VE Schwab Event Recap

Photo Credit: VE Schwab (I actually did take some of my own photos this time, but they were blurry and not particularly good quality!).

Hi everyone! Again, I’m sorry that this recap is fairly late given that the event I’m talking about was two weeks ago, but once again, I’ve just been really busy this month, I managed to pick up quite a few extra shifts at work which has been great, but not so great for getting blogging done! On the upside, it does mean that this post is going live exactly a year since I posted my last VE Schwab event recap, so that is kind of cool, I wish I could say I’d planned it that way!

As most of you will know by now, I’m a big VE Schwab fan and have been to quite a few of her events and signings over the past few years, so when I saw her UK Addie LaRue paperback tour dates go on sale, I booked myself a ticket immediately. I did attend the UK virtual launch event she did for Addie LaRue during the pandemic, but obviously she never got to do an in-person tour for that book, so I was really excited to hear her talk about it a bit more in person.

I left the house at 6 to get down to the station, but when I arrived at Clapham Junction, I think I had just missed a train to Victoria, so had to wait another ten minutes for the next one (you can tell I’ve really settled in to London life now that I think ten minutes is a long time to wait for a train!). Anyway, I got the train to Victoria and then once there, got the Victoria line to Oxford Circus and then the Central Line onto Holborn.

Having been to Conway Hall previously for Leigh Bardugo’s event in January, I knew my way this time, and didn’t get lost so I made it there in much better time than before, with about ten minutes to go before the event when I arrived. There was of course, already a massive queue, so I simply joined the end of the line. As with last time, though the queue looked long, it moved fairly quickly and it wasn’t too long before I was at the front the queue. One of the Waterstones booksellers scanned my ticket and then I headed inside. I was kind of thirsty coming off the tube and I spotted that there was a bar in the foyer (which I swear had not been there for the Leigh Bardugo event, at least I don’t remember seeing a lot of people with wine!) so I asked if they had tap water. The guy directed me to a water cooler down the hall, so I took a plastic cup and filled it up before I headed into the hall.

I initially headed in on the ground floor to see if there were any seats, but much like last time, the ground floor seats had been filled up by the early birds (I really should learn my lesson and try to get there earlier so I get a better seat, but there you go!) so I headed up to the balcony. Since V wasn’t doing a signing line this time, I figured it didn’t really matter much where I sat (usually your seat determines where you will be in the line) so I took a seat right in the middle section facing the stage as I figured it would have the best view (and it did have a pretty good view).

It wasn’t long after that one of the Waterstones booksellers came out and introduced V and the moderator for the evening Sarah Maria Griffin. The two are obviously good friends and had a good rapport with each other which made the evening even more fun. She started off by talking a little bit about the unusual journey of Addie LaRue, and the tour coming over two years after Addie LaRue was initially released in hardcover (this tour was for the paperback edition, not something that usually happens!) and how there had been a big tour planned for the initial release but all of that had to be cancelled due to Covid, so getting to do an in-person tour for the paperback was really special because it wasn’t something V had thought would happen for this book after everything was cancelled due to the pandemic.

She spoke quite a bit about the pandemic and the influence it had on the book, and how Addie’s story took on a different resonance than she had expected because of the time it was released in. She’s spoken quite a lot before about how long Addie took to create (ten years from initial idea to final execution) so naturally she couldn’t have predicted when she came up with the idea that Addie’s story would arrive in the world at a time when it had such a particular resonance-a story about a woman who is forced to live her life in isolation and loneliness (admittedly due to a curse rather than a global pandemic) was certainly bound to touch people in a different way in 2020 and she said that particular moment in time has lead to a lot of new people discovering her books through Addie because the story had such a resonance in that time. V said she’s interested to see how the Addie paperback lands now that we’re out of the pandemic (or at least out of the very specific circumstances we were in back in 2020) and if it will have the same resonance with readers now as it did when it came out over two years ago. She spoke a little about the specific circumstances she found herself in during 2020, and having to rush to France before the borders closed in order to make it to be with her family over the lockdown and I could relate quite hard to that given that I also had to rush back home from South Africa and only made it back into the country the day that our first national lockdown was announced!

I had always wondered why she specifically chose 2014 as the year to be the “present” in Addie’s story and it turns out it was simply so she didn’t have to deal with Trump in the story, and you know what fair enough! I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the mess that was Trump’s presidency in fiction either.

She also spoke quite a bit about Faustian bargains and her frustration with the stories of these kinds of bargains always going the same way: a man (usually) who makes a bargain to live forever and then finds himself hit with this existential ennui and wanting out of the deal. She said she never found that all that believable, and this informed her development of the character of Addie. She talked about needing to find another motivator for Addie to keep going other than sheer spite, because whilst spite would get her far, it wasn’t going to stretch to 300 years. She spoke about “the elephant in Paris” moment in the book and how that became somewhat of a mantra for Addie, and almost her philosophy for life: V realised that if it wasn’t spite or stubbornness that was going to keep Addie going for 300 years, then it had to be joy. The joy of realising that there was always new things to discover and that if she gave into Luc, and decided to end the deal, then she would miss out on that joy of discovery. She mentioned that when she left for France just before the pandemic, she wasn’t able to take any of her post-it notes for Addie with her as she left in such a rush and the one that has really stuck with her and she keeps on her desk even now is “stubborn hope and defiant joy”. I really loved that, it defines the character of Addie so well, but it’s also a great motto for life!

I always loving hearing V talk about her worldbuilding because it’s one of my favourite parts of her books, and it was particularly interesting to hear how she went about it with Addie given that it’s one of few of her books that take place in completely in our world, rather than a fantastical realm. She spoke about wanting to overlay the real with the fictional, so that readers couldn’t quite tell what was real and what was made up, using the scene with Addie and Henry on the High Line as an example: The High Line is a real place in New York (which I’ll admit I did not know, I have been to New York once, but we only spent a few days there and didn’t visit The High Line) but the art exhibit that they visit is completely made up. She says she likes intertwining the magical with the mundane, the real with the fictional and that this was a way of doing that in her worldbuilding. I really love that idea, and I have to admit, I did find myself wondering a few times throughout the book if some of the places she described were places you could really visit (I’m still slightly bereft that the Poison Kitchen from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone isn’t a real place, because it would be so cool to visit).

She also spoke a bit about Luc and his development as a character. One of the things that I found really fascinating about what she said about Luc was how he and Addie develop in opposite ways throughout the book: Addie starts off completely human and over the course of 300 years slowly loses more and more of that humanity, whereas Luc, in spending so much time with Addie over the years becomes more and more human. I loved her thoughts on this, it was something I hadn’t really noticed whilst reading the book but it makes total sense and explains quite a lot about their dynamic really because throughout the book they’re drawn together more and more because of the curse, and yet, to me at least, it always felt as if each time they met they were a step closer to growing apart, so hearing that really explained a lot about their dynamic. I loved her description of Luc as a “petulant child” because that just seemed so very fitting for him.

I found it really interesting hearing V talk about the juxtaposition between Catholicism and pagan gods in the novel and how setting it in France at the time she did brought those two things into direct conflict, it was really interesting to hear about how she explored that in the book and especially how Estelle became this sort of bridge for Addie into finding the “old gods” because she’s the last person from her village that really believes in them, so without her, the entire story wouldn’t really have happened.

Of all the characters in this book, Henry was probably the one whose story hit me the most, the emotional heart of the book for me as it were. Though I’ve seen V talk about how much of herself she put into Henry before online, and during her virtual event for Addie a couple of years ago, it was quite touching hearing in person just how much the character meant to her. She said she had never intended to put so much of herself into any of her book characters, but she was struggling to work out Henry as a character and started to give him little pieces of herself, until he ended up becoming her most autobiographical character. She described Henry as “who she would have been if she hadn’t found writing” and that the way he struggled to pick a direction in life and feared all the paths he didn’t choose by picking one was very much taken from her own life. She also spoke a little about his struggles with mental health and how his description of his own mental illness came directly from how she has described her own experiences of dealing with mental illness, as a storm which does eventually pass. I’ve been lucky enough at this point in my life not to have experienced depression or anxiety, but Henry’s experiences still felt so raw and real to me, so it was really great to hear V talk about where that came from so candidly.

Addie being a muse is obviously quite a big part of this story, and V spoke quite a bit about creative inspiration and where that comes from. She described Addie as being a sort of inverted Peter Pan story and that she had been somewhat inspired by her experience watching her grandmother forget her mother due to dementia and how it is far more difficult for the person being forgotten than the person forgetting as an influence for Addie’s character. But she also spoke a little about how sometimes creative inspiration can be hard to place and how terrifying she finds that as a creative who likes to be in control of everything in her worlds, and that Addie was almost an extension of that, the creative influence that you’re not quite sure where it came from, but you just know it’s there. I always love hearing V talk about her creative process and it was really interesting to hear her thoughts on those moments of creative inspiration that you’re not quite sure where they came from, because I’ve certainly had those too!

I always love hearing V talk about queerness in her writing, and she spoke during the event about how important it was to her in Addie LaRue, and in her other books as well, to have casual queerness on the page. Addie’s story isn’t a coming out story, but basically all of the main characters on the page are queer and that is just a casual part of their existence. This is something that V says is really important to her, to just have these characters exist and that it was also important to her to have Henry’s group of friends all be queer because community is so important to queer people and that it had never really tracked for her in books when there was only one queer person in a group of straight people. The casual on-page queerness was something I really loved about Addie LaRue, and I enjoyed hearing V describe her books as “everyone is gay here” because I’ve definitely used the same description in the past!

As always at these events, Sarah asked V about her upcoming projects. She spoke a little about Threads of Power (which I cannot even express how much I am excited for), but also about Bones, a project she’s been teasing a little on her Instagram which is about lesbian vampires, but not like First Kill, I think these are adult lesbian vampires!

Once the talk portion of the event was over, V turned the floor over to questions from the audience. I have to admit, I was expecting this section to be slightly longer as there wasn’t a signing afterwards, but there were only three or four questions taken. Albeit, V did give very lengthy answers, so perhaps the intention was for the Q&A section to be longer than it was but V just gave very detailed answers to everyone’s questions, which to be honest, I prefer anyway, it’s nice to have more detailed but fewer answers to questions as opposed to lots of questions but very quick answers.

Someone asked about Lila Bard and I can’t quite remember their exact question, it actually might have been a question about Addie not being a particularly likeable character or not being considered a likeable character or something like that, but I just can’t remember exactly what they asked (this is why I should really write up my event recaps directly after the event happened rather than two weeks later!). Anyway, V answered by talking about Lila Bard, and how in creating her character, she essentially took all of the traits that people love in male heroes and gave them to Lila and how fascinating it is that so many people hate Lila for having those traits when they wouldn’t if the character was male. It’s certainly an interesting experiment into how misogyny affects people’s responses to characters, that’s for sure.

