Seeing Veronica Rossi for Riders was a sure thing. Having the event with Mary Pearson and Kiersten White was an added bonus.
Michelle, Keiko and I got to Mysterious Galaxy super early, as always. We grabbed some food and headed back to the store for shenanigans and back room raiding before settling into the front row to wait.
Mary found us first and came over to say hi and say that our seats were reserved. She hugged us before going over to check in. When I saw Veronica come in, she was heading to the back room and I chased after her to say hi and squeeze her.
The ladies came out right at 7:30. There was a brief introduction and Veronica started first. She talked about Riders and how she had to write it. She wrote the entire thing without even knowing if it was going to be published. There was a story about a Navy SEAL who died in combat. He said he was was a man of faith and a warrior and that sentence stuck in her head.
Kiersten and Mary each talked about their books and what they’ve written and what the new stuff it’s going to be. It then opened up to audience questions.
What inspired you to write?
M: I loved to read. I think anyone who is an avid reader will think they can do it differently. I loved the idea of stories. Stories are what make the world go around. It’s how we pass down history.
V: I started as a visual artist. I was always filling sketchbooks and in the margins I would have angsty poetry about boys. I never actually thought I could be a writer. My older brother is the kind of person who can go through a book a night. I was intimidated by how well read he was. I would read one book a month, but read each page 5 times. I don’t think I believed that I was a writer until I decided to try to write for myself. I fell in love with it.
K: I always wanted to be a writer. I was going to be a children’s book author, but you have to have some artistic ability. We all want to be writers, but you have to admit that you want it.
V: And a lot of people don’t take it seriously until you sell a manuscript. Once I sold Under the Never Sky, people were asking to read it and I was like “hey, I’ve been working on this for 3 years, now you want to read it?”
K: I’ve been a published author for 6 years and I still get the “oh are you still doing that writing thing?”
Because you have an art background, is it easier to find setting?
M: Not easier, but it’s at the forefront of my mind. It’s a focus.
V: Setting is super important to me. I become obsessed. In UtNS, the aether became like a character. It’s all images for me. In Riders, part of the book takes place in Norway. It’s hard for me to write a book in a place I hadn’t been to, so I took a trip.
K: I really had to work on setting with this book. It was really hard. I’m very dialogue orientated. I would leave notes in brackets to describe something.
Do you go to the movies for inspiration?
K: Oh yes. The 4th Pirates movie wasn’t that good, but the scene with the mermaid. That scene where you have a beautiful girl who might not be a problem, until you get her in the water. I wrote an entire book because of that scene.
V: We’re the sum of everything we see and read.
M: We’re all story tellers and that’s just another way to tell a story. I would never downplay it.
Do you write your ideas down?
M: They’re just in there. It depends. If it triggers something for the book that I’m working on, yes. But the idea of eventually writing something about someone trapped on Mars without food, no.
V: I email and text myself a lot. I do have a notebook, but I forget to bring it. I often tell my husband about it and then he has to remember.
K: I have to write them down and if it’s something that I can’t stop thinking about, then I know it’s a good idea. I have pages of things that I don’t remember writing, so I know it’s not something I need to go back to.
When you kill off a character, do you feel remorse?
V: I sort of agonize over it. I love all of my characters. I don’t take it lightly. There’s a death in the trilogy and I sent it to my editor and asked if we needed to change it. I don’t always trust that I’m doing the right thing. I need a sounding board.
K: I had an editor suggest that we kill a pretty central character, but I didn’t think it would open the choices up.
M: I actually un-killed a character in book 3. I felt really bad and ended up killing someone else.
Hardest part of writing process?
V: Starting, the during, and the end.
K: And your reward is reviews.
V: Writing is hard work. You could be afraid that it won’t live up to what it’s like in your head. Or writers block. Or walking away from characters in a book. An enjoyable part is the public part. I wrote this for me, I didn’t think that anyone would read it, so I wrote what I wanted to see.
M: It doesn’t matter that 1000 people love it and rave about it, it’s the one person who hated it that we remember.
V: And I think it’s different now, with the social media and Internet, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.
V: I can tell you most traumatic. It was the second book in the trilogy. I turned in the second book and I had worked so hard. My editor called me and said she had a really hard time getting through it. It was the first book I wrote under contract. It worked out, because I rewrote that book a bunch of time and I think it’s my strongest book.
M: All feedback stings. I always say give it a week. After I’ve gotten my hackles down, I can see that it’s usually true.
K: On Goodreads, I had someone write “please please please don’t let Kiersten White ruin Egyptian mythology”. I think she was giving me a lot of power. Egyptian mythology is pretty solid. She never followed up and read the book.
Is it hard to find a new plot?
K: I’m writing history.
V: They say that there’s no such thing as an original story.
K: That’s why your voice matters.
V: I wouldn’t recommend writing something about 12 districts and a televised game. If you’re really trying to copy, then you’re going to copy. If you’re trying to tell your story after being inspired, you will. Our writing DNA is in everything we do.
M: There are universal themes and they might inspire you.
What are you working on now?
V: I’m working on the sequel to Riders and I’m developing a few things. I’m working on my first adult historical.
M: I just sent in my first pass pages. I did all of my tiny edits. It’s sort of consumed me. It’s a 680 page manuscript. After I get some time to relax after this last book, I’ll start working on something else. I always do.
K: And I Darken comes out in June. I’ve drafted book 2 and I’m working on outlining book 3 and also my middle grade.
The signing concluded and we got in line. I only had books for Veronica, so I went straight to her. Kelly from the store had let me take the Riders posterboard sign they had, so I gave that to Veronica first with a gold marker. Sadly, that didn’t work well, so she kept slowly going over it to make it look better.
We talked about her signing my UtNS arc and how satisfying it was to finally have a complete set of arcs. I then looked over to Kiersten and told her that I still didn’t have anything for her. She laughed and said that she knew I supported her. And the fact that I have supported her work so much that I have it on my body means that I get a free pass for a while.
After thanking everyone for coming out, we sort of just stood around catching up with some of the other people we only see at signings.
As always, Mysterious Galaxy is an amazing store and these three ladies were a lot of fun together. If you haven’t read their stuff, you need to remedy that immediately.