Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pitch Dark Days Tour: Cambridge, Mass.

I was thrilled to be able to attend the Cambridge stop of the Pitch Dark Days Tour and meet Veronica Rossi, Tahereh Mafi, Cynthia Hand and Brodi Ashton. I've read and LOVED all four authors' books, and have been excited for this event since the schedule was posted. But my family was plagued by illness all week, and a snow storm was predicted for the next day, so I was certain that I wouldn't be able to attend for some catastrophic reason. Thankfully, I didn't get sick, the snowpocalypse didn't hit until Friday, and the event was even more fun than I imagined! 

The tour stop was at the Harvard Coop, which is a fantastic and very large bookstore in Harvard Square. These banners are so wealthy boarding school (or Hogwarts). 

The staircase going up to the event, which was on the third floor (I'm sure you were all salivating for that information.) You can also see a peak of all the students studying at the  cafĂ©

I went with two of my friends, who are also big readers. I gave them both Unearthly for Christmas and it was such fun to meet Cynthia Hand together. (PS. Erin Bowman was sitting directly behind us, though I didn't know it until later. Sneaky authors! She was really nice too.)

This isn't a great photo (or rather, it's a true candid), but this was my view of the "stage." The person speaking is a Coop employee introducing the four authors. Unfortunately, I didn't get her name. But she was great. 

With Cynthia Hand and Brodi Ashton. I can't even tell that part of Ashton's bangs are missing, can you? (See below for an explanation.) Also, it's nice to find some fellow blondes out in the world :)

With Veronica Rossi and Tahereh Mafi. I look like I'm trying to jump into the camera here, but really I was ducking, because I'm taller than both.

So I made this shirt...

When Tahereh Mafi saw my shirt, she wasn't sure if I'd read Unravel Me yet, and said "I'm sorry for you!" But when I told her I'd read the book and am still Team Adam all the way, she said "so you're in it for the long haul?" Hope that means good things for the white bird to fly again :). 

(the signing line and seating area)

NOTE: Below I've typed up my notes from the authors' talk. It is massively long.* 

Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Tahereh Mafi and Veronica Rossi were introduced with a brief bio for each, and then HarperCollins publicist Alison Lisnow asked them a series of questions that they answered.

1) Describe your series: (This by no means everything they said, just what stood out to me.)

Brodi Ashton on Everneath:“It’s about a girl trapped in the underworld for 100 years getting the life force sucked out of her by a hot immortal who plays the guitar. She then goes back to high school to see her boyfriend who has six-pack abs.”

Cynthia Hand on Boundless (Final book in the Unearthly series): “Boundless is about Clara figuring out who she is outside of her purpose – as well as within it.”

Tahereh Mafi on Shatter Me: “The chaotic prose in the story is a visual representation of Juliette’s shattered state of mind. The cross outs etc. decrease as the story progresses.”

"There is a lot of kissing.”

Shatter Me is about a girl trying to find herself in a world telling her who to be.”

Veronica Rossi on Under the Never Sky: “UTNS is a post-apocalyptic adventure, romance.” (I am horrible at categorizing stories, so it was helpful for her to lay it out for me).

"In Through The Ever Night, the scope of the story broadens, and the two opposing societies (Dwellers and Outsiders) are fighting to find a safe haven. Aria and Perry are at the center of the struggle."

2) When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Rossi: Started writing only 9-10 years ago. She was an oil painter before and used to do large-scale canvases that she’d work on constantly until they were done (like 48 hours). Then she had a baby and realized she couldn’t sustain that pace. She’d been writing journals since high school (one of them sits on her desk now), and she began writing books instead.

The visual aspect of storytelling is very important to Rossi. She sketches images as she writes. “I work really hard to make sure I’m painting a picture with my words.”

Mafi: Has been a lifelong reader, and never thought she could write. She forgot what it was like to read for fun in college, because she was so academically focused. But then after college she started reading for pleasure again. She read 100 books in a month, and then started writing a book. She also got her book deal at 23.

