Dark Days of Winter 2014 Recap

Last fall, Aubry and Margot announced the Dark Days of Winter tour on a special Epic Reads Tea Time, and I was like, "Tennessee, huh? Time to visit the fam!" For the rest of the fall and winter, I planned and saved to get ready for my trip. On February 20, around 7 am, my sister, 4 month old niece, and I climbed into my car and began our 10 hour (not including stops, which were frequent because, hello, infant!) trek back to the homeland. Oh, and by the way, this happened:

For some context, this radar shot is from about 9:40 PM. The event started at...6:30? I think? That line of storms basically just sat around during the entire event, which was at the B&N just south of Nashville proper in Brentwood. The storms were so bad that the B&N employees asked us to stay inside. There was thunder. There was lightning. There were tornado watches. Kiersten joked that it was an ether storm, courtesy of Veronica.

This event will stand as one of my favorites because there were a lot of authors in the house, even more than the four actually on tour. I got to meet some of my favorites, and that just made my whole trip awesome! Although I wish I'd known in advance that they were coming because I totally own some of their books!

Left to right: Beth Revis, Victoria Schwab, Courtney C. Stevens, Ransom Riggs, me, Stephanie Perkins! Side note: Beth, Victoria, and Stephanie were kind enough to sign some extra books for me so...yeah. ;)

I was also really glad to see my college friend Aleesha at the event and blogger friend Jessica of Lovin' Los Libros. I may be a Texan now, but that doesn't mean that going back to Tennessee doesn't feel like coming home. <3

me with Jessica

Q1. All your books feature very strong heroines. Were you inspired by any other strong literary heroinces/
Sophie Jordan (SJ): There are soooo many in fiction. Anne of Green Gables. Also just what is fascinating, taking a character who is weak, put her through a difficult situation. She will gain strength and courage throughout.
Tahereh Mafi (TM): Matilda is my favorite heroine in fiction. She is one of the fiercest heroines, and she chose books over everything. I really admired her for her great inner strength.
Veronica Rossi (VR): Hermione. You can't get too much better than her, although I didn't actively model Aria after any character or even a real person.
Kiersten White (KW): I used to read a lot of high fantasy when I was younger, and it's always a lot of guys with powers saving the world with lots of girls who are their love interests. When I read the Wheel of Time series with not one, not two, but three love interests, I thought no. We need more strong girls. Boys are great; they make excellent kissing scene partners. I didnt have it growing up. My girls are not necessarily the strongest, but they do the best with what they have.

Veronica & Tahereh

Q2. Pantsers or plotters?
SJ: I have to sit down and plot to answer those questions. I think about things, make it plausible. I create a map and then don't always follow it at all.
TM: There's no one right way to write a book. One author may do it differently for each book. I say if you've got a finished book, you're doing it right. I like the first book to be organic. Then I'll have a loose outline. It changes book to book. I like that writing is a pants-optional lifestyle.
VR: I agree with that. The middle book is very different from the first or the last. Also, each genre may be different. I just wrote a manuscript which is 350 pages with little plot.
KW: I hate wearing pants... It varies book by book. Some I outline; some I didn't know I was going to write until I sat down to write it.

Q3. Do you feel self-conscious when writing? How do you break through when you don't feel good about what you're writing?
SJ: I can't call my mom because she tells me that's just stupid. So I tell my writer friends, and my husband asks who he needs to throat punch. I let it come in the first draft; I don't judge myself. I know it'll come with editing.
TM: Writers are so so weird, which is why this is fun. I have some days when I'm writing, and I'm in it, in the zone–Auto Zone–and then I go to bed and wake up and I'm like, "that was terrible! What am I doimg?!" In the span of twelve hours, I think I am a genius/I am the worst! There's no solution. It helps to talk about it. Ransom and my mom, anyone who will listen. The worst is when they agree with you, say, "you bring up a good point," and I'm like, "no stop! All I need is for you to agree with me!"
VR: Finding people who understand is key, but for me, it's a question whether I need to step away for a little bit. When you have those little crises, it's a fear thing. I like to go on a binge of things I find inspiring. We have such a great community, so many people you can lean on.
KW: I don't have that option. It's good to have author friends because they understand. Normal people don't understand like accountants...
[they asked their writer friends in the audience to share their thoughts, and this was the best answer]
Beth Revis: VODKA

