The time we were practically co-workers

Posted June 29, 2016 by Stacee in Signings / 9 Comments

Going to see Kiersten White for her And I Darken launch party was a sure thing. And when Marie Lu was announced as joining her, Michelle and I couldn’t have been more excited.


We got to the store around 4 or so. David came up to us and showed us this new suggestion book they had in the store and urged Michelle and I to add to it. We started with 5 and then we found that 5 wasn’t enough. Neither was 10, 11, or 12.

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Marie and Kiersten got to the store just after 6pm. Marie started out by talking about Kiersten’s books and then they started gushing about each other.

M: I wrote a series about a girl that was sort of dark and that’s what drew me to your book. How do you say her name?


K: There isn’t really a way to say it. I say Lah-dah.

M: Don’t feel bad. I can’t really pronounce my own character’s names.

M: How was it doing the research?

K: The best thing I can say is that the next series will not be historical. Everything has to be researched. I had to check if they opened windows in the 1400s and guess what? No one has researched that.

We went to Romania for a few weeks and we stayed in places that were 700 years old. It was so amazing, you would just feel that history. We ended up sort of doing a Vlad the Impaler tour. I’ve always loved the Ottoman Empire. It was all things I wanted to include, but it was really hard.

M: I can just make windows because magic, but you can’t.

I loved that one of the first scenes was that her nurse was wanting her to be ugly. Beauty can be a trap. And then you have her brother who is everything opposite. He’s so sweet and beautiful.

K: Gender roles have always existed. Vlad and his brother Radu, who was also a real person, stayed in the empire. Vlad was so nationalistic. That sort of unshakeable type of thing was interesting to me. Then I thought, girls had to fight harder for the same things for their entire life. Anything you do that shows feminine weakness, you have to start all over again.


Girls have it hard enough now, girls in the 1500s really had it bad. When he became a she, that’s when it became a story for me. You know how you get those reviews about how someone doesn’t like a main character because they’re “too angry”…yeah.

M: You would never get that if it was a male character.

K: I took it step by step so that you could see why she chooses the things that make her that way. If you get to the end of the series and you’re wondering why you like her, I’ve done my job.

M: She’s a horrible person. I mean, she bites people.

K: And people were saying that they found Radu annoying.

M: You’re tackling this male character that has typically traditional female characteristics. Tell us about Radu.

K: I am Slytherin now, but I had to work into it. He’s very sweet, but he’s cunning. For me, it’s all about balance. The fun thing about dual POV is that you can see the same person from two different people. People always assume that Lada is Slytherin and she’s definitely Gryffindor. Radu is Slytherin.

{This prompted a brief tangent about how Kiersten is “obsessed with the House sorting” and the new American Harry Potter school and who cares about being sorted there, but that she totally got sorted}

M: I connect with Lada because of Radu’s POV on her and her POV about her brother. The fact that she loves her brother so much.


M: Every one of your books is so different from the next. Does your process change with each one?

K: I feel like all of my books have a dark undertone, I just do so much funny, no one notices. All of my books are so different. I have written books in a week. Sometimes I have playlists, sometimes I just listen to one song 1300 times.

These books were harder because I had to keep stopping and do research. The momentum would stop.

M: Did you put in more research while editing?

K: I had to take it out. You can only reference so many Vlads or Radus before it’s too many. There were only like 5 names back then.  Everyone is a Vlad or Radu or {enter another name that I didn’t catch.} That’s the difference between YA and adult. I might find it interesting, but I need to streamline it and keep it moving.  If it were adult, they would want me to shove it all in.

For example, in book 2, there’s a love poem. There’s a tradition of Arabic poetry back then. I did all sorts of research to find the great poets and the structure. It took about 6 hours and it’s going to be 2 lines. And I bet people will probably say I’m a horrible poet.

Marie asked a question about one of the characters, but I missed it. This is part of the answer.

K: I talked about religion in this book and I don’t normally do it. It’s this huge, powerful thing in this character’s life. I tried to be respectful. I didn’t include any direct quotes from the Koran, those texts are sacred. I’m hoping that my respect for faith and what it means for someone shows.


M: Do you know how your books end?

K: Yes. I always know how they start and how they end.

M: I’m similar. I usually know where it’s ending, but it usually changes.

M: Do you listen to music?