Once the Q&A section was over, V thanked everyone for coming, and reminded us as she had at the start of the event that although she wasn’t doing a signing line this time, we could write her a message using the little cards provided which she would later read. I actually really liked this touch, and wouldn’t mind if she kept it for future events: whilst I do love getting my books signed and having the chance to meet my favourite authors, I do always find the actual talking to the author part a little nerve-wracking, and am never quite sure of what to say, so having the chance to write something down instead gave me more of a chance to think of what I wanted to say and not just blurt something out in the spur of the moment at the front of the signing lines. The notecards were really lovely as well, they were Addie LaRue themed of course!

I was a little confused about where the notecards were, I initially went to look on the table in the foyer where the books were, but they weren’t there, so I headed back into the hall and found the notecards at the front of the stage (in fairness, I think V did say that’s where they were, I just misheard). I found a chair to lean on to write my note, I won’t share what I wrote here as it was a personal note from me to V, but what I will say is that I really hope she could read my handwriting because I know it’s not the neatest!

When I was finished writing my note, I went to drop it in the bag at the front and the headed out of the hall. I took a quick look at the books on the table at the front of the foyer again to see if there was anything I wanted but obviously there wasn’t anything that I didn’t already have and though I obviously really enjoyed Addie, I already have the hardback and I don’t have room for another paperback on my shelves that I will likely never read as I don’t really reread these days. I quickly headed for the loo before I left, and then headed back out.

It was an earlier night than anticipated, by the time I left the event it was only 8.40, and it didn’t take very long to get back from Holborn to Victoria, only about fifteen minutes or so. When I arrived back at Victoria, there was a train leaving fairly shortly, so I got on that one and made it back home by about 9.15. I had a fantastic time, I always love hearing VE Schwab speak, she’s a great public speaker and always has such interesting things to say about her books and her writing process. I also really didn’t mind the lack of signing line, V’s signing lines are always very long and can be quite exhausting to stand in for me as a reader so I can’t imagine how much more exhausting they are to do as a writer! I thought the personalised note cards were a really nice touch and were a nice middle ground because you still got a chance to have the personal connection with the author that you get with a signing line, but didn’t have to wait for hours in line!

Did anyone else go to one of VE Schwab’s UK Addie LaRue paperback tour events? Is anyone planning to go to one of her upcoming US ones? Let me know in the comments!

My next event recap actually won’t be too long coming as I’m going to Susan Dennard’s London tour stop for The Luminaries in May, so you should have another one of these next month (if I manage to get my act together and actually get up within a couple of days of going!).

Samantha Shannon Event Recap

Photo Credit: @Lucy_Saxon (I managed to take absolutely zero pictures at this event so I had to rely on Twitter to find one!)

Hi everyone! This recap is super late given that this event was almost three weeks ago, I’m sorry about that, I’ve just been super busy recently. I booked tickets for Samantha Shannon’s A Day of Fallen Night London launch event pretty much as soon as they went on sale (which turned out to be a good thing as they sold out incredibly quickly!) as I really enjoyed Priory and was very excited to hear Samantha talk about the prequel. This was also the first event of Samantha Shannon’s that I’d been to since Priory, as obviously her event for The Mask Falling had to be virtual due to Covid, so I was very excited to get to hear her speak live again.

Doors for the event were open from 6, with the event starting at 7 and I have to admit, I did have a slight panic at home when I realised that the event was starting at 7 rather than 7.30 as I had expected, I clearly had not really read the event information properly when I booked the ticket back in November of last year. I rushed through dinner and left the house at around 5.45, walking down to Clapham Junction station. I got the next train to Waterloo, and once there, headed for the Bakerloo line to get the tube to Piccadilly Circus.

Despite having been to St James’ Church, where the event was being held before, I will admit, I was slightly confused when I left the tube station as to which way to go-the last time I went, I got the bus from Kings Cross to Piccadilly as I was still a little nervous of the tube following the pandemic, and the bus stopped right outside the church, so I’d not had to walk there before. Luckily, I fairly quickly oriented myself and found which street to go down and it was only a short walk from the tube station to the church. The queue when I got there wasn’t too long, so I didn’t have to wait all that long to get in. Once I did so I headed over to the table of books, where a Waterstones staff member scanned my ticket and gave me the copy of A Day of Fallen Night which had been included in my ticket (don’t get me wrong, I plan on reading the book in audio form as that size of book is simply not practical to cart around, but I did still want a pretty copy for my collection). I was hoping that since I had arrived slightly earlier this time, there might be more options to choose from when it came to where to sit, but alas, once again, the middle aisle with the best view had all the seats taken and I was left with the choice of either the left or right hand side aisles, which had slightly obscured views due to pillars. After wandering around slightly confused for a few minutes, I ended up picking a seat a few rows from the front on the left hand side, which didn’t exactly have the best view, but at that point, I really just needed to sit somewhere!

I was behind a couple of rows of the reserved seating, for guests of the author and funnily enough, I ended up sitting right behind Alwyn Hamilton who had also been at the Leigh Bardugo event I’d been at in January (I swear, if she’s at the Susan Dennard event in May, it’s going to really feel like we’re following each other around London!). It turned out we were sitting behind all sorts of important publishing people and I definitely had to hold in a gasp when one of the Waterstones booksellers introduced a guy to the other guests in the reserved seats as the frickin’ managing director of Bloomsbury! I chatted a little to the other women on my row as it turned out we had all come alone to the event (and one of them had even come over from Ireland). There was also a photo booth where you could get pictures taken with your copy of A Day of Fallen Night, but I waited a little too late to be able to take advantage of this as by the time I attempted to join the queue, they were closing it to new people.

It wasn’t long after that the event started. A Waterstones bookseller came out and introduced C.L. Clark, who was going to do a reading from her new book The Faithless, sequel to The Unbroken. I’ve not read The Unbroken, so it meant little to me but she read well and it was nice that she had the opportunity to promote her work at the event. Once the reading was over, the Waterstones bookseller came out again and introduced Samantha and Saara El-Arifi who was moderating the event.

The event was really enjoyable, Saara and Samantha are clearly good friends and had a good rapport with each other, and both were very funny. Saara asked about the new protagonists for A Day Of Fallen Night and Samantha talked us through them: princess Glorian, sister of the Priory Tunuva, Dumai who has been attempting to wake the dragons of the East for many years and Wulf who according to Saara is a “soft boy”. It was fun to hear about all the new characters that we’re going to be introduced to in this book and I think from their first introductions, I’m most intrigued by Glorian and Tunuva, especially Tunuva because you hardly ever get to see older women in fantasy stories, but we’ll see if that changes once I’ve actually read the book.

Saara asked about the order in which you needed to read the books, if it was better to read Priory or A Day of Fallen Night first and Samantha said that either way would work, Priory was a more gentle introduction to the world, A Day of Fallen Night assumes that the reader does have some knowledge and throws you right in there but that if readers wanted no spoilers of what was to come then it was better to read A Day of Fallen Night first.

One of the absolute funniest moments of the night was when Saara asked about what had inspired Priory and Samantha was talking about the legend of St George and the Dragon and the various incredibly misogynistic and racist parts of that legend and how she had wanted to upend the “damsel in distress” version of the story. Anyway, in expounding upon some of the misogynistic parts of the legend, she mentioned how the princess died in the legend by falling into a bush of metal spikes. Anyway, obviously the entire room burst out laughing at the word bush because we clearly all have the same immature sense of humour and poor Saara could not keep a straight face at all whilst asking questions during this part. It took a good five minutes before everything got back on track and the entire room was in stitches laughing at the whole thing (I’ve probably not described this in a way that sounds as funny as it was in the room, but trust me it was hilarious!).

Saara also asked about how chunky the book is and if Samantha always intended to write such huge books for this series. Samantha laughed at this and said that she never sets out to write massive books, the books always end up the size they’re supposed to be, noting The Song Rising, the third book in The Bone Season series, which is a relatively thin volume. She also said that the book was much slimmer than its initial draft, which I think she said had come in at around 345,000 words (I do not think I could have coped if the end product had been that huge), where the final copy was around 297,000. It was also very funny hearing her talk about how the book was so large that she actually broke Word and has since moved to writing on Scrivener because I remember following along with that saga on Instagram when it was happening, so it was funny to hear her talk about that in person (I still find it incredible that it’s possible to write something so big that you can break Word!).

She also asked about Tunuva and the representation of older women in A Day of Fallen Night and how Samantha went about writing a character significantly older than her. Samantha spoke about asking the older women in her life about their experiences and how it was really important to her to represent older women on the page as they are so often invisible in much media, and she doesn’t want to feel like she’s going to become invisible as she gets older. I really loved this because it’s true that it’s very hard to find representation of older women in books especially in fantasy, I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of female book characters over the age of about 30 that I’ve read in fantasy books, so it’s very cool that this one has a woman in her fifties as one of the main characters.

Samantha also spoke about how certain things in A Day of Fallen Night were different to Priory because of the 500 year gap between the two and how A Day of Fallen Night covers a long time span (4 years compared to just one) so you get to see the characters grow over a longer period of time. It was cool to hear how the spellings of different places on the map had changed due to language changes in 500 years meaning that the place names in A Day Of Fallen Night were earlier versions of names that could be found in Priory, and I love it when authors put that much thought and detail into things in their books. She also mentioned how there were certain places that don’t exist any more in Priory that are on the map in A Day of Fallen Night, like The Republic of Carmentum which in Priory has been absorbed into the Queendom of Inys.

I loved hearing that the Priory is going to play a bigger role in this book than it did in the actual Priory because there was surprisingly little Priory action in that book considering its name! She said that the Priory sequences were some of her favourite to write in this book, so I’m really looking forward to reading that and seeing how the Priory is different from the Priory we were introduced to in the original book. She also said that we going to get to spend a lot of time in the North in this book, which I’m super excited for as it did seem to be a major part of the world missing from Priory-there were a few good jokes at the event at Samantha not really knowing her compass directions because the events in Priory only take place in the South, East and West. She said she particularly enjoyed getting to explore the Kingdom of Hroth (which Glorian is a descendant of).

As with any Samantha Shannon event, Saara asked about etymology (and everyone laughed when she mock groaned about how long Samantha was able to talk about etymology) and it was cool to hear how she approached the names differently in this book given the 500 year gap between this book and Priory and how much the languages would have changed in that time (this woman’s brain, I swear! I could only dream of thinking about as much detail in my worldbuilding as she manages to get in there) so the names came from older, more medieval languages than Priory which was more Elizabethan inspired.

Given when the book is set (during the Grief of Ages), grief is a big theme in A Day of Fallen Night and it was really interesting to hear how Samantha’s own family bereavements during the writing of A Day of Fallen Night as well as the collective grief experienced during the pandemic influenced the writing of the book.

She also talked a little about her upcoming projects, obviously the next instalments of the Bone Season series are going to be the next ones to come out but she also talked a little bit about the possibilities of what she might explore for the future Roots of Chaos books (all of which sound very exciting) and a little about the Iris book that she has planned which I have to admit, I think is the one I’m most looking forward to of her upcoming projects because I love Greek mythology!

After the talk part of the event was over, the floor was turned over for the usual audience Q&A. One person asked Samantha about battle scenes and how she approached those given how much she dislikes them, does she leave them for the end and come back to them, or does she do them as they come up in the book (writing in chronological order). Samantha said that whilst she does try to avoid them for as long possible, she does generally write in chronological order as this is the easiest way to follow the character’s arcs throughout the books. She said she just has to push through them in order to get to the scenes she enjoys writing more: quiet character focused scenes where they decompress from all the action.

