Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Belles and Brujas Tour Recap

Although this event recap for the Boston stop for the Belles and Brujas Tour is super late, I finally have this out for all of my readers! Thank you to the Brookline Public Library and Brookline Booksmith for making this amazing event happen. The Boston tour stop occurred on Tuesday, June 5th. The Belles and Brujas tour is celebrating Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles and Zoraida Córdova’s Bruja Born, both books that were released earlier this year. Also joining the duo include special guests Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and Sasha Alsberg, co-author of Zenith.

Magic and mayhem are part of the cross-section of books. Dhonielle asks the panelists, what drew them to magic and fantasy? Zoraida mentioned how she is looking for magic to transport into books. If you’re a teen at the age of 14 and you read about a character of the same age doing these incredible things, you have the sense that you can overcome what the character overcomes. Zoraida fell in love with Amelia Atwater’s vampire books when she was a teen. Julie mentions how “fantasy is freedom.” She first fell in love with The Mists of Avalon. Sasha talked about how she always wanted to be an astronomer but she sucks at math. She fell in love with sci-fi and is a big Star Trekkie. Dhonielle said that her dad is a big nerd and loves space opera, comics and that they always went to the bookstore every Saturday. She always loved to read and she escaped reality and things that happened at school through reading. Dhonielle claims, “fantasy is an escape and it’s a place for me find strong women.”

Dhonielle asked the panelists about the strength of their characters. Zoraida describes the Brooklyn Brujas as “Charmed but brown.” Each sister has her own book. The sisters are average girls but they have powers that they don’t know what to do with. Magic comes from them. The magic doesn’t come from romantic love or from others. Magic is inward and it climbs outwards. Dhonielle claims she likes villains more than heroes. Julie always loved fairytales. She rooted for the go-getters for what they want. Julie always wanted to write a story about a woman who has ambition and has a driving force of life. She wanted to write about a woman with agency instead of the pure and the innocent. Sasha and co-author Lindsay Cummings wanted to write about how girls should be in real life. They wanted to break stereotypes of the catty fighting. They both wanted to hone in on close and healthy friendships between females and to turn around the stigma.

In terms of world building, Dhonielle asks, how do you build your world? Sasha wrote three years ago and used a lot of spreadsheets about anything space related. She based it on what is real or what was a theory. Sasha made magic out of them and manipulated concepts. It was a hands on experience creating worlds and she had fun creating a map to figure out how the world will look like. Zoraida made a map in visualize where everything is going to be and worked from there. When Julie was writing book two, Kingdom of a Blazing Phoenix, there is a canon you have to stick to and the world building has to be similar. Dhonielle mentioned that her second book in the Belles series is called Everlasting Rose. Both Dhonielle and Julie agreed world building helps to write the second book. Dhonielle and Sasha often forget something that happened previously in the story during drafting like the spelling of characters' names. Sasha also said that she has dyslexia and spells characters names wrong all the time.

Dhonielle aks the very important question, “do we have the responsibility to tell teens the truth?” Zoraida writes about certain subjects and bridges lines. We should be telling the truth to kids and teens. The difference with kids reading YA compared to adults reading is huge. The teens want to belong to what they read. They want a sense of identity about who they are. Julie agrees with Zoraida and said that teens are going to inherit the world. She doesn’t like how Disney sanitizes fairy tales. Julie wants to show women who are ambitious and power hungry and not wanting a man to save them. Sasha learned a lot from YA and what she read from books when she was in her teens. She wants teens to learn a lot from what she writes as well. Dhonielle wants to “write about teens how they are and not what they should be.” She claims we need to get better telling the truth and not cleaning everything up. Don't give into the pressure and lens to a certain way.

When a question was brought up about whether the authors would want to be a hero or a villain, Sasha and Dhonielle both said villain and Zoraida and Julie answered with hero. There was also a conversation about a Hufflepuff exterior but a Slytherin interior. Sasha asks everyone “would you want your book to be adapted into a play or a musical?” In unison, Julie and Zoraida said musical! They talked about dance numbers and combusting into song. Dhonielle said her books will be dark if it was a musical and opted for the play. Sasha talked about dancing space pirates with a possible Captain Jack Sparrow for her’s. Zoraida then chimes in “ballet?” to Sasha. Another question that was asked was would you be on the always be on the run for seven years or be in jail for years. Julie said jail because she is such a Hufflepuff. Sasha, Dhonielle and Zoraida said on the run. Each author was asked if they would want their book be misspelled or have the cover changed. For some odd reason the conversation shifted to alpacas smiling to corgis. Zoraida even mentioned how Eric Smith is a corgi king!

Back to more serious questions, what has added to help grow the genre in regarding how adults gravitate toward YA. Zoraida writes about death a lot because when you are older, you think more about mortality. Teens often feel immortal. Dhonielle mentioned how lately YA caters to the nostalgic teen experience and that is why we need to write more about the truth. She would like to see more teens at book events and in signing lines. One of the issues is the structure of books. We need to change that. She says that we need to change the structure for teens to get books. Dhonielle hopes YA books will find a way to make it into school and class syllabi. We need fresh voices. Teens want books about drama, kisses, witches and more. She believes that there should be new classics read in school and no more Mice and Men type of books. Julie writes for herself but she writes for teens. She writes about destiny vs. choice. Sasha a in-between. She is not a teen but not quite an adult. At age 18, she was writing for herself. She believes that literature is universal.

In terms of reading, Dhonielle described how Holly Black’s books “creates new experiences.” She loved “following into the woods.” Zoraida hated reading until she was 13. Librarians and teachers always told her to read The House on Mango Street or How the Garcias Lost Their Accents. Zoraida claims, “I love reading myths and I wanted to create my own myths.” A question was asked regarding the research for world building. Dhonielle said she did research on the beauty industry for months before creating a loose outline for The Belles. Zoraida talks about her Brooklyn Brujas series and how there is no handbook for what she is writing about. However, there are superstitions which she researched. She also looked up the Day of the Dead and made sure she doesn’t replicate certain things. She claims, “I figured out what I wanted to avoid when researching in order to create my own world.” Julie is a plotter. When she has enough research to create a book bible, then she writes the book. She read and watched a lot about the Silk Road for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Sasha used a spreadsheet and did a lot of research on current Celtic mythology that isn’t quite mainstream. She also did a lot of fact checking. Sasha mentioned how she loves watching documentaries and that “it’s so fascinating and so different.”

I had a great time and the turn out was pretty decent. It was nice to see a variety of different authors and different genres. A lot of book swag was handed out and there were a couple of raffles at the event. I love how the event was taken place in the teen room at the library. There was plenty of time to meet the authors and to chat with them and of course to get books signed.

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