Mafi once wrote a story about a girl with purple magical eyelashes.

Hand: Used to write Star Wars/Star Trek fan fiction, which was a great way to work on her writing skills. Except, “it’s hard to learn to write endings with fan fiction.”

Hand went to law school before realizing it wasn’t for her. Then she was lucky to be accepted into an MFA program, because she had very little usable writing experience. She wrote mostly literary fiction during her MFA program, though it wasn’t until she started writing about Idaho that others’ really took notice.

Ashton: Hated writing essays in school. She also didn’t start writing until after she had her first child. (This led into a whole discussion about her “putting baby in the corner,” which got everyone laughing.)

Ashton started writing YA after she had written a story about an alien girl who was 26 and living at home with her father and a curfew. When Ashton showed the story to her agent, her agent said “isn’t this a teenager?” When Ashton started writing Everneath, she decided to write the exact opposite of the alien story.

3) These days being an author also means being a part of the social media community, not just writing on your own. How do you balance everything?

Mafi: Is obsessed with the Internet, especially twitter and tumblr. The problem for many authors is they look at social media as a task, but she loves it.

Mafi then informed us about tumblr lingo, including “I need a bucket for my crays,” OTP and ship. **I hope she does a blog post on this sometime!**

Rossi: Talked about the awesome YA writing community, and said it is tricky to balance it all.

Hand: Loves how connected you can be to fans and each other, but says it is also important to guard your writing time and writing self. She wrote Hallowed longhand in a notebook at the library to get away from the Internet. Though by the time she wrote Boundless, she’d found a better balance with the computer. She’s also an advocate for the Freedom app, which locks you out of the Internet for periods of time.

Ashton: Talked about how writing her first book was a very solitary experience, but once she was published, writing became much more social.

Then we were treated to Ashton’s “hair burning” incident - basically she burned half of her bangs this morning with the iron. Rossi, Mafi and Hand were all very helpful and encouraging after it happened, illustrating the writer's community at work. (Honestly,  I could not tell any hair was missing at all!)

4) What is your favorite scene from your current book?

Hand on Boundless: The scene on page 342. Hand had been waiting to write that scene since the first book. It took her two tries to get it right, and was “so happy for Clara” when it was done.

Mafi on Shatter Me: Regarding the shower scene in Shatter Me where Juliette discovers Adam’s bird tattoo. Apparently that scene made Mafi’s Thanksgiving uncomfortable one year. Her brother also has a bird tattoo on his chest, and he couldn’t quite figure out what Mafi was saying by giving Adam one too. He’s also the only one of her brothers who has read her book (there are four of them) and Mafi is fairly certain that he warned the others.

Mafi also went on about chapter 62 in Unravel Me a bit…yes, THAT scene. Honestly, I blocked it all out. TEAM ADAM.

Rossi on Through The Ever Night: Her favorite scene is the one in which Aria sings a duet with Roar. Rossi loves their friendship (so do I!), and said she had a lot of fun writing that song. She even mentioned wanting to record it with music. **I hope that happens**

Ashton on Everbound: Her favorite scene takes place when Nikki and Cole are trapped in a dark cellar. Cole talks about eternal punishments and explains how his attraction to Nikki is like an eternal punishment. Like Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill.

Then Ashton asked the audience: Do you view your relationships that way? Oh Cole…

Audience questions:

1) Cynthia Hand was asked whether she every envisioned an alternate ending for Clara – i.e. an ending in which the Other Guy got her?

Her answer was an emphatic “NO.”

2) Tahereh Mafi was asked whether she always planned Warner to be so well rounded – i.e. did she know what he would be like in Unravel Me when she wrote Shatter Me?

Mafi said that she started Shatter Me with an idea and wrote through the book from start to finish. She didn’t plot, or think through the series when she began writing. However, by the time she finished writing the first book, she had plotted out the characters (including Warner), as well as the full story.