Someone asked about the anniversary edition of The Bone Season and whether they should read The Bone Season now or wait until the anniversary edition comes out. Samantha said whilst obviously it was up to the person what they wanted to do, that she thought the anniversary edition was the stronger version of the story and that she was really grateful that Bloomsbury had allowed her to do the edits and release this stronger version of the story now as she feels she has gained so much more experience and is a better writer now than she was at 19 (very understandable!). Someone else also asked if there would be anniversary editions of the other books in The Bone Season series, and Samantha said she didn’t know yet but she’d very much like there to be.

Once the Q&A was over, one of the Waterstones booksellers came out to explain how the signing was going to work and then they started making their way round with post it notes. As has become tradition for me when I go to these events alone, I got to chatting with the two women next to me, Ell who had come over from Ireland, and Jess. I definitely feel so much better going to book events alone now than I used to because I know that no matter which one I go to, there’s always going to be at least one other person who is there alone and we seem to gravitate towards each other! We’d been given these cool biscuits with the A Day Of Fallen Night cover iced on them, and I was quite peckish by this point in the evening, so I was very grateful for the food (I did mean to take a picture of the biscuit for you guys but my stomach was bigger than my eyes and I forgot!) even if the blue food colouring on the biscuit did slightly stain my fingers. The bookseller came round and gave us our post-it notes with our names for the signing, and it actually wasn’t too long to wait before we joined the queue as we were only a few rows from the front. It may not have been a benefit during the talk as we couldn’t really see Samantha, but it was of some help now!

Jess, Ell and I continued to chatting whilst waiting in the queue and it definitely made the wait pass quicker, though it wasn’t too long anyway as the queue wasn’t all that long when we joined it. When it was my turn, I went up to the desk and Samantha asked if I’d enjoyed the event which I said I had. I wish I could tell you that I’d said something nice about her books or asked her a question, but I’m always a little nervous when it comes to meeting authors and I can never really think of what to say, so I just complimented her outfit! In my defence it was really nice, and I hadn’t really been able to see it from where I was sitting. I completely forgot to ask for a picture, but it didn’t seem like anyone else had been getting photos so they might not have been doing them, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking in case they weren’t!

Ell and I waited for Jess when we were done, and we all headed out together, as we were all getting the tube back from Piccadilly station. Once there we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways….or so we thought! It turns out that Jess and I actually live quite close to each other and so were taking the same route home, so we actually ended up heading back together! It was really lovely to get to chat to her a bit more on the way home and to have someone to head home with when I usually go to these events by myself.

Once we arrived back at Clapham Junction, we headed our separate ways (having exchanged numbers so that we can hopefully meet up again at some point) and I headed back home. It was a much earlier night than I was expecting, I think I made it back home just after 10, but I really appreciated that, having had quite a late night the night before going to see Sylvia at The Old Vic.

Has anyone else been to one of Samantha Shannon’s A Day of Fallen Night tour events (or to another of her tour events for a different book)? Have any of you read A Day of Fallen Night yet? What did you think? (No spoilers please!) Let me know in the comments!

There’s actually not going to be too long for you guys to wait for my next event recap as I’m going to VE Schwab’s London event for her Addie LaRue paperback tour tomorrow, so that should be up before the end of March!

Leigh Bardugo Event Recap

Me being my usual awkward self with Leigh Bardugo!

Hi everyone! I’m super excited about today’s recap because I’m talking about an event for an author who I had been dying to meet for a good….five or six years? I think I first read Six of Crows in 2017, so five years sounds about right. It is of course, the fabulous Leigh Bardugo.

Now for a little bit of context here, because it’s important for later in this recap: my friend Nicola invited me to go with her to, I think it was a combined Leigh Bardugo/Rainbow Rowell event in Edinburgh when we were at Uni back in 2016 (and yes, it does scare me that I’ve been out of Uni now for almost as long as I was there! But two of those years were lockdown years, so I feel like those shouldn’t count, right? RIGHT?). Anyway, at that point, I’d bought Six of Crows but I hadn’t read it yet and I’d never read anything by Rainbow Rowell, so being the absolute idiot I am I said no as I thought it would be awkward going to an event where I hadn’t read either of the authors’ books. The following year I absolutely devoured Six of Crows in about a week (which is very fast for me for a book of that length) and immediately regretted my terrible life decision not to take up the opportunity to meet her when I’d had it. The next time Leigh Bardugo toured the UK in 2019, I wasn’t able to go because I was working at the John Lewis cafe in Cambridge at the time, and my shifts didn’t end until 6.00 so I physically couldn’t get down to London (the closest tour stop to me) to make it in time for the start of the event. Naturally then, when I saw Leigh was coming to the UK on a tour for her latest novel Hell Bent this year, I did not make the same mistake I made in 2016 and immediately jumped on the opportunity to get a ticket.

Which brings us to Thursday a couple of weeks ago. I left home at about 6.15, and walked down to Clapham Junction station, making it just in time for the 6.30 train to Victoria, I do love it when I arrive at the station and can just jump on the train without having to wait! Once I got there I headed for the Underground. I was planning on getting the Victoria line to Oxford Circus and then the Central line to Holborn and walking to Conway Hall from there, but there was a fire on the Victoria line, so instead I had to get the Circle and District line to Monument and then the Central line from Bank to Holborn (is now the time to admit that I’m a terrible Londoner and had no idea that the two stations were linked? In all fairness, I’ve never really had to use either before, I don’t use the Central Line all that often and when I’ve been on the Circle and District Line, I’ve never got off at Monument!). I was a little concerned that the change in route was going to make me run slightly late, but I arrived at Holborn just after 7 and Google Maps said that Conway Hall was only a short walk away.

Of course being me, things would never be that simple. I initially walked the wrong way out of Holborn station, though I quickly realised my mistake and headed back in the right direction. Things were going well until I missed the point where I was meant to turn left and walked further down the street than I needed to. Once I’d corrected that mistake, things thankfully went more smoothly and I was fairly easily able to find my way to Conway Hall which was only a short walk away from the station (if unlike me, you don’t have a ridiculous ability to get lost on even the simplest routes!). I made it just before 7.25, and though the event was due to start at 7.30, there was still a line of people curving around the building so I felt pretty safe in the knowledge that I hadn’t missed the start of the event!

Though the line looked long, it actually moved quite quickly and it wasn’t long before I was at the front of the queue. The woman scanned my ticket, and gave me a raffle ticket which she said to hold on to for later. The girl behind me in the queue complimented my Six of Crows bag which I’d brought to the event, and I said I wish I could say I’d brought it specially, but that was honestly just my every day bag! I picked up my signed book which I’d got with the event ticket from one of the tables inside and then headed in to find a seat. I’d hoped to get a seat in the downstairs seating area, but that was already full when I got in, so instead I had to find a seat on the balcony and as there weren’t any front on seats left, I went for one on the far right side which still seemed to have a good view of the stage. I actually ended up sitting next the girl who had been behind me in line (but more on her later!).

Shortly afterwards one of the Waterstones booksellers came out and announced Leigh Bardugo, who came out onto the stage. It was a very different kind of event to many that I’ve been to as generally book events usually have a moderator who asks questions and it’s more of a discussion style format. This event was much more informal, it felt more like one of those “An Evening With…..” type events. Leigh explained that she was just going to talk a little about the book, which she did, and shared a ghost story about New Haven with us before turning over the rest of the talk portion of the evening to reader questions. I actually really liked this different style format, the reader Q&A bit is usually quite rushed at the end of book events so it was really fun to get a chance to hear more questions from readers, which ranged wildly from the serious to the ridiculous. Leigh is naturally a very funny person, so I spent a lot of the question portion of the evening laughing hysterically.

Quite a few of the questions were writing process related questions which is unsurprising when you have an audience of readers, as a lot of us (me included) tend to be writers as well. I always love hearing how writers go about research for their books, so it was really interesting to hear how Leigh researched for Ninth House especially given that her books are usually set in completely fantastical worlds, so I imagine the researching process is quite different when you’re setting something in the real world. It was cool to hear how much of the content of the books was taken from the real Yale and New Haven and how much of it was fictional, and I enjoyed hearing Leigh’s stories of her research trips to Yale, particularly her recent one for Hell Bent when the campus was still largely under pandemic restrictions and she had to get special permission to visit campus, everyone laughed when she said “it’s Yale, being a NYT bestselling author didn’t give me enough clout”.

She also gave some really lovely advice to several aspiring authors in the audience, I especially loved how wonderfully encouraging she was to a woman who asked a question about being discouraged from writing because she had a science background, it’s always really nice to see published authors being so supportive to ones looking to be published. There was another woman who asked how she got over fear of the blank page, and she basically said that first drafts are always going to be terrible and you have to just accept that, it’s far better to just get something down and finished because then you can make it better, whereas you can never make a blank page better and I really need to remind myself of that the next time I’m sat staring at a blank word document wondering how on earth to start.

Leigh mentioned that Ninth House was the book that she initially pitched her agent with back when she first got a deal, and someone asked how much the book had changed between when she pitched that initial idea and what was eventually published: she said that the idea had remained much the same, she had always wanted it to be about this outsider brought into Yale and that it was always going to be about the secret societies and their occult magical activities, but that the details had obviously changed through the editing process.

Someone asked about what comes first when Leigh writes, the world or the characters and she said that it very much depends on the book. Giving the example of Six of Crows, she said she knew she wanted to write a heist novel, so naturally the main characters would be criminals, and once she had that idea it was a case of coming up with a setting that would cause the most obstacles and challenges to the characters.

There was someone else who asked about dialogue, especially banter between Alex and Dawes and how Leigh navigated their different senses of humour, and Leigh said that dialogue was something she really loves to write (you can tell! I’m a great dialogue lover and I always really appreciate authors who clearly enjoy it too, Leigh’s dialogue has always been one of my favourite things about her books) and that she really enjoys Alex’s gallows humour but part of the fun of putting Alex and Dawes together in scenes is because they are so different. She also mentioned that she enjoys writing banter to counteract some of the darker aspects of her stories, it acts as somewhat of a palate cleanser for her. I laughed so much when she said she wrote pages of just fun banter after writing really dark sad scenes like Kaz’s backstory in Six of Crows.

She was also asked about the cover of Hell Bent and how that came about, which was definitely interesting to hear as it’s certainly a…..unique cover. She said that the rabbit had been her idea, and that the team had originally been confused as to how a rabbit would be particularly scary and everyone laughed when she told us she’d said that the kind she was thinking about definitely would be. I have to admit, I’m not a massive fan of the cover, but I did find it cool to hear about the process of the design and the rationale behind the choice of the rabbit.

