Taylor walked out to start the event and seemed totally approachable and comfortable. Actually, she reminded me of a friend of mine from high school who was a bit shy but once you got to know her, she was an absolute riot and a goldmine of hilarity and fun. Also, she blew every other person out of the water when it came to gift-giving. I still have a decorative box that my friend made me that is covered with probably 100 magazine pictures and words that had some meaning to us that she'd decoupaged. Listen, all I'm saying is that Laini Taylor comes off as totally genuine and likable. (also, I bet she and her husband can make amazing artsy gifts for people) She began by speaking a bit about how Daughter of Smoke & Bone came to be--and it was when she was cheating on another book. After she'd finished Lips Touch: Three Times, she was working on a sci-fi-ish story and she just couldn't make it work. She said it was quite demoralizing. One day, she told herself she could just write anything she wanted as a brief respite from the book and what came out was a snippet about a girl with blue hair and her father, who wasn't truly her father and who also wasn't human. Taylor talked about how authors often say that "characters just took over" and "the characters just spoke through me" and how, frankly, she always thought it was a bit of a lie. (So did/do I, most of the time*) However, she said that it actually happened in Karou's case. Bits and pieces of ideas she'd written from earlier writing prompts just intertwined into the story and she was very anxious and excited to see where it went. At that point, she didn't have a book under contract so she wasn't under as much pressure, but her agent sold the book before it was complete and she said she's never wrote something faster than the rest of that book.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone was initially going to be a standalone but the story just kept growing. She knew/knows the ending but doesn't like to plot too far in advance because she may think she knows what's going to happen but she's wrong. (We both have an aversion to the term "pantser." She prefers to call her method "flying into the mist") To Taylor, revisions aren't as exciting as first drafts because there just aren't any times to high five yourself for your creative feats. When Tatiana and Catie recently reviewed Days of Blood & Starlight, they talked about the change in tone from book one to book two. Taylor said that when she initially started writing book two, she intended, or at least tried to keep the tone consistent with book one. She found herself trying to start the story six months after the end of book one, after all the dark material had occurred, but realized she was skipping the story she needed to tell because she was a bit scared to tackle it. Overall, she said she wanted to honor the darkness of the story but keep it from being a drag to read. For those interested, Taylor says that book three will have a completely different tone than either of the previous books. (and when asked what color she hoped the cover would use, she said gold.)
It is always interesting to hear authors talk about their journeys to publication, how they work/write, and what makes them tick. At least, to us, it is, else why would we be reading book blogs? Taylor was 35 before she finished her first novel. She often wrote first chapters and then when it got hard, she just moved on to something else. According to her, writing is such a secretive act. It looks like you're working but you could just be fooling yourself and those around you. She said it takes pure stubbornness and courage to finish something, especially when you are always being seduced by what she and her friends refer to as "that slutty new idea." (you know, the one that always seems like it would be more fun that what you've got going now)
The first audience question was about the flashback section in Daughter of Smoke & Bone and what made her take such a risk. Her reply was that she didn't realize how unorthodox a move it was until much later--that is, to move the story back in time for such a long section during such a climactic time in the plot. Both she and her editor never questioned the move so it never was an issue, though she can't imagine it being any other way.
A movie is in development at Universal Pictures, though she is unsure if it will ever happen. (Isn't this always the case with movies we really hope will happen?) The aforementioned flashback section is currently throwing the screenwriters through a loop. Another person asked how much input Taylor will have and she said that she seems to have some, at least on paper, but who knows how that will translate into reality and that the entire process is awesome, but scary.
Did she always want to be a writer? Yes, for sure, though there was a veterinarian phase, as well as a badass coroner/crime-solver phase that was a result of a loving Quincy, M.E.
Has she been to Prague and/or Morocco? Twice to Prague--once for a graphic novel that she and her husband (the artist and writer Jim Di Bartolo) never ended up writing. She'd never been to Morocco until after Smoke & Bone, though she was obsessed with Morocco for years beforehand. She said she read some ex-pat blogs and watched YouTube videos for some of her inspiration. Someone followed up this discussion by asking where Taylor would like to go next and another person asked (by proxy for an Australian!) what it would take to get her down under. She said that her Aussie publisher is amazing but the best thing to do would be to let them know there's an interest.
One reader asked about the Monty Python and the Holy Grail references in the book and what copyright issues surrounded it, to which Taylor said she didn't really know but she assumed it fell under fair use. (I'm sure the publisher looks into this sort of thing and it would've made for a fun discussion in my Copyright Law class. Certainly more than the long, drawn out discussion we had about belt buckles.) She and her sister were huge fans of the Monty Python guys and she is fully aware that many teens wouldn't get it, but she made sure to include keywords and things in the text so any curious minds could easily find out. I look forward to welcoming these future fans to the bright side of life.
Does she have any say in the covers? Not really. She loves them and got to see them beforehand but she didn't get to choose them.When she was working on Smoke & Bone, the working title was Wishbone but the publisher nixed that one because of the kickass (my word choice, not Taylor's) dog from PBS who used to retell classic literary tales and who my younger sister and I used to watch. She said it is sometimes easier to start with a title, then start writing because it can be a bitch to think of a title after the fact. Now that she has the "something of something and something" theme going, she has a working list of words to think of for book three. She also spoke a bit about the initial Smoke & Bone arc cover being different and I only realized while writing this that I read the arc of that book and how weird it was to several of us that the eye within the mask was completely blacked out and how they changed it for the finished copy. (good choice, publisher!) One of Taylor's favorite things is checking out the foreign editions of her books. Probably the most interesting factoid of the evening was that nearly everywhere but the US markets the series as adult. She even said that the Slovak edition of one of the books has a beefy adult man on the cover. (I think it's this one?)
The night ended on an adorable note when an audience member asked if she'd ever thought of writing a children's book. She said that she and her husband had been reading their book, Blackbringer to their daughter, Clementine, and that she'd taken to acting as Magpie, a character from the book, and she refuses to brush her hair to stay true to the character. She said that the couple has thought about doing a graphic novel for kids at some point.
If anyone is still reading, I will just tell you that the dinner afterward with Sarah and Laura and a friend of mine from Goodreads was awesome. Those women are amazingly funny, intelligent, and bookishly awesome. Laura lent me Love-shy by Lili Wilkinson and I can't wait to read it! I may or may not have been very ill on my drive home (twice) but the drive down and back was worth it to see an amazing author and to spend time with lovely people.
*Props to Laini Taylor for bringing up Castiglione's sprezzatura at a book event in the children's section of Barnes & Noble.