Q4. Veronica and Tahereh, where are your books set in the modern world?
TM: I purposely did not want to clarify; I wanted it to feel like anywhere. But it was always in my mind as southern California.
VR: I also deliberately didn't say where, but I did a lot of research in central California.

Kiersten & Sophie

Q5. What was your favorite book to write?
KW: Mind Games. It was wonderful and obsessive and I totally lost myself to it. I wrote it in nine days and spent time editing it. Meanwhile The Chaos of Stars took a year and a half. It was the one that was least fun to write but means the most to me.
SJ: Firelight is special because it was my first ya. Now it is Uninvited because it's done. It's the near future, where I grew up, modeled after my school campus. There was a cage at my school that was the on-campus suspension room.
VR: It's not the one I finished, but the one I'm working on now because I'm so excited about it.
TM: Veronica and I are always seated next to each other because we're in love. We're getting married. Our husbands are attending. My answer is the same. I can't talk about what I'm working on now, but it is the best thing I've ever written.

Q6. If you could live in any book world, what would it be?
SJ: I don't know!
VR: Harry Potter.
KW: Harry Potter.
Audience member: Even if you were a Muggle?
KW: Of course I wouldnt be a Muggle!
TM: How dare you! I agree, but I'd also live in Stars Hollow with Lorelei and Rory Gilmore.

 ALL the authors!

Q7. What are your best tricks for getting past writers' block?
SJ: I skipped to a scene I was really excited about, and then I wrote the whole book out of sequence. Some people can do that; that's their process.
KW: have you ever heard of accountants block or plumbers block? Well, no, I did know of a plumber with plumbers block. I know what I need to do, but I'd rather watch 4seasons of dr. Who. Writers block happens when im writing the wrong story or I'm forcing the characters to do something they shouldnt. I messed something up. Getting started is the hardest part.
TM: I agree. That was beautiful. I have nothing to add.
VR: Yep. I agree.
KW: I wrote the hottest scene in book [Annie & ____ in Perfect Lies] for Stephanie Perkims and then knew I would have to format book to keep that scene. Sorry, I answered twice. That was so rude!

Q8. Where do you find your inspiration?
SJ: It's the little things that have happened in the course of our lives. The cage from my school stayed with me and when I needed it, I could pull it.
TM: I would just say writers are thieves. We steal anything from anyone and everyone. We are inspired from totally random things. When I'm thinking about a book, I put on headphones and go on tumblr and infinite scroll. So much talent. That's when I can't leave my house. I dive into a story. I surround myself with art and literature. If I can leave, I'll go on an adventure. You need input for output.
VR: There was an art teacher who looked down on a boy for creating a painting in four hours, but it didn't just take four hours. It really took nineteen years. You are culmination of your experience. It's hard for me to say this one particular thing is so inspiring.
KW: I draw my inspiration from Tahereh's life. People are so fascinating. I also get inspiration from consuming other forms of entertainment. Movies, music, travel to other landscapes.

Kiersten & Sophie, two of my favorites to hang out with

Q9. Do you get emotional while writing? How do you cope?
SJ: It's okay to cry. Better to be emotional because you want to evoke emotion in the reader.
TM: I write my books in bursts. When I am writing a character, I need to throw muself into their life, their emotions. I feel like I have a fever, hot, dizzy confused. I feel very deeply. If I can't feel it, you can't.
VR: I think I write for that reason. Otherwise it's boring. Who wants to read a book that doesn't illicit emotion?
KW: I have no emotions. I'm a robot.