K: I just need something that tells my brain that it’s time to work. That Lorde song gives me a physical reaction. I tried everything: white noise, movie soundtracks, it was only that song that worked. I’ve listened to it so many times, but I couldn’t tell you what the words are.

M: I killed the Tron soundtrack for myself. I hate all of the songs and they’re so good.

K: I killed Florence + the Machine.  It’s horrible.  Now if I really love a band, I can’t listen to them when I write.

What was your favorite part about the book?

K: I love that I got away with it. It was an idea that either everyone would love or that no one would touch. No one is saying “you know what YA needs? More impaling.” Every step of the way feels like I’m getting away with something.


You mentioned ruining your character. What did you mean?

K: Sometimes she would act out of character. She would react how I would react. In book 2, I had Lada react like “oooooooooohhhhhhh!” to the love poems, but she would never do that.

M: Did your editor ever ask you what was going through your head when your wrote something?

K: Maybe I have just found the right editors. I still remember the most disturbing scene and my editor wrote all sorts of exclamation points and said she loved it. My editor makes me justify it.

What book was easiest and hardest to write?

K: Illusions of Fate. That’s the one that took me 7 days. It was joyful. Book 2 of this one was the hardest. I had to hire someone to help with the kids.

M: Hardest was the Rose society. It just about killed me. I was getting really depressed being in her head. The easiest was Warcrossed. The one that’s coming out next year. I’m having the best time writing it.


M: Do you like first drafts?

K: Yes. Unless it’s under contract. I like to write the things I’m not supposed to.

M: Warcrossed was my therapy for writing The Young Elites. It’s so happy happy happy.

K: And you can tell from the title. When does it come out?

M: Fall 2017, I think. It’s about 2 teen bounty hunters who are hired by a young billionaire in the most popular VR game. It has a lot of personal favorites in it. It’s cheery. I was doing a body count and there’s just one death.

K: So look for futuristic books set in video games to be the next big deal. I feel like Marie is always on the cusp of the big deal.

Do you feel like the communities you’re writing about will use your characters to represent them?

K: That’s the good thing about writing historical. I try to represent them well, but feel pressure to be representative…I feel like the more representation we have, the better.

M: Doing the research in the real world is different than fantasy. If you write some of it, you release some of the pressure. Everyone’s experience is so different. The more we have, the easier it gets. Diversity in fantasy is tricky because when you say you have someone with dark skin, what does that mean? With the Ottoman Empire, there’s a specific type of dark skin because it’s real.


M: How did that change things for you?

K: I tried to make normal things normal. Women with the harems gave them a lot of power. They used them to get out of bad marriages. If you walked into the harem, you belonged to it. I tried to show what was normal for then, not normal for now.

Why did you choose to write in third person?

I wanted to give a historical sense to it. I also didn’t use any contractions. I wanted to stay away for any sort of modern sensibilities.

There was one more question, but I didn’t get it down. We quickly got to the front of the line and waited for Kiersten.

When we got to her, she laughed and asked how life had been over the last two weeks, since we were on the B-Fest panel together. She said that were like co-workers now. We chatted for a minute about SDCC and Taylor Swift/Tom Hiddleston theories.

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After we were done with that, Michelle and I went through the line, flapping books for people. Annnnnd then we said our goodbyes and left.

These two ladies were a lot of fun together.  I know I didn’t get even half of what was really said because it was a combination of really tricky spelling, Kiersten talking fast, and my being utterly captivated by what was being said.

Also? My handwriting usually looks a bit nicer than what it does in those lists.  I blame the podium and the pen on a string.  Okay, and my inability to put down my Starbucks while I was writing.

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9 Responses to “The time we were practically co-workers”

    • Stacee

      They were a lot of fun together! I loved how they were gushing over each other in the beginning.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Stacee

      I’ve had a few people ask me why I don’t pay attention to the authors talking and actually, I really am! I am just typing everything on my phone while the event is happening. I definitely don’t get everything, but I do get the majority.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Stacee

      She is so lovely and she’s local, so I see her quite often. I think you should come out here!!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  1. Awesome post Stacee :D Thank you for sharing about this amazing event. <3 I'm jealous :D I adore these two authors. <3 And their books :D So glad you had an amazing time sweet girl :) Love reading about what you do. <3 Hugs.

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