On Wednesday night I went to a book launch at the lovely Readings Carlton bookshop for not one but two Young Adult authors, Kirsty Eagar and Justine Larbalestier. Both are respected writers with a number of novels behind them, and they’re also prolific on social media – both very engaging with their audience.
In person, they were both very funny and honest. Which is helpful when you’re talking about sex and psychopaths. Yep, that got your attention, didn’t it!
Kirsty’s book Summer Skin is based around her experience of living in a residential college when she was younger, which is similar to what I did. She set out to write a lighter book about that time of freedom and fun that can be the college experience – which the book does well, according to the glowing reviews that are coming out – but it has also become an important one about feminism and sex and the different views that different women have of both. And the freedom to choose.
Justine’s book My Sister Rosa is very different – it’s written from a 17-year-old boy’s view of his 10-year-old sister, whom he’s convinced is a true psychopath. And because she is a sweet and very intelligent 10-year-old girl with the psychopath’s tendency to appear normal and charming, no one believes him, let alone his parents. So while trying to have a normal teen boy’s life, he is constantly on guard to protect the world from Rosa’s cruel manipulations.
In a bookshop full of teachers, librarians, YA bloggers and reviewers, publishing types and what seemed to be most of Melbourne’s prolific YA author population, it was hot, sweaty fun as we listened to Kirsty and Justine riff on sexual politics and researching psychopaths (there were a lot of us packed into a smallish space on a warm summer evening, hence the sweatiness).
Here’s a few of the authors who were spotted: Ellie Marney (easy to find, as she launched the books); writing partners of the Illuminae Files juggernaut, Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (easy to spot these guys as Jay is 6’7); Lili Wilkinson; Leanne Hall; debut authors Ben Karwan and Shivaun Plozza; and of course Justine’s husband Scott Westerfeld (cheating here, he’s a US author). There were a couple more, but I lost track as we bloggers and reviewers met each other IRL (in real life) for the first time on most accounts.
An oddity of these events is that the writing population has taken so readily to Twitter that you are actually encouraged by event organisers to pull out your smartphone and tweet the proceedings as you go! This is quite hard to do as a) it feels incredibly rude despite the fact you were just asked to do so, b) it’s awkward while holding your handbag, newly-bought books awaiting signatures, and a glass of bubbly (okay, coffee in my case, I was trying to stay awake), and c) it’s like taking notes during a lecture, which is why the kids have such advantage over us elderly people (ie: anyone over 30).
That’s another challenge of being a YA author/reader/fan: to keep up with your actual YA audience 😉
But that is the fun challenge of Twitter, to send a pithy quote in 140 characters or less, plus photo if you manage to take a reasonable one. So I sent off a few and read a few as they were being sent, and then played guess who in the audience as the tweets came through.
All in all it was a fun night but also a reminder of how awkward it can be to meet authors and bloggers after having communicated with them on social media. When you’re tired after a long day’s work, and excited to meet so many people, sometimes words can fail you when you haven’t had the chance to write them down first… Plus I was also wearing a terrible hot pink & white too-tight striped top bought from an op-shop as a joke for the night, to support the hot-pink cover of Summer Skin. It may have rebounded on me as now they all probably think that’s what I usually wear!
But it was also another great reminder of how supportive the writing community is in Australia, especially in the YA scene, so I’ll take that home with me instead 🙂