After our triple review of The Iron Trial, in which Kiersten, Marlon, and I all gave the book 5 stars, it should come as no surprise that I really, really like Holly Black. I remember reading Tithe many moons ago when I was a pre-teen and I absolutely loved it (and the subsequent books), but the fact that it was Holly Black, while a tidbit of information lodged in the back of my mind, didn't really register with me until I started revisiting her as an author in my current years and thought "Wait, she wrote those books I absolutely fawned over when I was younger. That's amazing!" I love it when authors do that to me (you'd be surprised how often it happens). And then of course, there are the amazing Spiderwick Chronicles which everyone can agree are great. And I'm working on familiarizing myself with the rest of her works because she is just absolutely magnificent!
So, hearing she was doing an event near me for The Darkest Part of the Forest, I jumped at the opportunity to go. The event was at the [words] Bookstore in Maplewood and I went with my friend Maria, who I know from college and is a fellow lover of books (I mean, we met in a creative writing class). Before I talk about the event itself, I want to mention how much I loved the bookstore itself. It's an independent bookstore and it was so beautiful and nice from not only the inside, but also the location and the outside banner. Everything about is was so lovely, I just wanted to spend hours there. It's only about 25 minutes from where I live when I'm not at school, and they apparently host a lot of events, so I'll definitely be returning there.
Just look at how nice the place looks from the outside! Imagine how much more literature-related wonder was awaiting once we stepped through those doors!
It was a lot of wonder. Once we purchased our copies of the book, we had a bit of extra time to kill before the event itself started. We spent it exploring the bookstore and also taking pictures that some might describe as silly but I would describe as adorable.
You can come to your own conclusion about our shenanigans involving finding books with faces on them so we could pretend they were part of our own faces.
Yeah, I've actually got quite a few more bookstore pictures of us goofing off, but you came to this post for Holly Black so I am getting to the Holly Black. But before I tell you that, I'm going to tell you about how we were about to go sit down and then we saw Holly Black in the bookstore and I almost cried and I couldn't breathe and I know Maria was contemplating calling an ambulance and I kindof lingered around wherever she was standing for a while, trying to soak in the Holly Black. But then I calmed down a little and finally went to the seating area, where we sat in the first row. The event took place in a downstairs section of the bookstore, where there were more shelves (where they kept overstock books) and couches and a very nicely arranged place for Holly Black to do what she was planning to do.
I particularly liked the way the name of the bookstore was painted over the back wall, I thought it gave the space a very nice touch. There were a few rows of seats and Maria and I sat front and center. Unlike previous events where I've encountered Holly Black (City of Heavenly Fire release and BEA) this was a very small, intimate event with very few people, which made it so much better.
At 4:00, Holly Black herself made her way down and sat upon one of the couches, dressed in a beautiful purple dress, and introduced by an event coordinator of the bookstore. And so began the event.
She started off by reading an excerpt from The Darkest Part of the Forest. Hearing her read it just made me want to pick up the book and delve into right away. It was my first experience with the story -- I hadn't started reading in the forty five minutes between buying it and sitting down -- and it sounded so magical.
After reading, she talked a little about how she came to write this book and how, after writing a few stories about fairies in the modern day and taking a break to focus on other creatures, she thought she had a great idea for a book about fairies in the modern day and went from there. She kept this part fairly short and told us, the audience, that she wanted us to ask her questions and she'd answer them and if we didn't ask her questions she'd ask us questions.
And so, the better part of an hour was spent in this sort of discussion with Holly Black and it was absolutely spectacular. First of all, she's a wonderful soul. She's funny and she's genuine and you just want to be around her. She told us a lot of interesting things about herself and her writing process as a whole, and her writing specific to this book, and a slew of other things.
