Sorry to tease about the costume. It just took a while to get these posts together, and I've been in the thick of writing, on top of which various plagues have been smiting this household all winter and we're just recuperating from the last round. Whew! But here it is, part II of My British Publishers Are So Awesome (for Part I, click HERE.)
SO. The Prangsta folk handed me a frothy bundle of garments, which I took into the loo and tried to make sense of. No such luck. I needed help. There were layered skirts and underthings. It was complicated. So Holly gave me guidance, and then used some sort of tool to gather up the bouffy skirt in clusters. I don't know how to describe it, so I'll just show you.
This was so fun. I love costume and design and makeup and weirdness, but I never do it, even on Halloween, out of sheer lame laziness. I am feeling now a powerful will to un-lame and un-lazy, and get a costume closet going. I mean, COSTUMES! FUN!
My hair was given a bit of volume.
Maybe I should do this in my normal life, ha ha.
My face, a bit of color.
So there it is. Aren't those horns to die for? *want want!*
Here's the whole ensemble:
James and Auriol, Hodder's Sales/Marketing Director and Creative Director, were emcees for the evening, and were all done up too. James, looking completely at home as a gentlemen fox:
Kate played along in the towering wig. (Auriol on right. Isn't Auriol a cool name?)
Francine and Laure in horns and serpents.
And then things began to happen very fast. When I arrived it was mostly the Prangsta gang onsite, but at a certain point, the musicians were summoned -- I later learned they went to the Sales Conference, which was just letting out, and played the whole company of 200 of so back through Picadilly to the Cafe de Paris. (Which is totally from the book, squee squee) So everyone showed up AT ONCE.
And with that, the night was underway. We were champagned and appetizered and harried to our seats. CEO Jamie Hodder-Williams made opening remarks and introduced James and Auriol . . .
. . . who were deliciously dramatic, circulating among the tables . . .
And then it was to the authors. Ulp. There were six or seven of us in attendance, and we had each been asked to speak for two minutes on the subject of "Out of the Ordinary."
My favorite subject, as luck would have it!
When it comes to public speaking, I don't try to speak off the cuff. EVER. (I still shudder to think of one horrible Model United Nations conference in high school when I was unexpectedly ceded the floor. It. Did not. Go well.) So I had written out what I wanted to say, as I always always do, and just barely managed to scramble back to the boudoir and dig my wrinkled and marked-up sheet of paper out from under a table in time to sit down. Whew. Commence sweating!
John Connolly was the first to speak. Yes, that John Connolly. Many-times best-selling author of crime thrillers. Charming Irishman. Funny. Off the cuff.
The role of the angel and devil became clear. The devil was to harrass any author who went longer than two minutes. John Connolly got harrassed. The next author was congratulated by the angel for his concise delivery.
Incidentally, he was also funny and charming and off-the-cuff. Not another crib sheet in sight. Also, these guys are Irish and English, they are adult authors, not my usual YA posse, and I was the only American in sight. Suddenly, my prepared comments seemed verrrry out of step.
*Panic. Panic. Panic.*
No time to panic. Next was ... ME. James' introduction was so awesome I felt kind of out of my body, like it was somebody else they were talking about, on top of which I ... looked like someone else, ha! Anyway, I went on up, and I said some version of this, which is pretty much about why I write, and for who:
The theme of the evening is perfect for me; it touches not only what I write, but why I write.
Writers get asked a lot if a certain character is modeled after anyone in particular, and the answer for me is always no, with one exception. In my last book, Lips Touch, there’s a character who is me. Young me, not in any of the particulars, but in her profound yearning for a life out of the ordinary.
Her name is Kizzy:
Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a ship into the sea, who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, and freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sands, just like the nomads.
She wanted it all so bad her soul leaned half out of her body hungering after it, and that was what drove the goblins wild, her soul hanging out there like an untucked shirt.
Kizzy was the easiest character I’ve ever written, because I was channeling my own seventeen-year-old self, whose longing for a big strange life was so intense that a passing goblin could certainly have tasted it in the air.
At the heart of things, I write for her.
I write because, as wonderful as life is—and it is truly wonderful—it isn’t enough. It does not, for example, contain dragons. I find this unsatisfactory. So I read. And I write.
I write for the urgent and wishful girls and young women who are still in the grip of that powerful yearning for the extraordinary. And I write for the inner Kizzies, because although we gradually grow into a kind of pragmatism about our lives, and our dreams mature—I wouldn’t really want to ruin someone, for example (unless they really deserved it)—I don’t think they ever really go away.
The books I love are still the ones that she would have loved, my younger self: the books that make me want to climb inside of them and live in them. Those are the kind of books I try to write.
With Daughter of Smoke and Bone, that was my touchstone at every turn. Would I want to live this, be this?
The book began as a writing day stolen from another work in progress that was turning out to not be fun. I wanted to remember how dazzling writing can be, I wanted to try to write the book I want to read, so I went for pure wish-fulfillment for my inner Kizzy.
I think that the books that make us readers leave an imprint that will always seek to be filled, and that the dreams that fill us and haunt us during our most powerful years of becoming, stay with us, in some form, forever. I think that the reason I write what I write is because of the passion and urgency and hunger of those younger years, the intensity of that period of becoming, when we are dreaming ourselves into being, and hoping with a hunger strong enough to draw goblins, that our lives will be BIG.
And it is … something … to be standing up here saying these words, in London, at this extraordinary event, with my characters brought to life in a way I never imagined could happen, at the beginning of a journey that already far surpasses my most Baroque and extreme writer’s fantasies … which is saying a lot, because I know how to fantasize.
So the main thing I want to say is thank you. To everyone at Hodder & Stoughton for making my world real tonight, so spectacularly; for giving it life in print. As much as anything I’ve ever written, this evening, and this publishing experience, are pure wish-fulfillment.
And as different as it was from what the other authors had to say, it was well-received, but the important thing was that I was done and could relax now! Which I did. Dinner was lovely, the rest of the authors spoke, booky people were everywhere. Booksellers, sales reps, newspaper columnists, and more, all of whom belong to a book world (the UK) that is pretty much unknown to me, so I had to ask a lot of questions.
And so there it is, my very me-centric recounting of Hodder's 2011 Sales Conference.
Thank you again, Hodder and especially Kate for making me feel so welcome!
It was sad taking off the costume at the end, and funny how out-of-place my teased hair looked once I was back in jeans, ha ha. I wonder what people must have thought as I hurried back through the hotel lobby with a rat's nest of pink hair and all otherwise ordinary! Kind of like Cinderella at midnight, if she had been caught in a windstorm!
And now I've run out of early morning minutes and must wake Clementine if the sacred nap schedule is to be preserved. Have a lovely day!