Last June 4th, I had the pleasure of attending another awesome book signing. YA Author Leigh Bardugo celebrated the launch of her debut book, Shadow and Bone.
Leigh made sure everyone had a great time. Champagne flowed freely and savory sweets were available for anyone with a sweet tooth.
The best part about the launch was Leigh herself. It was inspiring to hear her talk of how she got started on her writing career.
Leigh shared her humble beginnings with us by reading a passage from a story she had written at age 11. I was amazed at how developed her vocabulary and voice was, even at that young age.
She laughed as she recounted the plot of the first story she wrote. She had named her assassin character Blood and had given her a quest. She reflected on how writers, writing their first fantasy stories, always seemed to begin with a quest.
Leigh was teary-eyed as she shared the ups and downs she’d been through just to get the book out. She overflowed with gratitude for the people who had kept her going. Her mom and her friends, were like zombies rising up in the dead of night, knocking on her windows and telling her “Leigh! Don’t quit. Write that book.”
After reading a passage from her book, Leigh opened up the floor to questions.
Some of the questions included the following:
1. What was your biggest influence in terms of other authors?
The first book I read that made me sorry to leave was Dune.
2. Did I know when you were writing it, that it was going to be YA?
Yes and no. I really didn’t understand what was going on in publishing in terms of YAI knew I wanted to write a story about people at a particular place in their life. There are decisions you make when you’re 17 that are totally acceptable and if you made them when you were 30 you should be punched in the face. That was the story I wanted to write. I didn’t really think about it being a YA.
3. What are you most excited about your book tour?
I’m excited to meet actual teen readers.
4. Have you started writing the next book yet?
Book two of the series (Grisha Trilogy) is done. Book Three will be done by the end of the year, I hope. I’m also working on another Horror project but I haven’t had much time to work on it. I also have another fantasy series which I really want to write, but I’m not allowed to write another fantasy until I’m done with this one.
5. Other than the zombies, what other things brought you out of the dark place of feeling like you couldn’t do it?
Oh boy. Thank you. More crying. I think this book, and rediscovering fantasy and rediscovering what it was like to feel like a teenager again, are true. Fantasy and science fiction are empowering. They tell you to be strong. They tell you to be a bad ass, to be prepared, to be resourceful–war is coming! I love literary fiction, but it’s like, Holden Caufield, what did you teach me? Mope? You know who taught me how to be resourceful? Paul Atriades, Dune. Rediscovering that was a really big deal. And one day you get up and get out of bed, and you think, screw it. I’m just going to do this one thing. I tricked myself out of this long, dark period of time.
Leigh’s parting words were heartfelt and inspiring:
I can’t believe I’m here. I’m looking here and I know all these people, and they’re all out here for me. And I still feel like I’m going to wake up. It’s an incredible feeling. There’s this other side to the story—like getting an agent, and getting a book deal and all that stuff. But the truth is, the advice I give to all writers (I’m always shocked when people ask me for writing advice, and I’m like, you haven’t read the book yet, it could be terrible) is, just finish. Just finish. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be clever. It just has to be done. Finish the book. You can rewrite it, you can rework it, you can do whatever it takes. It just has to be finished. And then you get an agent. And then what really happens after that is just like in the stories. Magic happens. Magic occurs and then you end up here tonight in front of these incredible people.
Of course we gave her a round of loud applause when she was done. The night didn’t end there however. Leigh gave away awesome prizes to some lucky winners, and of course signed copies of her book.
Some people were dressed in Tsarpunk attired, to keep in line with Shadow & Bone’s theme. It was fun watching them mingle about, while I stood in line.
Finally it was my turn to get my book signed.
Seeing Leigh, a fellow SCBWI-L.A. member, shine that night, was wonderful.
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