I was in a no-good, very bad mood Tuesday afternoon. I had missed the bus back from class that would have made me early, and the bus that would have at least gotten me back to my apartment on time didn’t show up. (I have a suspicion that the transport system is designed to defeat me at every turn). I double-checked my route to Raleigh, and found out that it was 10 minutes longer than I thought it would be, due to a slowdown on I-40. I searched my apartment for snacks, or even decent sandwich supplies, and found a few cashews. Thus armed, I set out for Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.
Two Authors and a Bookstore
Why was I driving through rush-hour traffic to Raleigh, one might ask? Why was I going to this particular bookstore? Oh, well, there was a simple answer. Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger, and Sabaa Tahir, author of Ember in the Ashes and the brand-new Torch Against the Night, were going to be speaking and signing books. Emily and I had plans to meet there–because neither of us can resist a signed book, and we had a suspicion that a night with these two authors would be highly enjoyable.
I met Em there, both of us about 15 minutes later than we planned on being–but we still had plenty of time. We grabbed Em’s books, plus the ones she was getting signed for a friend, and found seats a few rows back from the front, my mood improving as we sat there. We took the time to people-watch, noting however that most of the crowd was comprised of young-ish females (although, it must be noted, the crowd wasn’t exclusively so). Mostly, though, we waited for the moment when Sabaa Tahir and Renee Ahdieh would make their appearance. They emerged at 7, with only one small thing knocked over.
I honestly hadn’t been sure how the talk would go, but I found myself very much enjoying it. It was clear from the outset that they were both very good friends, in a vaguely goofy yet totally relatable way. The digressions on food were hilarious, and I loved how easily they bantered back and forth. Not surprisingly, both were also excellent storytellers. They were able to easily and skilfully build the picture of how Renee’s kitchen almost caught fire, or the awkwardness of Sabaa’s meeting with George RR Martin. They bounced from topic to topic in a way that wasn’t set, or stilted, but entirely organic, and I loved it.
I also really appreciated the emphasis on research. For all the wisecracks about how in Fantasy you can just make stuff up, it was clear that both Sabaa and Renee had a passion for making every aspect of their worlds as real as they could make it. Renee talked about making all of the Persian dishes mentioned in her books, Sabaa gushed about a katana-making class she was going to be taking, and Renee gave us all a mini-lecture about how high heels were created by mounted archers in the Middle East to give them a more stable foothold when standing and firing arrows. Both of them clearly LOVED to know things, and my heart swelled two sizes in solidarity.
The night ended with a quick Trivia game and then an open forum for questions. Kudos to the small child who apparently had both Ember and Torch memorized (Sabaa: YOU are AWESOME). But there were also numerous questions about the writing process, including the standard ‘advice for aspiring authors’ question. Sabaa Tahir answered in a typical manner: Read everything you can, don’t give up, but then she also said something about ‘don’t ever get complacent’ (I’m paraphrasing). Basically, don’t get all hurt and offended all the times your book gets rejected or something doesn’t work out. Put on your big-girl (or boy, or whatever) panties (or thong, briefs, boy shorts, or pants if you’re British or just like going commando) and deal with it. Which, honestly, I find to be refreshing advice. It’s a lot like ‘never give up’, only it leaves out the petulant obstinacy when things go well, and focuses on making things go better.
And then, of course, there was the book signing, wherein I had both Sabaa and Renee sign my books, and I got novelty bookmarks, and also a poster with a map of the Empire on it. Renee also remembered Em from a previous book signing, which blew me away. I mean, how many thousands of faces has she seen lined up in front of her? That gesture made me, as a fan, feel hugely appreciated, and more than a little touched on Em’s behalf. I came away feeling very happy with both Sabaa and Renee, and also with Quail Ridge Books. They put on a great event, and from the calendar I got it looks like they’ll be having a few more good events down the line!
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