This past Thursday, I visited the University Bookstore in Seattle, which was hosting the HarperTeen Pitch Dark Days tour, featuring five YA authors, including Kiersten White, Dan Wells, Debra Driza, Lauren Oliver and Claudia Gray. I was there to see Claudia Gray, whose new book, Spellcaster, I reviewed last week, but I was introduced to four more teen authors who write sci-fi/fantasy, and as a result my library holds queue just got a little bit longer. Here’s a preview of the books they were touring, and some of the questions they answered, and some speculation about what Claudia Gray has in store for us with Spellcaster #2, due out next year:
Kierstin White was promoting her new book, Mind Games, a thriller about two sisters who are being held in a special school that exploits the supernatural powers of its students to conduct espionage. This book has a fantastic cover, which White touted as the best thing about her book! (She says the words are pretty good, too.) One of the sister’s in blind, which creating some unique descriptive writing challenges in the romance department. White started writing as a new mom, as a way to reclaim some time and space for herself. She wrote four books before she got published, but maintains that no book written is a waste, because you learn from your writing even when you don’t get published.
Dan Wells is currently touring Fragments, which is book two in the Partials Sequence, a series of books about the extinction of the human race due to a virus. Wells described writing the book as “perversely fun,” because in book two he got to beat up his main character and show her that life isn’t fair. However, I was more intrigued by his descriptions of his Mr. Monster books, which are apparently so dark that his mother-in-law was worried for the safety of his wife and children! When asked about his decision to set the books on Long Island, Wells explained that it offered the contained space he needed for his setting, but also put him in close proximity to Manhattan, allowing him to blow up famous New York landmarks.
Debra Driza’s new book is MILA 2.0, the first in a sci-fi thriller series about a young woman who discovers that she is in fact a military grade android which her “mother” stole from the government. And, problematically, the series also features a human love interest for Mila. The most discussed (and joked about) item about this book by far was a scene in which Mila stabs someone with a hair dryer plug. Apparently the romance doesn’t get much page-time in book one since Mila has to go on the run from government operatives, but Driza assures readers the love interest will be back in book two. And, like Mind Games, this book has some fantastic cover art.
Many of the fans who turned out for Pitch Dark Days were there to see Lauren Oliver, who just published Requiem, the final book in her Delirium series. The series is set in a futuristic society in which love has been deemed an infectious disease, and cured. The exciting news here is that there is currently a TV pilot in production based on the books, starring Emma Roberts. Oliver was also excited about the fact that she got to introduce a second POV character, despite the fact that this is the third book in her series. She also revealed that the Raven character was based on her own kickass, tough love sister. Though this is the final book in the series, Oliver mentioned that since she started out writing fan fiction, she loves “books where a door stays open for you.”
Somehow, of these five big name YA authors, I had only read Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray, which I finished just three days before the event. A little bit less sci-fi that the other titles, Spellcaster is a fantasy in which a young witch loses her teacher just as she moves to a new town with a cursed inhabitant and an evil resident witch. Gray described her villain as the coolest thing about her book, because she was so powerful that even Gray was sometimes stumped about how to have her protagonists triumph. Gray tried on many different hats before becoming an author, but finally got down to writing in time to, entirely by accident, have a vampire manuscript ready just as Twilight was taking off.
Gray also revealed that just before heading out on the Pitch Dark Days tour, she handed in book two of the series to her publisher. It is titled Steadfast, and is due out next spring. Although she got a lot of page-time in book one, Verlaine becomes a second lead in book two, and gets her own epic love story. The conversation amongst the panelists revealed that we likely already met her love interest in book one. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) There were very few male characters of the right age to be Verlaine’s upcoming love interest. Besides Mateo, the only teen boys with significant page-time were Mateo’s friend Gage, and the handsome-but-mean Jeremy Prasad. But Jeremy died, so it would seem that Gage is the de facto winner. Or perhaps not. One of the things I failed to mention in my review of Spellcaster was how much I loved a certain sassy and sympathetic demon named Asa, who is called up to serve the whims of the villain. He was genuinely one of my favourite things about the book, but he escaped mention because he doesn’t really do much, at least on page. However, towards the end of the book, he takes possession of the body of Jeremy Prasad, who, it is repeatedly mentioned, Verlaine finds handsome but obnoxious. I have a year to wait to find out if I am right, but casting Asa/Jeremy as Verlaine’s new love interest seems to offer a lot more possibilities than Gage (nice as he seems).
Already read Spellcaster? Who do you think Gray should enlist to romance Verlaine?