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September 19, 2016

A Star-Studded YA Night in NYC with Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi and Katharine McGee

A few weeks ago’s Rebecca Munro and I attended the launch event for Tahereh Mafi’s new middle grade FURTHERMORE, which was held at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. The event was free to attend --- except the signing required a purchase of the book. 
I had only ever been to the NYPL for school trips for research purposes or for studying the architecture, which by the way is completely gorgeous. The hall where the panel was held was beautiful. Rebecca and I were in awe of the elaborate domed ceiling. We arrived a bit early and had to wait on line outside, but once we got inside the event was run very smoothly. We bought our copies of FURTHERMORE and found excellent seats close to the stage.
One of the best parts of the event were the cupcakes! Penguin-Random House provided free cupcakes that had the cover on them. I’m the weird person who doesn’t love cupcakes, but these were great and really cute. The table with the cupcakes also had swag --- free promotional items provided by the publisher. The items they gave away were straight from the book. I was lucky enough to read and review FURTHERMORE for so I already knew their significance. There were pins with foxes on them, rulers, and maps of FURTHERMORE. 
Then Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs --- who was moderating the conversation and is also her husband --- came out onto the stage. Tahereh Mafi introduced the story without giving many details away since mostly everyone in the audience hadn’t read it yet. She shared that one of her biggest inspirations for this story was fashion --- if you follow her on social media you would know much she loves it. Even the main character’s name is an homage to one of her favorite fashion designers, the late Alexander McQueen. Warner was the only character in the Shatter Me series that she really got to experiment with fashion with in the dystopian series, but FURTHERMORE is a vibrant story with a Alice who loves to fun dresses and accessorize with bangles. 
The banter between these two was incredible to watch. My favorite part of the conversation was when they described their writing process. They write at a desk sitting next to each other facing a window and when they are focused they don’t speak to each other. They spoke about the adventures of the squirrel’s in their backyard who aren’t very smart, but they watch them when they write and love to tell each other the goings on of the squirrels when the other wasn’t there.
When the panel was opened up to audience questions, someone asked Tahereh what was the writing of FURTHERMORE like compared to the Shatter Me series.  Tahereh shared that she was in a very dark place when she wrote SHATTER ME and that translated into Juliette and the story. Where as when she wrote FURTHERMORE she had just got married and was the happiest she had ever been, which inspired the brightness in the story.
So what’s next for Tahereh Mafi? She shared that she is currently writing a Persian inspired fantasy novel that is much darker than FURTHERMORE about a girl who cleans dead bodies.