On Wednesday, I was invited to attend a Puffin Panel event featuring three great authors discussing their books: Ruta Sepetys, who is the amazing author of Between Shades of Gray; Anna Perara, who is the author of Guatanamo Boy and more recently The Glass Colector; and lastly Morris Gleitzman, the author of several books, with Grace being his latest novel.
I had only read Between Shades of Gray, and I loved it so much (check out my review) that it was what primarily attracted to me to go to this fantastic event! Since listening to the other authors discussing their books, I have also decided to take up their novels (I managed to nab copies of both and get them signed).
The evening started with a blogger-only discussion between us and the three fantastic authors. There were five bloggers present in total, including Sarah, Jenny, Dwayne, Ann, and Carly. What we learned was that authors tend to hear voices in their heads while
writing, apparantly! There was a lot of discussion about the technical aspects of writing a novel, as the formal panel event dug deeper into the actual books themselves. Ruta, being the only debut novelist there, was lapping up everything Morris and Anna had to say. In fact, she compared herself to a ‘musician who can’t read music’ and didn’t think while she was writing; she simply wrote and revised later. Morris, on the otherhand, told us he does a lot of planning in his novels (he does a “scriptment” type thing of some odd 3,000 words and revises it 8-10 times!) and this gives him freedom, like going on a long journey with a map, knowing the destination but free to wonder. For the actual book, he only does 3-4 drafts.
Something I learned about Morris is that he was originally a screenwriter, and as such he tries to make scenes as visual as possible, externalising emotion. What’s also interesting about him is that while writing, he writes for the main character rather than the huge audience who will read it.
Anna prefers to just write one draft and rewrite it several times. She had an interesting take on the differences in boys’/girls’ books (she’s written novels with boy and girl protagonists). For boys, something has to happen; you can’t just have scenes without them going anywhere. Girls are more patient, it seems, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest!
Someone asked Ruta why she chose to write Between Shades of Gray for the YA demographic (it might have been me, I can’t remember! I must have the memory of a goldfish) and while she was in Lithuania doing research, she met several survivors who were teenagers during the deportations. She also said she wanted the book to get into the hands of younger readers, so they could learn from an early age about Stalin’s regime, which was nearly as bad as Hitlers. She also revealed that she took a day long prison-course, living life how the deportees would have lived, where she was physically punished several times and let a disc slip. Not such a good idea perhaps, but it just shows how dedicated authors are!
Anyway, it was great meeting Ruta in particular, but also Anna and Morris personally. They seem like great authors (I know that Ruta is!) and I shall definitely be reading their books. Ruta actually said that she’d been following me recently, which I didn’t expect, all because of an article about Between Shades of Gray in the New York/LA /Times! You can imagine what was going through my head (several expletives to say the least!) and I was really surprised and honoured that such a good author would actually know who I was before meeting me! (I should have a link to the article soon- Ruta promised to send it to me).
After the blogger-author-meet-up, we all progressed up the building to the tenth floor of the Savoy building (right under the clock! There were great views!) where there was a large crowd of people, mostly past their 30s. I immediatly joined the youngest group, which comprised of several sixth-formers who were part of “SpineBreakers”, the Puffin teenage website. It was great meeting some of them!
After a short mingling, everyone was ushered into a long thin room where the panel would take place, moderated by Claire Armistead (Literary Editor of the Guardian). I forgot to take my notebook into this (I could kill myself for that. Lucky for all you guys, I won’t…;P) but it was a great discussion which ended up in a reasonably heated debate about the Hope(lessness) of the novels, of Ruta’s in particular. Personally, while I think Between Shades of Gray is very depressing at points, it was also full of hope (and besides, sometimes unhappy endings are good too. We teenagers can handle that.)
The Panel lasted about an hour, and afterward we were allowed to return to the beautiful (I want to say art-deco style but I’m not sure if that’s right) room and nibble on a few warm snacks and chat again. I met Candy, who I was vaguely aware of. We were also allowed to get our books signed, so of course I rushed off to Ruta (who is now one of my favourite authors! Ruta, if you’re reading this [I think you probably are!] then you are one of the most amazing authors ever. Modest, understanding and all-round wonderful!), who did a very nice personalisation in my book! I also nabbed a copy of Grace and The Glass Collector and got them signed too. Both Anna and Morris were very nice, and it was great meeting them.
So- that was the event! The write up was quite long – so sorry if I bored you, but I hope you got some of the awesomeness I experienced last night. Make sure you go buy all their books!