What do your favorite writers do when they’re not writing? Where do they go? What do they watch, eat, and think about when they’re not living and breathing their work? We gave two creators of young adult fiction — #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo and rising star on the YA scene Traci Chee — the Authors in Real Life quiz to find out what makes them tick. Their answers will surprise and delight you.
Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. If you thought the stakes were high for the characters you loved during the daring heist and hold-your-breath plot twists of the first book, hold onto your seat for this one, because Bardugo’s taking you for a wilder ride than you even thought possible. Good to know: The author is donating 10% of sales of her books throughout her upcoming tour to Girls Educational and Mentoring Services’ (GEMS), whose mission is to empower girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit that industry and develop their lives to their full potential. (She also contributed two absolutely gorgeous hand-painted piggy banks to our #BankOnBooksellers auction!) Here’s her quiz:
I’ve been listening to: Ludovico Einaudi and TV on the Radio. They’re both on heavy rotation in my drafting folder.
I love to watch: Brooklyn 99. Parks and Rec. I can’t watch dramas while I’m in deadline mode. (But as soon as I turned in the final edit on Crooked Kingdom, I binged on Stranger Things.)
Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think: I’ve started following a lot of body-pos blogs like The Militant Baker and BodyPosiPanda. They’ve truly changed the way I look at myself, other people, everything.
Best meal I’ve had in the past month: Oysters at Santa Monica Seafood. Oysters at the Hungry Cat. Oysters everywhere.
A creator who’s doing something I envy: I’m pretty excited that Marie Lu is doing the illustrations for Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Gemina. I love that kind of collaboration, even if it’s unfair that Marie is so damn talented.
The last event I bought tickets to was: Oh god, this is where you realize I never leave my house. I got a ticket to ride the vaporetto in Venice last Christmas? I seriously think that’s the last ticket I bought. But it was a really sophisticated ticket so that should count for something.
Most meaningful recent travel destination: Venice again. This was my third time there and I know I’ll keep returning. This time I downloaded this four dollar “Venice Walks” audio guide. It was made so long ago that the narrator tells you “stop the tape when you reach the fountain,” or “you’ll find your next tour on the other side of the cassette.” But it was brilliant, full of wonderful stories and secret treasures. I felt like I was on a magical scavenger hunt.
I wish I knew more about: I’m going with money. I’d love to know more about history and architecture and cooking, but those are all things I enjoy learning about. I start thinking about doing my taxes and I go full panic.
My favorite thing about bookstores: When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the bookstore down the street after she got off work, and we’d stay there for hours. Sometimes I got to buy a book, sometimes that wasn’t in the budget. But no one ever ousted us or lifted a brow as we lingered. I can’t think of another space where that kind of prolonged browsing is permissible and even encouraged. It wasn’t a charming store at all — totally utilitarian, tucked into a strip mall — but really it was heaven.
Meet the author! Join us Friday, September 30, at 6:30 p.m. right here in the store as Leigh Bardugo reads from and signs Crooked Kingdom. (Note: If you’re among the first 20 to place a pre-order online, yours will come with tattoos and bookplates!)
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Once in a while a book comes along that we believe in so much, we absolutely insist on putting into people’s hands (or their mailboxes, as the case may be). Traci Chee knocked our socks off with her debut novel, The Reader, set in a world in which — get this — reading is unheard of. To solve her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder, young Sefia must look to a strange rectangular object for clues . . . an object that turns out to be, you guessed it, a book. This story is an unforgettable imagining of how literature can change a society. We loved it so, we made it our September pick for the ParnassusNext subscription box. (Speaking of wonderful things: Chee’s illustrator, Ian Schoenherr, who designed the beautiful map on the inside of The Reader, also has a piggy bank in #BankOnBooksellers!)
Chee answered the quiz like this:
I’ve been listening to: Lots of The Reader-inspired playlists! Here are some selections for each of the characters: “Tomorrow” by Branches (Sefia), “Nothing Arrived” by Villagers (Archer), “Born for This” by Royal Deluxe (Captain Reed), “Library Magic” (Lon).
I love to watch: Shows on Netflix! Lately it’s been Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Jessica Jones.
Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think: I’ve been paying attention to the ongoing conversations about diversity in kid-lit, and I just read this Twitter thread by Justina Ireland that I think gets right to the point. She says, “Fiction is never just fiction. A fun story is never just a way to pass the time. A story is a way to communicate values and beliefs.” If what we see forms the basis of what we hold to be true, then it’s so important to make sure that we’re portraying a diverse world where members of institutionally oppressed groups aren’t relegated to stereotypes, plot devices, or dead bodies to further the development of another character. Our world is diverse. Our literature should be too.
Best meal I’ve had in the past month: Homemade lasagna! Check the recipe here. It takes a while, but it’s so worth it.
A creator who’s doing something I envy: Jessica Cluess! Her debut YA fantasy, A Shadow Bright and Burning, is filled with so much brilliance. Jess has such a deft hand when it comes to page-turning pacing, tropes, monsters, and Victorian London. I’m so excited for everyone to read it!
The book I most recently recommended to someone else: See above! I’m also making my way through The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, and as soon as I read the first story, which is about galactically different forms of books and reading, I knew that a friend from one of my writing groups would absolutely adore it.
Most meaningful recent travel destination: Earlier this year I took a research trip to Manzanar, where thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned behind barbed wire during World War II. The dry air, the fierce wind, the heat that saps your energy as soon as you step out into it . . . It was all so striking and so awful to think that over 100,000 people — innocent people — were herded into places like this just because of their ancestry. In our own country. I highly recommend checking out the historic site, which has a really great museum filled with tons of interesting information and artifacts.
I wish I knew more about: History. This was one of my least favorite subjects in school, I think because it always seemed so dry, full of facts and figures that seemed so far removed from my own life, but as I’ve grown up and gotten out of school, I’ve come to realize that history is not dry at all. It’s a living thing, full of impact on our current state, and it’s teeming with stories. (For the record, I also wish I knew more about science. The world is huge and full of wonders!)
My favorite thing about bookstores: The books! No, the people! (Book people are so lovely.) But, books! Every time I walk into a bookstore, I’m overwhelmed with the urge to wander for hours among the shelves, reading spines and leafing through passages, adding hardcovers and paperbacks and slim graphic novels to the growing pile in my arms.
Want a signed copy of The Reader to add to your personal library? There’s still time to reserve your September ParnassusNext box!
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On the topic of great YA fiction: today at noon CST is the deadline to place a pre-order for your signed/personalized copies of David Arnold’s new book, Kids of Appetite, the follow-up to his fantastic debut, Mosquitoland. Pre-order yours here. And if you’re in Nashville, join us tonight, September 19, at 6:30 here in the store as Arnold launches his new novel along with special guests and fellow YA rock stars Jeff Zentner, Courtney C. Stevens, and Ruta Sepetys!
(Related: Read Arnold’s 2015 essay, “Why YA? David Arnold Explains How He Found His Voice and His Readers”)