Beneath the Surface Panel + Giveaway


I realized a few months ago that, while I really love borrowing books, movies, tv shows, and music from the Dallas Public Library because of their humongous collection, the Irving Public Library is The Place to Be when it comes to author events in the area. Kristin from Cool Librarian Glasses and her compatriots have this thing locked down. You'll see what I mean.

A little background: there was the Beneath the Surface panel Thursday with Rae Carson, Aimée Carter, Tessa Gratton, Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, and Nova Ren Suma . Friday night was the Yeah YA panel featuring a whole host of Harlequin Teen authors such as Aimée, Julie Kagawa, Katie McGarry, Gena Showalter, and Rachel Vincent. So I get to the BTS event and was chatting up my fellow blogger friends Alex from Peace, Love and Fangirl, Marissa & Jasmine of Beneath the Moon and Stars, and Kari from A Good Addiction. We're talking about books that destroyed us, and I say, "Oh, what was the one I just read? *flip through Goodreads Read shelf* Oh, yeah, it was The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa! Man, that really gutted me!" About two minutes later, Kari says, "Oh, my gosh, that's Julie Kagawa." My head jerks up and my eyes widen. Yeah. Julie Kagawa and Katie McGarry were attempting to crash the Beneath the Surface panel under the radar. *snort* Like under the radar was even remotely an option for them.

Lucky me, I end up sitting next to Julie! Before and after, I had the supreme pleasure of talking to her about her books, publishing, and just whatever. Katie McGarry likewise was super nice and easy to talk to. Our little blogger group kind of circled up with them and talked while most attendees were queued up to talk to the authors who were actually doing the panel. I even told Julie about our conversation before she came in. She replied with this amazing, horrifying sentence: "Well, I hope you cry more reading The Forever Song than you did reading The Eternity Cure." WHAT?! Julie Kagawa, WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY THAT!!! *iz ded*

So that was the wonderful surprise of the evening. The actual panel was pretty fantastic, but that's not surprising because of Kristin and the rest of the IPL staff. Pictures & transcript under the cut!

See what I mean? Gorgeous. Here are some more pictures showing how lovely (and yummy!) this event was!
Cupcakes! They were very popular, obviously!

The panel was moderated by upcoming debut author Jenny Martin, whose novel Tracked is getting some big buzz!
Q1. What is one aspect of your story that goes beneath the surface?
Aimée Carter (AC): When I was three years old, I'd walk into Borders with my dad, who would leave me in the children's section and go do his own thing. I found a a book of myths and grew up with that. I didn't want to write the same myths. Instead, I'd look at the characters as real people who actually existed. I thought about how the story that would change throughout the millenia. I took the telephone approach with the gods. You know, where you start with a sentence and it changes when you pass it through a group of people. I wanted to twist the mythology.
Rae Carson (RC): So I was dating this guy who was a total douchenozzle. He always asked me if I wanted to eat that, or if I went to the gym that day. Obviously I broke up with his ass! [audience cheering] I spent the whole day eating Ben & Jerry's and thinking about amazing women and why I thought they were amazing. The two things that never came to my mind were that they were beautiful or thin. So I wanted to write about a girl who is fat and awesome!
Tahereh Mafi (TM): I can't follow that! I pass. I don't have amazing origin story, but I'm inspired by people in real life. My four older brothers inspire characters in Shatter Me. We used to beat crap out of each other, but now we're very close. Kenji is really based on my brothers. One time at a party, I was talking to my brother and he said, "If I lower my voice, I won't be able to hear myself speak and that's my favorite part." I was like, "Hold on, I have to write that down." Sometimes things get awkward. Like Adam, the love interst, has a bird on his chest, which the main character finds when they're in the shower. ...Um, because they're in the shower, um, doing things... [audience giggls and catcalls] So my brother is reading the book, and he has a bird tattoo on his chest. [more giggles] Uncomfortable. Thanksgiving was very awkward that year. He was like, "What the hell is this crap?!"
Ransom Riggs (RR): You forgot about radioactive spider that bit you. 
TM: Oh yeah, I was bitten by a radioactive spider too.
RR: of my favorite scenes from Miss Peregrin. There are shipwrecks all around this setting and the characters dive down and there are all these bioluminescent fish. That literally happened. I was diving with a friend in Australia, and we did a wreck dive at night. Our guide made us turn off our lights and go over side of ship to cargo hold. There were no lights but flashlight fish. We also had no perspective but the fish looked like milky way. I decided to write it in. Get it? Beneath the surface!
Tessa Gratton (TG): When I was really little, I couldn't decide to be a wizard or paleontologist. With one, you study for 40 years and destroy everything; the other says there's no butt brain in stegosaurus. I always really loved magic and monsters. The Lost Sun was inspired by faith and politics.
Nova Ren Suma (NRS): I was writing the same stories but inspiration running beneath the surface. Girls disappearing or being gone was a common theme in writing. Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone. I just thought, "How many times can I come at this in a different way?" They're all standalones, no series, but there's something running between all of them.

