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Fierce Fantasy Night – Writing Panel Recap

Waterstones Norwich

Living in a mostly rural area, I get few opportunities to attend book signings. For the big names, you can guarantee you’ve got to travel to London, but when my local Waterstones made me aware of a Fierce Fantasy night they were hosting back in June, with a panel of female authors, I knew it was an opportunity not to be missed. I love attending author signings; not only are they fantastic for meeting the creators of some of your favourite places to escape and see the real them (still sorry, not sorry about crying on Becky Chambers), you can get introduced to new authors and exciting work you might not have encountered without the events. Plus, you’re surrounded by a whole group of lovely people you know you have at least one thing in common with: a love of reading. You can also leave the event with the inner satisfaction of knowing you’ve supported your local bookstore.

The Fierce Fantasy night featured debut authors Christine Lynn Herman and Adrienne Young talking about The Devouring Gray and Sky in the Deep respectively, as well as Sarah Maria Griffin who spoke about her second published novel, Other Words for Smoke.  

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For a wannabe writer like myself, these events can be priceless for little insider tips on how published authors do their own writing. I love the idea that was discussed about how the physical environment can be seen as a character itself to help writers with worldbuilding. Adrienne spoke of the visual aids she uses to help stream her extensive research into her world. And Christine discussed her focus on micro settings, really pulling apart every aspect of a physical place to uncover everything there is to know, ready to put it in the book. For Other Words for Smoke, Sarah wrote the house the story unfolds in as the biggest distrustful character, as it’s liable to change; there was no research that could be done and the ‘rules’ of a typical house didn’t apply, meaning worldbuilding for her worked very differently. The conversation made me hungry to get back to my keyboard and my own novel.

Sarah Maria Griffin - Other Words for SmokeThe host was prepared with plenty of questions, so the conversation flowed comfortably and a strong, varied dialogue was maintained throughout the event with the option for audience questions at the end. 

During the signing, I selected Other Words for Smoke and Sky in the Deep to read, each sounding completely different from the other. Hearing Sarah talk about Sweet James made me wonder just what on Earth kind of character she’d created; a character that, in her own words, is ‘an owl but kind of, not really’… plus in general she seemed like a straight-up and warm person. Adrienne’s passion for her characters and setting in Sky in the Deep shone through so it was another no-brainer. 

Adrienne Young - Sky in the DeepOh jeez, it was a while before I could get ‘round to reading them, but once I’d sunk my teeth in, I couldn’t let go. 

After both hearing the authors talk about their work and reading the stories themselves, there were many themes they had in common, dealing with them in separate ways. Family remained at the centre of both novels, in particular the trust and loyalty you expect and how far these can be pushed in reality. Sky revolves around the family and extended family of a tribe and the protection that’s available, whereas Smoke analyses the intrinsic nature of connection between twins. One relationship is formed very much by upbringing, the other more hard-wired into DNA. Both look at the fall-out when these relationships, on the surface, break down when an apparent betrayal occurs.

The stories centre around strong female characters, and perhaps in both, these characters end up being capable of more than what they and others around them believe. They go through very different coming-of-age stories, teenagers who try to separate who they are from what’s expected of them, and how this often clashes with the ideals of family.  

Christine Lynn Herman - The Devouring GrayBeyond the strong family relationships that sit at the foundation of Smoke and Sky come romantic relationships, and the authors spoke about how freeing writing romance in fantasy is, how different kinds of love are more acceptable. Smoke deals with an obsession based on emotional manipulation from an ethereal entity, whereas Sky successfully shakes off the shackles of instalove in favour of slowburn love, Romeo and Juliet style, without the suicide. Christine made an important point about teenage love no longer being a requirement of YA because teenagers aren’t necessarily ready for relationships and it’s more acceptable for them to choose to be on their own. 

The stories are very much YA, but still a great, light read for any age, that deals with a wealth of themes on varying levels and from different approaches. I look forward to seeing more about the upcoming sequel to Sky in the Deep from Adrienne. 

A complimentary ticket to the event was provided.


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