Truthwitch and Passenger are books that are near-inescapable right now in the YA community. Some of the first big releases for 2016, they cultivated a buzz throughout the fall and winter that has definitely deemed them both worthy of purchase and pre-order. I was lucky enough to receive both from my boyfriend for my birthday this month, and in the perfect compliment to this gift was the realization that both Susan Dennard and Alex Bracken were going to be on tour in my state. So I planned out a 17 hour day to ensure that, come hell or high water (I’m looking at you, El Nino) I would be able to see them on their tour stop. It was the perfect way to kick off 2016, as it was my first book event of the year!
Max and I left our house around 6am to drive into work (instead of taking our usual methods of public transportation) so that after work we could make the drive to Kepler’s and not be at the mercy of the train system. So at 5pm we jumped back into the car and headed to Kepler’s a lovely independent bookstore we hadn’t yet been too (it’s not exactly close to our neighborhood). Arriving around 40 minutes before the event was to begin, Max dutifully saved us seats (third row, as the first two had already been taken/reserved) as I took the opportunity to wander the store. What I really appreciated was the attention to detail the staff took in writing out recommendations and synopses of the books to entice patrons (which are the little papers hanging from the shelves in the pictures). They also had back list titles and international copies too (I was very tempted by a Spanish version of Cinder!) They also had a very cute “blind date with a book” section!
Alex and Susan had such a great, genuine connection onstage. It was truly a joy to hear them speak. They spoke mostly of their research processes, as both of their new releases are heavy in fantasy and historical fiction. It’s really admirable to see authors who are so concerned to see that their details are so accurate (especially Susan,who ensured that even the ebb and flows of the tides described were as accurate as possible for the time of day, moon phase, etc.) She even took workshops in everything from marital arts so she could believable write combat scenes to workshops with horses so she could write knowledgeable about writing them. They both also touched briefly on their backgrounds and it was fascinating to see how they played a part in the inspiration and execution of their novels, such as Alex’s obsession with the founding fathers and familiarity with colonial Williamsburg and Susan’s background in science as a researcher (So cool! I love getting to know the professions and fields that authors dabbled in before they became authors, it really gives me a whole new lens in which to read their work through).
Now I have a confession to make: prior to the event I had not had a chance to complete either book (I’m about halfway through Passenger right now as we speak). I haven’t even read any reviews because I want to go into the them completely unspoiled. I usually aim to read the novels before I meet the authors because I want to be able to ask them critical and thoughtful questions. However, this event really just served to make me even more excited to finish Passenger and start Truthwitch. At the event I also bought Something Strange and Deadly, the first book in Susan’s previous trilogy (which I haven’t read yet, but I am beyond excited for after talking to her more about what is behind the pretty dress covers). Susan and Alex were SO welcoming, and made each person who came through the line feel valued for being a fan and coming out for the event. Not once did I feel as though they were worn out from being on tour (and meeting thousands of fans along the way, I’m sure!) They really took their time with speaking to everyone, and didn’t impose any limits on how many books you could have signed. I also have to say this: Though I haven’t had a chance to read Susan’s books yet, I really, really felt a connection with her. Her academic background, her methodical level of research, her love of gaming all were things I could relate to and that she was legitimately excited to talk about me with. More than that though, there was such a sincerity about her and she was so earnest and honest in answering all of the questions I had for her and her work. It can often be hard to find the time to connect with authors, no matter how fabulous they are, because of how overwhelming an event is and the sheer number of people there. To be able to truly have a conversation with an author is a wonderful gift. It was really special to see how Susan and Alex were committed to giving that intimate one on one feeling with every fan! I can’t wait to see these two ladies on tour again one day!
Have you had the pleasure of meeting Alex or Susan? Have you already devoured Passenger and Truthwitch? What is going to be your first bookish event of 2016? Let me know in the comments!