Q2 What's next for you?
NRS: I've got a new book in works that explores the idea of being bad. Does doing bad things make you a terrible person? It's set in a girls' detention center. I'm really excited about going deeper.
TG: I'm working on the sequel to The Lost Sun. It's my first real sequel, horrifying, not exciting. I've been working on it for two years. In The Lost Sun, the boy comes across people dedicated to Odin. Passion and battle are bad and scary, but in the sequel, the main character is a girl who embraces those things. She surrounds herself with the posivity of violence. I know that sounds weird, but I'm exploring the violence of creation.
RR: Sequels can be scary. I've got two weeks left of editing, but I'm not quite done yet. It's the sequel for Miss Peregrin. More stuff happens. There are kids and peculiarness. Writers are badasses! I've also got a book for Little, Brown. I thought I knew title and what it's about, but then on the plane, Tahereh said something and totally changed idea. I can't tell you about it. You can't tell about an idea that's too fresh or it'll sound stupid and you'll hate it.
TM: So...Ransom stole my idea. Seriously, that was my next book. Right now I'm finishing the third book in Shatter Me. It's later by about two weeks than Ransom's. I'm in final edits. And, apparently I've got another novella in December but...I haven't written it yet so...we'll see about that!There's one other thing I want to write, but my editor won't talk to me until I finish edits. So I'm finishing the series and trying not to die because I get death threats a lot.
RC: Harper Collins contracted me for another series. It's about the California gold rush. The main character is a girl who can scry or sense gold. Her ability is dangerous because everyone wants to control that ability. It's this cool fantasy western trilogy.
AC: I've got a new trilogy called the Blackcoat Rebellion, and the first book Pawn is being published in November. I wrote it five years ago when I thought Goddess Test wouldnt sell. It's dystopian. At 17, everyone takes an aptitude test, and the results rank you 2 - 6. 1s and 7s are exceptions. The main character can't read so she gets ranked a 3, which is bad. The ranks determine your job, housing, food, children. She bucks the trend and goes underground. The prime minister buys her and makes her a deal; if she agrees, he will make her a 7. Her best friend recognizes them, but then the prime minister kills her friend, knocks her out, and shoves her into a car. She wakes up surgically altered to look like the minister's niece. The new deal is that she takes niece's place or die. He quietly killed his niece because she started the rebellion. So now the main character has to decide if she wants to continue the rebellion. The sequel is due August 1, but I haven't written it yet. [shocked gasps]

Audience questions:
Q3. How do you describe your writing style? It could be your process or your actual style of writing.
TG: Chaotic!
AC: I was a screenwriter so my writing is very structured. In a screenplay, if something isn't happening by about page 30, there's something wrong.
NRS: I think my style is contemporary with a fantastical twist. Really, it's just weird.
RC: My style is like the merge of literary and commercial fiction. Beautiful prose with explosions and magic. I like to mix those elements.
RR: Yeah, that!
TM: I also like that.
NRS: I agree!

Q4 picking out names for people and places
NRS: I steal names of people I meet. If I meet you at a signing and say "Wow, you have an unusual name," it means I'm stealing it. Places are where I grew up.
TG: I write a lot of fantasy so names are worldbuilding, like when the characters lived and where. I think about their parents, and the fact that I'm not naming them, their parents did. The Lost Sun is alternate history so I adapted it with cultural influences. There are losts of rules
RR: It really depends on style of book. Baldor is not appropriate for my books. The names are birds. Alternate reality characters have normal names. Basically, I don't want to hate names.
TM: I don't have an intersting story because I pick names I like. Kenji named after Genji from The Tale of Genji. It was my favorite book in college; I wrote a thesis on it. Gengi asshole, and Kenji is like him. I chose Warner because it has war in it.  
RR: What's he warning us about?
TM: Are you spoiling right now?!
RC: Telenovellas are a great way to learn new language. They are dramatic and awesome. There's so much emotion! I felt like I was honoring the culture I was being immersed in. Friends helped when there was something I didn't understand. So the Latino characters are inspired by friends and telenovella characters.
AC: My characters have two names. I read a baby name book the whole way through, which took a week. I refuse to have characters with the same phonetic letter. I realized that in the Blackcoat Rebellion, both characters have K names, and I freaked out. One is Knox, which is technically a K but sounds like N, but still. Calliope is the only one in The Goddess Test who still has a Greek name, which is on purpose. The places are real. I chose Eden because there's a sayingg that paradise is in upper Michigan, hell is in lower.

