Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors. I love her storytelling, the fantasy elements and feeling of wonder she invokes, her worldbuilding, her quirky characters, and her masterful ability to weave beautiful language and humor together all in the same book. Her books are clean young adult fantasy with love stories, for those looking for books in that genre. I have never read anything by her that I didn’t like.
How did I discover her?
I hear people say their favorite love story is Romeo and Juliet, The Bridges of Madison County, The Notebook or other tragedies. My favorite love stories have been Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Which isn’t to say I don’t like tragic love stories like Wuthering Heights as well, but I do like happier endings. If you asked me what any of those love stories were missing would be magic.
My favorite tragic love story of all time included magic and unrequited love. It is the story of Severus Snape and Lily Evans that didn’t work out. For years I imagined what their love could have been. He loved her even after she died. It had been eating at my imagination for years, which is why I wrote the series, WOMBY’S SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD WITCHES.
Below are some pieces of art that sparked my imagination and made me dig into my own storytelling so that I could write the story that still felt unfinished to me.
Recently I presented The Magicians at Reading Like a Writer in Eugene, Oregon. The group is part book part and part writers dissecting literature. It is a free event and anyone can come, whether they have read the book or not. Readers are welcome. Writers are welcome.
One interesting thing about the author is he is a publisher. He understand markets, tropes and what readers want.
Here are reasons the author compelled us to read this book:
Featured Book of the Month
Coed Demon Sluts
by Jennifer Stevenson
I was a little hesitant when I saw this title, but I soon realized this was a comedy. This book is a humorous romp in fantasy and will get a laugh out of anyone who needs a fun, light revenge story. The author has sent me a link to share with readers to get the first book free in the series.
Aren't you tired of doing everything right?
Wouldn't you like a second chance to go back and do it wrong?
Coed Demon Sluts: There's always room on the team.
Does anyone else have a Severus Snape obsession? It isn’t so much that I’m obsessed with a grumpy old man who is a teacher at a magical school—although anything at a magical school is a plus. It is the idea that Severus Snape loved Lily since they were friends. He loved her even after she stopped loving him and continued to love her after her death. I empathize with his back story, that his arch rival—the kid who used to make fun of him and beat him up—got the girl instead of him.
He is dark and emo and you don’t doubt he could be a death eater but he also loves and pines. He was the one who tried to save Harry and other students multiple times—and sometimes was stunned with magic spells for it as a thank you.
I am intrigued and touched by his love story. That is part of the reason I wrote Womby’s School for Wayward Witches. Anyone who reads Witches Gone Wicked always picks up on the Alan Rickman’s Snape as Felix Thatch vibe, though the character does take on a life of his own.
I love the blend of steampunk with urban fantasy. I interviewed J.M. Bannon about inspiration, steampunk fashion and The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson.
What inspired you to write the book?
I have always been a history buff and loved fantasy. The genre of steampunk allows me to do both. While Steampunk can be in the past or future, the world I have been building for my series set in the1860’s. There is magic and anachronistic technology, but I try to keep it believable. I am trying to redefine steampunk, where it has one foot in alternative history and another in urban fantasy. One reader described my books as “Urban Fantasy before the telephone.” I like that one.
What do you love about Steampunk?
There are two things I love about steampunk.
I love steampunk fashion, stories, art, conferences and exhibits. I love the cover art on Webley and the World Machine and am fascinated by the concept. I asked the author about his inspiration and what he loves about steampunk. Zachary Paul Chopchinski shared some insight behind the creation of his novel.
What inspired you to write this novel?
One day I was brushing my teeth and preparing for the day when an old commercial popped into my head. It was a commercial for Monster.com made in 2008 about a giant who takes an elevator down to the center of the world every morning, hops on a bike and petals to keep the Earth turning. I just thought, what a really cool idea. And thus The World Machine was built. Here is the link to the commercial if you are curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBZmLzv9NKQ
Recently I showed off the progress and process of a book cover design using my knowledge as an illustrator. I dissected the market, looked at other authors branding in the same genre, used imagery similar to other popular books but also made it different. Take a look at the process of what I did for this book cover.
I went to school to be an illustration major. Although I sometimes use the skill of layout, design and illustration for magazines or books, more often, I use this for my own book covers. Since I always knew I wanted to illustrate my own books, it turns out it was good skill set to acquire.
I don’t often get to show off my rough drafts, but I thought I would do so as an example of how a book cover evolves. No one gets anything right the first time. All artists make rough drafts. I didn’t save the worst of my rough drafts but here are some that I saved so I can show you what isn’t working.
First of all, when I say “Star Wars fan” I mean the original Star Wars. People who truly know Darth Vader through the original three can only begin to comprehend his pathos. This is why I enjoy parodies like “Darth Vader in Love” and “Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager.”
It’s that time of year again. The season we’ve all been waiting for. Yes, for those who have joined the Dark Side, you know what I mean. Not Christmas shopping, but time for Star Wars. I love a nerdtastic Star Wars parody.
What is it about a Stormtrooper dancing that is so nerdtastically sexy? I can’t answer that. I just know it is so. Each of these videos has something fun to offer the Star Wars enthusiast.
Recently I was giving a humor presentation at the Portland Chapter of the Willamette Writers. I gave students a list of information that writers and comedians commonly use to infuse humor into their writing. Then I read from a list of funny quotes—or quotes I thought were funny. These were all excerpts from novels or short stories. We then dissected and figured out what was working in each. I included a few of mine in the list, which was a little scary, since I never have any idea how people will react. The thing about humor is that what works for one audience, doesn’t always work for another. Fortunately it worked out that I picked some gems.
Warning: one of the excerpts has R-rated language.
“Speed Dating Books” from Fairies, Robots and Unicorns—Oh My! (Sarina Dorie)
One of the books bounced up and down, unable to contain itself. “You know you want to take me home and rip off my dust jacket.”
Seven Up (Janet Evanovich)
For the better part of my childhood, my professional aspirations were simple–I wanted to be an intergalactic princess.
The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul (Douglas Adams)
It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.'
Since I am no longer an agented author, I decided I needed to go to the Willamette Writers Conference and find a new agent or an editor to pitch my novels to. My first problem: deciding which novel to pitch since I write and edit several novels in a year and I have two different worlds I am currently working in. My second problem was coming up with a good pitch. (More information on that in my next post.) My third problem, maximizing my time, since I was only going to be at the conference Thursday and Friday.
Here are some things I found valuable about the Willamette Writers Conference:
Thursday Night Pitch for the Prize
I am not just recommending this because I won this year, but it does help.