I’ve been on book tour for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and indeed, I’m still on book tour! Come see me at an event if you have an evening.
Many amazing things have happened to me on this book tour, and when I have a moment to catch my breath, I plan to write about a few of them. I think of the many babies in baskets I have encountered (and the one cat in a basket), the spectacular islands of Washington, the Fikry-reading Sasquatch in Anacortes, etc., etc. I have bought more books than I will be able to read in my lifetime, been stuffed with pie, lefse, cupcakes, Orca-shaped cookies, and love, seen numerous friends, chatted with booksellers of every taste and constitution (quite a few A.J. Fikrys, as is probably to be expected), met readers ranging in age from toddlers to 80+, and yes, visited twenty or thirty bookstores, each delightful in her own way. (I do not know that I will ever tire of visiting a new bookstore.) And the tour is not quite half finished!
However, the reason I write you tonight is because of an event I did earlier this week at Books Inc. in Alameda, CA. A reader handed me a letter along with a bar of admirably dark chocolate. The letter concerns the Anya Balanchine books, and it answers a question that many of you have been asking me for months (and that I have promised to answer for months): namely, what DOES Win’s acronym mean in In the Age of Love and Chocolate? She was VERY close — all but three words. My corrections are in black ink.
I am less interested than once I was. I suspect this is because when I was beginning to write books, I was always looking for signs that I was on the right track. The more books I’ve written, the more confidence I have that the length of the book will be revealed by the story itself.
Thank you! I don’t know that I have much advice beyond the usual: read a lot; write a lot, etc. The one other thing I might mention is that one should never be afraid NOT TO WRITE. Thinking — about books, about your goals for your writing, about the kind of story you’d like to tell and the way you’d like to tell it — is for me at least an important part of the process.
Jen: I’m so excited (and a little sad) that In the Age of Love and Chocolate, the final book in your fantastic Birthright trilogy, is coming out in October 2013. Did the book have a title change, because I’ve also seen it listed as In the Days of Death and Chocolate.
Gabrielle: Thank you, and I’m so glad you like the series. The truth about the title change is that I wrote two entirely different books for the last book. The first time I wrote the book it was called In the Days of Death and Chocolate. That version was pretty deep into the publishing process when I began to have a recurring, waking dream about Anya Balanchine. I kept having this fear that I would run into her and that she was mad at me. At first I tried to ignore her, but after a while, I couldn’t. I was at a party, and I actually thought I saw her across the room! That was a Saturday. On Sunday, I called my editor and I might have cried a little bit and I asked her if I could write the book again. She said yes, and now Anya Balanchine isn’t angry with me anymore.
Read the rest of the interview and enter to win signed hardcovers of the first two books over at YA Romantics.
Hello to you and your girlfriend. Is that an Appetite for Destruction T-shirt I spy in your profile picture?
I’ll begin by answering a question you didn’t ask. I don’t believe in an afterlife like Elsewhere and I absolutely didn’t write the book to propose a viable afterlife or even a viable world. I know this answer disappoints people, but I always feel I have to say it. I wrote the book to talk about the things that matter to me in this life, which is the only one I know and certainly the only one in which I have any agency. That said, the older I get the more I believe you can’t control any reader’s experience of your books. It’s probably silly of me to try.
Your question intrigues me. Since the question has been asked more than once, I hope you won’t mind that I’m answering it publicly. If there were an Elsewhere (which I’ve already told you I don’t believe) and if the entire human race died, I imagine that humanity would end, that the fates of Elsewhere and Earth are linked. Occasionally, souls do get lost on their way from Elsewhere to Earth and vice versa. (For example, when Liz found herself at the bottom of the ocean — had she never tried to save herself, there would be no Liz on Elsewhere or on Earth.) I once entertained writing a prequel in which the Captain from the ship and an entire boatload of passagers were lost at sea. If humanity dies, a lot of people might find themselves lost at sea forever.
There are other ways of answering this question. I could tell you, for instance, that there are definitely Elsewheres elsewhere. Liz’s experience of the world had been so limited when she died that she didn’t know the kind of people who might end up in the other Elsewheres. I have also entertained writing a novel about one of the other Elsewheres, but I probably won’t ever do it. Those Else-elsewheres are somewhat bleak and not places I necessarily want to spend a great deal of time.
The truth of all of it though is, Elsewhere is a story, not a postmortem destination. It’s a fantastical literary device meant to entertain people and possibly make them reflect on their own lives. You probably know this without me saying.
(If anyone ever gets to Elsewhere, I wouldn’t mind receiving a message in a bottle though.)
The third book is called In the Age of Love and Chocolate, and it publishes at the end of October. Every single one of these questions is answered. But the story is really about what happens when someone who has always been incredibly strong finds herself in a position where she has to ask for help. The story is about being mistaken, and how a person can be both super smart and super wrong. The story is about recognizing how much real beauty and sweetness there is in life. The story is about love in its right time, and about the women who want more than love out of life. The story is not a dystopia—my darlings, it never was.
It’s my favorite of the series, and I think even some of you who didn’t read or like the other two books might enjoy this one.
P.S. To answer one of your questions… Scarlet’s baby is a boy, and my editor named him. I wanted a name that wasn’t one I would choose myself. He’s called Felix, which means happiness.