As far as author encounters go, there are few I’ve been as excited for as this one.* I first saw the Empire of Storms tour dates while I was on Twitter trying to do my pre-game planning for this year’s American Library Association conference, and the revelation that Sarah J. Maas was COMING TO WICHITA derailed me completely. The fact that we were in a hotel kept me from being able to appropriately shriek with delight, but there was still quite a flurry of pillow pounding accompanied by unintelligible noises of excitement.
Then came September 17. THE DAY I had blocked off from the first moment I saw the event details. Long story short, it was glorious.
Depart the in-law’s house for the 2 p.m. event, because I’ve seen pictures of her other events and they are crazy bananas packed. My pump-up music is really loud in my car.
Arrive at Watermark Books and have all my suspicions confirmed. Park in a spot that’s technically a 2 hour space, but parking tickets aren’t that much should I get one, and I’m antsy pantsy to secure my spot.
Books and food from the supremely tasty Watermark cafe in hand, take a seat in the line outside the next-door venue, which is already about 30 people long. Luckily it’s still early enough that we are not yet stretched around the corner where there is no shade.
Chat it up with the people in line around me since I have none of my real-life book besties with me. I swear I’m actually an introvert, but even I’m not going to sit in lines for hours and not say anything to anyone. Book events are the one place I will initiate a chat with a total stranger, as opposed to every other large social gathering, where I am more than happy to pretend to be a rock. My new friends are more than happy to rave about Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and book events at large.
Enter the venue! The people seated to my right are a high school girl and her dad, who clearly deserves this badge from the Bloomsbury US Kids/YA Twitter:
The girl is obviously of the shy variety, but I unleash my temporary friendship on her anyway. Her dad is very nice, though he regrets me informing his daughter that Target has a different Empire of Storms edition than Barnes & Noble. She owns the entire Throne of Glass series in hardback, paperback, and the UK editions. I am sufficiently impressed.
***MUPPET ARMS***BOOK SHIMMY***GENERAL FREAK-OUT***
Sarah’s chat with Meg from the Swoony Boys Podcast is fabulous. I can’t recall a book event that had the same “hanging on every word” dynamic that this one did.
Some of the many humorous, poignant, informative things that were said, in no particular order:
- Sarah is incredibly humble about how much we all love her books. The event was about 1.5 weeks after the launch of Empire, and when a decent number of us raised our hands to confirm that we’d finished it, she said something to the effect of, “Seriously? Isn’t there really good TV you should be watching?”Apparently she binged Stranger Things in a single day: +10 points for good taste.
- Three words she uses to describe Empire: bloody, steamy, emotionally-devastating. Having read it, I can say check, check and checkity-check to that. Personally, I’d add “growth” as a word. Up until now, we’ve had four books and novellas that are predominantly centered around Aelin. In Empire, a lot of secondary characters get the chance to shine and have their stories told, which I really loved. I’ve heard a lot of people say they weren’t fans of Manon’s chapters in Queen of Shadows (I was initially one of them, but came around eventually), but with Empire there were times when I preferred her and other supporting characters’ chapters over Aelin’s. Won’t spoil who, but they are fabulous.
- She’s a teary sort of person. Misty eyes sneak up on her while writing, watching movies, getting announcements from her publisher, and basically living life in general. I suppose this is fitting for someone whose books wallop you right in the feels. Emotion in authors = good books. I’m not a crier personally, so this cracks me up quite a bit.
- She ships Rey and Kylo Ren. Please understand that I’m taking this hilariously out of context: it was part of a much larger discussion about strong female leads in media (also including Buffy, Sailor Moon and Rory Gilmore). Rey is indisputably awesome all by herself. Nobody’s claiming she needs Kylo, or any man, to complete her story arc, but I will be the first to step up and say that if Rey doesn’t want him then I am next in line.
- FLEETFOOT! The beloved pooch has been confirmed as surviving the entire series. Which is great, but it doesn’t say much for the rest of the Throne of Glass family. We were repeatedly taunted by the out-of-reach knowledge of who survives through the end of both Throne of Glass and A Court of Mist and Fury. We know you’re going to rip our hearts out, Sarah.