Once the talk part of the event was over, one of the Waterstones booksellers came back out onto the stage again and explained that there was going to be a raffle for some Ninth House tote bags that they had brought to give away (hence the raffle tickets at the beginning) and then the signing would take place. She explained the rules of the signing, that we could have one book signed and personalised (or we could get the pre-signed copy of Hell Bent that came with the event ticket personalised) and that we would be called up row by row to join the signing queue, starting with those in the seats on the floor. It was then that I realised how poorly I had chosen my seat, given that I was on the very far side of the balcony and likely to be one of the last to join the line, though in the end, this would turn out to be a good thing.

Leigh then drew the raffle numbers, I actually can’t remember what mine was now, but either way I didn’t win. To be honest I wasn’t all that bothered by it because I already have my Six of Crows tote bag and a multitude of other tote bags I’ve received from various events and pre-order prizes, I didn’t really need another one. The winners went to collect their prizes and after that, the booksellers started to go around with sticky notes for people to put on their books with their names, and called the first row of people up for the signing line.

And so, the long wait began. I’m not kidding when I say that this is the longest I’ve ever had to wait at an event signing, and I’ve been to a Sarah J Maas event! (back when she was still doing signings). The balcony seats weren’t the most comfortable and if I’d known quite how long I’d be sitting, I definitely would have tried to find the hall’s toilets! I did at one point spot Alwyn Hamilton, one of mine and Hannah’s favourite authors and sent her an excited message about this as I don’t think I’ve ever seen another author just attending an author event as a reader, they’re usually there as moderators or panellists.

Eventually, one of the booksellers reached our row and started handing out post it notes for our books (they write your name on them and then you stick it on the page of the book you want signed, usually the title page). I’ve been to quite a lot of these signings by now and I swear the relief on some booksellers faces when they get to me and my name is just the two letters…..I guess they must get a lot of people with long names/complicated spellings at these kinds of events! After she had left, I got to talking with the two girls next to me, Lauren (an American exchange student here for a study abroad year) and Noura. They were really nice, and definitely made the rest of the wait to join the signing line go much more quickly (though I have to admit, I think we got a little distracted, because I reckon if we had stood up sooner, we might have been able to join the signing line sooner than we did).

It was approaching ten o’clock by the time we eventually did join the queue, and to give you guys some context, the Q&A portion of the evening had finished at around eight thirty! Still we all headed down to the line together, and actually once we were in the queue, it moved relatively quickly (I do wonder if the booksellers were somewhat speeding Leigh along a little at that point given how late it was). Plus we were all chatting quite happily at that point and I’ve always found that signing lines go faster if you find someone to talk to (the number of people I have met in signing lines at various book events over the years I swear….book people are just the nicest and friendliest bunch of people around).

Once it was my turn, I fumbled around with my phone a little (which I had somehow still not manged to get ready whilst I was in line) and handed it to the guy. I’m always terrible with actually knowing what to say when I meet authors, but since I actually had a story this time (the one from the top of the post), this is what I said to Leigh when I met her. I did worry I might have offended her by saying that I didn’t go to her event when my friend invited me because I’d not read her books yet, but I didn’t need to, she seemed to find it quite funny, and I did obviously follow that with saying I read Six of Crows and loved it and regretted not going and that I was really glad to finally get the chance to meet me. She was really sweet and said she was pleased I’d been able to come, and then that was it, I took my phone back from the guy who had been taking pictures and left the line. Sometimes I do have to laugh about how worked up I get in my head when waiting in signing lines to meet authors because it’s literally a minute or two of social interaction and then you’re done, but I am nothing if not socially awkward!

Noura and I waited for Lauren to get her book signed and once she was done, we all headed out together. Noura was getting a taxi home but Lauren and I were both going on the tube, so we walked back to Holborn station together and caught the Central Line. I got off before her at Bank, but I gave her my Instagram details and we now follow each other on Instagram, so hopefully we’ll be able to meet up again before she heads back to the US in the summer.

I admit, I got totally lost once again at Bank trying to find the Monument station, I swear that tube station has the most confusing layout possible! I went all the way up the escalator before I realised I had gone completely the wrong way and needed to come back down again. I did manage to find my way back to the right part of the station but they definitely need to make the signage less confusing and make it more clear where you need to go!

Once I arrived back at Victoria station, the next train to Clapham Junction was fairly soon, so all I had to do was find the platform and get on the train and that was it. I made it back home by about 11.15, which was much later than I was anticipating, but I had a fantastic time so it was all worth it in the end. The next time Leigh Bardugo tours in the UK, I am definitely going to try and go again because I loved the freer, looser style of this event, it was so much fun!

Has anyone else ever been to one of Leigh Bardugo’s tour events (either for Hell Bent or a different book)? Anyone, like me, ever been invited to an event for an author whose books you haven’t read yet and then regretted not going after you read and loved one of their books? Let me know in the comments!

Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan Event Recap

Photo Credit: @WaterstonesPicc (I was one seat from the end on the second to last row on the left, so I’m not actually in this picture!).

Hi all! It’s safe to say that book events are well and truly back, this was my third one this year (including YALC, which I have a separate section for) and I already have two events booked for next year, including Leigh Bardugo’s London tour stop which I’m massively excited for as it’s the first one I’ve been able to go to since I started reading her books. Honestly, I’ve been kicking myself ever since I turned down going with my friend to her tour stop in Edinburgh back in 2016, I think it was because I hadn’t read any of her books yet. Of course, I then read Six of Crows the next year, loved it, and of course couldn’t make it the one time she toured the UK between then and now! But anyway, that’s slightly off topic, my main point being, it’s been so nice to have in-person book events back this year. It finally feels like the last pre-pandemic thing has slotted back into place for me and I’ve really enjoyed getting to share the book love in person again!

Anyway, this time, I was going to the London tour stop for Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan’s new book Mad Honey. I’ve been a big Jodi Picoult fan for years, and been to a couple of her events before, once for Leaving Time in 2014, which was before I’d started doing event recaps on the blog and once for Small Great Things in 2016, but that was the last time I’d seen her at an event as I think she didn’t come to Scotland for A Spark of Light so I couldn’t make any of the stops that time as it was during the uni term? Anyway, point being I love Jodi’s books and have seen her at a few events before, but I’d never really heard of Jennifer Finney Boylan until I saw the announcement that they were doing a book together, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her but I was really excited to see the two of them together and hear them talk about their new book.

One of the benefits of now being based in London, I didn’t have to leave an hour or so beforehand to actually get to the event. I left home around 6.25, and walked down to Clapham Junction station. I arrived just in time for the next train to Victoria, so I hardly even had to wait, I basically got to the station and then jumped on the train. I wouldn’t have usually gone to Victoria, I would usually get the train to Waterloo and then the tube on from there, but my mum had mentioned that there was nice Remembrance Day tribute at Victoria station and as the event was on Remembrance Day, I thought it would be nice to see. So once I got to the station, I stopped by Platform 8 have a look at the wreaths and they had a little note typed up about the history of the Unknown Soldier who was transported to the UK by train from France and arrived in at Victoria, and that was quite an interesting little piece of history that I’d not heard before (obviously I knew about the Unknown Soldier and the significance of that, but I didn’t know about the Victoria station connection). I also stopped by The Royal British Legion’s stand to get a poppy, as I’d meant to buy one when I’d come through the station on Tuesday that week but didn’t have the time then.

I then headed down to the Underground, and got the tube to South Kensington, so I could switch from the Victoria line to the Piccadilly line. Once at South Kensington, I got on another tube, and it was only four stops to Piccadilly Circus so it didn’t take very long at all. The event was being held at the Waterstones Piccadilly store, after a last minute change of venue from Conway Hall, so it was a very short walk from the tube station which meant I arrived about fifteen minutes before the event was due to start. That ended up being very good luck though, as I arrived whilst they were still giving out special tote bags with a quote from the book, and also it meant I actually got a seat, as they clearly hadn’t got enough seats for everyone that was attending. Once one of the booksellers had taken my name and I’d got my book and tote bag, I found a seat at the end of the aisle on one of the back rows.

It wasn’t too long a wait before one of the booksellers came out to announce the event. She went through the obligatory fire safety talk, and explained that the event was just going to be a talk and there wasn’t going to be a signing afterwards, which I had kind of figured already (and explained to the women in the neighbouring seats when they asked before the event), but that all the copies of Mad Honey had been pre-signed. She then announced Jodi, Jennifer, and the moderator Juno Dawson (all of the J’s at this event!) and they came out to take their seats.

It was a really fun talk, Jodi and Jennifer are obviously great friends and bounced off each other really well, and they’re both very funny which always makes for a very engaging event, I spent a lot of it laughing! I will say, I wasn’t sure that Juno Dawson was the best moderator, she didn’t always let them finish their answers before she moved on to the next question and there was quite a bit of speaking over each other, which was a little distracting. I understand why she was chosen as a moderator because one of the themes in the book is gender identity, and I assume there’s a trans character, but she’s just not the best author moderator I’ve ever seen: to be fair, being an author and being an interviewer are two very different skills!

I really enjoyed hearing the pair of them talk about co-writing, it fascinates me how authors manage to combine their different ways of working (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from going to so many author events over the years it’s that no two authors work exactly the same way) so it was really fun to hear how they approached writing together. I’m definitely more of a Jennifer when it comes to writing, she spoke about being more of a pantser and exploring on the page, rather than having her writing planned out in her head, and drafting messily until she gets things right whereas Jodi is more of an outliner and plans things out in detail before she starts writing. To be honest, you probably need a combination of the two when co-writing because I can imagine that two pantsers co-writing together would probably be very chaotic. Apparently Jodi wrote the Olivia chapters and Jennifer wrote the Lily chapters, but they did each write one of the other’s chapters, and said that readers had been emailing them trying to guess which of the other’s chapters they had written but no one had got it right yet. I don’t fancy my chances there though as I’ve never read any of Jennifer’s books, so I don’t really know what her writing is like. I may be able to guess which Lily chapter Jodi wrote though! They also spoke about editing each other’s chapters because they wanted the writing to seem seamless and not like each chapter was written by a different person, so I’ll be intrigued to see how well that worked as I’ve never read a co-written book before.

It was really cool to hear about how the book came about, that the idea was initially Jennifer’s and came from a dream she’d had: she dreamed about a murdered girl and the mother of her boyfriend, who was the one accused of murder. In her dream it was apparently something she wrote with Jodi. So she tweeted Jodi about it, and she responded and they actually ended up writing it together! Books can come about in all sorts of different ways!

As always Jodi talked quite a bit about her researching process, this time she was explaining a little of what she learned about bees during the course of the research for this book. It was really interesting hearing her talk about how bee society is so matriarchal, and that everything revolves around the female bees, they take all the roles in the hive and the male bees (apparently called “drones” which I didn’t know before) are basically just there to reproduce, which happens when the queen does a mating flight where she will mate with as many drones as she can, and stores enough sperm to last for her entire life. The male bees die as a result of the mating and leave their appendages inside the queen. I also had no idea that male and female bees are determined on whether the queen fertilises her eggs or not, the unfertilised eggs become drones (male) and the fertilised ones become workers (female). Queen bees are created by feeding the larvae, royal jelly, special jelly which comes from the queen and even drones can become queens if fed this jelly! The whole thing was really fascinating, it’s clear how much Jodi enjoyed learning about bees and I never thought I would be so interested in them. She also told us about what “mad honey” actually is, it’s basically honey made of nectar from rhododendron flowers, which contain grayanotoxins which when processed by the bees in the hive, ends up making this hallucinogenic honey. I had no idea hallucinogenic honey was even a thing!

