Bookish Event: Jennifer Niven & Holly Bourne Signing

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Jennifer Niven, the New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places is in town at the moment promoting her newest release, Holding up the Universe. I got to hear her chat to Holly Bourne on everything from oddest fan experiences to the upcoming movie when she dropped by Waterstones last week. Holly was also promoting her new book, the finale to The Spinster Club series And a Happy New Year…?, but she was chairing the event and so we got to see her calling the shots and Jennifer in the hot seat. 

The questions were brilliant and as with all my event blog posts, I’ll summarise some of my favourite Q&As.

1. Holly started off with some quick fire questions, the first of which, and absolutely the most important question ever: which Hogwarts house is Jennifer in? Jennifer said she’d taken the official Pottermore quiz recently and had been sorted into Ravenclaw at which there was a squeal of delight from Holly, a fellow and enthusiastic Ravenclaw!

2. Second quick fire question: what was the book that was life changing or most memorable for Jennifer growing up? Jennifer immediately answered with Judy Blume’s Forever – she said it was the book that you would hide under your bed so your mum wouldn’t find it. Blume’s books resonated with her because they were about girls similar to her and her friends and they inspired Jennifer to want to write similarly relatable books when she was older. 

3. Final quick fire questions: who is your book boyfriend? Jennifer couldn’t resist answering with Finch (and who could blame her or disagree?!), but she did say if she had to choose a character that wasn’t hers she would choose Simon from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

4. Now down to the serious questions, in Holding up the Universe, the male protagonist, Jack, suffers from Prosopagnosia, or “face blindness” – what made Jennifer choose to focus on that? Jennifer said she has two family members diagnosed with it and had been aware of it and fascinated by it for some time. Once she asked one of her cousins how he overcame it and he said he recognises people by “the things that count” – the things they like about a person rather than physical attributes and Jennifer thought “wouldn’t that be great? If we could see beyond the way people look when we meet them?” And that was something she wanted to explore. 

5. In both All the Bright Places and Holding up the Universe, Jennifer writes from a male and female perspective – what was the reason for that? Jennifer said she likes knowing what the boy thinks – in romance stories, you often have the girl painting a swoony portrait of their crush and you always wonder what is going through the boy’s head. She’d never written in dual narration before All the Bright Places, but found she really liked it and so did the same with Holding up the Universe. Jennifer shared that her editor casually mentioned that she didn’t always have to write in dual narrative which was her way of saying “don’t do it for her current book” so her current manuscript is single PoV!

6. One thing Holly said she’d noticed was the theme of grief present in Jennifer’s books – was that consciously or unconsciously done? Jennifer answered that she’s unfortunately lost a lot of people close to her, including her mother who was always the first to read her completed manuscripts, so grief is a big part of her life. She said rather than carry around the baggage, she finds channeling it into her writing helps – after all if she’s going to be sad and cry about things, her readers sure as her are too. 🙂

Holly said she’d been lucky in that she hadn’t experienced much grief in her life but one event that did stick with her was the death of her hamster. She arranged a back yard funeral complete with Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On blasting on the boombox (aww!) What she mistook as her parents’ profound grief and shuddering tears was actually them trying to keep from laughing out loud!

7. A question we’ve probably all been curious about: does Jennifer often get asked about the ending to AtBP? Jennifer said she gets so many questions about the ending to AtBP, often is accused of breaking hearts (“It’s OK I didn’t need my heart anyway”) and regularly asked for a happier ending. SO… she has now actually written an alternate ending! Holly said she liked the ending and thought it was fitting because it shared the very honest message that love cannot fix mental health (agreed!)

8. What have been some of Jennifer’s strangest fan experiences? The strangest presents she’s been given related to her books were All the Bright Places themed flip-flops! She was also wearing a gorgeous ring, given to her by a fan who I actually met at the event (OhPandaEyes btw in case you were wondering – check her out on Etsy)! Jennifer also said that as her love for Supernatural and Jared Padalecki is well-known she gets lots of themed goodies made by fans and tagged in posts to the guys. She went to Supernatural con recently and finally met JP who thought she looked familiar – Jennifer said she was thinking “yup, probably because my fans tag you in millions of tweets to me”. 🙂

Holly chipped in and shared that her love for Keanu Reeves is also well-known amongst her fans. When KR was recently in London her Twitter blew up with notifications telling her about it. Now she knows that if her Twitter notifications go through the roof it’s not because she’s won some award but because KR is doing something interesting! 

