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Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce did a reading tonight in the Brigantine Room at the Harbourfront Centre, the same venue where I saw Jasper Fforde last week. I grew up on Pierce books, reading the Alanna books when I was a young teen. A few years ago, I read the Circle of Magic books. I never got around to reading most of her books in between, but she's been steadily producing what are mostly sets of four books all along. The room was fairly full, but there was the odd empty seat, just as well since I bought my ticket about twenty minutes before the event was due to start. The room was filled predominantly with young teenaged girls, many of whom were reading as they waited for the event to start, exactly the market of young dreamers and aspirers which her novels describe.

After being introduced, the author came out on stage, a middle-aged, increasingly grey-haired woman in a pale yellow suit which looked good on her. She set her book on the podium and dully announced, "I'm going to do a reading from my new book. It's called Trickster's Queen. Prologue." In a mumbled monotone, she proceeded to drone something about places and people with long names doing some things in a narratively historical voice. All of three sentences in, I was missing words she mumbled.

And then a voice from the audience interrupted her, someone we later learned was her husband. "It's not working, Pierce."

The author paused and took a drink of water. Her voice cleared up. She came alive. "And you thought I was going to be the author from hell." she teased the audience before giving us a choice of a reading or a no-holds-barred Q&A session. The audience was relieved. Tamora Pierce was going to be good fun after all! The vote split 50-50, so she opted to do a short reading and then the Q&A. Everyone was happy.

She did indeed read from Trickster's Queen, but a passage somewhere in the heart of the book. In the scene, the main character, Ali, Alanna's daughter, is confronted with what looks like might be the romantic interest of the book who has found one of her spy-creatures, adorably ingenious creatures called darklings, little spots which can take different shapes and have a modest degree of intelligence. The darkling stole the scene for me, because of the appropriate way it interrupted, and the way Pierce did its voice. Commercially, the reading was a success: my interest is piqued and I'd like to read the Trickster books.

I knew there were two Trickster books, but every other series she's ever written has four books, so I figured I should wait until the other two came out. But no! There will only be two Trickster books, because she's now allowed to write longer books, so the actual page count in the two Trickster books are about as long as her past four book efforts, and covers as much plot.

That was one of the questions answered in the Q&A. The Q&A was nicely done. She organized it herself, after all, since the event was advertised as a reading. She said that any question at all was allowed, there were no rude questions here. She said she was bad at lying, and had gotten to the point where she was almost used to admitting embarassing things about herself in public. Any question about plot, her books, the publishing industry (she's worked in many aspects), her personal life... it was all allowed.

I could tell you far more about what she told us if I'd read all of her oeuvre. She's passionate about her characters, in much the same way that her characters have passion and humor. At heart, she's a bit of a romantic sop. All of her romances are, one way or another, based on her and her husband. Roger, "operatic villain" (her words) of the Alanna books, was based on her high school boyfriend. "I got to kill him twice!" She said with glee.

Someone asks where she finds all her names. She said they were all taken from the real world, as proved to be the case with most of her sources. She's acquired a collection of forty-odd baby name books covering all different cultures. She use books of names appropriate to the part of the world she's mentally adapting for the fantasy land of a given book, although she'll often change the spelling. She recommends that, if you use this method of choosing names for novels, to cover the books with non-transparent paper, or else friends will comment endlessly on pregnancy.

Her lands too are all based on real places. The Copper Isles, where the Trickster books are set, she originally envisioned as South America, but she needed palaces, so she switched its inspiration to Indonesia. Thus most of the names in it come from Indonesian baby name books. Tortall was more of a mishmash - she says she's had people speculate everything from France to New Jersey, but the latter is more based on its shape than its culture. She's set books in places based on Middle Eastern-Indian fusion, samurai Japan, civil war America, Scandanavia, classical Rome, and Medieval France.

Much of her inspiration comes from a lifetime's interest in military history, beginning when she was seven. One of her worst, most horrific villains was derived from Joan of Arc's general who, after fighting for her cause, was later condemned of having killed something like 120 peasant children from near his various castles. He was killed, however, for his alchemical patronage, and therefore for heresy.

When she started writing books with strong heroines, it was because none of her favorite authors were writing about strong women and, until they could remedy that small matter, she had to deal with the problem herself. She likes to write about the sort of atheletic creature, strong-minded woman she always wished she could be. Her editor pushes her to write about other types of people. Her editor - who had the sort of amazingly specific name which automatically should lead to a career somewhere in the publishing industry - told her that Kel needed to be a leader. "But I don't know anything about leaders," she replied, "I've always been the sort that plays well with others." Her editor also told her that Ali should be unmotivated. Pierce didn't know any unmotivated people. "It'll stretch you." replied her editor, and so she tried. But, she had to admit, she was very glad to be done writing the Trickster books, as they were a real challenge.

