In which acclaimed author Frances Hardinge and her editor Michael Stearns (henceforth our heroes) undertake a breathless, breakneck tour across the continent and back—visiting seven cities, seventeen schools, eight libraries and bookstores, and one enormous (and rather interesting) gathering of national booksellers. A thrilling adventure filled with moments of high danger, humor, and courageous acts.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day One (May 9)

The tour is officially launched. Much anxious rehearsal and enormous changes at the last minute. A great many writers-in-training are well met. Frances’s early literary endeavors remembered.

The author and her famous hat, in their preferred pose.

The inaugural appearance was at Gregory Middle School, and despite various technical difficulties (a speaker shrieking with feedback, a polite but insistent bell), the students were not only attentive, but during the Q&A, peppered Frances with many insightful and well-considered questions. One student asked about why it is Frances pays so much attention to Mosca’s eyes in the opening chapters. She explained Mosca’s name (it comes from the Spanish for fly) and said she had deliberately made Mosca’s eyes black—evoking ink, and gunpowder, and darkness, and danger, and things that had been burnt.

“Frances, don’t forget to remove your hat.” “Of course!” “Got it?” “Got it.” “What’s the most important thing?” “To remove my hat.” (NB: Hat remains on head.)

Between school visits, Frances stopped by the utterly swell Anderson's Bookstore to sign several cases of books and to meet Jill and the staff, all of whom are the very best sorts and true friends of books.

A banner adorned with images from the book (and of Frances’s hat!) welcomed her to Kennedy Junior High School.

At Kennedy Junior High School, nearly all of the assembled students were budding writers. Frances discussed one of her earliest stories, written when she was six or so. “Before finding the story, I thought I’d been a very nice little girl. It’s about a page long, and in that page, there’s an attempted poisoning; one character fakes his own death; and the villain dies after being thrown off a cliff by the other characters. So I was writing about death and adventure even then.” Advice about writing was asked for and delivered. “Be stubborn,” was the gist. “There are no overnight successes, not really.”

Beneath a banner advising the daring to “Read What’s Been . . . Banned?” Frances begins to suspect she has come to the right place.

Day's Most Unexpected Questions:
“When you were in the jungle, did you see any monkeys?”
(Answer: Yes, quite a few. A list followed; Michael resisted urges to make monkey noises to the great relief of all.)
“Which volcanoes did you climb?”
(Answer: A list, the most memorable of which was Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.)
“What’s the first thing you do when you’re planning a novel?”
(First she said, “Make a very large pot of coffee,” but then she answered: Make an outline so that you have a definite idea of where the story is going.)


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