Monday, May 14, 2012

Meeting Authors: Kristin Cashore

I got the opportunity to meet Kristin Cashore (again) last week when Bitterblue released. I had met her a few years ago when Fire came out, and I had had such a great time, I had to go back to Politics and Prose to meet her again.

She started out by talking about the writing process for Bitterblue. All three books she wrote by hand and transcribed once fifty or so pages have been completed. (She kept the notebooks in a waterproof/fireproof box.) The first draft of Bitterblue took two and a half years, and came out to be 777 pages. After she turned it in, her agent requested a re-write. So Kristin re-wrote the entire book by hand-writing between the printed lines of her original manuscript. She said that she outlines, starting with a basic outline, and then adding as she goes. She said the Bitterblue outline ended up becoming 94 pages long, but she never even referenced it.

After talking about writing Bitterblue, she fielded questions from the audience. There were a questions about names and being published in other languages. Kristin said she named her characters to sound interesting, and to fit each character. For example, Leck is a horrid character, and his name doesn't sound nice when spoken aloud. All of the Leinids have a name with a color in it. Po and Katsa both had to be changed, once each, when the book was translated. Po became Bo in the German edition because Po is similar to the German word for "butt" and Katsa became Katya in the Italian edition because Katsa is similar to the Italian word for "penis".

So... now that Bitterblue is out, what is Kristin doing now? She said she's working on a contemporary novel. And that it may or may not be published. Kristin said she hopes for it to be, but one never knows if things will work out. But she has an idea for another fantasy novel after that, and she would kind of like to write another book set in Fire's world. Stemming from that question, she was asked why she had decided to write a fantasy first. Kristin says that her characters is where the story starts. They come to her fully formed. So when you have characters come to you with powers... a fantasy setting is natural. Trying to put special powers into a contemporary simply wouldn't work, as it doesn't fit the definition of contemporary. Also, she said that Katsa, Po, and Raffin came to her first. They were arguing, and she needed to figure out what the fight was all about.

Kristin said that she feels lucky to be able to work from home. She said she has special work pajamas. Whether that's true or a joke, I'm not sure. But I think it sounds like a great plan. Everything I've read about working from home says you should dress differently to get your mind in gear for work. She also said that she feels lucky to be able to travel to research her books and to promote them.

One of the more interesting questions that was asked was about the feminist drive in her books. Interesting because of the way it was worded. The woman in the audience basically said "There are very strong feminist themes in this book, and it surprises me to find that in a book for teens. Can you talk about that?" And my mouth almost dropped open. The woman who asked this question looked to be in her early to mid-thirties, and I'd wager that she doesn't read much YA. Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Vincent, and Jeri Smith-Ready (to name a few) all have very strong, smart female protagonists. It kind of concerned me that having strong female leads in books targeted at young women was a shock. We want our girls to grow up knowing that they are strong and smart, that they don't need to and shouldn't take a back seat to the other sex. Having strong female characters in books is not only relatable to me, but I think it sends an important message to teens today.

And... getting back on target. Kristin said a big reason these themes show up as a driving point is possibly twelve years of Catholic school. She said a lot of it made her angry, especially thinking back to what it would be like to be a woman in certain times/civilizations/situations... And I completely get what she meant by that. Women have every right to be as empowered as any man. But she said her religious school background showed up in other ways. The word "grace" means a gift from god, and "grace" is also the name of the powers. When asked who some of her writing inspirations were, she named Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, and Jane Austen. Growing up, some of her favorite books were Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables.

A few little odds and ends... Bitterblue was harder to write than Fire, and Fire was harder to write than Graceling. She also said that she felt Bitterblue related to her most because she didn't have powers. Bitterblue was more like a daughter because Katsa and Fire were too awesome to be her daughters. She made note that she does not have a daughter. Haha! And the final question was "Why did you do that horrible thing to that character that I love? It made me cry." And Kristin's response was... "Because that's the story." As most writer's I've met, Kristin contributes the characters for writing the story, and she just wrote it down.

Going back though... someone asked Kristin about fanmail. She spoke a bit about the backlash of fans unhappy with the Graceling ending. And I had read a bit about that shortly before reading Bitterblue. Katsa and Po end up together, but... they don't marry. She said she received an email from a woman who said she loved Graceling until the end because Katsa and Po not getting married was like finding cockroaches in her ice cream. First... ew. Nothing can be that bad. Second... wtf? This is a YA. Katsa and Po are teens. And despite this being a medieval-esque world, they are very progressive. Sex before marriage is okay. Being gay or bi is okay. People falling in love, being together, and not getting married is okay, too. And this is where my post turns into a bit of a rant. I apologize in advance.

I wanted to end this post on the marriage, or rather the lack of marriage, in the books because I actually feel very strongly about this. So often in books - mostly adult books, not YA - characters meet, fall in love, and get married. Well, guess what... not every woman's dream is to marry and give her husband babies. I'm 29. I have no desire to get married. I've never wanted to get married. While my friends in school used to dream of the day they got married, all I wanted was independence. Living on my own. Having my personal space and not have to share it. Going where I want and not having to check in about it. And I'm pleased to say that that is what I have right now. So I'm not sure why there are so many fans who have an issue with this. It really boggles my mind. I'm sure there's more than one, but the only YA book I've read in which the teens in the book got married was Breaking Dawn. Not to bash Breaking Dawn, but no one should strive to write a book like it. Two characters who meet and fall in love and get married and have the most unhealthy relationship ever.

It makes me sad that people are complaining about these two characters not getting married. Personally, I think it's ridiculous. And I would like to commend Kristin Cashore for writing these books the way she felt they needed to be written, and to not change things to fit what fans would like to see happen. Because myself and plenty of my friends are exactly like Katsa in that respect... having a healthy relationship filled with love, but not afraid to spend time apart, and just being happy with the way things are. A relationship doesn't need marriage to succeed. *end rant*

If you ever get the chance to go meet Kristin Cashore, do it! She is intelligent and funny and she always has an interesting event. And don't forget to read Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. I'm generally not a fan of high fantasy, but I LOVE these books!


Sandy said...

Hear hear sista! I think its ridiculous that two characters getting married = happily ever after. You can have a happy loving relationship without getting married and besides Katsa was dead set against getting married from the very beginning to end the story with her and Po getting married would not have rung true for her character and would have felt like a forced ending so I am happy Kristin stuck with what is right for the story.

She's going to be at BEA this year, maybe I'll get to meet her ^_^.

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