Tuesday 6 June 2017

Love Letter Convention Day 2, Berlin 21st May 2017

If you missed it you can read about Day 1 of the Love Letter Convention in my post here. Aly & I decided to skip the morning coffee on the second day which meant we had a tiny bit of a lie in and didn't have to arrive until just before the first session at 9am.

Ann Aguirre & Cara Connelly

Our first event was a reading with Ann Aguirre and Cara Connelly. Ann told us how she randomly posted a tweet one night saying something along the lines of "why have I suddenly got the urge to write a story about a girl falling in love with a sentient space ship" and being really shocked when she had a reply from Rachel Caine saying that they must be brain twins because she'd just written that exact proposal. Ann has been a huge fan of Rachel's since before she was a published author herself so she talked about how excited she was when Rachel suggested that this could be the project that they finally worked on together. The book, Honor Among Thieves, isn't going to be published until February 2018 but we were treated to an extremely early reading and that book is now on my must buy list. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical when she mentioned a relationship between a girl and an alien ship but the reading totally sold me and I already ship them LOL.

Cara read a chapter from her novel The Wedding Band, I don't tend to read a lot of contemporary romance myself but Aly was definitely sold on this one and she was really excited to win a signed copy at the end of the reading. I won The Demon Prince, the second book in Ann's paranormal romance series (read my review of the first book here) which made my day as it was one I hadn't read yet but was really looking forward to. I actually read it while I was still in Berlin but I've not had a chance to write my review yet so watch out for that coming soon on the blog.

The first English speaking panel of the day was about YA and First loves with authors Ann Aguirre, Samantha Young, Kelsey Sutton and Cora Carmack.

What YA book/s have you written?
Kelsey Sutton - Some Quiet Place, Where Silence Gathers and Gardenia
Samantha Young - The Fire Spirit Series and upcoming standalone The Impossible Vastness of Us
Ann Aguirre - The Razorland series, the Immortal Game series and standalone The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
Cora Carmack - Roar is the first book in her new Stormheart series

Why do you like to read YA / What made you choose to write it?
Kelsey Sutton - was 18 when she started writing so it just felt natural to write YA books but she loves that YA encompasses all of the different genres
Samantha Young - loved reading YA and she started writing when she was at college, she enjoys writing about the coming of age journey her characters go on
Ann Aguirre - had already been writing books for adults that had been published successfully but her children wanted her to write stories that they'd be allowed to read. Her daughter actually wrote a checklist of all the things she wanted from a book and Ann using it to write The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things for her
Cora Carmack - didn't actually read YA when she was a young adult because she was too busy studying and didn't read much for pleasure but she discovered it when she was at college and realised what she'd been missing out on. She feels connected to the age group because she used to be a teacher and has wanted to write a YA story for a long time

Your three favourite YA romance recommendations?
Ann Aguirre - Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Court of Fives by Kate Elliott and The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Samantha Young - Would second Anna and the French Kiss and would add the Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead and Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzama and the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi.
Kelsey Sutton - This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Mariller and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas.
Cora Carmack - The Graceling series by Kristin Cashore (especially Fire), The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith and Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

The first time you fell in love with a YA character?
Kelsey Sutton - when she read This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Cora Carmack - reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (Kelsey mentioned that this book contained the first dirty scenes she'd ever read)
Samantha Young - in Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Ann Aguirre - She only started reading YA as research to help her write a book for her kids and doesn't really remember the first YA characters she fell in love with, the first series she read was the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins but she never shipped Katniss and Peeta (she got a lot of laughs by mentioning they had no good ship name - Katpee or Penis!)

Your favourite Harry Potter character & what house do you identify as?
Ann Aguirre - Neville Longbottom has always been her favourite & she's a Hufflepuff
Cora Carmack - She started reading Harry Potter when she was 11 and she used to read a lot of fan fiction while she was waiting for new books to release. She ended up falling in love with Draco but she said she likes the fan fiction versions of him more than the one in the books. She's a Slytherin.
Kelsey Sutton - Has never read the books (cue shocked gasps from the audience!) because she grew up in a really conservative home and wasn't allowed to but she really likes Hermione in the movies. She's a Hufflepuff.
Samantha Young - Is a Gryffindor and Dumbledore and Ron are her favourite characters

Do you enjoy killing off your characters?
Samantha Young - she had to kill a quite important character in one of her books (it was a war so it would have been unrealistic for everyone to survive). She worried that it would alienate her fans but she had to be true to the story. It does make her upset writing those scenes though
Ann Aguirre - said she has a complicated relationship with death and thinks it is needed in books because the story is too safe otherwise and nothing you do will have as much impact if readers think the characters will always survive. She doesn't enjoy killing characters, it upsets her even more than it upsets readers, but there have to be consequences.
Cora Carmack - As a reader he doesn't mind characters dying if they die well, in fact she remembers wanting more people to die when she read Harry Potter! But as an author she hates killing her own characters. There are no deaths in Roar but she warned us that someone will die in book 2, she's not exactly sure who yet but it will happen.