Juno asked Jodi about her books being frequently banned in US schools and how she’s been writing books around “controversial” topics since way back in the 90s before a lot of the subjects of her books were really spoken about in the mainstream and Jodi said that she was amongst good company with having her books banned and that some of the objections for example swearing were a little ridiculous. She also said it was much easier back in her earlier days of writing to write about the kinds of topics that she does because there wasn’t social media and they went more under the radar, so there was less outrage about her books than there is now. Jennifer and Jodi both talked about fiction being a powerful tool for learning, and that sometimes people learn better through fiction because they don’t get their backs up about being “taught” something, they get engrossed in the story and then realise that they’ve learnt something along the way and I loved that. It’s really true, I’ve learned a heck of a lot through the years through reading fiction, and I think I’ve retained quite a bit of it better than some of the stuff I learned in school.

Given that gender identity is a big theme in Mad Honey, there was also discussion of the LGBTQ+ community. Jodi talked a little about one of her previous novels, Sing You Home and how the writing of that was inspired by her son coming out. I knew a little of the backstory behind that book before, but Jodi talked about it in a bit more detail here and the story of how her son came out to her was really sweet. Jennifer also spoke about her experience coming out as trans, and I have to say her mum sounds like such a badass! She also taught us the sign for trans in ASL, which is like a flower coming out of your heart and I thought that was really lovely.

When the discussion was over, Juno then turned to the audience questions, which had been submitted in advance of the event. Someone asked Jodi what the most difficult thing she’d ever had to do for book research, and she had several parts to the answer as she said book research could be challenging both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, the most difficult was researching for Small Great Things, and attending racial justice workshops and doing a lot of that internal work to interrogate her own privilege and prejudices. Physically, she talked about her research process for The Tenth Circle and how she went to Alaska and trekked across the tundra to a remote Eskimo village, in the depths of winter when it was -38 degrees (since she’s American, I’m guessing that’s Fahrenheit and have no idea how cold that is in Celsius, but it seems pretty darn cold!).

Someone also asked if there was ever any research she’d done for a book that hadn’t ended up being published, and she talked about doing research for a sci-fi novel at one point which involved getting up at 2-3 am in the morning to speak to an astronaut from NASA due to the differing time zones. A Jodi Picoult sci-fi novel would have been very interesting (and a bit of a change of pace for her!) but I guess it wasn’t to be!

I can’t remember exactly what the question was, it may have been one that Juno asked, but she also talked a bit about sexism in the publishing industry, and how frustrating she finds it to be pigeonholed because she’s a woman who writes fiction so her books are automatically “women’s fiction” whereas men who write the same kinds of books that she does aren’t categorised the same way. I have to say I find it incredibly frustrating whenever I hear that women tend to read both male and female authors, and yet men will more often only read books by male authors. I personally mostly read books by female authors these days but I’ve read both and it does boggle the mind that the gender of an author is in any way more important to anyone that being interested in the plot of the book!

The final question was about Jodi’s musical theatre work, and she talked about The Book Thief and how well that had done in Bolton and that there were plans to bring it to a London theatre soon, which I was massively excited to hear because I absolutely love The Book Thief and would love to see it on stage one day, hopefully in the not-too-distance future. She also talked a little about Between The Lines on Broadway and the differences between producing theatre here and theatre in New York which was very interesting to hear about as I’m obviously much more familiar with theatre here, though only from an audience member’s perspective, so it was cool to hear about some of the differences (particularly in the way theatre has come back from the pandemic) from someone who actually had experience working on a show.

There wasn’t any signing, so once the event was over and the moderator had thanked Jodi, Jennifer and Juno and they had left, everyone started to head out. I wasn’t surprised there was no signing, I was expecting that from the fact that we had a pre-signed book, but I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how short the event was, it was only an hour long. Though I guess this is probably how long the talk part of book events usually is and I’ve just never really noticed because I’ve always been there for about two hours or more with the signing queue included!

I headed out and then went to meet up with my parents, since the event had ended much sooner than I’d anticipated, and they’d also been out at a different event that night and were having dinner afterwards. So I joined them at the restaurant for a drink, and we all headed back home together later in the evening.

It was a really fun event, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that it was so short, but considering that Jodi and Jennifer had landed the same day and were probably very jet-lagged, I definitely couldn’t blame them for wanting to keep it short and sweet! I’m really looking forward to reading Mad Honey, it’s been quite a while since Jodi did a courtroom drama type story (I think Small Great Things was the last and that was a good six years or so ago) and as I’ve never read anything by Jennifer before, I’ll be interested to see how different this one feels compared to Jodi’s sole-written books.

Did anyone else go to Jodi and Jennifer’s book tour stops either in the US or the UK? Let me know in the comments!

VE Schwab Event Recap

Photo Credit: @veschwab

Hi everyone! It’s been……well a whole global pandemic since my last event recap, who knew when I went to YALC in 2019 that I wouldn’t go to another book event for almost three years? I certainly didn’t! I did attend some virtual events during the pandemic, but honestly, as grateful as I am that we didn’t have to go for three years with no author events at all, I kind of felt like recapping virtual events would be fairly boring for you all, as the gist of the recap would be…..I stared at a screen for two hours.

But finally, last Friday, I got to go to my first book event in almost three years, and it felt very fitting that the event was to celebrate the release of VE Schwab’s latest book Gallant, as Schwab is one of my favourite authors. As soon as she announced her UK tour dates on her Instagram, I immediately jumped on the chance to get a ticket.

I got a slightly earlier train that I probably really needed to as I didn’t want to be on a rush hour train into London, but it probably didn’t really make much difference, as the train was packed anyway! I usually try and get a seat by myself, as I don’t really like sitting next to people on public transport (it’s a pre-pandemic habit, I just like my personal space) but sadly the train was too full for that, so I just took the first seat I could find next to someone wearing a mask.

When I arrived in London, I grabbed some dinner from Pret and then quickly ate before heading to catch the bus to the event. Before the pandemic I would always get the tube as it’s quicker, but now when I go into London, I generally get the bus as it feels slightly safer than the tube. The bus from Kings Cross was blissfully empty, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone, and it was a relatively straightforward to trip to Piccadilly, I switched to the number 6 at Savoy Street and then the bus stopped pretty much right outside the church where the event was being held, which was really handy!

When I arrived at St James’ Church, there was already quite a long queue of people waiting to get into the building, so I joined the back of the line. Thankfully it was a fairly fast moving queue, and it didn’t take too long to get into the church. I wish I’d arrived slightly earlier though because by the time I’d got in, all the seats in the middle aisle, with the best view, had been taken and I was left with the choice of the left hand side aisle, where the view was slightly obscured by one of the pillars. I initially sat in a row close to the front, but ended up moving back as it actually turned out you could see more that way.

I don’t usually go to book events by myself, I’m usually with either my friend Hannah, or Nicola, so it did feel a bit strange being by myself for this one, but thankfully, the woman I was sat next to at the event was really friendly, so we chatted for a bit before the event started. This is one thing I really love about book people, even if you go to an event where you don’t know anyone, there’s always someone willing to chat to you and you already know you have something in common, since you’re at an event for the same author.

Someone from Waterstones Piccadilly (the host of the event), then came out and introduced V, and Samantha Shannon who was moderating the event. I’d only found out that Samantha was going to be the interviewer a couple of days before the event and it had made me even more excited because she’s another one of my favourite authors, and I’d seen her and V on a panel at another event a few years back, which was a lot of fun.

The conversation was very lively and fun, you could tell that everyone was so happy to be back in a room together and that we had all missed these events. I love it when authors who are friends do events together because it feels less like a formal interview and more like two friends having fun discussing their books and that was definitely the case here.

Naturally most of the questions revolved around V’s new book Gallant, and one of the things I found really interesting was V and Samantha talking about how the pandemic changed both their respective writing processes as they both had to go from largely writing in public places like cafes, to writing at home. I’ve always written at home so in that respect, the pandemic didn’t change my writing at all, but I wasn’t able to write at all for the first six months or so of the pandemic so it was nice to hear that the change in situation was also difficult on professional authors! The pandemic didn’t take up a massive amount of the conversation, but V did mention that though the pandemic didn’t alter the plot of Gallant in any way, the sense of isolation and loneliness that was already a feature of the story was really heightened by her own experience of the pandemic.

I always love hearing V talk about her writing process, she’s so insightful when it comes to craft and hearing about how she develops her ideas is always fascinating. She mentioned that she had initially approached Gallant as a fairytale but struggled to write it for years because this didn’t quite work for her, she had the idea of a door in the wall but couldn’t figure out what would be beyond it in a fairytale. And then she realised from looking back at her older books that the one thing they all had in common was death, and that Gallant wouldn’t be a fairytale, but rather a death tale with the world beyond the wall being the shadow version of the Gallant on the other side. I’d never thought about death being the thread that connected her books before, but it does explain why I like them so much, I’ve always enjoyed books that err on the darker side! She also spoke about how her process changed slightly with Gallant, she’s talked in the past about how she’s notoriously non-chronological when it comes to her writing process and that she writes chapters and scenes out of order and then fills in the gaps left behind, but with Gallant, she had to write chronologically due to the nature of the story.

It was really interesting to hear how the decision to make Olivia non-verbal came about as I am also a writer who relies on dialogue a lot, and I don’t think I could write a whole book with little to no dialogue! I loved what she said about wanting to try and create voice in a different way, and that Olivia being non-verbal didn’t mean she lacked voice, she just has it in a different form. She also spoke about how the perspective had to be third person, because of the audiobook, if it had been first-person perspective, then the narrator would essentially become Olivia’s voice, taking a non-verbal character and making her verbal. I’d never really thought about that before, but it felt really obvious when she said it, of course if you have a first person perspective then when you listen to the audiobook, that narrator does become the character’s voice, and I thought it was so cool that she’d thought about it down to that level of detail.

As someone who is not a massive fan of horror, I found V’s take on it really interesting, she talked about not really being a massive fan of horror herself because she doesn’t like “the jump scare” moments, but really enjoying creating that spooky atmosphere in her books, she described being an author as like “being a conductor of fear” and I really loved that idea. It hit quite well on why I like dark books but am not a massive fan of horror movies or TV shows, I love a spooky, eerie atmosphere, but I don’t like the “Boo!” moments that are designed to make you jump out of your skin.

She also talked a little about working with an illustrator for Gallant, and how that collaboration process worked and how it differed from her experience of working with artists on comic books and I found that really cool because I just love hearing about how different creatives work together, and I definitely feel like I’ll appreciate the illustrations in the book more having heard about how they came about, and their importance for the narrative.

Samantha also asked V about her essay for Oprah magazine where she shared her coming out story, and she went into a bit more detail about that and how her experience of being in the closet and then coming out had informed her writing. It’s a really powerful essay, so if you get a chance to read it, I definitely recommend it.

