Here's what I asked:
What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?
What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?
Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?
As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?
And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.
Today's featured victims are Stephanie Kuehn, Justine Larbalestier, Amie Kaufman, and Caleb Roehrig.
Real-life adventure? Remember the Patagonian Race to the End of the World? I mean, I don’t know that I’m suited for it, but I would be thrilled to do something really daring and probably reckless.
Fictional adventure? Can I be eleven and go to Hogwarts? I’d love to crash Hogwarts – who wouldn’t?
Adventure quest skills? I’m pretty athletic. I’m pretty strong. I am good at problem solving. I like to problem solve. I can be a leader if need to be. I have strong upper body strength – I could climb a tree, maybe, if I needed to.
Strongest skill? Maybe plot twists? Yeah, coming up with plot twists. Complicated plots. Twists that go where you don’t expect them to. I actually think with most twists you kind of do need to see them coming, so tell the truth from the beginning and layer it from there. If you tell the truth, nobody believes you, right? Tell the truth in chapter one and go from there.
Justine Larbalestier and Amie Kaufman
Justine: I would like to fight zombies. Oh, you said real life. *laughs*
Amie: Give it time. Give it time, Justine. I’d really like to go down the Amazon. The thing is I don’t know if I would actually like it if I did it, but I love the idea of going like—
Justine: Do you know how big the leeches are in some of the countries that the Amazon runs through?
Amie: This is why I’m saying I’m not sure in practice it would be as amazing. But in my imagination it’s an amazing trip. Also keep in mind I’m related to Percy Fawcett, who is the hero of The Lost City of Z, so he’s the guy who went into the Amazon and was never seen again, and then all these other people went after him to look for him and they were never seen again. So what I’m saying is – you don’t actually want to let me go into the Amazon.
Justine: I like indoor plumbing a lot. But for a real-life adventure, I do love bushwalking. What do you guys call bushwalking? [Justine and Amie are both Australian]
Justine: Hiking. Trekking. But I like doing it in places without leeches. You know, part of me would kind of like to do the Appalachian Trail. But like in the most comfortable way possible.
Amie: It’s like I’d like to do an African safari, but those ones where they set up the tents for you every night and cook all the food for you.
Justine: Oh, there’s this amazing thing you can do in Italy, which is a cycling tour of all the best vineyards. So you cycle during the day, but at night you stay in these amazing hotels and have incredible food and wine. So that’s my level of ‘adventure.’
Amie: Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, but the movie – I would like to go on board the pirate’s airship.
Justine: I wouldn’t mind sacrificing the best-looking guy in the city, so that would be Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince.
Adventure quest skills?
Justine: None. Zero. Zip. I mean, my skillset is I’m really good at finding the best restaurants. I’m really good at steering you to really excellent wines that aren’t that expensive.
Amie: Exactly what I was going to say – she orders great wine.
Justine: So my skillsets depend on civilization.
Amie: Yeah, I also have extremely few practical skills, but I’m very persuasive.
Justine: You’re an amazing mediator. As the warring factions— you could talk them off the ledge.
Amie: I can talk people down, yeah.
Justine: That is a great skill.
Justine: I’m very good at dialog. But every time I’ve been asked, “Your dialog is so great, how do you do that?” And I— I don’t know.
Amie: And you don’t want to be like the centipede that gets asked, “How do you walk with a hundred legs?” And now it’s thinking about it and it doesn’t know anymore.
Justine: Yeah. I think the part of writing that you’re best at is actually the part you think about the least.
Amie: Yeah, that comes from instinct.
Justine: Because my first stories were all dialog, even as a little kid, it was all conversations because that’s what I’m really good at. And I have struggled and fought to learn how to write action scenes, so I feel like I’m actually better at explaining how to do action scenes because I find them so hard.
Amie: Yeah, I’d say one of my strongest points is inserting the nervous giggle into a big tense moment, but I don’t know how I do it, I just think of something funny. But a thing I think I do well these days that I had to learn to do is writing fight scenes and action scenes. And my big tip for it is actually getting on youtube and watching lots of them and reading up on them and learning about the techniques and then mapping it out in your head. And then not writing most of it down, then working out which bit you are going to include.
Justine: I mean, I would even go further – I actually learned how to box. I spent several years learning how to box. And I was a fencer. Just physically inhabiting it and acting it out and describing that. When you punch something, your hand really hurts, there’s a reason we wear gloves, and if there are no gloves, your knuckles will bruise, sometimes the skin tears.
Amie: Yeah, you need to know that stuff.
Real-life adventure? I would like to go around the world in 80 days. Or maybe more than 80. I like to spend my time. I love to travel. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of Europe because I was living there for four years, but I would love to see more of the world. I’d love to explore other continents. I would like to see South America, Africa, and Asia because those are places I’ve never been before. They’ve always been on my list. I’m big into travel because every time you go somewhere your horizons expand a bit.
It’s funny, on this book tour that I was on, somebody asked me, “So you’ve traveled a lot of places, how has that influenced your writing?” I’ve been to almost forty countries – and I set my book in my hometown. So I was like, “I’m not entirely sure.” *laughs* But I still like to do it.
Fictional adventure? It’s hard to answer that because a lot of what I read are thrillers, with murder and stuff. I would love to help solve the murder, but I don’t want to get into any of the life threatening situations. So I would say I would love to have been a secondary character in the Pretty Little Liars series. Somebody who wasn’t getting tortured by A that was maybe a potential suspect. I would love that.
Adventure quest skills? I would be the bard, the traveling minstrel if you will. I have a degree in theater, and I went to LA to be an actor, and I did do some acting, so I bring the skill of drama to the group. If they need someone to deliver a monologue *laughs* I’m not sure how that would aid in the quest. I can sing okay, so I’ve got that going on.
Strongest skill? It’s a little difficult for me to compare mine to other people’s because I don’t know if what I do is right or wrong, but from what I understand I write fairly quickly. My first draft is very detailed and will be anywhere from 5,000 to (and this has happened horribly) 20,000 words more than it should be. So for me the revision process is paring back and sort of fine-tuning.
There’s a line from the movie L.A. Story where Sarah Jessica Parker says what she does is she’ll get dressed and then she’ll turn around in front of the mirror and the first thing that catches her eye she takes off, and it’s an idea of less is more. For me it’s all about learning what the more is, what the less is more is, and learning to pare off all of that stuff.
So my skill would be I tend to write a lot very quickly. I am such a type A, goal oriented person, where I sit down and say I cannot stop until I’ve reached at least X amount of words. And I don’t. And if that means I’m up until 2am to finish, then I’m up until 2am to get where I’m going. And there are some days when I’m like, I’m not going to hit my goal, where it’s like trying to swallow a pinecone, where it’s not going down, this is not going to happen, so I’ve just got to accept that my limit today is going to be a little short. But I find that if I just force myself to do it, I do it. But I don’t know that that works for everyone.
Thank you, Stephanie, Justine, Amie, and Caleb, for taking the time to chat with me!
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday week! And tune in next Friday for the next YALLFest post.
How would you answer these questions? What are your plans for the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments!