S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

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.
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