Once the conversation was over, the floor was turned over to the audience for the questions. Naturally I was very excited when someone asked about Threads of Power, and when V realised that A Conjuring of Light wasn’t going to be the end for the Shades of Magic world. She answered that it was when she realised that the favour Lila owed wasn’t called in by the end of the book, and so she had left the door open to go back, and that the favour was a question she wanted to answer. I have to admit, I totally didn’t notice when I was reading that Lila’s favour wasn’t called in, and I felt a little silly when she said it, because once she mentioned it, it was very obvious that was a loose thread that hadn’t been resolved.

She was also asked about which of her worlds she’d like to be in and which character she’d like to be, and I loved that she answered so bluntly that it would be pretty terrible to be a character in any of her worlds! She landed on being a magician in Red London, which would probably be my choice as well, it seems like the safest option.

Another reader asked about editing as she was having trouble with edits for her book and both V and Samantha advised taking a step back from the book as something that helps them when they feel stuck during edits as having some distance from your work can help you to work out where the problems are. V also mentioned that this is why she always comes up with her endings first in the drafting process, because if she has an ending that she is excited about, she is more likely to finish.

I always feel like I should ask questions at these things, but when the time comes, my mind always goes completely blank and I can’t think of anything! Everyone who asked questions also had to stand up in front of everyone and ask, which kind of terrified me as public speaking is still one of my biggest phobias, so I was definitely more enjoying listening to V’s answers to people’s questions than wanting to ask questions of my own.

Once the audience questions were over, the people from Waterstones Piccadilly came out again and told us that if we wanted to get any books signed by V, we had to wait in our seats and would be called up one by one. By this point, I was really desperate for the loo, but had no idea if there even was one in the church. Finally the booksellers came round to our row and after getting my name post-it for my book, I asked where it was and quickly rushed off. By the time I got back our row had joined the queue and I was a little further back than I would have been if I’d stayed, but oh well!

I was really nervous even though I’ve met V a couple of times before, because this was my first author event back since the pandemic and I wasn’t really sure what to say, plus as I said earlier in this post, I usually go to author events with friends so waiting in the queue by myself whilst everyone else seemed to be with someone was a little bit awkward. When I made it to the front of the queue, I handed my books over, and V asked if I’d had a good time at the event, which I said I did. She also asked to confirm how my name was spelt as the bookseller’s writing had made the “J” look a bit like another letter, so I confirmed it was Jo. I felt a little bit awkward as I asked the bookseller if she could take a picture on my phone and they weren’t doing photos as they didn’t have time, which was completely fair enough, I just wished they’d said that before the signing line started as I felt a little embarrassed at having asked afterwards! It’s not my most embarrassing author moment ever, but I definitely felt a little out of practice after two years with no in-person events!

Once I’d got my books signed, I headed back out the way we’d come in, only to be told we had to exit the building through a different door, apparently I was determined to completely embarrass myself that evening! Anyway, it was fine, I went out the right door and managed to find my way back to the bus stop and get the two buses I needed back to Kings Cross.

It ended up being a much later night than I’d anticipated, by the time I got back home to Cambridge, it was almost midnight, but I had such a wonderful time. It was a brilliant first event back, and I so cannot wait for YALC in July, I cannot even tell you how excited I am for it after two years without it. I’ve so missed in-person book events over the past two years, and I’m so happy that we’re finally starting to get them back!

Did anyone else go to either of V’s UK events, or her US tour stops if you’re a US reader? Let me know in the comments!

#DestinationHQ Event Recap

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last event recap, but the last few months have been relatively light on book events, bar a Derek Landy signing at the beginning of the month which was a signing line and an hour and a half of waiting in a signing line doesn’t make the most exciting blog post.

Anyway, this week I got to go to a pretty cool publishing event, HarperCollins were introducing their summer and autumn books and authors and I got an invite, the first event I’ve got to go to since I’ve been back based down South. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant about going, since it was an adult rather than YA event and I didn’t know anyone else who was going, but I figured it would be a good chance to get to meet some more UK bloggers and publishing industry people, so I decided to go.

I had a bit of a rush getting out to the event because my doctor’s appointment had run late, so by the time I’d got home and changed, I had to rush out the door in order to get the bus in time to make it to the station. Thankfully I got there, with some time to spare, and made my train into London.

Once I got into Kings Cross, I got on a very packed tube to London Bridge and once I arrived, after a little bit of wandering around in circles because it wasn’t entirely clear what exit I had to take out of the tube, I made it to the HarperCollins office building.

We’d all arrived a little early, so we had to wait a bit before going up to the HarperCollins office, but that was okay, I got to talk to a couple of the other bloggers, including two that I’d met at the Hot Key brunch back in February, Jane and Faye. I was so glad that they were there because having a few familiar faces immediately made me feel more comfortable!

After our bags had been checked, we got the lift up to the HarperCollins office, where we were greeted with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks and then we mostly milled around chatting for a while. I spent my time with Jane and Faye, and we were introduced by one of the Harper team to Felicity Everett, one of the authors. She told us a bit about her book and then asked if any of us did writing. I explained that I was writing a book but then of course totally buckled when I was asked to pitch it (that’s something I know I definitely need to get better at!).

Once everyone had got settled and had a chance to chat, the Harper team came out to introduce the main portion of the evening: showcasing their upcoming books and authors for the next few months. The setup was basically that the authors would have a few minutes each to essentially pitch their book to us and they were split into debuts, commercial fiction and domestic suspense. I’ll admit, most of the books weren’t really for me, but I was kind of expecting that, since I’m not a massive reader of adult fiction, especially when it’s not fantasy! The authors all did really well though, and some of them were incredibly funny.

When the authors were all done, we were once again left to our own devices, to pick up proofs if we wanted, chat to the authors, etc. I missed the proofs I wanted because I needed to pee, but that’s probably a good thing since I already have more books than I can actually fit on a shelf. Faye and Jane both left shortly after the showcase part of the event, so I sort of stood around awkwardly for a while. Thankfully I found another blogger I recognised from the Hot Key event, Aislinn and we chatted for a while with Helen Monks Takhar, one the authors who was really nice, her book is all about the Millenial/Gen X divide. She graduated from Cambridge as well, so when I said that I live here, we talked a bit about that.

I also talked for a bit to Luan Goldie and Sara Alexander, who were both really nice as well. One of the best things about these kinds of events is that you get a bit longer to talk to authors, in a more informal setting than regular book events, which is great.

I spent the last part of the evening chatting with Alyson Rudd and one of the Harper team publicists, talking about my writing and my plans for the future, which was pretty cool, given that Alyson is a journalist for her day job, so it was nice to get to talk to someone who is doing the things that I want to one day.

The event actually ran longer than the Harper team intended, so by this point they were trying to clear the room as we were meant to be out of there about half an hour ago! I needed to get back to get my train home anyway, so I headed off, and ended up meeting another blogger in the lift and since we were both heading back to Kings Cross to get the train, we made our way back together. She was really lovely, I only wished I’d remembered to ask for her name (we had name badges but we’d both removed ours by this point!).

This was a really nice, quite casual and relatively low key event and I’d definitely be happy to go to another one like it in the future. It was great to get to catch up with some familiar bloggers and meet some new authors and lovely staff from Harper. Hopefully I’ll get invited to more HarperCollins events because I really enjoyed this one!

Did anyone else go to the DestinationHQ event? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m going to be in Scotland for graduation all of next week, so my posting schedule might be a bit patchy, but I pre-scheduled my usual Top Ten Tuesday post, so you’ll definitely be getting that on Tuesday!

Victoria Schwab Event Recap

us and victoria schwab

Hi everyone! This is the last of my more regular updates for this section as I don’t have anymore events coming up in the near future, the next one will probably be YALC over the summer. Anyway as I mentioned in my last event recap, Nicola and I had tickets to the Glasgow stop of Victoria Schwab’s UK tour, which was last night.

We actually very nearly didn’t get tickets to this event, they sold out ridiculously fast which we weren’t expecting, but thankfully Waterstones Argyle Street added more tickets, so we jumped on those as soon as they were available. I’d met Victoria a couple of times, at YALC and at an event she did with Samantha Shannon and Neal Shusterman last year but Nicola had missed Victoria the last few times she had been in Scotland, so we were very excited to go to this event.

Nicola had already been in Glasgow for the day with a friend, so we decided to meet up at Waterstones just before the event. I got the train from Stirling at around 5.50 in order to arrive in Glasgow by 6.30. I walked from the station to Waterstones and then met Nicola upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe, the same place as last time. We got slightly better seats this time because we were earlier, but clearly a lot of people had been there for a while, because the room was nearly full even half an hour before the event was due to start.

We had some time to kill, so we sat and chatted for a bit before eventually the guy from Waterstones came out to introduce Victoria and go over the safety rules from the event.

The event was the usual Q&A style, with Lydia Gittins, Victoria’s publicist acting as the moderator for the event, which was quite cool as usually authors are moderated by other authors so it was interesting this time to have someone who is involved in the process of publishing V’s books asking the questions.

Lydia described this tour as the Origins Tour because it was to promote the reissue of The Near Witch, which was Victoria’s debut, so her own personal origin story and the the Steel Prince comics which feature Maxim Maresh’s origins tour. She asked V about how it felt to have The Near Witch return to shelves after so long.

It was so cool to hear Victoria talk about this, because she’s never really talked about The Near Witch at any of the events I’ve seen her at before, and she was clearly so grateful and emotional that The Near Witch is being given this second chance. She spoke about writing The Near Witch at university and being so determined that writing was something that she really wanted to do as a career and not something that she wanted to come back to 20-30 years later. She talked a lot about how she was so excited and happy when The Near Witch was bought by Disney and then what happened to the vast majority of debuts happened to it, nothing. She then spoke about writing her other books and how she wasn’t really gaining traction until Vicious and then didn’t really break out until A Darker Shade of Magic, eight novels into her career. I love hearing her talk about her career and how much time it took her to get established, because as a young writer, it’s so easy to focus on all the breakout stories and feel like you’re going to be one of them and then not expect it when things don’t go as you hope, so I really appreciate how honest she is about the difficulties of publishing and how you have to keep working at it because a career is not made on one book.

She then talked about how excited she was when Titan came to her, offering to publish The Near Witch, as somewhat of a gift for her for doing so much for them. She didn’t revise it at all, and explained that this was because she feels books are a time capsule of who we are when we write them and that the reception to the book now is the to the same book as the one that came out ten years ago, but just in a different context. I’m really glad that she didn’t change it, as I love getting to see where my favourite authors started out. She also talked about publishing not being a reflection on your book but just what happens, and that was really encouraging for me going forward in the publishing process, if my book doesn’t happen to sell well, or at all, then I’ll know that it’s more common than I would have thought before in publishing.

Lydia then asked Victoria about themes that she has returned to from The Near Witch in her later work, and she talked about how The Near Witch was her exploring Otherness as a theme before she had come out and using it as a way to process that even before she had vocabulary to explain it. She also spoke about how her books explore insider/outsider culture and how that’s something that has always fascinated her and will likely be a continuing theme in her books.

