Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books, They are Legion

Saturday was the National Book Fest in DC. For whatever reason, I read the list of authors every year and always notice a new name time I every reread it. No idea why, but it happens this way every year.
Since Suzanne Collins was speaking, I finished off the Hunger Games trilogy (literally the night before) not because I thought she would spoil anything, but I figured I would need to be there early and knew that there was some controversy on the interwebs about the ending, so didn't want to have to cover my ears for fear someone would be discussing it with their friends. (And of course, because I was done, no one did in my earshot, although one person tried to ask a question in the Q&A about the end, and was warned off.)
So, I got downtown early enough to stop at Starbucks before I headed to the tenets, which led to two people asking me where was the Starbucks. I was there early enough to hear most of Brad Meltzer's talk about the heroes book he wrote for his son, which was really interesting. He is working on a book for his daughter also. During the Q&A a gentleman came up and said his wife had heard him speak about "Never take no" and as a result she finished her book, and he handed Mr. Meltzer the manuscript. Meltzer told the story of his first book being universally rejected and how he decided he wasn't going to stop, wasn't going to take no for an answer, he was going to keep going and keep writing and people have told him that touched him, but no one had ever brought him a book.
Suzanne Collins spoke about how being an Air Force brat in a family that was big into war history, and remembering watching her dad go off to(and thankfully return from) Vietnam made her understand and appreciate that war is not something we can keep kids separate from, that they are already involved in a myriad of ways, so her books reflect that. She was asked about advice for young writers, and she said read. She also said, if they were already writing they were ahead of her, since she didn't start until her twenties.
Martha Grimes was asked about how much time passes between her books, since she has so many related stories and she answered that well, she wasn't getting any older, so no reason her characters should. And more seriously, that no, she felt the related books generally occurred close together even if it took her several years to write the next one. And one woman got up and told her she had thirty weeks of bedrest to get through and Grimes's books had gotten her through that.
Peter Straub talked about figuring out how to read on his own, and then being annoyed when he hit kindergarten and they wanted him to cut out elephant shapes - mentioning his real life had never once called for such a skill. And in response to a question, talked about how he got a great blurb from Stephen King that just really seemed to get him, and then reading his stuff and being blown away and sending him a letter and finally meeting him and they got along and wanted to write together and figured out between their two contracts they would be able to do that in four years. He also said most people can't tell which part each wrote, except Neil Gaiman apparently has the gift.
Karin Slaughter spoke of how libraries are in crisis, and libraries provide books, book recommendations and access to technology to a lot of areas and if we lose that there is nothing else that will provide that. In response to a question, she said she researches all the sex in her books herself and then watch the sign language interpreter closely adding, she just wanted to know what the sign was for sex. She also spoke of going on exercises with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and how her conversations with female cops found that conditions have not changed much for them. Slaughter also talked about her sister being diagnosed very late in life with dyslexia and researching that and discovering a lot of the qualities that folks with dyslexia have, sounded like a great detective so dovetailed with her desire to create a character who had a learning disability but was the hero, not the villain or sidekick. And also Lena, (oh, Lena) that in most books the girl who was sexually assaulted is either just a victim in one story, or, if she comes back it's so the love of a strong, virile man can heal her. And she wanted to look at a more natural progression of recovery.
Slaughter (yes, I really enjoyed her talk, not that the others weren't fabulous too) also talked about people saying she seemed super nice for someone who wrote books with dead people, and she said thriller writers in her experience were all pretty goofy, and she thought maybe they got their angst out (as opposed to the nasty romance writers or the drunken kids authors - kidding!)
They have started putting up videos and podcasts from this year here. Take a look!