Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Very First Book Signing (+ Giveaway!)

At some undisclosed time in the last month, I went to my very first book signing. Actually, it was an entire festival settled in the heart of downtown next to the biggest park in the city. There were free books (to kids and teens only, so I didn't qualify), food, and music everywhere. It was amazing. The organizers of the festival had also gathered together over dozens of authors, both traditionally pubbed and self-pubbed, to sign books and sell their wares.


I went with my sister Sunny and her friend Emily. We were ladies on a mission, as there were two authors in particular that we wanted to be sure to meet. Ally Carter and Gail Carson Levine were in town. Sunny was especially excited, as Ally Carter is her favorite author of all time. Before arriving, she was talking about pictures she had seen and said breathlessly, "She intimidates me, and yet she feels like my best friend." Yeah, she's one of those fans. [For Sunny's take on the festival, check out her blog on Friday for her own post and giveaway.]

At the festival, every "big name" author is given a tent where they're allowed to talk about their book and answer questions for a half hour or so. Then they and all their fans march over to the signing tent in the middle of the festival. Fans are allowed to have up to three books signed per author and have pictures taken with them. Despite running late due to a slight hitch with the parking (there wasn't a single open parking spot anywhere near the festival), we three girls managed to snag a row in the fourth row of Ally Carter's tent. We were pretty pleased.

In due time, the tent filled up impressively, so Ms. Carter had a decent crowd of people waiting for her. Middle school and high school girls made up the bulk of the audience, but the parents seemed just as engaged, and there were even some boys!

I'm pleased to announce that Ms. Carter is just as funny and charming as I had hoped she would be. She stated at the very beginning of her time that she wanted to skip over all the "boring parts" and go straight to the Q&A, because that was the fun part. So we did! And wow, what fun that was. Here's some of what we learned:
  • Ms. Carter says that she first got into writing when she was sixteen and found out that S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, was from Tulsa (Ms. Carter lived just outside Tulsa) and was sixteen as well. She said she thought that's what girls from Tulsa were supposed to do - write books and have them turned into movies starring Tom Cruise - so that's what she started to do. It was also the first time it really clicked for her that books weren't just written by dead European guys.
  • When asked which genre she would write if she couldn't write contemporary. Ms. Carter said that at one point she seriously toyed with writing a western. (Let me add that I would totally buy a Carter western.)
  • However, she thinks she'll always stick with contemporary, as that's where her strengths lie.
  • Then she joked that really her genre is "unrealistic realistic fiction" and that it's "a genre of one!"
  • Several people asked about crossovers (a la Double Crossed) and character spinoffs. Ms. Carter says she hasn't ruled anything out. We all cheered at the possibility of a Mr. Solomon-at-Blackthorne spinoff.
  • The same old question of a HS or GG movie came up, and Ms. Carter stated once again that she would love a movie, but that she has no control over whether one is made. She did however state that if she had to cast Cammie or Kat right this second, she'd pick Emma Stone (her "spirit animal") or Anna Kendrick, as she loves them both, and used that to prove how hard it is to cast characters when the actors keep aging.
  • Ms. Carter was pretty tight-lipped about Gallagher Girl 6, but she did joke about killing off characters. Then she backtracked and said she shouldn't, because she joked about Zach's funeral at one signing and made a little girl cry.
  • She also mentioned that GG6 has a shirtless Mr. Solomon scene AND a shirtless Zach scene. She said she loved the Zach scene, because it involved her two loves: shirtless hot guys and bacon.
  • She's had a really hard time with finding a title for GG6. So far, she has a list of 50 or so, "each worse than the one before it." If she had her way, she'd title it Gallagher Girls 6: Yeah, This Is the Last One.
  • In a rather uncomfortable (but funny) moment, an old lady in the back asked if Ms. Carter had seen the GG6 cover and if it involved a shirtless Zach. (Everyone cheered.) Ms. Carter said she had seen it, and that it featured a Gallagher Girl in a graduation gown. (Everyone awwwed nostalgically.)
  • Someone else asked if GG6 would provide any background dirt on Aunt Abby and Agent Townsend. Ms. Carter said yes, but probably not what we were thinking. We would get more dirt on Agent Townsend, but on his life before Gallagher Academy in general, rather than his life regarding Aunt Abby.
  • She also said that she would be tempted to write an Abby/Townsend spinoff story, as they crack her up.
  • She ALSO let it slip that there would be a scene in GG6 involving a protest outside the U.N. headquarter in New York.
It was a really great talk, and I was sorry when it ended. Not so sorry, however, that I didn't grab the other girls and power-walk my way to the signing tent. I was a little worried about how the signing would go down, because the signing tent was right next to the tent where books were being sold in case you forgot to bring a copy. The tent that was being manned by my coworkers. The ones who don't know - can't know! - that I'm a blogger. That was a wee bit nerve-wracking. However, the book-selling tent was so busy and the festival was so noisy that I wasn't noticed.