They then went on to talking about The Steel Prince, and how it goes into Maxim’s backstory. Victoria talked about how she likes taking villains and then turning them into antagonists and finally protagonists, which having read a lot of her books now, I can definitely see! She spoke about how she’d been approached by Titan and asked if she wanted to do comics but V was hesitant because she didn’t want to play in another writer’s world, however she enthusiastically accepted when they clarified that they wanted her to write comics in the Shades of Magic world. She said however that she decided to do it as a prequel series rather than sequels because she didn’t want the comics to be confused with the forward timeline in the upcoming Threads of Power books and she had written in hints towards Maxim’s backstory in A Conjuring of Light, so it seemed like a natural fit.

She also talked about expanding the magic system in the Steel Prince comics and getting to explore bone magic more which she found a lot of fun (as did I, reading about it!) and how difficult it is to convey a non-visual power in writing and comics and how they showed the bone magic through sections of the skeleton lighting up, which is super cool.

Lydia then moved on from asking about origins to asking about what is coming up next, no spoilers allowed. Victoria spoke about how hard it is not to spoil entire plots of her books and how her publishers have had to reign her in because she’s prone to spilling the entirety of her plots to readers at events, which we all found incredibly funny. She gave a brief rundown about what is coming up, Tunnel of Bones, the second City of Ghosts book, set in Paris, the second arc of The Steel Prince comics, The Night of Knives, which start next month and her next big project, her adult standalone novel, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which will potentially be coming out towards the end of next year.

She then went on to talk a little more about Addie, how it’s about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever and then he curses her to be forgotten by everyone she meets and how it covers 300 years of Addie’s life. She then spoke about how the book will have been in development for 10 years by the time it makes it to shelves and that even though it looks like she is a fast writer, she’s actually not, because ideas sit with her for a long time.

The floor was then opened up to audience questions, with Lydia asking everyone to avoid questions that contained potential spoilers.

Someone asked about language and how Victoria had built the languages in the Shades of Magic world and V explained how she builds the grammatical structures from the ground up, filling in the vocabulary as she needs it, which has only caused a couple of issues with words that have multiple meanings but V explained that she wasn’t that bothered by that because it happens in English as well. She wanted to make sure that the language wasn’t prohibitive though, that it added to the experience rather than put readers off.

She was then asked about pseudonyms as she had mentioned before that her publishers had considered a pseudonym if her books had continued to not sell as well as hoped. V explained that publishers do this because it is seen as a fresh start in readers’ minds and allows them to market differently, but that she was very hesitant to use one because it felt like an erasure of her identity.

She then responded to a question about becoming peers with authors that she grew up admiring, and V expressed her appreciation that these authors had always treated her like a peer, a colleague and that this is something that she tries to pay forward but that it never stops being weird when someone you idolise treats you like a person.

We then got onto worldbuilding, as someone in the audience asked for worldbuilding tips. This was quite a meandering answer as V explained she had no easy tips for this as she finds it very intuitive because she consumes media which fills the part of her brain. The metaphor she eventually landed on was that of a house, that some fantasy authors build a house and give you a key, letting you wander around all the rooms i.e. basically tell you everything about the world, and others just leave the curtains open and allow you to see into each room as and when you need to (her preferred method). She also talked about how important it is to use your characters as conduits for your world and how their viewpoint changes the world you see, using Kell and Lila as examples.

The final question was about piracy and whether that is wish fulfilment for her and V made all of us burst out laughing by her passionate dislike of water and that the appeal of piracy to her is the sense of lawlessness and the intimacy of the setting of a ship.

When the audience questions were done, we joined the massive signing queue and waited to get our books signed, chatting in the line to pass the time. The queue did actually move relatively fast though and it wasn’t long before we were at the front meeting Victoria.

I wasn’t really quite sure what to say, but luckily Victoria helped me out on that one, as I had worn my As Travars Fable and Black necklace to the event, so she complimented me on that, I explained where I’d got it from and that I bought it because I mostly had fanart of her works and I wanted something I could wear. She had apparently met Fable and Black at one of her events and gave me a recommendation for an Etsy shop called InPages which she said did great pins. It’s so nice when authors manage to break the ice, because I am never sure what to say, especially with authors I love so much! Nicola and I both got our books/comics signed and then we got a photo before saying goodbye. I loved that V asked everyone if they had a good time at the event, it was so sweet!

We then headed back to the train station and had a bit of an issue because our train basically left without everyone and then had to turn around and come back, so we were waiting a good 40 minutes at the train station for the train, whilst trying to have a conversation over the building works and barrage of announcements!

Did anyone else go to any of Victoria’s UK events? Or are planning to go to any of her international events in the next few months? Let me know in the comments!


Samantha Shannon Event Recap

samantha shannon event 2

Photo Credit: @say_shannon 

Hi everyone! I’m quite lucky that I’ve had several book events to go to in February (well two, but two is more than I usually go to in one month) and I’ve got another event coming up this month (Victoria Schwab, in two week’s time, I cannot wait!) so this section of the blog will be slightly more regularly updated than it usually is!

My friend and I booked tickets to Samantha Shannon’s Glasgow event for Priory pretty much as soon as we saw they’d gone on sale, Nicola was meant to go to her Song Rising launch in Edinburgh two years ago, but was ill on the day and couldn’t go, and I’ve met Samantha a few times, but never been to a solo event of hers, so of course jumped at the chance to go.

We got the train from Stirling at around 5.20, after picking up dinner at the station. The event didn’t start till 6, but neither of us are particularly familiar with Waterstones Argyle Street (we both prefer and are more familiar with the larger Waterstones in Glasgow, Waterstones Sauchiehall Street) so we wanted to make sure we arrived in Glasgow early in case it took us longer to get there than we expected (it didn’t). We walked from Queen Street station to Argyle Street, and it only took us about 5-10 minutes to get there.

Once we arrived, we headed upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe. Most people were already there by the time we arrived, so once we had been given our books and ticked off the list, it was a bit of a scramble to find two seats together, we did, but we were right at the back, hence the lack of pictures of Samantha! There were a few minutes before the event started so I got myself a chocolate muffin from the cafe.

Soon after, one of the Waterstones staff came out to do all of the boring usual safety stuff and then Laura Lam (the moderator for the evening) came in and introduced Samantha, so the event could start properly.

The event was the usual Q&A style, and Laura had some really great questions for Samantha, which made for a very interesting discussion. It was awesome to hear about the origins of Priory and Samantha’s love of dragons and I particularly loved hearing about her research process since Priory has a large historical basis, and as a history nerd, I just love hearing about how authors research historical periods. Samantha also talked a lot about all the world building that went into Priory, which made me ever more excited to read it, because if there is one thing I completely geek out about in fantasy books, it’s world building. I love hearing writers talk about their process as well, and there was a lot of that here, it just helps me so much hearing how other authors go about this.

It was also really cool to hear Samantha talk about the origins of St George and how she wanted to change his story to be more feminist, and less you know, racist and sexist and Islamophobic. I have to admit, I don’t know all that much about St George, despite being English, so it was interesting to hear her talk about the different iterations of that legend and how she wanted to turn them on their head with Priory.

We got to hear about the differences Samantha found between writing The Bone Season and Priory which was quite cool, obviously they are very different books, and I’ve seen her talk about The Bone Season before, so it was quite interesting to see what she thought the biggest differences were between writing a dystopia/fantasy mix and between writing pure, epic fantasy like Priory.

I find it very interesting to hear how different writers’ processes differ from my own, Samantha talked a bit about working on Priory and The Bone Season together, and how working on one kept her refreshed for working on the other, and much as I think that’s super cool, I have found it way too confusing/distracting to be working on several different projects at once!

Samantha also talked a bit about her fantasy influences, and how she missed the boat on a lot of the big female authors of the 70s-90s and how much Lord of The Rings influenced her as a kid. She mentioned that there’s a scene in the Lord of The Rings film which has a female character doing something really awesome that wasn’t in the books and how that kind of turned her off fantasy for a while, because she didn’t want to be disappointed again. Both Nicola and I found it very cool that she talked about Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson when asked about her favourite YA as a kid, because we both loved them too (reminding us scarily that Samantha Shannon is not that much older than we are, she’s only five years older than me!). When Laura asked her about her influences for Priory specifically, she talked a lot about reading medieval texts, and legends, including The Renowned History of The Seven Champions of Christendom, and mentioned that she’d written a 4000 word essay on it, which I’d actually read a few days before the event.

Before Laura opened the floor up to audience questions, she did a “quickfire” round of This or That questions for Samantha. Samantha’s explanations ended up being a lot more lengthy than just this or that, but I loved that! She talked a bit more at length about the characters of Priory, about her love of morally grey characters, and a little Bone Season crept in there as well.

Then the floor was opened up to audience questions. Neither Nicola or I asked any, mostly because we’re awkward and don’t like talking in front of other people, but also we were right at the back, so basically would have had to shout to be heard. The people who did ask questions had great ones though! Samantha assured everyone that this book had not scratched the dragon itch, and that she hopes to write more self contained novels in the same world, just with more dragons in!

Naturally The Bone Season 4 came up, and Samantha said that the book is written, the first draft anyway and that she just needs to do the edits now, which should hopefully be easier than The Song Rising was (she did talk a little about how difficult that book was for her). She also talked about the differences between primary and secondary worldbuilding (as Priory uses the former, and The Bone Season the latter) and said she enjoys both, as The Bone Season allows her to use real world landmarks, but for Priory she could use the stuff from history that she liked as touchstones, but not the stuff she didn’t like, hello sexism! She explained a little about the differences between top up and bottom down world building and that she likes to use a mixture of the two, which I found helpful because to be honest, I do struggle with world building!

Samantha also talked about her favourite fantasy books, most of which I haven’t heard of, but will be checking out now. She explained the differences between her dragons and traditional dragons and talked about drawing on ideas from Eastern and Western dragon mythology (but her dragons are bio-luminescent).

We finished with a question about writer’s block, which was quite useful for me, as you all know, I’ve been blocked on Underground Magicians for a while now! Laura said she thought it was the subconscious asking for more thought but Samantha said that hers is usually burnout and she just needs to take a step away from her work.

Once the audience questions were over, we joined the queue to have our books signed. The queue moved relatively quickly and it wasn’t all that long before we were at the front. Nicola explained to Samantha that she was meant to come to her Song Rising event, but missed out because she was ill, and Samantha thanked her for coming. I wasn’t really sure what to say, but Samantha kind of helped me out on that one, because SHE RECOGNIZED ME! She said that I looked familiar and asked if we’d met before, and I explained that I’d seen her a couple of times at YALC and at an event in London last year, because I’m usually based near London but that I lived here for Uni and I came down all the way from Stirling for the London event last year. She was so sweet and thanked me for coming all that way last year (honestly have no regrets about that, that event was so good) and then Nicola and I said goodbye and left with our signed books.

Nicola and I then headed back to the train station and got an earlier train back than we’d thought as the event wasn’t as long as we were expecting. It was nice though, usually I don’t get back from evening book events till after 10, so it was nice to be back home just after nine for a change!

Did anyone else go to Samantha’s Glasgow Priory event? Or to the ones in London, or Leeds? Is anyone going to her Newcastle, Exeter or Truro events? Let me know in the comments!

