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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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An Evening With Leigh Bardugo

Last Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of attending an appearance and signing event for the New York Times Best Selling Author Leigh Bardugo. Bardugo is the mastermind behind The Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, and the upcoming finale Ruin and Rising. The event was free and open to the public, so around 30-40 of her biggest fans made the trek out to the Burbank Library on a breezy Wednesday night ready to get their books signed.

Having not been to many signing events myself, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Were we just going to line up, say hi, get stuff signed, and pray for a reading from Ruin and Rising? Well I was more than pleasantly surprised by the evening which left me and (I think I can speak for everyone) everyone else feeling like we'd all made a new best friend and, if possible, more pumped than ever for Ruin and Rising.

Don't worry I'll explain this picture later

Before we dive in, I'll give a little background. I read both Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm over the course of one week. I thought at first it would be just another YA fantasy series, but it isn't. It has the building blocks and tropes of a typical young adult supernatural romance, but the similarities stop there. The Grisha Trilogy builds off of these tropes and expands them. It deals with adult themes, complicated characters, and even breaks from the typical and easily predictable story arc that most YA follows. I can tell you I really didn't see any of the twists coming, and that is saying something *humble brag*. 
So needless to say you should read them if you haven't. And you have plenty of time to do so before the final installment comes out this June. Also needless to say, if you haven't read the books, you probably won't appreciate this blog post as much, but stick around anyway, I'll try to be witty!

Now onto the main event.

Once we had all settled into our seats and a small army of librarians had sorted out all of the technical difficulties, Leigh (and I'm going to call her Leigh because after Wednesday night "Bardugo" just seems so formal) surprised, at least me, by giving a presentation.

She began by saying, "I'm going to answer the two questions I get asked the most: 'Where did my inspiration for Shadow and Bone come from?' and 'How did I become a writer?'." I'm in.

She then launched into an absolutely hilarious tale of waking up in a pitch black house, believing someone else was in the darkness with her, and promptly taking off her shoe because, "the last thing a serial killer will be expecting is a woman with a shoe." After she made a thorough search of the house and found that in fact there was no serial killer, she began to think about the universal fear of the dark. And then the thought came to her, "What if darkness was a place?" For all of you fans out there you know that this is the inspiration behind the Shadow Fold, the gash of physical darkness full of terrors that splits Ravka (fictionalized Russia) in two.

But Leigh went further, stating that a book doesn't come from one moment of inspiration but several moments of inspiration after. Then she began to create a very complicated, what I'll call an, "Inspiration flow chart" that depicted the thought process behind how the world of The Grisha Trilogy came to be. 
Some highlights I purposefully took note of... "Just Muggle Up!" (referring to just shooting Voldemort), "I wanted him to have a flying sky fortress," (I think fans can figure that one out), and "This [chart] is a lie."
She says that because that inspiration chart, done retroactively to see how her brain worked things out, doesn't include the bad days, the dead ends, the frustration and tears that writing a book actually comes with. And that's what being a writer is all about.

She transitioned into her second talking point of "How I became a writer" by pointing at her flow chart and saying I know people who have created amazing worlds and not written a word. Essentially, Leigh told us, she became a writer by writing, by fighting through the tough days and self doubt and clinging to and believing in her story. Well thank goodness she did it, because the world would be a sadder place without her books.

Then it was time for the Q&A. Leigh answered questions ranging from what her daily writing process is to if she's nervous about the book being adapted into a movie (that last one was mine, and she's both nervous and excited, for your information). 
It was a great Q&A. She never shied away or avoided a question, she clearly wanted to answer every question as honestly as she could, and she always remained positive and encouraging. 
She said things like, "First drafts are for throwing doors open. Let it be a mess," "Be aware of the market, but don't be discouraged by it," and "You can love something and be critical about it too."
She's very quotable. But of everything she said this is my favorite. "I wrote a story about an orphan with powers!" she threw her hands in the air and shrugged. "It's a trope, but we see and use those tropes over and over because they are powerful." I couldn't agree more.
We were also promised that there will be a great short story to accompany Ruin and Rising just like the first two books, and there may have been hints that possibly, maybe, kinda, there might be a Shadow and Bone spin-off-ish series in the works. So whatever that means, I'm ready for it.

After we wrapped up the very informative interactive section, it was time for signing. I was very excited. Not only because I would get my books signed and meet an amazing author, but also because I brought my friend Nilah with me. If that name sounds familiar it's because we recently published a short story of hers on the blog. Nilah is not only a writer but a very talented artist, who, upon reading Shadow and Bone, created a beautiful fan art depiction of the Darkling (one of the main characters in the books that I won't give anything away about!) Nilah decided to bring her art to the signing and give a copy to Leigh.
So now you can direct your attention back to the picture posted above and see what Leigh thought of Nilah's art. She was genuinely so excited to be given the drawing. So excited that she even talked about it in her tumblr post the next day. 

Now I didn't write this entire post to lead up to this moment and to purely brag about how awesome our friend Nilah is (ok, yes, a little). I'm really writing this to show you how great of a person Leigh Bardugo is. She's a great writer, a great reader, and a great human being.

After we left the event (which may have included a sneak peak to Ruin and Rising but I'll never tell), I can honestly say, everyone left with a smile on their face. We all met a great author, and fellow fans of that great author, but best all, we left feeling unbelievably excited for the future of the Grisha Trilogy.

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