Mafi also mentioned that Warner is a ‘pseudo’ bad guy and you don’t meet the actual villain until book 2 (One guess who he is. *shudder*).

3) Have you thought about writing other genres or for other age groups?

Hand: Plans to keep writing YA (at least for now). All of her current ideas are for young adults. But she mentioned loving the Middle Grade age, especially that readers at that age “fall in love so hard” with the books they read.

Ashton: Loves writing for young adults, because “everything is all consuming.” She stated that she would not write for anyone else. Ever.

Mafi: Talked about how much she loves picture books. Her favorite authors are Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. (I’ve noticed Mafi is really good at interesting non-answers J)

Rossi: Would write for any age, and is really motivated to challenge herself as a writer.

4) How did your e-novellas come to be written?

All four authors stated that they were approached by their publisher to write a novella to fit within the series.

Mafi: Was approached about writing a novella prequel for Shatter Me. Although she liked the novella idea, she thought a prequel sounded boring. Because Warner disappears at the end of Shatter Me, she wanted to write from his perspective instead (good thinking!).

**I am leading a campaign for an Adam novella to come out next. I think that he probably has some important things to say as well.**

Rossi: Originally envisioned her Under the Never Sky series as 4 books with the second being from Roar’s perspective. When the series didn’t work that way she was excited to give Roar and Liv their own novella.

Hand: Also, first plotted the Unearthly series as 4 books. Clara’s time in Italy was the first three chapters of book 3. When the series was cut to three books, she switched those sections to a novella and added Angela’s perspective.   

Ashton: Didn’t realize how difficult it would be to write a novella when she was asked to add one ("It’s like a short book!"). She thought it was “really hard” and does not plan to do it again. She also said that she keeps forgetting about her novella. When her sister asked whether the Delphinians would show up again, she couldn’t remember who they were. (I think she was joking...)

Also of note, Ashton stated, “I still don’t know how Cole feels about Nikki.” Very interesting, in light of the events of Everbound

Rossi, Mafi, Hand and Brodi represent their men on my shirt. This photo isn't the best, you can see a better one on Alison Lisnow's twitter page HERE

If you're interested in my thoughts on these four authors' novels, see my reviews:

*Although this is taken directly from my notes, I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in information. 
**These are less polished Goodreads reviews. I wrote them before I started blogging. 


  1. What a great post. Tons of great information!

    Love the Brodi Ashton story. Right before I had to attend some big event, one of my kids was brushing my hair and got the brush all tangled in it right before we had to leave the house. Our babysitter had to cut it out with scissors. So I had a baldish spot on the back of my head.

    (And I get "bucket for crays" and OTP but IDK, "ship" still just doesn't work for me.)

    1. Thanks, Jen. I had so much fun at this event. And I love remembering all the little tidbits of information. You never know what might be important later!

      Also, I can't even imagine having to leave the house after a hair incident like yours! I bet no one even noticed your hair was missing, though.

  2. Aaah, this is fantastic, Lauren! Thanks for sharing and I love the responses to some of these questions. Rossi's favorite scene was one of mine as well - Aria and Roar are just amazing! :) Lovely post, dear, and you're so lucky you got to meet these authors! :D

    1. Thanks, K! I am very blessed to have met these authors. I still can't believe they were all together and in my area. Yes, they definitely had many interesting things to say, plus they were all engaging and fun. Oh Aria and Roar, what an amazing friendship.

  3. Loved your recap. Bravo my friend!

  4. Such a great recap, Lauren! It was interesting to see what they said at your event that they also talked about at the one I attended, but I really loved the stuff you included that wasn't discussed at my event (at least in front of the whole crowd).

    SO interesting to hear about the novella thing, especially since all four have them. I'm not really surprised that they were asked to do it by the publisher, but I'm really intrigued by the fact that Rossi and Hand planned to have four books in their series. Honestly, I want a fourth book by Rossi all about Roar. I'd be all over that.

