miércoles, 21 de marzo de 2018

Event: Tahereh Mafi & Marie Lu in San Diego [Restore Me tour]

Hello! Last Tuesday I attended Tahereh Mafi’s signing in San Diego, part of her Restore Me tour. The event took place at Mysterious Galaxy and it was hosted by author Marie Lu.
I almost didn’t make it, I had to run two blocks to catch the bus, and thankfully I arrived just on time, picked up my copy of Shatter Me and sat down. Tahereh and Marie came out at 7:00 pm.

The event was mostly Marie asking things to Tahereh and complimenting each other. After a brief introduction Marie started telling her first impression of Tahereh and how she discovered Shatter Me in BEA when it was about to be released, and praised Tahereh’s writing that continuously grows as Tahereh ages, she was 23 when Shatter Me came out in 2011. Marie commented that Shatter Me is a book that stuck with her because of the peculiar voice of the protagonist, Juliette, something new and refreshing.  Then the questions started.

[I recorded the whole event, and this below is a brief transcription, I omitted some parts to make a summary of the whole event.]

Marie Lu [ML]: What was like to return to the Shatter Me world?  You wrote the first three
novels and then you stepped away from it for a while. How did you get the idea of continuing?

Tahereh Mafi [TM]: It’s a fair question, the last book came out in 2014, 4 years ago. What happened is that at the time I thought the series was over, I felt it ended in a very good place, Juliet had grown in a great way and I was ready to move on. I think it was more that I was ready to move on artistically and creatively that that the story was over, but in the moment it felt like a good choice. I wanted to do something else, and I did, I moved into a completely different direction I wrote middle grade novels for a couple of years.

ML: Amazing middle grade novels. Furthermore and Witchwood, which if you guys haven’t read them yet, please do.

TM: And it was really fun, a different point of view, and a very fantastical magical realism. They’re very different and I had a lot of fun with that. I fully moved on from the Shatter Me series, and I was having a conversation with someone about the books one day and they asked me a question about the characters names, and I couldn’t remember their names, and I thought I probably should know the answer to that question. So I re-read them start to finish in like 12 hours because I should know what they’re about, and I enjoyed them.

ML: Because they’re great.

TM: And then I thought very clearly that the story needed to go on, and Juliette’s story became really clear to me, it became obvious to me where the story needs to go, and it just felt right. I wanted to return to the series in that story, but I also wanted to return to YA in general, so I have two books coming out this year, the first one, Restore Me, the fourth in the shatter me series, and the second one is a totally different book, a contemporary novel. Briefly it’s the most autobiographical book I’ve ever written, it’s based on my experiences as a teenager post 9-11 [Tahereh is Muslim]. It’s inspired by that but it’s also a love story. It comes out in fall this year. The next book in the Shatter Me series, book number five, comes out next spring.

ML: Getting back into writing Restore Me. Juliette’s voice is always been one of the strongest things about the series and it makes her such and intense character to follow, and you are writing as growing and changing as she is growing and changing. Was it challenging getting back into Juliette’s voice? This new series feels so different from the first series. Was different revisiting her?

TM: Yeah, of those who don’t know, the Shatter Me book, the first book, is about a 17 year old named Juliette who has been isolated for almost a year and she hasn’t touched anyone, she is kind of losing her mind and the writing reflects her inner chaos. Especially in the first book the writing is chaotic, hyperbolic and intense. As she grows and finds her voice, the writing also changes with her. We see that again in Restore Me. The writing will always evolve with her. It was easy to get back to her. When I came back to the series it was as if I had paused a move I’d been watching and when I came back it continued really nice.

ML: Also, Restore Me is from two points of view, there is also Warner’s point of view, who she hadn’t written before. How different is to write from his POV opposed to Juliette?

TM: It was great. I had a lot of questions about the dual POV because people started worrying I would kill one of them, but that’s not gonna happen.  I wrote it like this because I struggled a lot in the first three books to expand the world from Juliette’s perspective because she spent most of her time in isolation underground and she doesn’t know a lot. She was in isolation when the world went to hell and she is like “what happened?” and there’s always someone else to say “this is what happened” and Warner knows so much about what went down.

ML: I fairly enjoyed reading Warner’s POV because it’s interesting to watch him interact again with Juliette and everyone else. I love that you explored how characters heal from the pain they experienced. I think you have a great talent of digging deep into your characters. Do you have a favorite character you like to write about in the series? Is it one of the POV characters or a side character?

TM: My favorite character is Kenji, of course, he is so much fun and I have fun writing him, he reminds me a bit of myself and quite a bit of my brothers, so he feels really real to me. But I enjoy all of them in different ways; there is a lot of me in warner. I like to imagine that he has a tailor who makes all his clothing customized for him, because that is my dream.  I just want one in my house who asks me “what do you want me to make today?” the dream.
I just finished reading the second Warcross book, and it is amazing! I’m a huge Marie Lu fangirl, I own all of her books and have read them all. There’s a special place in my heart for Warcross, and I’m obsessed with it. Mark your calendars.

ML: It means a lot to me, thank you.

TM: Such a talented writer. It is visually stunning, it felt so cinematic. How was that experience to you?

ML: There is a lot of wish fulfillment. It was inspired by a lot of travels me and my husband did recently. I grew up with videogames, loving Japanese culture, and I wanted to put that into the story. And I want to go back to talking about you, you sneaky lady. You write so fast, it’s incredible; I don’t know how you do it. So, right before Restore Me you wrote your middle grade books, Furthermore and Witchwood , and they’re so lush and different. What was like getting into middle grade and writing this completely different voice?

