Last night, something incredible happened. To give you an idea, let’s start from the beginning (this won’t take long, don’t worry). For the last two weeks, I was drafted to help the Waterstones branch in York relocate to a shiny, brand new shop. It was an exhausting fortnight, but the end result is absolutely gorgeous – I urge you to drop by and have a browse and a coffee. Whilst working there, I saw a sign for an upcoming signing with Chaos Walking author Patrick Ness, and had a mini freak out. I’ve not connected with an author on the level of Ness’ work since first reading Philip Pullman, and even though I was back in my own store, I was resolutely determined that I would make the event.
So, Thursday the 8th of May rolled around, and it just so happened to be my day off! Result. So, I loaded my bag up with seven books (six of Patrick’s, plus The Fearless by Emma Pass) and trudged off to York in the torrential downpour. It was great to see everyone from the shop settling into their new premises so well, and it still looked beautiful, shiny and new. I sat in their staff room (which has an infinite supply of cake, inexplicably), and whiled away the hour or so before the event was due to start. As I headed down to the shop floor, I passed Mr. Ness on his way up to the Cafe W, and had a teeny tiny explosion of fanboydom. Then something incredible happened.
Oh. Oh yes. Kirstie, the lovely Children’s Bookseller at Waterstones York, told me that Patrick had no real talk planned out, and to give the evening a bit of structure, would I be able to have a bit of a Q&A with him before handing the floor over to the audience. Naturally, I went through various incomprehensible phases of excitement, anxiety, terror, as well as feeling so very honoured to have been asked. I wasn’t even in uniform! I hastily spent the next seven or so minutes having a quick chat with the author, and scrappily noting down some questions about his books, focusing on his latest YA triumph, More Than This.
Somehow, on a wing, a prayer, and the awesome rambling answers of my very patient interviewee, I managed to make it through the whole evening without making a complete and utter fool of myself (I assume). Once open to the floor, we spent a total of an hour asking the poor man questions, ranging from subjects like Writing Tips, to Genre Definition and touching on LGBT representation in YA fiction, and all were answered in a passionate, eloquent and honest manner, making Patrick one of the most frank, yet inspiring writers I’ve ever heard talk. Some of my favourite writing tips included:
“Spite is the greatest motivator. If someone tells you that you can’t write, you should be thinking SCREW YOU, I’ll write whatever I want to!”
(On Manchee) “I cried writing it. That’s important. If you’re writing a comedy, and you’re not laughing… It’s not funny. If you don’t care about your characters, you can’t expect your readers to.”
(On LGBT representation) “I didn’t see myself in books as a Teenager.”
“I always know what the last line is, and I have some plot points and scenes that have to happen, but the rest flows. It’s natural and you’ve got to go with were the story takes you.”
“You’ve got to understand your characters. There aren’t evil people, just people who do evil things.”
These are paraphrased, since I was busy gawping instead of taking any notes. I was the most unprepared ever.
After the Q&A was over, Patrick dutifully signed everyone’s books, this in store event being his third of the day – I’m surprised he could still hold a pen – and made sure to have good chats with every person in the queue, taking photos with people who asked as well. He didn’t even bat an eyelid at signing all six of my books. What an absolute gent, an inspiring, engaging speaker who just makes me love his books all the more.
I’d like to thank Patrick, Walker, the lovely team at York, and everyone who came along and didn’t throw heavy things or rotten fruit at me. You’re all lovely.
P.P.S. Bugsy Malone is an Alternate Universe Science Fiction Film.