Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: What’s Hot in YA? The best of the best YA authors tell us in this amazing book panel

Part of the YA panel L to R: Mafi, Parker, Redwine, Reichs, Stohl, and Westerfeld
Part of the YA panel L to R: Mafi, Parker, Redwine, Reichs, Stohl, and Westerfeld

The final book panel of San Diego Comic Con was What’s Hot in YA. Here at Lytherus we love all sorts of fantasy and scifi, but we do often feature YA, so this was a panel we didn’t want to miss. Rightly so, too, as the lineup of authors was absolutely insane: Kresley Cole (The Arcana Chronicles), Kami Garcia (The Legion Series), Tessa Gratton (United States of Asgard series), Tahereh Mafi (the Shatter Me series), Natalie Parker (Beware the Wild), C. J. Redwine (The Defiance series), Brendan Reichs (the Virals series), Margaret Stohl (the Icons series), and Scott Westerfeld (Afterworlds). Chew on those names for a minute. These are some of the biggest and best names in YA, and all on one panel.  Moderated by Nathan Bransford (the Jacob Wonderbar series), this panel proved to be one of the best that SDCC had to offer.

First off, let me say that the banter between Kami Garcia and Margie Stohl was hilarious. They kept cracking the audience up, and it set an atmosphere of fun and revelry for the whole panel. Also, Margie started out the panel by announcing some big news. All she could say was Marvel YA, which sounds amazing. We can’t wait to see what’s up next with this.

Nathan kicked off the questions by asking the simple one of how did they start? Were they thinking of what’s hot in YA? Brendan, who is also hilarious, writes with his mom Kathy Reichs (of Bones fame), and started off the replies with that simple statement and a shrug, much to the amusement of everyone. Scott regaled everyone with the story that gave him the idea for his series Uglies, saying he was in LA and at the dentist, who took him to the back and wanted to talk about his five-year plan for his teeth (huh?!). He wondered what the world would be like if everything was like this, and the idea was born.

Part of the YA panel L to R: Cole, Bransford, Garcia, and Gratton
Part of the YA panel L to R: Cole, Bransford, Garcia, and Gratton

Nathan led right into the next question, asking how they decide on something, even if it seems not marketable? Tessa replied first, talking about how in her first drafts she puts in everything, all the detail, talks about politics and religion, everything she loves, and then she shapes after. Kresley has been writing adult paranormal for years, and when a YA book came to mind she tried not to write it skewed young, but that was the story so eventually she stopped fighting it and wrote it as YA. Tahereh tried writing for the market, but eventually said f-it and wrote how she wanted. She didn’t think people would get what she was doing, and publishing was a dream, but it did happen. Kami added to this, saying that Beautiful Creatures was published by accident, and then after she had this intense pressure when alone re: the market. Market really messes with the head. Margie made her talk about her passions, pushing past that. Brendan said that writing for the market doesn’t work. You’re chasing something that may not even be there. Your writing should be passionate. C.J. said you spend a lot of time with an idea and world, so you should love it. The market is hard to predict.

This led right into the next question. Authors never want to write to the market, but how do you fight the pressure? Margie said the market never feels good, it’s always crazy. Writing a book feels great. Thinking about the market is crazy and stressful. Scott added that it’s always changing. Right now contemporary is “in” thanks in part to John Green. Kami added that John wasn’t trying to be a “thing”, he’s just writing. Tahereh paraphrased E. Lockhart at this point, saying that most authors re: John’s success are like, that’s great, but I wanna stay in my pajamas. Kami added that the idea of a phenomenon is strange too. People like John Green and Scott have written a while before getting huge, and people forget the years of self-doubt. Natalie said what’s cool about the YA market is it’s a cool canvas, and allows you to play. Scott added to this, saying he gets lots of great feedback from fans, has fan art Friday, and it’s great to see people play in those worlds. It’s fun to see what fans generate, and it’s all about inspiring each other. Margie said that some books are small stories, and some are big, and that’s okay. Not everything is about commercialism; sometimes it’s about the fandom tribe.

Up next Nathan wanted to know if there’s less pressure because of social media. Kami said that twitter is for hanging out. Tahereh observed that confessional blogs don’t seem as common and that micro-blogging is more popular, which makes it easer to stay on top of. Scott also prefers twitter because of the ease. You can just send out an idea. Less pressure, less questions.