- It is just as awkward as you might expect to know that your family has read certain, ahem…romantic…scenes. I do not envy her this one bit.
- She views violence and romance in literature as a tandem deal. It was interesting to hear her talk about the fact that her books (namely Empire of Storms and A Court of Mist and Fury), which get billed as New Adult but are shelved in Young Adult, do have adult sexual content. Her thought process revolves around asking why we condone violence in books for teens and even down into children’s lit (ex. Harry Potter), but overt approaches to romance are often shut down. She used Hunger Games as an example, which doesn’t quite have the same intensity of violence as Throne of Glass (as far as I recall) but works well as a broad cultural reference. Why are we largely ok with teen killing sprees, but throw up giant red flags at any hint of teen romance beyond a simple crush? Whether or not you agree with either of those things, Sarah’s point is that if she’s going to have one, then she’s going to have the other.
Personally, it was a call-out for me, because before Empire I would’ve broadly recommended Throne of Glass to anyone with “teen” on the end of their age, but not the Court books because of their sexual content. I’m sticking with that, but it has made me think about how far we’ve gone down the trail of acceptable violence – and this is coming from someone who has spent entire days wearing camo and shooting people with plastic BBs.
I feel like it might be time for New Adult to be broadly incorporated into our cataloging systems to capture this increasingly popular category. It makes me think of when E-10 (Everyone 10 and Up) was added to the video game rating system, to capture a growing base between E for Everyone and T for Teen.
- She claims to be supremely lazy in everything but writing. FYI Sarah, none of us believe you.
- Her characters typically walk into her head fully formed. Despite her husband’s suggestion that she tell everyone he inspired Rhysand or Rowan, she does not base her characters on people she knows.
- The Court of Thorns and Roses books 4-6 will be a separate story arc than the one established for books 1-3. Of course, she wouldn’t tell us who or what these will be about since that would spoil who survives ACOTAR 3. Sigh…but there will also be two ACOTAR novellas and a coloring book! Full details in her newsletter.
- She is super funny and friendly. 11/10 would recommend going to one of her events if you get the chance.
Time has flown by. I could listen to Sarah talk all day.
The signing starts in groups of 25, based on the number on the back of your ticket. Yours truly is rocking it out at #222! My conversation reservoir is depleted, so I spend the next hour reading an ebook on my phone and ignoring the hubbub around me.
My ticket group is called to get in line. The end approacheth! And by “the end,” I mean it will definitely take at least an hour to get through this line. Luckily, I make a new friend in line. Hello, new book bestie Nicole! Her very patient husband is with her, even though he’s not a fangirl like us. Personally, it’s a good thing my Husband Unit didn’t come, because by this time he’d be in a corner either sleeping or playing on his phone.
OHHHHHH MY WE’RE AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE!!!! The good thing about making a new friend is that they’ll be awesome and take pictures of you. Thanks, Nicole!
Sarah’s husband, Josh, says that my dad sounds awesome when I tell them that he loves ghost leopards but could do with less of what he refers to as “bosom-heaving.” Sarah says she’ll keep that in mind. You know, just in case she’s trying to appeal to the dad demographic.
We’ve swept through the signing line and moved on the final stage of the adventure! Sarah has a copy of the first printing of Throne of Glass that she takes to every event and lets people write in. She says that if her house were on fire and her dog was safe, and her husband was safe because he’s a grown adult and can save himself, then this is what she’d grab. Nicole and I find the few remaining square centimeters of blank space and scribble in our hellos.
This was a fabulous event, thanks to the wonderful people at Watermark and the incredible Sarah J. Maas and everyone associated with her. I finally make it out five hours after arriving, and to my pleasant surprise, have not received a parking ticket. I’d call that a win all around.
*Other top spots would include Orson Scott Card, Brian Jacques and Tamora Pierce, but those were just signings. Also John Flanagan (twice!) at Watermark, because the people at that store clearly know how to bring the thunder.