Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 What Makes a Fierce Read? Discussion with Leigh Bardugo, Jessica Brody, Gennifer Albin and Ann Aguirre

Young Adult authors Gennifer Albin, Leigh Bardugo, Ann Aguirre, and Jessica Brody came through Albuquerque, NM at the end of October as stop two on their eight-city Fierce Reads tour. Authors Kimberley Griffiths Little and Caroline Starr Rose had the opportunity to talk with the authors beforehand and moderated their discussion.

Fierce Reads is home to the online YA community for MacKidsBooks. Each year the Fierce Reads authors go on a mega tour across the United States. These authors are all absolutely amazing people, and their books are just as wonderful. We are SO excited to post their discussion today!

Talk to us about the process of world building.

Leigh Bardugo: World building is not just reserved for science fiction or history, but all good books create a world and an instant sense of place. The setting becomes another character in the story.

Jessica Brody: I’ve set two stories in a high school. Definite world building there. I had to create a world and details in Unspoken for a world that didn't appear until book three.

Gennifer Albin: Technically I write science fiction, so I spent a lot of time reading physics books. That was a big part of my world building.

Ann Aguirre:  When I build a world I look at current technologies, things being studied at universities. For my next book I studied current research on time travel theories and read about an Australian group that teleported molecular structures. I always start from a real world point and then extrapolate from real research. I don’t put all the details in the world I have created, but I know these things. For example, a character wouldn't think about how a microwave is put together but they know how to use it.

What is the one core thing in your book that you would have fought to keep?

Jessica Brody, Leigh Bardugo, Kimberley Griffiths Little,
Gennifer Albin, and Ann Aguirre 
Jessica Brody: The idea that memories that are really important don't reside in the mind, they reside somewhere else. That's why they can't be destroyed. Also a comic relief minor character, Cody. My editor wanted to get rid of him. I fought to keep him. One of my first reviews said Cody was one of the most developed characters in the book.

Leigh Bardugo: I’ve been lucky I've not really been challenged on story. I like gallows humor -- when things are darkest -- but my editor discourages it. I didn't recognize the theme for my first book until the end: The things that make you different make you strong.

Gennifer Albin: I also had an editor and agent who both wanted a character gone. Occasionally they are right about [things like this] and sometimes I am. My favorite line, “It's how I imagine death will come to me: overdressed and smoking,” they wanted me to cut, and it has become the most quoted. My character’s father marks her with a tattoo burn. He says, "it will help her remember who you are." The meaning of the scar changes throughout the books. You can always decide who you are.

Ann Aguirre: My whole series boils down to one person can change the world, even when everyone is opposing them. For peace to take hold, one person must stop fighting. I never go head to head with editors. They give me a list of changes and I fix what I agree with. I stay quiet about the rest.

How do you keep up with emails, social media, and other non-writing but work-related commitments?

Jessica Brody, Leigh Bardugo, Kimberley Griffiths Little,
Gennifer Albin, Ann Aguirre, Caroline Starr Rose
Gennifer Albin: I have an assistant and I still spend too much time. The thing I miss the most are the days it was just about the writing. After writing Crewel, I focused only on the book for four months. That was the last time I had to just focus on the writing. I like everything that writing asks, but I would sometimes like to go in a hole for five months. I have little ones at home who need me, too. Taking them to the bookstore is my social outlet.

Jessica Brody: I let other things fall by the wayside before the administrative stuff. My husband cleans. I don’t always cook balanced meals or even remember to always eat. I’ve recently hired an assistant. I’d love to hire a chef! The life stuff is the hard part.

Leigh Bardugo: I don’t have an assistant. I haven’t done particularly well keeping up. I’m most comfortable on Twitter and Tumbler interacting with readers. I’m trying to get a handle on emails. I read them all but don’t always know how to manage them.

Three of the four of you use prologues. Why is that?

Gennifer Albin: A good prologue is awesome, but it should serve a purpose. I write mine first. They always take place right before the story starts. They’re a bridge from the previous story to the new one. I firmly believe it’s the best page in my first novel. Hopefully it encapsulates what I’m trying to do in the whole book.

Leigh Bardugo: I knew when querying some agents were very anti-prologue, so I sent things from chapter one. All three of my books are framed with a before and after, and they are written last. I wanted to write in first person, but wanted the sure and steady third-person guiding hand that is typical of fantasy. So the prologue has the traditional fantasy feel.

Jessica Brody: Ive never heard till recently that prologues weren’t popular. A good prologue hooks you in fast. Each of my prologues will challenge my character with a different element (science vs nature is a major part of the series). I’m inspired by Leigh’s pattern to her prologues. My second book’s prologue is a flash forward. I think they’re great if you can find a purpose. Can’t be info dumps. Mine are called chapter zero.

Finally, what makes something a Fierce Read?

Jessica Brody: Something that makes you think and challenge the world around you. It brings reality to a new level, takes normal circumstances and takes them to the extreme.

Ann Aguirre: A Fierce Read has an empowered heroine. I’m tired of books with passive girls who wait for others to solve their problems, wait for the boy, wait for their families to treat them better. I want to see a character standing proudly at the helm of her own life and want readers to see what’s possible if you try. In the last 2-3 years there has been a shift in the prevailing winds. There are a lot more empowered heroines.

Leigh Bardugo: There are lots of different ways to be empowered. For a time there was codified language used for a strong heroine. Now we can have heroines strong because they are clever or physically adept. There is so much range to build unique variety of characters.

About The Authors

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives in Hollywood, where she indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson. Occasionally, she can be heard singing with her band, Captain Automatic.

She is the author of the New York Times Best Sellers, Shadow & Bone and Siege and Storm (Holt Children’s/ Macmillan). The final book in the Grisha Trilogy, Ruin and Rising, will be published in 2014. She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of New Leaf.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples and electrical tape.

In four short years, Jessica has sold nine novels (two adult novels to St. Martin’s Press and seven young adult novels to Farrar, Straus, Giroux.) Jessica’s books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, China, Russia, Brazil, Poland, Bulgaria, Israel, and Taiwan. Jessica now works full time as a writer and producer. She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Colorado.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Gennifer Albin holds a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Missouri. A recovering academic, she turned to writing her own books. 

 In her free time she sits on the National Novel Writing Month Advisory Board, laughs (and cries) with her mom writers group, and watches too much Doctor Who (if that's possible). 

Gennifer lives in Poulsbo, Washington with her family.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order.

She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes books, emo music, and action movies. She writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


  1. Okay, now I want an assistant, a chef, and a housekeeper. Oh wait, those are supposed to be my husband and kids? *palm to forehead*

  2. Thanks for this I've been looking into mariposa publishing llc and this was really interesting to me.

  3. Awesome questions and answers. I love all these authors and so interesting to hear their thoughts on world building and how they juggle to social media aspect of being an author. Like Crystal, I want an assistant, chef, and housekeeper.

  4. The answers provided were so varied yet all awesome. I especially like the importance of understanding the significance of world building whether the story is sci-fi or not. You've got to build the realms for the reader.

  5. I loved SHADOW AND BONE and I'm about to start SEIGE AND STORM. CREWEL is another book on my to-read list.


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