As some of you know, I was very lucky and got to attend one of Ms Kelley Armstrong's signings. I have been reading romance since 2000 (in English) and this was the first time I had the opportunity to go to a signing!! The author being Kelley Armstrong, one of my top favorite authors, was just the cherry on top of the sundae! Excited didn't cover it! LOL :) Especially since I've been trying to go to one of Ms Armstrong's signing for a while.
See, Kelley Armstrong is Canadian. She actually lives very close to Kristie... and does a lot of signing in Ontario (a couple of hours away from me) and sometimes in British Columbia, but of course, not Montreal @_@. So you'd think I'd have gone to one of her signings earlier, right? However, there always seems to be a schedule conflict :( Earlier this summer, when I was at Kristie's, Ms Armstrong was on an American tour. Then, I discovered she was doing a signing in Montreal on... October 8! That's the day I left for California! I mean, seriously?!? For once, she's coming to Montreal and I'm going to MISS it?!? Noooo T_T I was crushed. My sister suggested to leave Friday instead of Thursday, but that sounded unfair to her... and would have made the trip even shorter than it was... So yeah, I was super disappointed... till I found out that she was a guest of honor at Con*Cept - Montreal's fantasy and sci-fi convention.
LOL, long story short, I was determined to attend the convention to meet Kelley Armstrong no matter what! LOL :) and guess what? I did :)
There was a Q&A session on Saturday, from 12-1pm, and signing sessions, at 3pm both Saturday and Sunday. You should have seen me that day - I had my little red backpack purse, 10 books in one bag on one side and on the other side, my dad's work case with my sister's laptop. It was sooo heavy ^_^; and I walked around like that... People must have been wondering, LOL :P
As a guest of honor, Ms Armstrong expected to be very busy with panels and so she brought many books and freebies to give away... but it turned out she only had the Q&A and the signing sessions... so those who attended the Q&A got lucky :D I was able to score a Frostbitten t-shirt! Woohoo :D Also, at the signing, when she saw the amount of books I had, she asked if I wanted the Frostbitten promo gym bag she brought with her. I was all like: "Euh, yes, please!" LOL :) And I really like the gym bag, even brought it to California with me - my new carry-on :D Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic of it and my parents have the camera ^_^; I'll post a picture of it later.
Okay, now onto the Q&A session. We were a very small group, about 15 people, present, so it was very cozy :) Ms Armstrong read 2 excerpts, one from Stolen and another from No Humans Involved and of course, she answered our questions. Since she did not have any panels or workshops at the convention, we could ask any questions we want, about anything... So on her Women of the Otherworld series, her Nadia Stafford series and even writing.
Here is what I remember from the Q&A session. Mind you, it's been 2 weeks and this is all from memory (have I known, I would have taken some notes), so I cannot guarantee 100% this is accurate, but I'll do my best :D My thoughts/comments are in italic :P
Q: How many books are you contracted for?
A: She is contracted through book #13 so far. She usually gets contracts for 3 books at a time. Books #11 and #12 will have Savannah as a narrator. Do not know what book #13 will be about yet. If her publisher wants to extend her contract, they will most likely contact her while she works on book #13 (book #11 is finished by the way). Ms Armstrong keeps expecting the series to go down, but there is definitively a renewal of interest with the Twilight and True Blood phenomena, so you never know :D (Woohooo!! For once, I'm happy about the Twilight phenom LOL)
Q: What happened with the Bitten movie?
A: The rights to Bitten were actually sold even before it was published! For some reason though, it was bought by musicale production company, LOL :P Can you imagine, Bitten as a musicale?!? Then, the rights were bought by Warner Bros. They were very enthusiastic about this project... apparently, even had Angelina Jolie on board. Then, a couple of movies with super heroines came out: Catwoman and Elektra and they bombed. So Warner Bros decided there was no market for such movies and put Bitten aside... and in the end, they did not renew the option. So no movie of Bitten in sight... Boooo :(
Q: One of the attendee was in the middle of reading Bitten. She asked if Ms Armstrong thinks that her writing has evolved since Bitten and how?
A: As an author, Ms Armstrong strives to improve her writing. After all, this is her job. So she still attends writing workshops, takes critics, etc. She hopes that her writing has evolved since Bitten. When she hears people say "Oh, Bitten was my favorite book!" she tends to think: "What about the others, were they bad?" LOL :)
Q: How did she start writing?
A: She's always loved stories and reading, even at a young age. Even then, she'd be: "But wouldn't it be better if this or that happened?" So it's natural once she was old enough, she just started making up her own stories.
Q: Why did she choose writing about werewolves?
A: Short answer, she loves animals and was interested in werewolves :D At that time though, werewolves were not very popular. Vampires were in, but werewolves, not really.
Q: How did she sell her first book, Bitten?
A: Bitten is the first book she sold, but it's not the first book she wrote. Since vampires were in at the time, she tried her hand at them... but always came back to her work in progress Bitten. If I remember correctly, she put off writing the end for a long time... because once she was done, she'd have to try to sell it. When finally she did, she showed Bitten to her coach/instructor and asked him if it was worth trying to sell. The instructor read it and then, contacted an agent he knew and asked her to read it. She asked what it was about... and when he said werewolf, she said "Thanks, but no thanks." She did accept though at the end of the conversation (probably just to get rid of him)... and turned out, she liked it :) and if I remember correctly, the sale was very quick actually.
She then got contracted for 2 books, Bitten and another one... and they asked her if she ever considered turning this into a series. Thing is, she knew she wouldn't be able to only write about werewolves - that eventually, she would get sick of her characters and in the end, she'd kill them all off ^_^; She asked if it had to only be about werewolves? and the answer was no.
