This October, the Fierce Reads book tour stopped by my home town of St. Peters Missouri. I was invited to interview five talented authors, and I'm only sorry I couldn't make the after party.
Brian: You were a teacher. You, like my wife, watch a lot of Supernatural.
Leigh: But not me.
Kami: I watch a lot of television.
Brian: You started writing on a dare from seven of your students. Can you tell us a little about that?
Kami: I don't teach anymore. I taught all the way through to when Beautiful Creatures was published. We had written the second book, but when we did the book tour I had to stop teaching. I taught young kids and they want me to go on tour all the time.
I taught for seventeen years. I taught in the inner city in D.C., I taught in L.A., and (Margaret Stohl) and I were best friends, we hung out together. I had seven kids in my book club and two of them were her older daughters. It was a fantasy book club and the second Twilight book had just come out and they loved that. Hunger Games wasn't out yet, but they kept complaining 'why was the girl always the mortal and the boy had all the powers?' And the two boys were always complaining 'why do you have to be a jerk for the girls to like you? (in the books) There's never any nice guys and everything's written from a girl's point of view. The guy never gets to tell his story'. They liked vampires and werewolves, but were tired of that and wanted something else. (Margaret) had written video games and I was a big fantasy comic reader so we were like 'that would be so easy.' So we came up with an idea and we were pretty impressed with ourselves, and then we pitched it, like 'That's a really good idea, right?' and they were like 'Yeah, but you guys will never do it.' And (Margaret) had a lot of beginnings of books but had never finished anything. But you know, as a teacher, we finish everything.
Brian: Of course.
Kami: And you can't let your students win a bet. So we wrote it like serialized fiction. It went viral through a bunch of high schools in L.A. where my students had gone on to, and then my friend sent it to an agent without telling us. We were actually going to put in on the internet. We were building a fancy website to put it on the internet for free. My self-published friends were horrified.
Brian: You were born in Jerusalem, went to Yale, worked in makeup and special effects, and were in a band.
Leigh: I did do all those things.
Brian: Tell us about your band.
Leigh: I used to be in a band. Technically, I still am, but we tend to just have brunch instead of getting people together to play. I met one of the members when I was in college. We were the nerdiest band in LA...I was the lead singer, but when the bassist didn't show up, which was often *MICHAEL*, I would occasionally step in on bass. I was not a good bassist, I was a fairly competent bassist.
Kami: It's a hard instrument.
Leigh: It's easy to be passable at bass, it's very hard to be good at bass, and it's very hard to sing while I play the bass. It was an incredible group of people and they're still kind of my little family.
Brian: That's awesome. Normally people make drummer jokes, but you're making the bassist jokes.
Leigh: The whole rhythm section, honestly.
Brian: You started off writing fan fiction. Do you still write fan fiction and how has that influenced your writing?
Marissa: I don't actually write fan fiction anymore. But I did, I wrote it for like ten years, for the show Sailor Moon, it was a really super popular Japanese anime which I loved when I was a teenager. As much as I loved the show, I hated the way the two main characters got together. I was like 'this could be so much better' so started writing stories, different versions and ways they could have hooked up, which to me would have been so much more romantic than it happened in the show. I wrote it for a long time and it was hugely influential to me. Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer my whole life, I was very shy and awkward about telling people I wanted to be a writer. I'd never show my writing to anybody. But when I discovered fan fiction and the world of online fandom it was the first time I felt brave enough to put my writing out there, to share it with people. The community was great and super supportive and encouraging.
I think even if I hadn't written fan fiction I still would have tried to get published, but having that community there encouraging me all those years made it happen a lot faster and gave me the courage to persue it much earlier than I would have otherwise.
Brian: Excellent. Has anyone--and this is a question for everybody--has anyone ever written fan fiction about any of your characters or your books?
Kami: I accidentally read a little...
Kami: Because someone made a bet with me. I said we don't have fan fiction. She said 'please hold for thirty seconds. You do have fan fiction and I'm forwarding it to you right now'. Basically it was a lot of our characters doing very racy things. I read a lot of stuff, but not my stuff.
Leigh: I don't know if you want to put this in there, but when Siege and Storm came out, a bunch of readers had 'Shadow and Boner' week. They had themes for every day.
Kami: That's actually very creative.
Leigh: Yes, yes. There you go, that's for all the children in the audience. I remember I was in the security line at the airport, looking at the Tumblr tags on my phone and I was like (screams).
Marissa: There's a lot of Lunar Chronicles fan fiction which I love, it's the best thing ever. But, I don't read it. As far as I know, just from looking at the page on fanfiction.net, I don't know that I have smut. I'm sure it's out there, but I haven't seen it.
Caleb: There will be. If there isn't yet, there will be.
Author of First and Then, and This Adventure Ends as well as co-host of the YouTube channel 'How to Adult.'
Brian: Please bring us up to date on your books and your career.
Emma: I'm here today to speak about my second book, This Adventure Ends. My first book was published last year, another YA contemporary romance-type story called First and Then, which was pitched as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. A football-ish, romance-ish story.