Q5. How long did it take you to get published and how did you deal with the rejection?
AC: I've been writing since I was 11, when I wrote fanfiction. [audience cheering] I did that for about four years, and then I started writing original material. I began to query, which took 3 years. I kept writing all through high school. No prom, no dating, no football games, etc. But by 18, I had agent, signed a contract and everything. Then, right before college, I got an email from my agent, who was a junior agent. The senior agent didn't like my  book and cancelled my contract. It was heartbreaking, especially because I'd already told everybody. I didn't want to do it again. Then I wrote The Goddess Test at 22, and my dad said, "this is the one." I got lucky the second time around. Be persistent.
RC: I knew from an early age that I wanted to write. Then, in 1977, something amazing happened.
Julie Kagawa: Star Wars! Also I was born.
RC: YES! I left the theater knowing I wanted more stories. And that I was going to marry Luke Skywalker.  I have been seeking out and writing those stories ever since. Authors couldn't write fast enough for how much you want to read the stories. The only solution to write my own. And I sucked at it but I kept writing. I wrote Girl of Fire and Thorns. I thought I was on my way, but the publisher said no way. I was crushed. I thought, it's a coming of age story, maybe it could be young adult. My agent said it was too sophisticated for young readers. [boos and other assorted angry/shocked noises coming from peanut gallery] Yeah, I'm not with her anymore. You have to know what you want to do with your writing career and pursue it with your whole heart. I had to put aside advice from professionals and pursue my own vision. So yes, I fired her and found a new agent. My book sold in 24 hours.
TM: There are so many different ways to come to publishing. No one way to get pubbed. I was not the kid who wanted to write books. It seemed monumentally difficult. Along the way, I was consumed by required reading, and slowly I forgot about books I loved. I was really pretentious about books in foreign language. Eventually I got burned out because I forgot why I fell in love with reading. I had to read with a dictionary, everything had to be examined and analyzed, papers always had to be written. I put off grad school and got a job that I didn't like. I missed reading for fun. I decided to go back to the books that made me fall in love w reading, specifically ya. I started reading young adult exclusively then and knew I wanted to write ya and be published. I didn't realize how difficult it would be. I will never forget being an aspiring author. I wrote six manuscripts before Shatter Me. I got rejected and dumped my agent. The whole process was like a rejection party in my mailboxbox. Querying is the most soulsucking experience. I never took a creative writing course, but reading taught me how to write. It's an agonizing process to get there, but it taught me two things: First is that there are many people who will never be successful because they gave up too soon and the difference is time. Never give up.
RR: Well, on one hand, I actually had relationship with a publisher. I went in with a bunch of photos and the publisher said to write a novel. I never queried, never got rejected. I got lucky. The other side of the story is that I wanted to be creative as child. Went to film school, grad school. Tried really hard for film industry. I wrote scripts. Tried to get a manager. Anything would be great so long as I was being paid to tell stories. The idea I had of being a fancy film director and audience is everyone...didn't happen. I got a job with Mental Floss, and wrote a small book, The Sherlock Holmes Handbook. I collected photographs which were kinda creepy and took them to my editor. I thought maybe they could be short stories? My editor said "Or maybe a novel," and I said, "Okay, I'll take that challenge." No expectations, no knowledge about the book industry. Miss Peregrin changed my life.
TG: I couldn't find a degree for wizarding, and I was angry at my professors and quit paleontology.  I chose to go into politics because I could be arguing. Whatever, I'll do that! Then I had a crisis in grad school: I. Hated. Politics. My dad was in Iraq, and I was aware of the fact that because of politics, I may never see dad again. I thought about peace corps or teaching, but what changed my life most was when I was in Japan, books kept me from not wanting to explore, to connect to the world, people who are different from me. Books didn't change the world but changed me. I gave myself five years to write. I wrote five novels, and the third was worth publishing. I picked out ten agents; most liked my book but said it was not ready. So I wrote another book and picked another ten agents, some were the same, some were different. I wrote another novel, which eventually became Blood Magic. This time, I wrote to one agent. I knew. I said, "You're the agent who is good for me." She said, "Can we change to Blood Magic? It's a better title." I said, "Call it whatever you want!" It sold within two months of my deadline. Rejection didn't bother me because I was so sure it was gonna happen. I just had to keep trying
NRS: I love these stories. I didn't plan on being here. At 22, I started grad school at Columbia. At the time, there was no mention of ya. Harry Potter was out, but that was it. I was writing literary fiction for adults. I spent five years writing my novel, which my family jokes is my autobiography, but it was too close to home. I sent my novel to an agent and my mom. The agent said no, and it broke my mom's heart because it was too close. So I put that novel aside and wrote something completely different. It was an adult novel about two teens, drugs, prostitution,  incest...the agents were probably wondering, "What is this?!" And they always asked, "What about parents?" I don't care! Parents are boring. Like many aspiring authors, I had a deadline to be published by 30. I signed with an agent by 30 so I thought that counted, but I was running out of time. I gave up after rejection, and I was working as a copyeditor. I was sitting in an office, feeling like failure. I went on vacation, and when I came back, the editor wondered where I had gone. I said I was writing. The editor asked if I wanted to try ghostwriting. I wrote about seventeen novels, but I won't tell you which ones. I always wrote about kids. I sold Dani Noir without an agent. Then I had 25 pages of new novel and decided to query agents, which is a weird way to do it. I had six offers after one week. My book went to auction and sold on only fifty pages. Don't know why it took me so long for that lightbulb moment but I finally found it.
L-R: Jenny Martin, Rae Carson, Nova Ren Suma, 
Tessa Gratton,Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, Aimée Carter

