2017 is proving to be absolutely filled with bookish events so far, and March was no exception! I already had the fantastic opportunity to see Jeff and Brittany at Kepler’s in the middle of the month, and returned to Kepler’s again at the end of March to see Jandy Nelson and Laini Taylor (!!!) speak about her new book, Strange the Dreamer. I’ve been a HUGE fan of Laini’s since reading her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (seriously, her writing is the most lyrical prose I’ve come across in YA) and I haven’t had the chance to meet her at any previous events/festivals before. So though I haven’t had a chance to start Strange the Dreamer yet, I was thrilled to get a chance to hear her speak!
First of all, I have to say Laini is an excellent speaker. She is poised and confident and (maybe it’s just my inner English major coming out in me) hearing someone speak with such clarity was so enjoyable. (Also check out her SHOES. They seriously looked like something that manifested from the pages of one of her books!) She was interviewed by fellow YA author Jandy Nelson (who I met at ALA in San Francisco a few years ago and who’s writing is also amazing. Seriously, if you haven’t read I’ll Give You the Sun yet, you’re missing out!) Even though I’ve yet to read Laini’s new book, she managed to chat with Jandy about so many elements regarding her writing process and major themes in the novel without revealing any spoilers, and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of having two authors chatting who focus in such different genres (Laini being known for her fantasy work and Jandy being rooted in contemporary).
Fun Facts and Interesting Insights from Jandy and Laini’s Conversation:
- When writing Strange the Dreamer, the story idea started with the Muse of Nightmares. She had her in her mind and decided she wanted to know more about the character and it began to take the shape of a story. Books always start with characters for her, and the Muse of Nightmares was originally going to be the main character and the book was originally supposed to be a standalone.
- Laini considers Strange the Dreamer to be a love letter to fantasy readers. To her, fantasy is not being bound by what’s around you.
- Jany asked Laini about her process for developing fantasy words for her stories, and she admitted that it’s hard to come up with fantasy words that aren’t too silly or inaccessible. She looks at new words (such as location words on maps) for inspiration and tries to come up with sounds that are cohesive.
- Laini’s writing process is a constant effort to get out of her own way. She never allows herself to have “messy first drafts” as much as she’d love too. She plots to some extent, and has an idea of how the ending will go but doesn’t know how she’s going to earn that ending. For instance, while writing Strange the Dreamer she thought she knew who the girl mentioned in the first sentence of the novel was, but it ended up changing at the end!
- Laini noted that this day you have to go so far to have a unique and truly evil “villain” these days, and she didn’t want to go there when writing this novel. She also knew she didn’t want to have an action climax. She didn’t want the conflict of the book to be as epic as the conflict in the DOSAB series, didn’t want the stakes to be the fate of the entire world. As a writer, she feels you can make a writer care about anything, even if the stakes aren’t epic, which is what she chose to do in Strange the Dreamer. The story picks up after a two hundred year tyranny and focuses on the aftermath and trauma, rather than the “war” that many fantasy books focus on. She wanted to debunk the idea of the “happily ever after” that’s assumed to come after the war.
- Laini is drawn to stories of amnesty where cycles of violence can be broken. We may not be able to break these cycles in real life, so it’s appealing to be able to do so through writing.
Have you seen either of these wonderful authors speak? Will you be seeing Laini on tour for Strange the Dreamer? Have you read the novel yet? Let me know in the comments!