I will probably have my review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely up later on today, so stay tuned for that!

Hot Key Women In History Bloggers Brunch Recap


Hi everyone! I know, what is this madness, event recaps two months in a row? Well it’s going to be a very busy couple of months for me, book event wise, as I’m going to Samantha Shannon’s Priory event in Glasgow on the 28th (so soon!) and then Victoria Schwab’s Near Witch/Steel Prince event, also in Glasgow in March, so there will be a lot more content than there usually is in this section of the blog over this month and the next.

I’ve been on the Hot Key mailing list for a while now, so I often get emails from them inviting me to their blogger brunches or events but 99.9% of the time, I’m in Scotland when their events are happening and their events are always in London, so go figure, I can’t make it. However, this time, I happened to be home anyway for my University’s Reading Week and being a history student who particularly loves Women’s History, I was super excited to be able to get to attend this event.

I got the train in from Cambridge to London at around 9.45, getting into London just after 10.35. I had to admit, I’d never been to the Bonnier Zaffre (the company which Hot Key is an imprint of) headquarters before, but luckily my mum knew the address and had given me instructions on how to get there. It wasn’t too far, I just had to get the tube from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus and after a few false starts with my Google Maps, I managed to find the building.

We were given name badges, and lead upstairs to where the event was taking place. We were all a little bit early, so there was some time to mill around, which meant, *shock horror* mingling. I was a little bit nervous because I was there by myself and I’m not the best with strangers, but thankfully bloggers are lovely people and I happily chatted with a few of them, including Amy from A Bookish Life who was also there alone and really made me feel at ease about the whole thing (thank you Amy!). It was quite funny because no one wanted to be the first one to go for the food, so we were all standing there, hungry, but we didn’t want to be the first one to break the ice. Thankfully, eventually someone did and then we all descended on the pastries.

The food was awesome, I had a chocolate twist, a pain au raisin, lots of raspberries and strawberries and some delicious cookies! After milling around and chatting for a little while, the people from Bonnier Zaffre came in and announced that we were ready to start. We did have to sit on the floor, which I wasn’t totally thrilled about, but I get that it was a small room fitting in a lot of people (hence the lack of pictures of the authors, I just couldn’t see over the people in front of me to get a good picture!).

Then Lucy and Heather came in, Lucy introduced herself and Heather (she was acting as the moderator for the discussion), and then the talk started. It was a lot more informal than many author discussions I’ve been to, which I really liked, I don’t know if the two of them had met before this, I assume so, but they had a very easy and natural rapport and despite talking about a very heavy topic (the Holocaust), they made the discussion engaging and fun to listen to (without taking the subject lightly in any way). The two of them talked about how they came to learning about the Holocaust and how to get young people engaged in that part of history and Heather discussed bringing The Tattooist of Auschwitz to a younger audience and how important it was not to over-sanitise the horrors of the Holocaust.

They talked a lot about how they did research for their books, which was obviously super interesting to me, being a History student, I love to hear about how historical fiction writers do their research. Heather talked a lot about interviewing Lale and the responsibility she felt for telling his story and how much of her research actually didn’t end up in the book in the end because she found out so much that she obviously couldn’t include it all. She also talked about how she wanted to make sure there wasn’t much emphasis in the story on the more famous names (i.e. the Nazis who committed such dreadful atrocities) because they don’t need any more attention drawn to what they did, she wanted to make sure that the story was all about Lale and his experiences.

Heather originally intended The Tattoist of Auschwitz to be a screenplay, and it was quite interesting to hear how the story went from that to a book, she was working on it with a film company, but the project stalled and she couldn’t stop thinking about the story, she talked about Lale so much that her family eventually encouraged her to just, in her words, “write the bloody book”. I’ve never heard of an author transferring their story from screenplay to book before, so it was very cool to hear from Heather how that process worked.

She also spoke more about her upcoming book, Cilka’s Journey, following one of the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka, also a real life person, and the difficulties she had in researching that book because Cilka died a long time ago, so unlike Tattooist, where she had Lale’s personal testimony, she had to rely on second hand accounts of Cilka. She discussed some of the reactions to The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it was awe inspiring to hear how many people had shared personal stories about how the book had affected them.

Both authors spoke about the importance of hope in Holocaust stories, and how that theme ran through their work, which I really loved as that’s what I always hang onto when reading books about this most harrowing part of human history, the incredible resilience and hope shown by people in the most unbearable of circumstances, so it was great to hear them speak about how they used that in their books.

After the discussion portion of the event had ended, the authors took questions from us, I was, as always, too nervous and awkward of speaking in front of people to ask anything, but both authors had really insightful responses to the questions.

Once they had answered questions, we got to hear a little bit from both authors’ books. Lucy read a chapter from her upcoming novel Summerland, which addresses the journey of one of the minor characters from The Red Ribbon after the war (she says she has always been interested in what happened to people after the war, as WWII stories tend to end when the war does) and with Brexit, refugees have been on her mind, so she really wanted to write a refugee story set after WWII. I have to admit, I haven’t read any of her books before, but hearing her read from Summerland made me really excited to read The Red Ribbon (plus I loved that each of the chapters from Summerland is named after a different 1940s recipe and that she’s going to make a recipe book of them!).

We then got to hear Heather read from the ending of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Usually I would be annoyed for being spoiled for the end of the story before I’ve even read it, but since history can’t be spoilers, I wasn’t too bothered knowing the ending of Lale’s story! Plus, it was such a gorgeous passage that she read out to us, and was so heartwarming, that it really made me want to read the rest of the book, so mission successful.

Once the readings were over, we were allowed to go and collect books for signing. I had brought my own copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz from home, but I needed a copy of The Red Ribbon (since Lucy made it sound AMAZING) and copies of both books for my friend Nicola who couldn’t make it to the event (since you know, she lives in Scotland!). The queues were quite long, so I only got to have a brief chat with both authors, but that’s okay with me since I’m awkward and can’t think of much to say anyway, I talked to Lucy about being a history student, the fact that I thought costume history was such a cool area to go into and that my friend (the aforementioned Nicola) is doing a WWII based dissertation. I’m pretty sure all I managed to say to Heather was that I’d never been to Poland, but always wanted to go. I don’t do well at coming up with stuff to say under pressure!

When I’d had my books signed, it was all over and it was time to go, so I picked up my coat from the hangers they had outside and then headed back to Oxford Circus to get the tube, and then the train home. All in all, a very successful day out for me, it was a super fun event and I hope that I’ll be able to go to another one, if the timing of the next event and me being back home happens to line up again.

Did anyone else go to the Women In History Bloggers Brunch? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

I will be back tomorrow with my e-ARC review of Enchantee by Gita Trelease (spoiler alert, I really loved this one guys!).

New Voices 2019 Event Recap

Hi everyone! I know I haven’t done one of these since I did my Sarah J Maas event recap last November, but I haven’t been to any book events since then (I am forever in pain that authors tend to miss Scotland out of their UK tours, especially since where I live out of semester is a lot closer to all the fun book events!).

Anyway, if you recall, last year I went to Headline’s New Voices event in Glasgow, and had a great time, so when I found out they were coming to Edinburgh this year, I immediately jumped on the chance to get an invite. This year, I took my friend Nicola with me, and thankfully, there was no snow, so she was able to make it this time!

Nicola was coming straight from a class at Uni, so we met at the train station to get the train into Edinburgh. We were a bit early, and had a minor snafu with the ticket machine as the station’s internet connection was down, but I managed to get my tickets from the lady at the ticket booth so it all worked out okay. Then our train was a little delayed setting off, but luckily it wasn’t by too much and we arrived in Edinburgh around the time we were hoping for anyway.

Neither of us had been to the pub where the event was being held, but Nicola had Google Maps on her phone, so we found it pretty easily. We were greeted by a member of Headline’s team at the door, Becky Hunter who I’d met at last year’s event and shown the cloakroom, and the bar, and of course, all the free books!

Nicola and I put our coats and bags away and then headed into the main room to meet everyone. We were introduced by a member of the team (I think it was Becky) to authors Rhik Samadder and Richard Lumsden, who we spent a while talking to. Rhik kind of freaked me out by asking lots of hard to answer questions about my future plans, but he seemed nice enough and I chatted to Richard a bit about my own novel, it made me feel a lot better about how long I have been working on TINALS to hear that he started work on his debut 25 years ago!

When we were done chatting with them, we were a little hungry, so we went to get the free food. I have to admit, this was probably the most disappointing part of the night, because last year they had quite an extensive buffet and this year it was just chicken drumsticks, sausage rolls and a veggie option, none of which were particularly great.

All the authors were then introduced to us by Phoebe, a publicity manager for Headline, who told us a little about them and all of their books, I swear she must have been out of breath after that because she spoke at like a mile a minute!

Nicola and I kind of milled around awkwardly after that, neither of us are particularly good at approaching strangers, so we figured we’d just stand there chatting until people came over to talk to us. We were introduced to one of the authors Emily Gunnis, by the Headline team and although we didn’t chat to her for very long, we did get our books signed, which was nice.

We also got to chat to some of the Headline team, which was great. Nicola and I spent a while chatting to Phoebe and completely fangirled, because she said that she’s worked with both Neil Gaiman and Deborah Harkness, I might not have read any of their books, but I definitely know who they are, and it was a very cool moment getting to meet someone who has actually worked with them (yes, I have small dreams). We also chatted to Jenny Harlow for a while, which was lovely, she remembered me from last year and she was just really nice to talk to, we chatted about the books we liked and how we find books to help the Headline team reach more people.

We were then introduced to Sarah Davis-Goff, another one of the authors. I hadn’t actually intended to pick up her book, because zombies really aren’t my thing, but she was so lovely, we chatted about dystopian books and feminism and all sorts of cool stuff like that, so Nicola and I both ended up leaving with copies of her book, and Nicola even got hers signed.

The last author of the night we met was Harriet Tyce, and I’m not going to lie, she was more than a little bit tipsy by the time we got to her, but she was lovely to talk to, told us all about her book, Blood Orange and her time working as a criminal barrister and very kindly signed our books.

By this point in the evening, Nicola and I were very tired, not to mention kind of hungry, given that the free food had not been as amazing as we’d hoped, and the room was starting to thin out anyway, so we decided that was the time to make our exit-it was about 9 o’clock and we both had quite early mornings the next day, so it was better to get out sooner rather than later.

Thankfully getting back home this year was much simpler than last year, we picked up some food from Pret at the station and then got on the first train back home, which we only had to wait half an hour for. No replacement bus, ridiculous amounts of snow or late night taxi for me this time!

Once again, I really enjoyed this event and it was so fun to get to go with Nicola this year. I also didn’t get pictures this year, sorry, but it was kind of dark in the venue and they wouldn’t have come out very well! I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to this event if they do it again next year, since I don’t know where I’ll be living, but it has been great fun to get to go the past two years!

Did anyone else go to the New Voices event in Edinburgh, or the one last night in Liverpool? Is anyone planning to go to the one in Bath tonight, or the one in London next week? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back on Tuesday with another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, so stay tuned for that!