She had fun writing all of her books - as she pointed out, if you don't like what you're writing, you stop writing it, and then you don't write anymore.

She has four cats, two birds, and a husband in her household.

I'm sure she said many more things about herself and her life, but I can't remember them all now. I'll add in more if I do remember. The audience laughed and cheered. It was a happy event. At the end, the host came back on and said the author would do a signing. Thirty seconds later, a line of a hundred and eighty thirteen-or-so year olds stretched around the room. I couldn't compete with that much enthusiasm. After all the chairs had emptied, I made my way from the room, one of the first people to leave the spell of a very interesting author indeed.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
sioneva
Nov. 6th, 2004 03:28 am (UTC)
I've loved Tamora Pierce since I was in junior high--I remember that at least one of the Alanna books (the fourth?) was only in hardback when I first started reading, at a time when my parents refused to purchase hardback books! The trauma...! I saved up for them, though--they might have been the first books I ever bought.

Anyway, she sounds fascinating--I keep reminding myself to pick up her latest books. Will look into it when I'm back in the States.
momiji
Nov. 6th, 2004 07:26 am (UTC)
I remember the Alanna books! I loved them as a kid. I think I still have them in my book case. Its great to know she is still writing. I might wander over to the kids section and take a looksee.
(Deleted comment)
kyrielle
Nov. 6th, 2004 09:12 am (UTC)
I adore Tamora Pierce, and I think the Trickster books are her best yet. A word of warning - they reference things in all three preceding series, not just the Lioness quartet. (The Wildmage is the next foursome after Lioness, then the Protector of the Small series.)
owlfish
Nov. 6th, 2004 09:22 am (UTC)
Thank you for the warning. I'm happy to read the in-between series first, especially since they're completed series, so I can do them in one fell swoop.

Also, this reminds me of something else she said in the Q&A section. The Alanna books have been optioned twice by movie companies, but nothing further was ever done with them. The problem is that her characters appear in too many of her books and she isn't willing to promise she'll never do anything again with characters who've already appeared in books. Movie companies like to option whole worlds and everything in them. It makes them uneasy when they don't know what'll change in the future about those worlds.
kyrielle
Nov. 6th, 2004 10:26 am (UTC)
Interesting. I didn't know the books had been looked at at all for that. I'm sorry it didn't go anywhere, though I can see why - I never thought of it from that perspective, either.

If I have to pick between a movie version of the books and more books in the same world, though - well, I think we've got the better end of the deal than if she were willing to seal the world off and hand it over to them. :)

I'm rather looking forward to seeing what she does with The Provost's Dog trilogy that's supposedly coming next - but I'm sorry it's set in the past. I'd love to have another glimpse of these characters. It looks like that won't be until 2008 at least.
owlfish
Nov. 6th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)
I'd prefer a steady influx of books myself as well.

I think she said she was tied to working in the past until something like 2010. It'll be a while.
kyrielle
Nov. 6th, 2004 12:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Around 2008 she hits the near past with the backstory of one of the characters we've already met - but that's as close as we get. Then again, I was annoyed at her for bypassing some of the other things to work on characters I now adore, so I'm fairly confident I'll end up pleased with whatever she does - but oh, I want more of Aly than these two books! :)
owlfish
Nov. 6th, 2004 12:18 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, Tamora Pierce didn't really enjoy writing Aly since she couldn't relate to her well, so if there'll be any more Aly in a future book, she'd likely be a secondary character. But who knows... it's a long time until 2008.
kyrielle
Nov. 6th, 2004 12:22 pm (UTC)
That's a pity - Aly is one of my favorites of all of them. However, I could quite live with a switch to another character, if I just got to see what Aly and a few of the others were up to (and I can easily think of a couple ways she could do that, and work with a personality more to her liking). I already doubted we'd see Aly as a main character again even without that - the only time I can think of that she's kept the same focus character was between the Circle and Circle Opens books.
wakarusa
Nov. 8th, 2004 06:25 pm (UTC)
I loved these books!!! thank you for bringing them back to me! must look up the rest.
owlfish
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:32 am (UTC)
You're very welcome!
guyelfkin
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:22 am (UTC)
I started reading Trickster's Choice this morning.

Teddy
owlfish
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:32 am (UTC)
I think that catching up on Tamora Pierce books will need to be added to my list of fun reading I want to do when it will no longer distract my from my dissertation. I'm looking forward to it!
guyelfkin
Nov. 11th, 2004 08:00 am (UTC)
The Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series are both good good. Tricksters Choice starts out good right from the start, which bodes well for it and Trickters Queen.

Teddy
noveldevice
Nov. 13th, 2004 11:35 am (UTC)
My copy of Trickster's Queen arrived this morning. What with thesis-poking, I'm not sure when I'll get to it, but I'll let owlfish know what I think.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )