Left to right Garth Nix, Kendare Blake, Renée Ahdieh
This past weekend during New York Comic Con, Bookcon was busy taking over Hudson Mercantile with various panels and signings. At the Fantasy Fandoms Unite panel, Garth Nix (Abhorsen Trilogy), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns), and Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn), sat down to answer fan questions.
Weirdest google searches: Blake admitted she had searched some pretty strange things for her writing, often related to murder, like “how long would it take a body to decompose under so-and-so? What would happen to your body if so-and-so?”
Nix said that his searches often had to do with history or answering strange questions that pop up. “I’ll be writing something and suddenly think, ‘What do they call the turret of a castle?’ And that’ll often lead to ‘why do they call it that?’ Then three hours later I’m on the same word.” He added, “I’m always curious about things. I’m always curious to know everything, really. You never know when you might want to use it in your books.”
Why write YA: Renée Ahdieh shared that “books are where I started to learn English…books were my savior…it’s where I started to understand friendship in the US.” Ahdieh also name-dropped the character Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s books, citing her as an inspiration for loving and wanting to write books with a Strong Female Character.
Nix added that the YA (young adult) label isn’t necessarily something he thinks about when writing. “Labels (like YA) aren’t a definition of what they (books) are. They are a selling tool to make it easier for publishers and book sellers,” said Nix. While a book may be appropriate for one age group that doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyed by any others. Of course, the problem, Nix pointed out, is that some people may not pick up a book with a certain label, whether that label is YA, fantasy, historical fiction etc.
Strong Female Character: The authors also discussed the problems with the somewhat overused term “strong female characters.” Kendare Blake said that her problem is that “strong” is usually used in relation to male characters, and how they are strong. So when a female character is called strong it usually means she is strong– like a man. Blake said she struggles with the term because she wants to show every facet of a female character which doesn’t necessarily mean any classic or male definition of strength. “We are all smart we are all stupid we are all weak we are all strong. Because we’re humans,” Blake said.
Nix agreed, pointing out people always ask him how to write female characters. “No one asks how do I write monsters and demons and other creatures.” Maybe people are bit too hung up on how women can be the center of a story, too fixated on what a strange choice they are to write.
Favorite superpowers: Just to end on a proper note for NYCC, the authors told us what superpowers they would want to help them in their daily lives, in case you were wondering (which you obviously were).
Nix went classic stating he wanted the power of flight. Ahdieh went right to mind control- Useful? yes. Creepy? also yes. Revealing herself as the most pragmatic of the bunch Blake pointed out that with mind control, Ahdieh could just make Nix fly her everywhere in addition to getting someone to hand over their private plane. As for herself, Blake wants to be able to transform objects.
“I wanna be able to turn a bird into a cup. Sometimes you need a bird sometimes you need a cup,” said Blake.