3 October 2018

What I Did at the Weekend (or at least, Saturday)

I was very, very lucky to receive an invitation (thank you, Clare!) to the Hot Key bloggers' brunch which took place at their offices in Wimple Street, London last Saturday. I didn't see any Barretts or for that matter any Brownings, but there were a LOT of enthusiastic bloggers and two great authors on top form - Alexandra Christo, reading from her latest, To Kill a Kingdom (and, though avoiding spoilers, from her next book too) and Sebastien de Castell who read from Soulbinder, the fourth book in the Spellslinger sequence, which is out shortly. (I've read it and I think it's the best so far).

Enthusiastic bloggers....
My morning started of frustratingly because my train was cancelled so I arrived late - but there was food left, the authors were still to talk, and I managed to squeeze inside (just - it was a very tight fit: this was a popular event).

And the frustration soon evaporated as Alex and Sebastien (are Hot Key authors chosen for their impressive names?) read from their books and took questions.

Sebastien had come wearing a shirt and tie, so tried to insist that any questions to him were formal, grammatically correct and polite. But he then undermined that by telling a complicated story about the time he appeared in public with a guitar and dressed in a toga.

It didn't get any more genteel. The two authors seemed to competing for some kind of gore prize. In Soulbinder, Sebastien, told us, Reichis finally gets to eat an eyeball. But he's got nothing on Lira in Alex's To Kill a Kingdom. She's an assassin mermaid who collects hearts ("I have a heart for every year I've been alive"). That got a cheer from the assembled bloggers.

Happily (I was still eating my breakfast) the questions after that were less... gutsy... and more... writer-y. How do you write a book? How do you get it done, and how do you produce something readable? As to the first - write something every day, easy Alex. But deadlines help - HAVING to get finished. She admits though that she prefers writing the first draft (when it's a "jumble") to polishing (which Sebastien enjoys). Both authors agree it’s not about a writing formula, as “how to write your book” advice often says. It’s about characters, and the writing. Great characters and crap story works; the other way doesn’t.

Sebastien talks about the moment when he knows "what the book is about" and things get easier. But It’s taking longer and longer for this to happen with the Spellslinger series - only at the proof stage with Soulbinder!
Sebastien reading
Getting back on topic, she's asked whether she will write any more set in the world of To Kill a Kingdom. That story is done, she says, but she does have more to say about some of the characters in that world (this was warmly received by the audience). With that, the talking was over and the signing began. It was impressive how many bloggers had
Asked about the relationship with an editor, Alex says this is key. Writing is so solitary, sharing with an editor is vital. Sebastien agrees, praising Jo Fletcher (who is the toughest editor in the world - she once foiled a bomb plot!) he does say, though, that he doesn't read the edits, he accepts all - then when he reworks he won't know whether he's amending the edits or his own stuff ("As a dude you learn there’s a propensity to overvalue your own opinion").  There's a secret revealed here - a Greatcoats reference in the Spellslinger series, though Jo had forbidden him to link the worlds up. In Sebastien's mind though they clearly are and he explains just how...

Alexandra reading
Alex admits she DOESN’T want “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive” carved on her gravestone (don’t ask how we got to that) but Sebastien says he’ll program an android to inscribe it... Unsettling...

Getting back on topic, she's asked whether she will write any more set in the world of To Kill a Kingdom. That story is done, she says, but she does have more to say about some of the characters in that world (this was warmly received by the audience). With that, the talking was over and the signing began. It was impressive how many bloggers had brought in armfuls of books and both authors took their time, answering further questions (I can reveal that so far two illustrators have tried and failed to draw maps of the Spellslinger world).

It was a great chance to connect with two fantastic authors, to find out more about how they worked and to see what they've got coming for us.

And I brought some books home too...


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