Kelsey Sutton & Cora Carmack

After the panel I went to a Q&A with Kelsey Sutton and Cora Carmack which was a lot of fun. I was too busy laughing to take notes during this session but Cora told the funniest stories about how she used to have nightmares as a child and she was so worried that someone would try to hurt her in her sleep that she used to sleep with a knife under her pillow. Her older sister used to think it was fun to sneak into her room and pretend to attack her and Cora used to wake up swinging and punch her sister in the face! I have to say I think her sister deserved what she got and I'd probably have never been able to sleep again if I'd been in Cora's position.

Before lunch was the final panel of the convention Strong and Sexy Heroines with Jay Crownover, Cora Carmack, Violet Truelove, Charlotte Taylor, Mona Kasten and Ann Aguirre. This panel turned into a bit of a discussion about feminism and it was one of my favourites from the whole convention. I really wish I'd recorded the panel so that I could share all the details, I took some notes but it was hard to write fast enough while still taking in what people were saying. There was some general chat about how readers tend to be harder on female characters than we are on male ones, how we hold the heroines to a higher standard and how we're less forgiving when they make mistakes.

Cora Carmack pointed out that this is why we still need feminism. Women are conditioned from a very young age to be nice and polite and quiet. We're constantly told what not to do, don't dress like this, don't got to this area, don't act that way, even school dress codes are nearly always aimed at telling girls what they can wear. If we're too emotional thats a bad thing but too little emotion is also a bad thing. Basically girls have it tough and that shows in the way we think about female characters versus male ones.

Ann Aguirre spoke about how we're conditioned by the patriarchy and how she'd really like to see less gender roles. Women should be able to do anything they want but equally men should be able to choose to do jobs that are more traditionally seen as female ones. Ann also talked about rape culture and thinks it's very telling that the first question people ask when someone has been raped isn't "how could someone do something so awful?" but usually something along the lines of "why was she there so late at night?" or "what was she wearing?". She made some really fantastic points and got a spontaneous round of applause twice throughout the panel.

Violet Truelove mentioned that she is constantly judged by others since she became a mother. Her husband is extremely supportive but other family members judge her for going to things like the convention and leaving the children at home without her. Mona Kasten said she's been getting the same kind of comments since she got married and is asked about what she plans to cook her husband for dinner or how he'll manage without her while she's away on a writing retreat.

It's the kind of commentary and criticism that women face all the time and I found the discussion really interesting even though I hate that this kind of thing still happens.

Ann Aguirre, Aly & me

After the panel Aly and I got to go out to lunch with Ann Aguirre and her husband Andres. We ate at one of the local cafes and spent a couple of hours discussing books and swapping recommendations which was great fun. They're such a lovely couple and it was really nice to spend time chatting with them. I know Aly and I both came away with a huge list of books we now need to buy!

After lunch there was a meet and greet in the courtyard before the main signing so we got to hang out with Ann some more (she gave me an arc of Vanguard which I was very happy about!) and we met up with authors like Cora Carmack, Monica Murphy and Cara Connelly again too.

Aly, Cora Carmack & me

Luckily because we'd already met all the authors we wanted to chat with and we'd already managed to get all of our books signed we didn't need to go to the large signing at the end. The queues were huge and it was really hot so we were happy to hang out in the courtyard with some of the other readers we'd met at the convention. It turned out I already knew Carien (from Pearls Cast Before a McPig) because I've seen her commenting on Gini Koch's blog before!

Peggy, Aly, Carien, me, Karin, Diana & Freya

There is nothing better than hanging out with other readers, people who are as passionate about books as you are and we easily spent a couple of hours just hanging out chatting and laughing as we put the world to rights. We were having so much fun that we all decided to go out for dinner afterwards and I came away with so many recommendations for books and authors that I need to read that I don't think I'll ever get to the top of my to read mountain but I'm definitely not complaining about that!

Back row: Peggy, Karin & Diana
Front row: Freya, Aly, me & Carien

Me, Martina Gercke & Aly

Walking home from dinner we also bumped into Martina Gercke and got to pose for a quick final picture outside the GLS.

Love Letter Convention Goodie Bag (minus the German 
books which I gave away as I wouldn't be able to read them)

English books I was given by Ann Aguirre & Margaret Mallory

Like I said at the end of my first post we had a brilliant time at Love Letters. It was aimed more at German readers (which I totally expected!) but I was a tiny bit disappointed that there weren't any English books on sale for the American authors. I loved that the convention wasn't as huge as some of the American ones though and we got to actually spend time chatting with the authors between panels and in the meet and greets.

I'd like to say thank you to all the staff who organised things and who tried very hard to answer all of our questions (especially since we were asking them in English!) and also to all the authors who took the time to chat with us, we met so many lovely people and I'm going to have to try and buy all of their books now. I'm definitely going to keep an eye on which American authors attend the convention in the future because I'd be very happy to go back if there are authors I'm excited about. Berlin was a beautiful city that I'd like to spend more time exploring too.

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