Rainbow Rowell’s CARRY ON has arrived in the world today! Happy book birthday to Simon, Baz, and Rainbow. The launch event was this evening at Powerhouse Arena in downtown Brooklyn.
I saw Rainbow when she was at McNally Jackson in March 2014 for the NYC Teen Author Festival and it was amazing. Unfortunately, the store was packed and I didn’t stick around to have my book signed. So when I found out CARRY ON was launching right in my borough, I knew I had to go! For those of you who couldn’t make it, below is a recap of the Q&A.
Important: These are not direct quotes, so please don’t treat them as such!
On her career in journalism: Rainbow talked about how working at a daily newspaper influenced writing fiction. There’s no time for writer’s block when you have a column due everyday! There’s also little time to agonize over reader reaction since they’ve probably already moved onto the next section. It helped her learn to get words on the page and not sweat the small stuff. Journalism also gave her a lot of experience working with editors. In addition, it meant she spent a lot of time listening to people speak. She developed a ear for dialogue and finding the magic quote that makes a piece shine.
On writing and loving fantasy: Rainbow talked a lot about how much she loves Star Wars and grew up with it. She loved imagining what Princess Leia would be like in our world and what other planets were like. And, it has romance! Yay! She also loved the animated Hobbit film and had easy access to it since her dad used to install VHS players in hotel rooms. She came to Harry Potter soon after it was published because she’d heard people raving about it. She had her book club read it! At the time, she didn’t have a computer at home, so her love of Harry Potter was very personal and intimate. Fantasy is her favorite genre to read, but she never felt confident writing it. She didn’t know she could write something she would want to read. But eventually Simon and Baz came to life and she had to write them!
On Harry Potter and her Hogwarts House: Because of the nature of Carry On, naturally we had to talk about Harry Potter. Rainbow said she loved the world of Harry Potter, how it felt so real and seamless. She also said she feels like HP is written for children and she reads if differently as an adult–aka WHY DOES NO ONE HUG HARRY? Does Harry have a family? Can it be Dumbledore even though Dumbledore sacrificed him? Did Harry go through extensive therapy–because that epilogue was not satisfying! She read Harry Potter to her sons and sees it as a kind of moral guide. You don’t really go to Harry Potter when you want good romance (Empire Strikes Back!), it has a different feel to it.
Rainbow was asked by a reader which House she is. Thus came a story about how she identified as Ravenclaw, then she took the Pottermore sorting quiz–she would save a person over a book if Dumbledore’s office was burning!–and was Gryffindor! At first she rebelled, especially because she ardently disliked the house (house prejudice, anyone?)(John Lennon is a Gryffindor), but had a friend who told her she refuses to back down from a fight and has a very Gryffindor-y personality. She eventually relented and has embraced her Gryffindor-ness. She also thinks all children (and Jesus) are Hufflepuffs until the age of twelve.
On Carry On: Rainbow said she wrote Carry On expecting you’ve read Harry Potter, saw Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, know who Superman is and all kinds of other fandom-y goodness (and if you’ve read a bit of the Bible!). It is a little bit of a satire/critique of Harry Potter and fantasy. She loves, loves Baz and hopes the moment he shows up in the book, everything clicks. She backtracked, amending that hopefully you’re already enjoying it, but when Baz appears go, “That’s my favorite song!” She loved writing him, too. Carry On partly arose because she loved writing Simon and Baz in Fangirl and felt like she had already done all the hard world building for that book, but then never got to do anything with those characters. Thus she had to write Carry On.
On Gemma, Cath, and Rainbow’s Simon Snow: As Rainbow has talked about before, she’s not continuing Cath’s fanfiction in this book. And she’s not writing Gemma’s characters, either. Rainbow said she modeled Gemma’s Simon Snow off JK Rowling and the other great English children’s lit writers–a lot of classic children’s writing comes from England (Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan) and she wanted to try and embody that with Gemma. Cath’s Simon and Baz were supposed to mirror Cath’s own issues and be thinly veiled versions of people she was having feelings over throughout the novel. And Rainbow’s Simon and Baz have a bit more swearing, a bit more sadness, and dragons.
On her advice for young writers: Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Learn how to recognize good writing. Know you’re probably going to suck and that is okay. Not all fantastic writers get published. Half the game is just finishing a manuscript.
On her graphic novel: It’s long. And fantasy.
On which of her books would make the best Netflix series: Carry On! She said Eleanor and Park would have nothing happen in it as a series. Eleanor’s dad would abuse her nonstop and then there would be separate shows when she leaves and she and Park are doing her own thing. She also mentioned Fangirl at the end and how cool the Simon/Baz stuff there would be.
On writing queer characters: Rainbow feels privileged to be able to tell stories about characters who are confident in their sexuality, but also characters questioning and unsure. When she was growing up, there was no room to question. Sexuality was not a spectrum the way a lot of us recognize it today. It was either you’re straight, or you’re keeping it a secret.
On writing both YA and Adult: She doesn’t see much difference between the two except the age of the protagonist and where the books are shelved in stores. The distinction doesn’t both her. She doesn’t approach Adult by going “DIVORCE, DIVORCE, DIVORCE,” while her YA stuff is more sexual than her Adult books. As long as her books don’t have gross covers, she doesn’t care what age category they are sold/shelved in. For her it is a marketing thing more than anything. She is confident that librarians and booksellers do a good job of getting the right books into the hands of people who want to read them. When asked about YA being seen as not serious literature by certain people, she said doesn’t care, especially if it comes from someone who don’t like or won’t read YA. They don’t get to have opinions. #IReadYA!
On the development of fandom: Rainbow feels that fandom has grown. When she was younger, it was a lonely thing to love something and as soon as you found someone that shared the same interest, you became friends. But now she doesn’t have to be friends with every Harry Potter fan she meets. Fandom is big enough.
Powerhouse Arena put together a fantastic event! There was lots of book swag and the staff were so friendly and all wearing CARRY ON t-shirts. It really felt like the bookstore was excited to be hosting this event and went all out. The first stop of the signing line was a photo wall!
And then Rainbow, herself!
I thought I knew what I was going to say, and then it was my turn and my brain just stopped. While I babbled something about how much I love Fangirl and can’t wait to read Carry On, Rainbow was lovely. She personalized both books which was a nice surprise! A lot of authors can’t personalize more than one book for time and for the sake of their poor hand. And 300 people were expected, so Rainbow really was being amazing!
And then there were tables to collect swag! Pins, tattoos, a poster or book cover, and cookies/tea. I didn’t get any pictures of the cookies since my brain stopped working at that point. It was like, COOKIES!
I’ve been to a lot of author events and this was by far one of the best! Thanks to Rainbow Rowell for being such a delightful speaker, writer, and human being. Thanks to Powerhouse for the care that went into this event! I hope you guys love CARRY ON! I’m excited to get reading.
Rainbow Rowell continues to break boundaries with Carry On, an epic fantasy following the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from her beloved bestseller Fangirl.
Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.