I went first at Sunny and Emily's insistence. They wanted a little more time to gather their thoughts. I was nervous too, because I had brought a present for Ms. Carter. On Twitter, she had mentioned how she liked thinking of the scene in Heist Society where Kat finds W.W. Hale shirtless in his Superman pajama bottoms, and how it was okay for her to crush on her teen character, because she pictures him as Chris Pine. I decided to give her a little inspiration for the next Heist Society book and hopefully make her laugh.

She liked it.

Ms. Ally signed all of our books and took pictures with everyone, which was amazing. There were a bunch of people in line, and she could have refused pictures, but she didn't. I thought Sunny was going to pass out. It was an amazing experience, but the day wasn't over yet!

Next, we went to Gail Carson Levine's tent. The audience was pretty sparse, but only because GCL had already given one talk earlier in the day. I didn't recognize her and didn't realize the tiny little woman sitting across the aisle from me was THE Gail Carson Levine! If I had, I totally would have said hi. Instead, I moved into her seat when she went to the stage.

During her time, GCL did some readings out of a few of her books. She read pieces out of Dave At Night and her fairy books, including a scene where a baby's laugh flies to Neverland and becomes a fairy. She also sang a snippet of mermish, which is made entirely of vowels. It was pretty funny.

My favorite part, however, was learning about her book of mean poems. She read a few, all of which were based off a famous false apology poem by William Carlos Williams. I loved the poem from Red Riding Hood's grandmother to the Big Bad Wolf, basically saying "Better her than me!"

We also learned:
  • Dave at Night was based off of her father's life as an orphan living in an orphanage. He never talked about his childhood, so she made up the story in honor of him after he died.
  • She was president of the Scribble Scrabble club in elementary school.
  • Her two favorite books as a child were Peter Pan and Anne of Green Gables.
  • Her most important reading experiences were when she was a child, so she writes kid lit in order to write back to that time in her life.
  • She often fights tooth-and-nail for the titles of her books.
  • She mentioned that one of the titles she had wanted for Ever was "Gone with the Wind," which clearly wouldn't have worked, so she didn't fight for that one.
  • She loves names and puts a great deal of thought into character names.
  • For instance, A Tale of Two Castles is loosely based off of the French story of Puss in Boots, so all of the character names are French, including an ogre whose name means "gentleman."
  • Hattie from Ella Enchanted was named for GCL's Aunt Harriet, whom she hated.
  • She could get away with naming a character after Aunt Harriet, because Aunt Harriet was dead, which is helpful when plotting revenge.
  • She has published 20 books.
  • Book 21 is in the process of being published and is her second book of writing tips for kids.
  • Book 22 will hopefully be called "Stolen Magic."
  • She's also working on a sequel for A Tale of Two Castles and had to take a break from it for a month, because it was giving her fits.
  • She also wants to put together a book of food puns, such as "What's a plumber's favorite vegetables? Leeks."
GCL and Emily
After getting our books signed by GCL (I had her sign The Two Princesses of Bamarre and Cinderellis and the Glass Hill), we went inside the nearby conference center to get a drink of water. We met an adorable self-pubbed author to whom I'd like to give a shout-out. Her name is Jennifer Martinez, and she's the author of Don't Kill Dinner, a NA/adult book about a vampire in New Orleans, and the upcoming novel Blossom, which is a YA book about a girl who discovers she's a Fae princess.

Neither of these books are my taste, BUT Ms. Martinez was professional, friendly, and rockin' a killer 'do, so I though the least I could do is give her a boost. If you want to learn more about Ms. Martinez and her books, check her out at her website and her Twitter page.

The day was winding down, and we had to head home. We were headed out to the car when we passed Ally Carter. I'm pretty sure I bruised due to the number of times Sunny rammed her knuckles into the flesh of my upper arm.

To quote as verbatim as possible: "It's her! It's her! It's her! Oh, my abs tightened. Everything tightened. I almost peed my pants. Can we follow her?"

Emily and I dragged her in the opposite direction, and we went home happy and content. Except Sunny, who still wanted to give Ally Carter a hug.


To celebrate my very first book signing and author face-to-face, I'm giving away one of the books I had signed at the festival. Specifically, I am giving away a brand-new, SIGNED copy of Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter.

Sadly, given shipping costs, this giveaway will be USA only. I'm so sorry, International followers. I do love you.

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