    And cracked up reading about Tahereh and Tumblr! That didn't come up at our event but I so wish it did!

    Also, loved your shirt! SO FUN!

    1. Thanks, Hannah! I agree, fun to read recaps from different people to see everything that they've said. And I love getting little tidbits like about the novellas. I agree, MORE ROAR. He is fantastic. I think the authors at my event were tired of saying the same things, so Mafi livened up her answers a bit. They were all so great.

  5. AWESOME, AWESOME post my friend! Sorry I'm commenting a day late, I was at a baseball park most of the day yesterday:)

    I love that V. Rossi was an oil painter! I love that Mafi talks about falling behind on reading for pleasure during her college years (ME TOO!)I love that Hand didn't get much notice until she started writing about Idaho, Go Idahoans!!

    But LAUREN, I cannot believe you blanked out when Mafi started talking about ch. 62 of Unravel Me!! WTH?? Guess I am going to have to hound Asheley for the down low..;)

    1. Don't get too excited! It sounds way more dramatic than it was. Really Mafi just mentioned how it's everyone's favorite scene. She didn't give any hidden details about out, I promise! Maybe Asheley got some though.

      Yes it was fun to get some personal details about the authors, All the things you said are moments that stood out to me as well. Are you from Idaho? It sounds like a beautiful state!

  6. Ahh so cool, Lauren! I love that you created and wore that shirt! Of all the books, the only one I've read is Shatter Me. (Clearly I need to fix that. I own the ebooks of Everneath and Everbound now, so I'll be reading those soon.) Looks like you had a fun time! I swear I really need to attend an author reading/signing at some point.

  7. This is so cool! I have met Cynthia Hand, but not the others. The tour is coming here though, so hopefully I can make it.
    I LOVE your shirt!
    It looks like you had a lot of fun and I seriously need to get busy reading because I have Unravel Me, Everbound, Boundless and Through the Ever Night but haven't got a chance to read any of them yet!

  8. Oh my stars, Lauren, this recap is EPIC. I have so many things to say, so I am just going to be awful and bullet point them.

    -- Awesome bookstore. Love that spiral staircase.
    -- The photos of you with both sets of authors are great.
    -- I love that you went with friends you gave UNEARTHLY to!
    -- Your recap of the questions are wonderful, thank you so much.

    As soon as I read your "what's your favorite scene" question, I went straight to my copy of BOUNDLESS to see if I was right about which one it was--and it WAS. I started tearing up again too, because that's also my favorite scene from the book. And as you know from our epic discussions, it was a difficult read in many ways.

    I want you to do all the recaps from all the events, okay? Get back to me on that.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I wish someone would pay me to go to all the author events and write about them! That would be a fun job. I love attending as many in my area as I can get to. It hasn't been a lot so far, but I've been going to as many as I can (my first was the Monstrous Beauty book launch)! Anyway this event was pretty amazing and all the authors were fantastic. I love getting extra little details about them and their books. So far every author I met has enhanced my experience with their book.

      I agree. That BOUNDLESS scene was amazing. It is definitely one of my favorites as well.

  9. Lauren, what a great wrap up. The woman from the Coop is Kim (I'm kiiiiind of a frequent visitor, lol). She's awesome. I have to say I am fully Team Warner and Team Tucker so we'll have to disagree on that one, but I loved reading your experience and it was so nice to meet you. And sit behind you! ;o) I look forward to more of your tour wrap ups.

  10. Oh this is good. There was some overlapping in the things that they said, but actually not everything. You crack me up with blocking out Chapter 62. I'm Team Adam but even I don't want to block out Chapter 62! BAHAHAHA. Not even joking.

    I campaigned HARD for that Adam novella. She was very interested in this. I also gave her a run-down of our entire Shatter Me series shenanigans, including the email threads that were 70+ strong. I need to finish my recap. Such a fun event. We so rarely get things like this in NC!

    Loved your shirt. So glad you got to go and have a great time. :)


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