I found it really interesting to hear about her describe the writing of The Darkest Part of the Forest, because I'm reading it now and knowing how some of it came together is so insightful. She spoke about how she wanted something that was our world, but slightly removed, a variation of sorts, where fairies could exist but be the norm. She talked about having these two siblings in love with this prince they built up in their head and how you could have a changeling raised beside the child it (he) was supposed to "replace." It was all such a fascinating conversation. She also mentioned how the quote in the epigraph she took the title of the book from was one she'd been wanting to use for years and could never find because it had been misattributed when she first heard it and she could finally use it and it fit so well with this book.
Other topics of conversation included her favorite pizza topping: olives.
She also mentioned how she started out in her college's teaching program (which happens to also be the same college Maria and I go to, shoutout to TCNJ) and then thought about how she wanted to meet writers and know writers and she switched to English. I asked her about when that moment was where the meeting writers thing stopped becoming an aspiration and started becoming her reality, because as many of her fans know she's close friends with many other popular writers. She talked about how some of the people she met didn't have books out when she met them -- she met Cassandra Clare because she said something funny on the internet -- and how she toured with Tamora Pierce (and flipped open her book covers) and talked about some of her journey from Tithe to now. She also joked about how some authors she looks up to just think they know her because she shows up to enough of their events. They'll just recognize the face and assume they're acquainted and she recommended the tactic.
At one point, she asked how many writers there were in the audience. I, of course, raised my hand. She asked if anyone wanted to discuss what they're writing and she looked me in the eyes and I guess I had a face of terror on because then she talked directly to me, teasing me about how I knew I wanted to and I made another, different, expression of terror mixed because I didn't really know how to talk about my writing, but thankfully someone else spoke up and mentioned her road trip novel. And then there were more questions and she was absolutely lovely. I wish I could encompass everything she said here and I wish I could capture her spirit and her wonderful nature in my words.
After the talk, we went upstairs for the signing. She was happy to sign not only The Darkest Part of the Forest, but also other books. Some people brought galleys or copies of books for their friends and she signed all of them and had conversations with everyone as she was doing so. Because the event was such a small one, our individual conversations as we were signing were a few minutes in length as opposed to the seconds one has at larger ones. When it was my turn to sign, she immediately asked "So what are you writing?" HOLLY. BLACK. ASKED. ME. ABOUT. MY. WRITING. Holly Black asked me about my writing after the conversation was already over. She's such a caring individual she just genuinely was wondering about a fan who is also someone who writes and asked me about it. So we had a conversation and I told her about things I'm writing and also about how I have this problem where I have an idea an I think "This is the Best Idea Ever, this is the novel to beat all novels" and then a few thousand words in I start thinking it's stupid and then I think of another Best Idea Ever and abandon the other one for the one and rinse and repeat and she gave me writing advice and told me about how the most important thing is not to stop writing and keep going and push past that bridge. She told Maria and I that we should be each other's editing partners (an idea we thought was really rad) and show each other everything and motivate one another not to stop. Everything she said was so important.
And she even took a picture with us!
But honestly, Holly Black and everything she said is so important for so many reasons. Not only is she an excellent author, but she's an author who doesn't treat fans as an "other." She was so excited to hear about everyone's writing and made sure to ask every single person who acknowledged they were a writer about what they were working on and didn't talk to us like she was an author who's written a horde of successful books and we're all amateurs, which was probably true (The people I remember speaking out loud hasn't been published, I don't know if any secretly famous people were lurking but I said "probably true" so don't be upset). She spoke to us like equals and got excited when someone mentioned the world's largest pistachio because she researched that for this book and genuinely wanted to help people who were struggling. Authors like her and so important and they're what make the writing community a better place. This was such a great experience that was amplified by the fact that it was such a small an intimate setting. There's a lot more I could say but this post is already pretty long, so I'm going to go finish reading The Darkest Part of the Forest now.
Anyway, while I was there, I picked up a SIGNED copy to giveaway to one of you lovely people!
To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open US only, unless you are willing to pay the shipping, and is open through February 12th. You must be 13 or older to enter or have a parent enter for you. The winner will be selected shortly after and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Good luck! :)
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