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May 5, 2014

Teen Genre Face Off - Breaking Down the Recent Books of Wonder Event

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This year, World Book Night --- April 23rd --- crept up on me without having much time to plan. I didn’t spend the night totally bookless, however; the wonderful Books of Wonder hosted yet another fantastic book panel. Titled Teen Genre Face Off, the panel was designed as a sort of comparison of three genres --- contemporary, sci-fi and fantasy. I thought it was a really smart idea to combine all three genres into one event because it allowed fans who enjoy multiple genres, like me, to experience different authors in one grouping.

The panelists were Elizabeth Eulberg (BETTER OFF FRIENDS), Laurie Crompton (REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTVILLE HIGH), Ammi-Joan Paquette (PARADOX), Elizabeth Norris (UNBREAKABLE),  Leah Cypess (DEATH SWORN) and Marie Rutkoski (THE WINNER’S CURSE). While I always love going to these events to hear authors whose books I haven’t had the chance to read yet, I was most excited to hear Marie Rutkoski speak. I just read THE WINNER’S CURSE and it’s definitely a book I haven’t been able to shut up about. Definite book hangover, there.

As the panelists started to answer general questions, I quickly found that Elizabeth Eulberg was the sassiest of the panelists. When introducing herself, she said her genre was contemporary realistic fiction, “AKA things that can actually happen!” We all laughed. Laurie Crompton, who I had a chance to speak to before the event started and found to be so sweet, described her book REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTVILLE HIGH as “Mean Girls meets Reality TV with a dash of media awareness.” This definitely intrigued me. And of course, I loved how Marie Rutkoski described her novel, “A new world, an empire much like the Roman Empire.” When asked to explain why this novel might appeal, she said, “There’s betrayal --- not awesome in real life but kind of fascinating --- duels, sea battles, twists and kisses.” If I hadn’t already read and adored THE WINNER’S CURSE, I would have been sold after that.

The panelists were then asked how their ideas were generated and if they had always known what genre it was going to be when they started. I love this question because as an aspiring writer, I’m always curious as to how novelists come up with and maintain their ideas.

Marie said that she didn’t really start with a genre but with an economic theory in auctions called “the winner’s curse,” which she admitted is “sort of weird…for a young adult novel.” True, but also intriguing!

Leah Cypess said DEATH SWORN was partially inspired by fantasy writer David Eddings, while Joan Paquette said that PARADOX came from her fascination with memory and “how your past defines you.”

Laurie Crompton’s idea for her contemporary novel THE REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTVILLE HIGH was also influenced by an interest in a concept --- how advertising affects people. She also said that “[she’d] seen every episode of America’s Next Top Model and [she] really wanted to redeem that time.”

Next, our MC Gaby asked “Face off” questions --- questions that made the authors think about their characters in situations related to the other genres. For example, she asked the sci-fi and fantasy panelists a question about what the prom would be like for their characters, and she asked contemporary authors how their characters would fare if they had to save the world. I really loved seeing each author try to give an answer that would best fit their characters, and I felt like I was getting privileged background information each time.

One of the most interesting questions was whether or not each author’s novel would function without romance.

Marie Rutoskoi said, “My book would not be good without the romance.” She went on to say that the concept at the heart of the book was the “discrepancy of power,” and whether or not a relationship could function when one person had all the power and the other did not, and the kind of damage that could do. Marie added that without the romance, “the spine would be ripped out of my novel.”

Elizabeth Norris said that she believes UNBREAKABLE would do okay without the romance and that “the plot hopefully still holds up.”

Gaby also asked panelists whether their main characters would choose marriage or the military, based off of a plot point in THE WINNER’S CURSE. Almost all the panelists said that their characters would choose the military.

The panel concluded with a final question: What’s next for the panelists and are they planning on staying in their genre?

Elizabeth Eulberg is perfectly satisfied with realistic contemporary fiction. Laurie Crompton shared that her new book, ADRENALINE CRUSH, is also contemporary fiction and will be coming out soon. Elizabeth Norris said her next work is “Not sci-fi. I don’t know what it is.” She went on to say that it’s probably closer to alternative history, which sounds really fascinating.

Marie Rutkoski said that she’s working on the sequel to THE WINNER’S CURSE, called THE WINNER’S CRIME, which was followed by a collective gasp that could be heard around the bookstore, immediately followed by laughter.

Afterwards was a lovely signing session, where I was so happy to get my books signed and speak to these authors who I had heard so much about. Once again, Books of Wonder put on a wonderful event and I was so impressed by how fun and different it was. I’m looking forward to many more events in the future!