9. Time for a controversial question: UK YA vs US YA? Holly asked this question because she basically wanted Jennifer to repeat her comments on this topic made in the green room before they emerged for the event (haha!) Jennifer admitted she prefers UK YA, notwithstanding some of her favourite American YA authors like David Levithan and Jandy Nelson, over US YA. She said she finds the latter to be increasingly self-conscious and a bit restrictive whereas UK YA is much braver and has more freedom.

10. Holly finished up by asking a question we were all dying for answers to: can Jennifer share any gossip about the upcoming movie adaptation of All the Bright Places? Jennifer apologised and said she couldn’t say much but that she had submitted the latest draft of the screenplay a week ago and that there’s probably one more draft remaining before it’s the version that will be used for actually shooting the movie! Elle Fanning has been attached to the project for two years and Jennifer said they are starting to look into casting Finch – apparently a shortlist of mostly British guys (eek!) and ran them past Elle whose first opinion was always very professional (commenting on their great acting abilities) and only then would the teenage girl kick in (commenting on how cute the actors were) which is just adorable!

Have you read either All the Bright Places or Holding up the Universe? Any casting choices in mind for Finch? What did you think of her answers? Let me know in the comments below!

Bookish Event: Our Chemical Hearts Tour

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This time last week I was at Queen’s Park Books for Krystal Sutherland’s Our Chemical Hearts tour courtesy of a book club friend at QPB! OCH is Krystal’s debut novel and it sounds fabulous…

A quick summary of Our Chemical Hearts from Goodreads: Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictures as his dream girl – she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl…

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Katie Webber chaired the event asking some brilliant questions like the inspiration behind Our Chemical Hearts. Interestingly enough, this led to them talking about the science behind love and heartbreak and how apparently it is scientifically proven that a break up affects the brain the same way as a root canal – now no one can accuse you of being melodramatic when dealing with heartbreak *smug face*

Krystal had a Cinderella-esque journey with Our Chemical Hearts,  getting an agent 12 hours after submitting her manuscript and found out her book had a publisher when she had just started her first shift at The Body Shop. She got a phone call telling her the good news and spent the rest of the day selling bath bombs and rubbing moisturiser on strangers’ hands (anti-climax much?!) And this was all without any prior experience or contacts within the publishing industry so it is possible!

She and Katie are good friends which made the event feel more like we were just eavesdropping on a brilliant conversation – and it was writing that brought them together. They decided to become writing sprint partners – something they highly recommend to budding writers because it helps you to get used to receiving critique early on. Another tip is to FINISH WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON much as you might want to cheat on it with a ‘slutty’ new idea (brilliant analogy!). 

Krystal finished off by sharing some awesome news: Our Chemical Hearts has been optioned for a movie and is scheduled to begin filming next year!! Her next project is also in the works, called A Semi-definitive List of Fifty Worst Fears (think that’s accurate – Krystal did admit the title is incredibly long!) And on that note, Katie’s debut, Wing Jones, already receiving rave reviews, is out in January 2017 so also keep an eye out for that!

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Hot Key Books gave away some great goodie bags with a cover themed shade of Barry M nail polish and a handmade bracelet from Hodge Podge. I also got a signed copy of the book – itching to start reading it soon! Have you read Our Chemical Hearts? What did you think of it? I’d love to know what you thought so drop me a comment below. 🙂

Bookish Event: Worlds Collide Tour with Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo

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Worlds Collide Tour… Yes, it happened. And I went. Still rather surreal because the London event sold out in record time – this is totally unsurprising though because this tour brought together two huge stars of the YA ‘verse. Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo are both New York Times best-selling authors and BFFs in real life. It was Rainbow’s YA novels, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl which rocketed her to fame and she returned to the Fangirl ‘verse to write Carry On. Leigh Bardugo meanwhile has two series under her belt already. The Grisha Trilogy books were published between  2012 to 2014 and she returned to the Grisha ‘verse with her Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology.