After the Q&A session, there was a lightning round, but I didn't get most of the answers because they were seriously rapidfire. I did catch that Tahereh's favorite city is Hogwarts and she has no idea who Kermit and Fozzie are. So that was the whole panel. Since the answers were so long, there weren't many. While everybody was in line for the signing, I was just hanging out with the blogger girls and Julie Kagawa, Katie McGarry, and upcoming debut author Julie Murphy. I was so excited when this happened:

I held it for about 15 seconds and it was glorious!
Sadly, I don't have any copies of Side Effects May Vary, which is coming to a bookstore near you March 2014, but I DO have some other signed books for you!

Open to: US/Canada only. All entries will be verified.
Ends: 12 AM July 23
Prizes: SIGNED copies of Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun, Ransom Rigg's Miss Peregrin's School for Peculiar Children, Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls, and an arc of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me (yes, an arc copy cause I found it at HPB). Please check my Review & Site Policies for full list of giveaway policies and information.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I think I'm most excited for Shatter Me, but ugh they're all so good! I'd love to go to one of these events! Anyway, thanks for the awesome giveaway!

    1. Don't worry; there will be more giveaways with books by all these authors! Thanks for entering, Kristi!

  2. I'm excited about Mrs. Peregrin's School for Peculiar Children because it's been recommended to me by several people and I keep forgetting about it. Also excited about Shatter Me! I seriously need you to send me dates for all your upcoming TX events so I can see if I can come for a visit (:

    1. There's one on August 9 set up by the Irving Public Library again. And there's the Austin Teen Book Fest in September. :)

  3. Probably Ransom Rigg's book or Tessa Gratton's because I haven't read anything by them. So they are fresh faces!

    1. I haven't either! I love meeting authors before I read their work because I can get a lot behind-the-scenes scoop that can influence the way I read it.

  4. I'm not sure because I love them all!!!

    1. It's okay to not have a favorite. They're all pretty great!

  5. Definitely The Lost Sun and Imaginary Girls. I love the cover for Imaginary Girls, and the idea of a book about Norse mythology in The Lost Sun fascinates me. I am excited about all of them though, I haven't read any of them! I am so jealous that there are SO many great author events in TX!

    1. I had no idea when I moved that there was such a wonderful book community here. I'm definitely very fortunate to have all these great opportunities. Mythology is huge, but it's nice to see Norse books getting some attention when usually it's just Greek and Roman. Not that Greek is bad; I love it! It's just nice to see something differrent. I wish Aimee and Tessa could have talked about the challenges and blessings of writing different mythologies. That would have been an awesome discussion.

  6. I'm probably most excited for Tahereh Mafi. I love her Shatter Me book series!

    1. Shatter Me is an astounding series. I can't wait for the novella (I hope she gets it done! She told me back in February that she would do another, but now I'm less confident) and the finale is going to be spectacular. I have no doubt about that.

  7. The Lost Sun - I love mythology!

    1. Mythology is amazing. I took a courses in high school and college because it completely fascinates me. I know less about Norse, though, so I'm also pretty excited to read The Lost Sun.

  8. Aimee Carter :) I'm a huge mythology buff and just got into her series!

    1. The Goddess series is so sweet. I really like her twist on Greek mythology. I'm so sympathetic to Hades after reading her series, the Starcrossed series by Josephine Angelini, and the Abandon series by Meg Cabot. Being lord of the Underworld has to be a tough job. Hades, ftw!

      Also, I'm not giving away any Aimee Carter books yet, even though she was part of both recent events, because I'm saving hers for later. Be sure to check back for an Aimee-specific giveaway!

  9. I'm most excited for Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series. And Miss Peregrin's School for Peculiar Children. :)

    1. Love Shatter Me, but I totally haven't read Miss Peregrine yet. Oops!

  10. I would say The Lost Sun actually, because I love mythology. But Shatter Me is really good, I still haven't read Unravel Me!

    1. Oh, Ariel, you definitely have to read Unravel Me! It's so good!