure that I heard this right because I thought he said something about a river in Hades. I could be making something up.}  John Corey Whaley said it didn’t sound cool enough.

JN: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

AS: My second book was really outlined. For More Happy Than Not, I knew what needed improvement. I knew what was going to happen in the next chapter, so that’s how I kept going forward.

JN: I think they tell you how they want to be written.

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AH {to Jennifer}: What do you do?

JN: I think it’s different for every book. I started with non-fiction, so I had to outline everything.   When I switched to fiction, I had written a 40 page outline before getting started. My mom asked me later how it was all going and I told her that it was all over the place and my characters were doing whatever they wanted. She said, “Welcome to fiction.”

AS: Did you have to disconnect your emotions with All the Bright Places?

JN: I had a writer ask me how I did it without crying and to be honest, I cried a lot. I did sort of start autobiographically, but then they became Finch and Violet.

H {to Aaron}: Your first book is autobiographical, but now you’ve written this novel that is based on something real. Do you think that’s a good starting spot?

AH: I think for me it was the first story that had to get out of me first. It wasn’t that it was easy to write, but when I sat down, I knew that’s what had to happen.

JN: This was the story that I’ve been carrying around with me. I wrote it without anyone knowing.

AS: The emotional resonance is there.

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H: What’s been the biggest surprise of all of this?

AS: It’s still sort of crazy. It’s amazing and all I’ve ever wanted. We were too poor to go on vacation and now I’m all over the place, going places I’ve never been.

H: But you were afraid to fly.

AS: Yeah. I took a 44 hour Amtrak ride to miss the plane. Yesterday I took 2 planes in the morning and now I don’t need anyone to hold my hand or distract me with People Magazine’s Who Wore it Best. By the way? It’s always Rihanna. She always wears it best.

JCW: I always get asked where do you think your characters are right now? I really don’t know because I made them up and I don’t think about them any more. Do you view your characters as real people after the book is over?

H: My second book takes place 3 months after the first one. Is your story over?

AS: People survive, so I could continue, but I don’t know if it would be interesting. My biggest fear is that I don’t think I could tap into Aaron’s voice again. I do try to see them as people, but as for where they end up, I don’t know.

JN: I’ve heard from a lot of readers who give me alternate endings. A lot of readers will write them and send them and the main theme between them is that it’s all a dream.

AH: All the people in this book are still alive and most of them got to choose their names. I wrote an afterword because a lot of people wanted to know more.

I didn’t think of the characters afterwards. A great friend of mine says that we write the same 6 characters over and over again.

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What was your inspiration to continue with the trials of publishing?

AS: I think I’m scrappy. I’m not trying to make light of how poor I was, but I was really poor. I wanted to work with this idea about how sexuality was a choice. People think that you’re gay just to piss off your dad.
I like to think I would be good at therapy, but it’s not true. Writing is all I wanted to do.

H: I think we should talk about diversity. Tell us about your mom and dad.

AS: My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is hella white.

JCW: Like see through white.

AS: Wait. I’ll retract the hella.

My publisher asked about the main character being Puerto Rican and gay and they wanted to change something because they thought it was too much. There’s a stereotype that Puerto Ricans always shake maracas or always speak Spanish and it’s horrible.

AH: We’re finally rounded a corner about not whitewashing the books. {There was a lot more to Aaron’s comment, but I was really intrigued by this conversation and just listened instead of typing.}

JN: Same with mental health.

H: If you have a story with a personal element, don’t shy away from it.

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What has been the absolute best moment?

AS: This one…is what Jennifer told me to say.  {There was more to this also.  Something about signing the first finished copy to someone}

From there, we were lined up row by row.  While Adam was signing, Lita asked if I had books for anyone else.  I told her Jennifer and she said I could go over to Jennifer.

She stood up and we hugged.  We talked about the foreign edition covers and how they’re so pretty.  She said she wished she could write something in each language the book was in, but that she would write something different in each one. Then she pointed to her copy of AtBP and asked if I wanted to heart a couple more Finch chapters. So, of course, that’s what I did.  I made a comment to Michelle that it didn’t seem as effective to heart Finch’s name when it was in pen instead of a marker, so Jennifer handed me the marker she was signing with.

jn2 jn1 jn3

While she was still signing, I slid over to Adam.  He asked if I had read the book yet and I said not yet, but that I was irrationally excited for it.  And I love the hashtag he wrote.

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I went back to Jennifer to get all of my books.  We took a photo together while holding the books and then hugged again.  From there, Michelle and I headed out.

As always, the events at The Grove are top notch.  They’re organized and well run. This group of authors was a lot of fun.  So much, in fact, that this post is really sort of incomplete.  It doesn’t come close to capturing the laughs and charisma of the panel. If you get a chance to see any of them, definitely do it.

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2 Responses to “The time it was incomplete”

  1. Book signings always sound like so much fun :D especially when there’s a lot of authors! How do you find out about them? Do you just see a poster or something? Because I’d love to go to more but I don’t think there’s any book signings in my area xP

  2. Such an interesting interview! I always like to hear from authors first- normally I read only author interviews from authors I’ve read, but this one really caught my eye. I guess it’s because I’ve done the More Happy than Not tag, even if I haven’t read the book.

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