Q10. Was it daunting to go into the last book of a series?
SJ: I thought knew how Firelight would end, but I wrote the ending, then wrote another. I had two equally viable endings. I wanted a chose your own ending, but my editor said no, I had to pick.
TM: I felt true fear when writing the third book because the third book is one big decision: choosing between this person or that person. She chooses to be awesome, I do whatever the hell I want. That was what I wanted to come across more than anything else. But yes, lots of threats. Emails and tweets. You guys have a lot of feelings! There's no way to satisfy everyone. Once you understand that, you have to go with your gut!
VR: I had more fear with the second book. We're usually writing a year behind. There was a whole host of things I was getting feedback on. By the time the third one rolled around, I found my true north again. I know what I want to do. I want my fans, my editor, my agent to be happy.
KW: Someone wrote a new last chapter to Endlessly. They changed everything. I found this amuaing, but I like how I ended it. It's an emotionally honest ending; there is a catharsis whether or not it ends how you wanted it to end. Young adult is about letting your characters grow through horrible experiences and leaving them at the gates of adulthod.

This is serious deja vu. I've seen Tahereh and Veronica on three Dark Days tours, Tahereh once at the Irving Library, Sophie about four times this year, and Kiersten at two different TLA conferences plust this tour. These ladies are awesome, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see them so much. Let's do it again! (actually, we ARE doing it again. Veronica will be in Dallas in July and Sophie in October)

I already posted my recap for the 2014 Dark Days of Summer tour, and to celebrate all the Dark Days-ness going on, I'm holding a giveaway! Two winners will be chosen, and each will win a set of four signed books with each set representing either the summer or winter tour. First place will get to choose which set they want, and second place will receive the other. This giveaway is US only.

Winter prize pack: signed copies of Sophie Jordan's Uninvited, Kiersten White's Perfect Lies, Veronica Rossi's Into the Still Blue, and Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me
Summer prize pack: signed copies of Kelley Armstrong's Sea of Shadows, Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die, Kimberly Derting's The Taking, and Kiera Cass's The One

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  1. I'm reading Rebel Belle, and it's interesting.

    The event sounds like it was fun, and all of the pictures are great!

  2. They sound like a fun bunch of ladies. Nice post and pictures. :)

  3. I'm reading Backwoods Armageddon by my friend and her husband, indie author Angela Roquet and Paul Ross. It's a little quirky, but I like it so far.

  4. I'm reading Prisoner of Night and Fog. I really like how the author is using mostly historical things, not just creating facts.

  5. I just finished A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger and LOVED IT!!!

    1. Crap! I think I just put the wrong share link in. It was supposed to be this one *facepalm* http://kellisamberlee.tumblr.com/post/87603575344/mary-had-a-little-book-blog-dark-days-of-winter-2014

  6. I'm reading Standing Stone by Patrick Egan. It's historical fiction, which isn't my favorite, but I like the writing style.

  7. I am currently doing a Game of Thrones read along, and I'm also reading Wicked Misery by Tracey Martin. Both are re-reads for me and both are really good books! :D

  8. I'm actually trying to figure out what my next read will be... I'm in the middle of, and need to finish, The 5th Wave before I go crazy though!! (Been reading it when I visit B&N)

  9. I just started Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong. It's my first book by her and so far it is really engaging, so we'll see, I've heard mixed reviews about it.

  10. I am reading Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and I am really liking it right now. Thanks for the giveaway!! :)

  11. Ugh I wish I could have seen Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs! They are my ultimate faves! I am reading The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas. It's an ARC I got off of edelweiss. It's good so far. There are some major twists that I SO did not see coming. :)

  12. I am reading four books right now, but my pleasure read is No Place Like Oz by D. Paige. It is the prequel novella to Dorothy Must Die and I am reading it before DMD for the backstory.

  13. I am currently reading Half Bad by Sally Green. It is interesting. It has grabbed my attention and I am interested to see what else happens. I wasn't sure I would like it at first.
    So many awesome authors that you got to meet! I am especially jealous of meeting Veronica Rossi, I would love to meet her!
    Wonderful interview! Thanks for the giveaway!