The next question was about traditional vs e-books: is there a polarization? Kami said there’s lots of hybrid authors, and that it doesn’t matter. There are self-published authors who kick ass, etc. If you’re out there, you’re an author. Scott added that it’s fun to write in other ways. He loves NaNoWriMo, so fans can appreciate how hard writing is.

For the last question Nathan wanted to know what is voice, and how the authors make it their own. C.J. said it’s okay to copy, that’s how you learn. Voice is what fans can expect, even if the world changes. For her it was deciding to stop being afraid and start writing what she loves to read that helped her. Kresley said it’s her voice when she’s writing and starts giggling at herself. Margie has an exercise she tells teens: look down and write about your shoes, and that’s your voice. Shoes are often the way teens are communicating with the world. Brendan got a laugh, saying he finds this question hard, as he’s writing a fourteen year old girl and he’s a thirty-seven year old man. Natalie said she gave her manuscript to Tessa, and to have her laugh was good feedback.

The mic was opened up for fans, and some book-specific questions were asked. Overall though it was a busy, fun, interesting and entertaining panel filled to the brim with fantastic YA authors and their insights. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Best-selling fantasy authors talk “End of a series … or not?”

L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo
L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo

One of the panels I was most looking forward to at San Diego Comic Con this year was the one titled “End of a Series … or not?” Moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart from Mysterious Galaxy book store the panel consisted of Lynn Flewelling (Nightrunner series), Lev Grossman (The Magicians series), Laini Taylor (The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy), Jon Maberry (the Rot and Ruinseries), Ben Winters (The Last Policeman Trilogy), Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark Series), and Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy).

The first question up: what decides if a series is finite or not- is that pre-planned? Do you destroy the world or leave the story open-ended? Lynn started us off, saying she has a seven book series and one that’s three. She said it’s painful to end a series. Her big series books are more episody vs main overall arcs. But her gut told her it was time. Lev said that stories have structures. He wanted to write about magicians after their education, the unknown parts. For example, what is magic for if no one is threatening the world? Once his characters figured that out, he stopped.

Laini spent five years planning, out of fear, vs. spontaneous writing. But even half way through book two she had no idea about the end. Some things are still open, she said, but she wanted to finish the main story arc. For Jon the ending point was about character growth. He wanted to tell the story until he liked the main character (who started out the opposite). It took him four books for that to happen. Ben got a laugh, because part of his series is about an asteroid colliding with the earth, so he knew it was a trilogy and where it ended—anything past that would have been BS, so he had to stop. Still, he needed to keep the character doing work.

LMZ_8687wKresley has a fifteen book series that isn’t done yet, which has had a continuously pending apocalypse (Leigh’s disgruntlement over this got a lot of laughs). She had the beginning and the end plotted out, but the stuff in the middle she said she’ll keep going with until people don’t want to keep reading. Leigh likes shorter series; she could have gone longer, but decided three was enough. Sometimes limits make things hard, however, because you have to work within those parameters (she wants a sky fortress and a secret island).

The next question was about sustainability. What keeps readers engaged? Leigh said that authors have two choices for character: a character that has everything and you take from them, or they have nothing and you take more. Also, story is always king over world building. Kresley likes to introduce secondary characters like a villain or godmother and switch up expectations. In Ben’s first book in the series the character was young in a lot of ways and had to grow up. What makes people stick is that the characters are still growing. Jon mentioned how we always enter a story with a limited world view. For example, his main character in the Rot and Ruin books is angry all the time, and why he’s mad is part of his limited world view. But once exposed to a larger world view it changed his life. World view isn’t entirely the character’s fault, but as there’s more exposure the view adjusts. Laini said she likes a tight narrative where certain questions are answered. Also, if the writing is beautiful, the reader wants to sink into it.

Lev wrote The Magicians as a stand-alone, because he wasn’t convinced it would be published. But he had to send his characters back into that world. He wanted to know what happened next. Lynn said she also wrote a stand-alone that became two books, and then her editor asked her if she wanted it to be more. She invested so much, and there was more to tell. She writes for herself, as writing is hard, so she needs to love it.

The floor was opened up after this, and some of the questions were about legit cliffhangers (needs not to be done like a cheap-shot, but can be done) and prequels (hard sometimes if the ending is already known). The panel was funny and engaged, and the audience asked great thought-provoking questions that spurred interesting discussion.

I’m so glad I made it to this panel. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the different angles the authors came from regarding series, and though there is no one right way it was wonderful to get some insight into what helps make a series successful.