Walking into the Attic where the event was being held, you are instantly drawn to two things: the beautiful fairy lights that weave between the beams above your head and the wall long tribute to Jim Kay's Diagon Alley from the new illustrated Harry Potter book! It's absolutely spectacular to behold- definitely a place that a book event as awesome as this one should have taken place.
So sitting down, we were introduced to Melinda and Leigh by Lorna, the wonderful event co-ordinator. The event started off swiftly with Melinda's adoration of the Diana Wynne Jones archive on one of the lower floors, beaming with delight that she got to touch the original manuscript of Howl's Moving Castle. She also exclaims that anybody, regardless of sexual orientation is able to find book Howl hot. After much discussion, the event moved briskly onto obvious comparisons to both Mel and Leigh's books, highlighting the obvious political intrigue in both series and the fact that they were both quite clearly books set in fantasy worlds.
Before moving onto further discussion of their books, Lorna explained that both Leigh and Mel were going to be reading from their books, with Mel actually reading the prologue to her debut's sequel 'The Sleeping Prince.' On hearing this news, Leigh demanded that Mel go first as she could not wait much longer to hear such stunning prose. I admit, I was incredibly excited to find out this news, especially as it was the first time Mel had aired it out loud to anyone besides her editors. Guys, I have to state, it was brilliant. The prologue sounds phenomenal and really grasps your attention right away. For those of you weren't fortunate enough to witness it, let me summarise in a few bullet points some important parts.
- Death within first few lines.
- Gollums and the Sleeping Prince.
- Death and more death.
- Beautiful, lyrical writing.
- Did I mention DEATH?
With Mel, it's very clearly no surprise for her to go on a brutal rampage of murderous destruction before even properly beginning her sequel. I think fans of The Sin Eater's Daughter have a lot to look forward to after listening to this heart racing except.
Following on from Mel, Leigh decided to read out a passage from the middle of her new book, Six of Crows. Unfortunately I was too invested in her reading out the passage that I forgot to take notes so alas I cannot tell you which bit she read out. Good thing I guess, it avoids spoilers! However, what I can tell you is Leigh had to put on an irish accent for one of her characters, and it really intensified the mood. Even if it did make me chuckle once or twice. Leigh had forewarned us that she's not the best at the accent, but I thought she nailed it for the scene!
When Leigh had finished reading her except, Lorna moved on to the questions. Now I'm not going to list every question and every response because realistically I'd be here forever typing it up, that and I cannot scribe the exact word for word sentences that came out of these author's mouths - therefore paraphrasing shall occur!
There was a lot of discussion on folklore and the research that both authors had to do for their books. Mel's coping method for research is to eat a lot of dry toast and to travel. She explained that she eats the toast so that she can afford to travel. Now her advice is that you don't need to travel far, inspiration can come from simply walking a different way home, or getting off of the bus a stop earlier or later than you intended. For Leigh, there was a lot of research for dictatorships and cities (which she adores.) She knew she wanted to write a cosmopolitan district in the Grisha world, and a middle class economy, so she did.
There was a brief discussion/debate about whether you have to research things you're making up. Mel argues that if you're making it up, you can go anywhere with it because nobody can tell you you're wrong - it's made up! Leigh on the other hand states that you have to have some element of research to make it believable. In the end they agreed to disagree on some points but strongly agreed with each other's arguments.
When it came to discussing characters, Mel announced that she doesn't consciously name characters. Twylla was very simply Twylla when she came to Mel in the shower, after an amazing solo jamming session. Twylla starts singing for the King and the book derives from there. Leigh says that for her, all of the crows names also just arrived. However she finds it difficult to be able to write the character until the name actually settles. She also states that she makes long lists so that she doesn't stop her momentum, and she also uses question marks throughout which she later comes back to regret in editing. Don't we all!
After discussion about which characters were easiest to write, how they came up with titles, how to plot and why death is a powerful writing tool, the conversation moved swiftly on to what each of the authors would do if they weren't a writer. Leigh would be a fashion designer and Mel would be a zoo keeper or in a fantasy world she would be a dragon keeper. The conversation very quickly took a turn as there was major discussion about the topic of picking up poo, and how Mel would be prepared to stand there with her shovel and bag. Let me tell you, the conversation had the audience howling. It was definitely a sight to behold. Apparently Mel can't go to an event without either comparing her book to incest or talking about poop.
Moving swiftly on from that conversation, the question was pitched of if you had to write fan fiction, what would it be about. Mel's automatic answer was Marauder's fanfic. Everyone is always wanting it, so why not give it to them. Leigh stated that she would do a fanfic for the Sleeping Prince from Mel's sequel! Mel also went onto joke about the Cursed Child musical, questioning wouldn't it be funny if Albus Severus's curse was just that he was a bit emo and going through a My Chemical Romance phase. Oh bless Mel, you never fail to make me chuckle!
I could go on forever with this wrap up because I have pages of notes, but as I mentioned before I will literally be here forever. So to sum up, here are Mel and Leigh's final thoughts on who you should be reading at the minute.
Leigh: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu, Laini Taylor, Gene Luen Yang and Maggie Stiefvater.
Mel: Leigh Bardugo, Rainbow Rowell, Holly Bourne, Non Pratt, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison.
Following the event, we got the chance to meet Leigh and Mel and to get our books signed. They were both lovely and I definitely look forward to meeting them again sometime in the near future!
If you wish to purchase either of Mel or Leigh's books then you can use the links below!