Yesterday was the Dark Societies event at Waterstones Piccadilly with the wonderful Stephanie Garber and Katherine Webber. It was a sold-out event so I wanted to do a recap for those that couldn’t make it.
Steph was on the UK leg of her Caraval tour whilst Kate was promoting Wing Jones. I’d been lucky enough to have met Kate at her Female Heroines event a few weeks back but this was my first time meeting Steph, plus I’d actually finished Caraval a few days beforehand and adored it, so I was super-duper excited.
We started the event with Steph announcing that she’d made a few handmade bookmarks for fans. She asked if it was anyone’s birthday recently or upcoming and I timidly put my hand up (on the 28th ya’ll!) and STEPHANIE GARBER ACTUALLY GAVE ME ONE OF HER HANDMADE BOOKMARKS! I still can’t believe I have it – look how gorgeous it is! Easily the best early birthday present ever.
Right, now onto the actual event and questions. I’ll stick to summarising a few of the questions, but we seriously got through a huge amount courtesy of the lovely Leila of the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club chairing.
1. Leila started by asking what the inspiration behind Caraval and Wing Jones was.
Steph started out saying she’d read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and there was a particular scene where the characters and motivations are ambiguous – it was difficult to tell who was telling the truth or lying, and what was real and what wasn’t. This actually was the birth of Caraval, as a game! She also explained that she loves Baz Luhrman movies and she remembers watching the party and fireworks scene in The Great Gatsby which inspired the setting and atmosphere that Stephanie wanted Caraval to have.
Kate spoke about running track and country in high school and this inspired her to write specifically about a female runner. Wing’s character came fully formed and the dual heritage aspect was something that Kate knew she wanted to explore. The sibling relationship was important in Wing Jones and Kate mentioned this was inspired by her own experiences with her siblings, whilst the multi-generational family that Wing has was also based on the close relationships she had with her grandparents – she’s glad Granny Dee and LaoLao have gone down so well with readers!
2. One of the questions was about magic in both books and how they dealt with it.
Kate said that the first drafts of the book had magic in them, but that she decided in later drafts to remove this aspect. Instead, the final draft was rooted in reality but had hints of fantasy through the magical realism that Kate decided on. She liked that it was more subtle and left the book open to readers’ interpretations.
Stephanie said that for Caraval she wanted to go with something that was easy to slip into – a “non-indexed fantasy” if you like. In the book, she treats magic like religion, some people believe in it, others are raised believing it, whilst others still see its existence in things that happen. She didn’t want there to be any hard or fast rules and wanted to show magic as something elusive and unconfirmed.
3. With both Stephanie and Kate being debut authors, one of the questions was on their journey to being published.
Stephanie answered this in a really raw, honest and quite emotional way – I think the whole audience was hanging onto her words. She relayed her story from the 100-200 queries she’d sent out for other manuscripts and attended conferences with no luck to the point that people close to her were suggesting she call off her attempts at becoming a writer. However, she knew she could do better and decided Caraval would be her last shot – she got eight agent offers and it kind of blew up from there!
Kate spoke about also having written multiple other works before Wing Jones (including the tree people one we’ve all heard about and are dying to read!) She said she had a great experience working with sensitivity readers for her dual heritage protagonist and she did it because she wanted to write responsibly – she was more worried about writing something harmful than being criticised for writing a dual-heritage character. Kate also praised the YA book community for being so supportive and said she was glad Wing debuted in the UK first (yay us!)
4. Leila mentioned that Wing Jones deals with tragedy and asked what motivated them to write their books.
Kate said she wanted to write about what happens when someone you love unconditionally does something very wrong. She spoke about losing friends to drink driving and having friends who drove under the influence whilst growing up and she wanted to explore how a community responds to a tragedy where blame is apportioned. Ultimately, though Wing Jones is about a teen girl finding her own strength.
Stephanie said she wanted to tackle the same strength issues through Scarlett in Caraval. Growing up, she struggled with fear – she explained there were parallels between herself and Scarlett in that it was her dream to be an author like Scarlett’s dream was to go to Caraval, but once the opportunity presented itself, fear kicked in. So she wanted to write about an unconventional female protagonist – although she loves badass heroines she wanted to validate the fear and timidness she and others feel at a young age.
5. One of the last questions was about deleted scenes and if there were any they were really fond of.
Kate mentioned she’d written a 6000 word kissing scene that although she loved writing had to be edited down a lot… especially as this was for NaNoWriMo and the scene made up more than 10% of her book! She also said she really likes metaphors and keeps them on standby as fallback options.
Stephanie said Caraval was quite short for a completed manuscript and she actually ended up adding more detail rather than cutting down. But she did say the clock scene in Caraval came about after her editor insisted the original setting of a cabin and Scarlett and Julian looking for clothes whilst half-naked was boring!
6. Final question was: Dante or Julian?
Kate was quick to say she was Julian all the way, whilst Stephanie controversially chose Legend – he is her favourite character even though she doesn’t trust him one bit!
Have you read Wing Jones or Caraval? Any recs to fill the WJ and Caraval shaped void in my life?? Let me know in the comments below!