Leigh: It was a delight.
Emma: I like to tell stories that aren't just romance, but deal with friendship and family and relationships. My second book is a standalone novel, but in a similar vein. It's about a girl who comes to a small beach town in Florida and takes on a quest to find a missing painting.
About me, I'm a graduate student, a forth-year doctoral student in anatomy and cell biology. I was known on YouTube in grad school for hosting a channel called 'How to Adult' and in college for vlogging on a channel called Elmify.
Brian: How do you find time in graduate school to write?
Emma: It's tough. Sacrifices have been made.
Caleb: She actually sacrifices (makes stabbing motion).
Emma: Yeah, it's very time consuming. I research all day and write at nights and on weekends. This is my vacation, actually. I'm happy to be spending it here. This is my hometown, I'm from St. Louis.
Brian: You lived in Chicago, Los Angels, and Helsinki. You were an actor, you have been involved in reality TV. Is there anything you'd like to tell us about this interesting career you've had?
Caleb: Working in reality TV was a really interesting experience because I got see how the sausage is made. And help make some of the sausage.
Leigh: What was this show, exactly? It would be amazing if it was like 'Sausage Week.'
Caleb: Well actually...I started on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
Leigh: Which I used to log tape for, by the way.
Caleb: That's what I did! Are you kidding? Which season?
Leigh: Season two.
Caleb: I was season six on The Bachelor, season three on The Bachelorette.
Caleb: I know. Then I worked up from there and I was working as an associate producer for a documentary series for the history channel called Modern Marvels.
Kami: My son watched that all the time.
Caleb: There I was not 'sausage', but I did go do eggs. So I went to an ostrich farm. I cut rats to (inaudible) the ostrich.
Kami: Are you honest?
Caleb: Oh, yeah.
Kami: With ostrich?
Caleb: You don't see me in that one. There are ones where you see my hands or I'm eating fungus or whatever it was. But with the ostrich, I had to go into the pen. I was like holding a bounce board. The ostrich really wanted the hat I was wearing. The guy was telling us 'These ostriches, they'll kick you so hard they'll break their own leg.' And I was like 'Okay, this seems safe.' So then we're all standing there in the cage and the ostrich is coming closer and closer and I'm like 'How do I know if he's about to kick me? Is this like a thing, do they have a tell?' So it bit me. I got bit by an ostrich.
Leigh: Did it break the skin?
Caleb: No, fortunately.
Leigh: They don't have teeth, do they?
Caleb: So that was my thing.
Leigh: Amazingly, you wanted to leave that.
Caleb: Also, I got to hang out with Fabio and Gene Simmons. On the same night.
Kami: Stop it!
Brian: How many people can make that claim?
Leigh: I'd rather be kicked by an ostrich.
Kami: Don't say that, he was in KISS!
Leigh: He's a vile human being.
Kami: I understand that.
Leigh: He's a vile, sexually harassing human being.
Kami: I wouldn't want to see him in real life cause it ruins it for me.
Caleb: He produced a show I worked on. I was at the launch party.
Kami: Is that the one where he sold all his toys?
Caleb: This was the one...it was the search for the next Fabio. Fabio was one of the hosts.
Leigh: So did they find the next Fabio?
Caleb: They found somebody.
Brian: I hope it wasn't Gene Simmons.
Caleb: These guys...maybe I shouldn't say it out loud...they were all dumb. They had one of those stand up spray tan booths and none of them could make it work.
I came into my writing by writing very descriptive logs of the tapes. I was very editorial.
Leigh: It's funny, the entirety of my L.A. life I never met anyone who logged tape, and for the same show.
Caleb: When I did the search for the next Fabio, the place I did that was in Burbank, literally two blocks from the apartment I live in now.
Kami: That's the most fabulous title for a show, ever.
Leigh: Search for the next Fabio.
Brian: I like Making the Sausage.
Caleb: It was called Mr. Romance which was really stupid.
Kami: Oh my God.
Leigh: But that's an actual title.
Kami: Mr. Wonderful. There used to be a Mr. Wonderful pageant where guys would compete to get on a Harlequin cover and be like the next Fabio.
Caleb: It must have been based on that.
Kami: It was a beauty pageant, kind of. There was a swimsuit one, one where they'd wear their costume...
Caleb: They had a costume contest! And one of the guys was dressed like Ed Gein!
Kami: I know who that is. That is not okay!
Brian: For those of you who don't know who Ed Gein is, he was a serial killer.
Kami: The one Buffalo Bill was based on.
Caleb: I don't think that was the archetype they were going for. They had the matador, the firefighter, and like the policeman..and then a guy in like the full body underwear with the flap in the back. Did he think that hillbilly look was sexy?
Leigh: And the answer...'yes.'
Brian: I think we're out of time guys...
Leigh: So please shut up!
Brian: No, I could do this all day, but I think you have public out there. Everyone, thank you! I'll let you know when we put the interview up.
Kami: At the beginning of the interview you should have a GIF of an ostrich running.