So when she first wrote Bitten, it was not supposed to be a series... and that's why there was no mention of any other supernatural races. As a result, when she wrote Stolen, she had to come up with an explanation.
Q: How long does it take her to write books?
A: 3 months for YA books and 4 months, for Women of the Otherworld books. If I remember correctly, that's for the draft. The way Ms Armstrong writes is that she plows through it, get the draft done and only then, go back to re-work things.
Q: There was a question about editors... Can't remember exactly how the question was formulate, but something along the lines of "Do you listen to them?"
A: Ms Armstrong has a good relationship with her editors and they work well together. Basically, they do suggestion to make the books better, especially make them flow better... and most of the time, they're right to bring up what they bring up.
Q: What would be her advices for aspiring authors?
A: Marketability is important, but at the end of the day, write about what you love. Don't just write about something because it's "in" at the moment. Remember, you're always writing 2-3 years ahead of the market (from the point you're done writing --> finding agent --> make sale --> editing --> publishing, the whole process takes about 2-3 years).
And the market is volatile. For example, just a year ago, agents and publishing houses were saying: "No more" to vampires. Now, after the success of Twilight and True Blood, they want vampire stories again. They even asked Ms Armstrong if she had old vampires stories or if she'd like to write some and she refused. She just doesn't want to write about vampires.
After hearing that, I had to ask:
Q: In that case, will Cassandra ever get her book? And if so, will she survive?
A: Ms Armstrong doesn't know. The problem with Cassandra is that Ms Armstrong does not have the right story for her yet... and the longer Cassandra doesn't get her book, the longer she stays alive, right? :P
Ms Armstrong has learned from past experience not to have a character narrated if she doesn't have the right story for said character. Best example is Broken - Broken should really have been Jaime's story since it was about zombies, right? However, fans wanted Elena as a narrator and kept asking for her back. So Ms Armstrong thought she could twisted it around so the story could still be about zombies, but have Elena as a narrator. And to date, Ms Armstrong thinks that Broken is the weakest book in her series.
By the way, Jaime was supposed to be a one-time character only... but we all know how that turned out to be, right? :)
So you cannot really force it. You need to have the right storyline, setting and timing to bring back narrators. For example, last year, when Ms Armstrong went to a convention in Anchorage, she knew right away that was the right setting for a werewolf story... and that's how we got Frostbitten. So not sure if Cassandra will ever get her book.
Q: Is there a character who is easy to write about?
A: Paige. Since Paige is a supernatural investigators, it's easy to come up with stories for her.
Q: How does it feel to have older characters and characters growing older? For example, in Industrial Magic, Jaime was 40 and now, she's 45-46... The twins are already 3 years old.
A: Actually, the timeline in Women of the Otherworld series actually follows closely real life time. For example, the twins were born in Broken which was published in 2006. Now, we're in 2009 so technically, they'd be 3 years old, and they are in Frostbitten. When Savannah was first introduced, she was 12 years old and that was in 2001... Now, she's about 20-21 years old. Readers feel like the timeline is going fast, but not really.
Q: How did the Nadia Stafford series come to be?
A: Nadia Stafford came to life from pure panic/terror. After she wrote Stolen (could be Dime Store Magic), there was a lull. Bitten and Stolen hadn't sold as much as they expected and she didn't hear from the publisher... so she started panicking. Her agent calmed her down and asked, if you weren't writing this series, what would you be writing and Ms Armstrong said "mystery thrillers." And so she started writing about Nadia Stafford. Then, the publisher contacted her again, saying they wanted more of Women of the Otherworld and Nadia Stafford took the backseat. Couple of years later, agent asked Kelley if she still wanted to write mystery thrillers and sold Exit Strategy.
Q: Will there be more books in the Nadia Stafford series?
A: People who have read the second book, Made to be Broken, know that there must be something that comes afterwards. However, it won't be anytime soon. What happens is that Ms Armstrong's YA series REALLY took off and so she's really busy and doesn't want to commit to another deadline. What she hopes is to write more of Nadia Stafford in between Women of the Otherworld and YA books and sell it independently - no contract.
Q: What's the challenge of writing Nadia Stafford series, how is it different from the Women of the Otherworld series?
A: Her Nadia Stafford series is more "realistic." For example, in one of the book, she had to blow up a house... and she asked her husband: "How do I blow up a house?" and he asked if it was for her paranormal or mystery series... and when she answered mystery, he said: "Euh, this is going to be harder." LOL :) Basically, she cannot use superpowers or spells to make it easier, right? :) (By the way, if you're curious, it ended up being a gas leak.)
On the other hand though, she still has a lot of freedom writing Nadia's character and world... because Nadia's a hitwoman. Similarly to Elena who is a werewolf, readers cannot ask their werewolf or hitman acquaintances if the author got it right, right? :D
Q: Canada is re-releasing the series with new covers. How does she feel about that?
A: Her "Twilight" covers? (LOL, she didn't seem to like the new covers too much ^_^;) For the whole series, Ms Armstrong had a lot of different covers, depending of the country as well. Sometimes, her Canadian, UK and USA covers are all different. She seems to like the UK covers very much. Not too thrilled about the half-naked women of the USA covers LOL :P However, she's just glad that the publishers are putting efforts in her series and think it's worth to re-jacket her books. Apparently, UK and USA covers will have a make-over some time next year.
Phew, that's all I remember from the Q&A session. There might have been more, but I think I went through all of it ^_^; Ms Armstrong has an extensive FAQ section on her website and some of these questions are repeated there.
Overall, meeting Ms Armstrong was a great experience and I really had a lot of fun. Really glad I could make it. Definitively looking forward to attending other signing sessions! :D