TM: It was really fun. I didn’t know I was writing a middle grade novel, I thought I was writing another YA novel, but my editor told me it was clearly middle grade and I thought about it for a minute and got really angry, and then I realized it was definitely a middle grade novel. It was inspired by some of my favorite books like Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Princess, Chronicles of Narnia. Those are some of my favorite books and this is a love letter to all those books, and now I realize all of them are middle grade.

ML: I think it’s hard to have a natural voice that fits YA and middle grade, it’s really cool. Do you think you prefer one or the other? Was there something most challenging for you while writing Restore Me?

TM: The hardest part about writing Restore Me is that I was pregnant. I don’t know if you know this, but in the last trimester of pregnancy you actually lose 30% of your brain cells because your baby is taking them for their brain, and I felt like a potato in deadline, it was really hard. Otherwise, it was really fun to write Restore Me.

ML: I know you can’t tell much about this, but what can we generally expect of the rest of the

TM: Restore Me is the first of three more books in the series, it’s a new trilogy, and stuff happens. Do you want to talk more about Warcross? Tell what it is about.

ML: Warcross is my current series, is a duology. The first came out last fall, and is in a version of our world maybe ten years in the future, it’s about this girl Emika Chen, who is 18 years old, she is a bounty hunter. In this world there is a game called Warcross that has taken the world by storm, it was created by this young billionaire, Hideo Tanaka. Emika has admired him all her life, but now she’s down on her luck and in desperation for money she hacks into the international Warcross championships, into the game so everyone who was watching the championships can see her and the next days she is in every newspaper imaginable, and Hideo calls her and asks her if she wants to travel to Tokyo and it kinda goes from there.

TM: There is a great romance too.

ML: Hey, romance it's really hard for me to write, I actually look through your books for inspiration. romance it’s really hard to do.

TM: If you had to choose from killing a character and making them kiss, wich would you chose?

ML: Oh…

TM: Both at the same time?

ML: In terms of speed I would rather kill a character. It took me one hour to write four lines of romantic dialogue. I don’t know what people say. I really don’t know.  I like you, I like you too. None wants to read that.

TM: She’s married!

ML: mmm… well and that’s what Warcross is about, and Warcross 2 is about the same, I can't tell much about it, but there is more Emika, and more Hideo.

TM: When are you doing the title reveal?

ML: I don’t know, we’re getting close to the cover reveal, and we got a title but I have no idea when it’ll be revealed. The book should be out this fall, so, sometime between.

Before the event started, if you had a question for them you had to write it in a paper card and place it in a bowl, this to avoid spoilers, so after this talk, the part of questions from the audience started, Marie read them and excluded the ones with spoilers.

ML: What’s happening with the tv show?

TM: I don’t know. Real talk. Our executive producer guy who I loved and it's been so great, got a new job somewhere else, so we’ll see what happens.

ML: Where do you continue to draw your inspiration? And by the way I love Warner, he is my number one sexy dream book boyfriend.

TM: For warner in particular?

ML: I don’t know, its not specific.

Girl in the public: For warner

TM: I feel like warner feels like a real person to me, who came to life in the beginning of the series and now everything he does is bound by the person I met when the series started. That sounds weird as an answer. I don’t know.

ML: Did you have much say in the art direction of the stunning covers?

TM: Yes and no. The first image in the Shatter Me cover is inspired by an image created by someone named Cheri Davenport, it's like an eye with a waterfall, but it's more monstrous, and scary looking, and I asked my publisher to make it prettier.

ML: Which character would you like to date, and who would be your BFF?

TM: I’m married and I really like my husband. Love him in fact, so I chose him over a fictional character. But BFF. almost definitely Kenji.

ML: What is the most drastic thing you’ve had to do to meet a deadline?

TM: I don’t know, what's the most drastic thing you’ve done?

ML: Kill a man.

TM: Poor man.

ML: If I had to go to a event I would lie and say I got the pox.

TM: I don’t have an interesting answer to this. I’ve never missed a deadline. I’m looking at my husband, like “you know?” [Ransom Riggs, Tahereh’s husband, was there as well taking pictures]

RR: Don’t sleep?

TM: Oh yeah,  don’t sleep, but that goes without saying. Give up on food and water? I don’t return my mom’s phone calls.

ML: Do you have a muse for Warner?
Someone in the audience pointed to Ransom.

TM: No, I had Warner before I met my husband.

ML: Why do you chose the settings that you do?

TM: I usually say that I create the characters first and the setting grows up around them. I always create the characters first and they always have a voice and a story, Who are they? What’s their deal? What’s happening? When I started writing Shatter Me I had this image of a girl inside my head. I could see her very clearly, a girl in a corner in complete isolation, and I wanted to know who she was so I started asking questions, and the world built up around her.

ML: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

TM: Only one thing? Hmmm. There’s so many things. I guess it’s the thing, that in any industry, not just publishing, people want to work with people they like. So don’t be a not nice person. It’s the most important thing in everything you do.
There’s this saying about being a triangle. In order to do any kind of work in any industry you have to be two of these things all the time: be very good at your job, be a very good person, and meet all your deadlines. You have to be two of those things at all times. My favorite combination is to be all three, but if you can't, try to be nice and meet your deadlines.

After that the signing started, I was number 11, so I didn’t wait long. I asked Marie Lu to recommend me a song to listen while reading Batman Nightwalker, and she told me to listen You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen. I also asked her what’s next for her after Warcross 2, she told me she has something next, but can’t talk about it yet.

When I talked with Tahereh I asked her to recommend me a song to listen while reading Shatter Me or Furthermore, and she told me that she didn’t had a specific song in mind, but Shatter Me is sad and Furthermore is happy.

So, that was it, I hope you like this post :) Have you read these authors?

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