I’ve met Rainbow Rowell before during her last UK tour in 2014 but this was my first time meeting Leigh so I was super excited! I bought a new copy of Fangirl (my third… #noregrets) and Ruin and Rising to get the exclusive tour t-shirt. The event started with Rainbow and Leigh chatting about how this event compared with their first ever promo events: Leigh’s was in a basement whilst Rainbow’s was in a bar and they agreed she’d come full circle with this one being held in a church! Leigh also shared that Kaz was originally called Baz but she changed it after Rainbow’s Carry On. Leigh even managed to squeeze in a Hamilton reference within the first ten minutes and it set the fangirl tone of the rest of the event!

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Rainbow and Leigh kicked off the event with dramatic readings from their two most recent books which seriously made my life. We started with Carry On – the scene in the catacombs. Rainbow was Simon and Leigh, a brilliant Baz. I cannot overstate how hilarious this entire section was. One moment that pretty much sums it up is when Rainbow hesitated to swear, and then Leigh pointed out she’d be swearing in a church no less! So Rainbow plucked up her courage and belted it out. Next they read from Crooked Kingdom – the scene where Nina explains the Princess and the Barbarian story to Matthias with Leigh as Nina and Rainbow as Matthias. I love this scene because of its wonderful cheekiness and awkwardness and these two had it down pat.

We then moved onto the Q&A section of the event and there were some interesting questions all around. I’ll summarise a few here for you guys.

1.What do you both think of diversity in YA? Leigh said YA authors tend to have experienced marginalisation growing up and their books are like giving the marginalised a voice. However, she also said that although YA often has lots of diverse characters, we need more diverse authors. Rainbow agreed that she wanted to write real and true stuff that was reflective of reality.

2. Is Kaz based on Al Capone? This elicited a brilliant response from Leigh – she said Kaz is the hipster Al Capone! “He was pulling eyes out before it was cool.” She also said The Untouchables was a huge inspiration for Six of Crows. 

3. What is the inspiration for your characters? Rainbow said her characters don’t come to her fully formed – often it’s a train of thought that leads to a plot. This is how Fangirl came about, when Rainbow wondered what it would be like if she went to university now. Leigh said some of her characters come fully formed like Matthias. She compared the first draft to an awkward first date where she figures out if she likes the character (brilliant analogy!) One thing she does is to write lots of dialogue to ‘find’ the character.

4. What are your thoughts on the revision process? Rainbow said her first response was to question all of the edits (whhaaat, you don’t understand my genius!!) but that upon reflection she values it as it means someone is paying attention. Leigh said she dealt with critique by taking a walk, a shower, a shot (haha!)

5. What are your thoughts on taking part in NaNoWriMo? Rainbow said that Fangirl was a 2010 NaNoWriMo novel and talked about the myth of NaNoWriMo is that you have the perfect novel at the end. She said it was rather about coming up with a really good first draft to work on beyond November. Rainbow said she carried on working on Fangirl nine months after NaNoWriMo. Leigh said Ruin and Rising started out as a NaNoWriMo novel too!

6. Which of your fictional world would you like to live in? Leigh was reluctant to choose because the Grisha world is dangerous but she would choose Ravka and be a Fabrikator because she wants to live. Rainbow said she wanted to live in the Mage world because magic duh but that she’d want to hang out with Cath, Levi and Regan.

7. How did you write your books and do you have a day job now? Rainbow said she had to stop doing housework (which got a massive round of applause!) She said “If you’ve got kids that love you and a novel, who cares if your house is dirty?!” (Preach sister!)

8. How do you write evil but hot villains? Leigh answered that it wasn’t difficult as we’d think because ladies love evil (yaas indeed!) She said she got flak for the Darkling but she had no regrets because she wanted to show that all people who come into your life and appear charming aren’t always good and vice versa.

9. Which Harry Potter house and Patronus are you both? Rainbow said she identified as a Ravenclaw so was in denial when she was sorted into Slytherin. She also said she hasn’t taken the Patronus quiz because that’s not something that is assigned in the book. Leigh said she was Slytherin all the way and her Patronus is Stevie Knicks!

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Although we were waiting for the signing for some time, it is testament to the success of these two ladies that the queue was still out the door at 10pm! Worlds Collide was easily one of the most fun events I’ve been to in a long time. Rainbow and Leigh are obviously BFFs and it came across in how comfortable together and played off each other really well. They’re also the loveliest people and wanted to talk to their fans even when being rushed. If you haven’t read *ALL* of their books I highly recommend you go and read them now. Go, now. Seriously 🙂