The launch event for Passenger and Truthwitch was tonight at Books of Wonder. Read on for a special recap of the event!
Erin Bowman moderated the highly anticipated launch for Alexandra Bracken and Susan Dennard’s new novels, PASSENGER and TRUTHWITCH, respectively. I had a such a great time at this event! The atmosphere at Books of Wonder is always amazing, but there was so much palpable excitement as the crowd built and the store filled.
Books of Wonder also created a BEAUTIFUL window display! Sadly there was scaffolding, so it was hard to get a good shot, but I promise it was phenomenal.
The full crowd way before the event was supposed to start! And there were so many people standing behind me, you guys won’t believe it.
And then the powerhouse women of the night emerged!
Important: These are not direct quotes, so please don’t treat them as such!
On the inspiration of their novels
Susan: Truthwitch was a ‘perfect storm’ of ideas. She was couch surfing across Croatia and fell in love with the country. Yay Croatia! Everyone go!
She loved the city so much she knew she wanted to set a story there–or in a world inspired by it. She also knew she wanted to write a female friendship that was crucial to a fantasy story. Plus there had to be magic! Then one night as she was falling asleep the word “threadwitch” popped into her head and she was like ‘ooohhh, what’s that?’ and more and more ideas came to her. She was also inspired by the musical group Two Steps From Hell.
Alexandra: Passenger, like her Darkest Minds series, was a book she wanted to read. She was a history nerd in college and cites Hamilton for making history cool now. But when she was in high school it was not cool, but she was super obsessed with the 18th century and read 6 biographies on George Washington. She was convinced a past life of herself lived in the 18th century. She went to the College of William and Mary, one of the oldest universities (and a super good school! just saying). In colonial Williamsburg she would go to the reenactments and try not to rage at the inaccuracies–like the total exclusion of slavery. It made her feel like a time traveler.
On the topic of research
S: Both she and Alexandra had a hard time finding an interior layout of an 18th century ship. They discovered this was an issue because back then, people didn’t really make blueprints. They just kind of designed something and hoped it worked. They winged it. Every ship designer had their own style and they didn’t document it on paper for all time. And they were so frustrated by this because they wanted to be very authentic. Eventually they realized they would have to wing it too and create something. Susan also took a lot of workshops about life on a ship, and horses, and diversity. She wanted to craft the most realistic and respectful novel possible.
She also teased an upcoming video where she had her sensei get her into weird twisty positions so she could figure out how to break out. So get excited!
A: In the same vein as Susan, she tried to find the right layout of a ship. She watched a lot of Master and Commander, but that wasn’t good enough because it was a war ship and thus not the type she was looking for. She also gets really into research and gets distracted by slightly off-topic things she discovers and procrastinates writing by going deeper and deeper into her research. She had a lot of primary documents saved away from her college days and felt very comfortable writing from an 18th century male POV. The only thing was having to check the English Oxford Dictionary to see when words were originated and if they meant the same thing as they did today back then. She also has a scene set in London during the Blitz and had to find out if locations she wanted to use were unharmed/still standing.
On world building
S: Her editor was a big help because she said there were too many types of witches and suggested breaking it all down based on the elements. Since Susan was a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender (and the crowd–including me–got very excited about this), she totally rolled with this idea, but was hooked on the number 6, so she used that instead of the usual 4.
A: Like Susan, she loves creating rules and sticking to them. She thought creating her time travel around magic instead of science would have made things easier, but it still ended up being super complicated. Paradoxes!
Every solution she came up with just created more problems. She joked she made a guide called ‘How Not to Get Killed in Another Century.’
On problem scenes and favorite scenes
A: Beginnings are the worst! She mentioned the BEA ARC vs the new ARCs that came out after she did significant edits. She had a hard time figuring out where the story was supposed to start, but loves endings. Her first drafts always have ten thousand characters and then she cuts away in revisions. Her favorite scene is the end of Passenge.
S: She agreed beginnings are hard, maybe because they’re what we write first. She wrote the first 200 pages in a burst of inspiration and had her ‘I’m a genius!’ moment. But because the book was sold On Proposal, there was a six month lag period where she did no writing, waiting to see if the book would sell before she could commit to writing the entire story. After the good news it indeed sold, she had a hard time coming back to the story and the voice.
Susan said she’s more of a reviser than a drafter. Her favorite scene was The Lighthouse Scene in chapter 15 and then she showed off a lighthouse necklace someone gave her and Alexandra and Erin cooed over it and it was lovely.
If your MC could get help from any other character in literature or pop culture, who would it be?
A: Sherlock Holmes! There are a lot of puzzles and murky character motivations to work out, so she feels the famed detective would be an asset. Plus he would know his history to work out some connections.
S: Gen from The Thief by Megan Turner. The ‘ultimate squad buddy,’ as she put it. 😉
Would you wanna live in your world?
A: Yes! She’s a history buff, so of course! However, she noted time travel is only always safe if one is a white guy. She would not be equipped to be a girl in the 18th century. However, she’d be down to go to the future cause she loves spoilers.
S: Yes! She loves the Witchlands and she’d be a water witch cause she loves Katara from ATLA.
(How can anyone not love Queen Katara?)
She’s also a Pisces and used to be a marine biologist, so water is in her blood, basically. Her dream super power is to be able to breathe underwater. And then she did an impersonation of Sokka’s ‘water tribe’ and I died!
A: Outlander! She didn’t want to write YA Outlander or Outlander 2.0, but she wanted to create something as immersive as that series.
(I’m totally here for the plot…)
Any scenes based on a real life experience?
A: Etta is a fantastic violinist and she used to be the second to last clarinet chair. She got to revisit the musical world in this book. She also set Etta’s life in New York because she was living in New York at the time and loved all the history of the city. Sadly colonial Manhattan doesn’t exist anymore, but the grave of Alexander Hamilton does–at Trinity Church downtown.
What books have you read recently that you’re excited about?
S: The Thief!
A: Illuminae and Red Queen! And thus a fun story about meeting Victoria Aveyard at SDCC happened. “It rhymes with graveyard!”
Erin: Six of Crows and a 2017 YA contemporary debut called Kissing Max Holden.
R2D2 or BB8?
S: R2! The original trilogy has a special place in her heart. She’s gonna name her next dog R2–she already has a Leia! 🙂
A: She agrees BB8 has gotten a lot of love lately and is hogging it. She’s sad R2D2 got pushed into retirement. Although, BB8 is so cute.
And there you have it! Doesn’t it feel like you were at the event yourself?
Are Susan and Alexandra coming to a city near you?