Meet the Authors Heating Up this Year’s Miami Book Fair, Part 1!

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[Note from Frolic: This series of interviews is a partnership between Miami Book Fair and Frolic. These authors are some of more than 300 authors participating in the 2020 Miami Book Fair. They are all gathering together from all over the world in conversation, all virtual, all safe, all unique, all free between Nov. 15-22. Visit miamibookfaironline.com and register for free and enjoy these conversations for free: 

Twisted Tales: Liz Brasewell/Straight on Till Morning, Jen Calonita/Conceal, Don’t Feel, Elizabeth Lim/So This is Love 

Own Your Magic: TJ Klune/The House in the Cerulean Sea & The Extraordinaries, Bethany C. Morrow/A Song Below Water, Mark Oshiro/Each of Us a Desert, Lauren Shippen/A Neon Darkness; this 

DC Comics panel: featuring Kami Garcia/Teen Titans: Beast Boy-Teen Titans Raven, Sarah Kuhn/Shadow of the Batgirl, Alex Sanchez/You Brought Me the Ocean, Maggie Stiefvater/Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, Laurie Halse Anderson/Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, Danielle Paige/Mera: Tidebreaker; and so much more.

For more information please visit  www.miamibookfair.com, follow Miami Book Fair @miamibookfair, #MiamiBookFair2020 #MBF2020 #MiamiBookFairOnline.]

First up, an interview with author Alex Segura!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Alex Segura: My last book was Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall, which jumps back and reveals the previously untold origin story of everyone’s favorite pilot, Poe Dameron. It was an honor and privilege to tell such an important, unrevealed chapter of Star Wars lore and I’ve been blown away by the response!

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

I think, as writers, there’s a piece of you in every character – but I felt a great affinity to Poe, and his struggles deciding between his destiny and his desire, and his eventual realization that you don’t have to choose one. I also could really relate to other characters like Zorii Bliss, because she was going through similar struggles – but her solution was very different than Poe’s.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I don’t know if it’s a recent trend, to be honest. For me, the best novels and stories start with strong, compelling characters that pull you in – you want to feel like you know these people and that makes you willing to follow them on their adventures. I’m not as keen on novels that are pure plot, with less defined characters – to me that feels more perfunctory. One of my goals with Free Fall was to make it a fun, engaging standalone adventure that also fit in seamlessly into Star Wars canon.

What can the audience expect from your Miami Book Fair 2020 presentation?

I’ll be talking about my novel, writing in the Star Wars universe, and some other exciting stuff I have coming up.

Which author are you most excited to see in Miami Book Fair 2020?

I’m honored and excited to share the stage with my friend and fellow SW author, Delilah Dawson.

Up next, a chat with author Liz Braswell!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel? 

Liz Braswell: My life long love of Alice in Wonderland!

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why? 

My real answer needs to remain a secret for spoiler reasons.  Second most relatable?  The Cheshire cat!  You know that old adage about writing: show don’t tell?  The Cheshire *can’t* speak plainly or tell Alice straight up what the deal is.  Just like an author.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

Don’t they always?  But for real: after seven months of the pandemic, America finally coming to terms with systemic racism, the wildfires out west, and the, uh, debates, now is not the time for literary subtlety.  We crave strong voices, new perspectives–not just escapism but a template for a path in the real world.

What can the audience expect from your Miami Book Fair 2020 presentation?

As a kid, did you ever wonder if authors you liked ever hung out, casually? And just talked?  These people are more than fellow authors, they’re friends, comrades-at-arms, and ladies who lunch, all in one.  So besides presenting our book, we’ll be catching up and kidding around…

Next, an interview with author Maggie Stiefvater!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent graphic novel?

Maggie Stiefvater: Swamp Thing’s Alec Holland gave me a splendid opportunity to showcase something I’m passionate about: the humanity of plants and the strangeness of humans. It’s a theme I’ve explored a little in my prose works, but with this graphic novel origin story, I got to really dive in and do a story about what it meant to feel more instep with plants than with your own body. Are all teens really into the language of plants? No, probably not. But I think every teen (and maybe adult, honestly) has thought of themselves as an alien in their own lives at some point.

What character in this graphic novel do you most relate to and why?

I suppose I’ll have to go with the titular Swamp Thing. Well, Swamp Thing before he is Swamp Thing: Alec Holland, the introverted, science-minded teen who passionately studies plants and memory. In the book, he’s starting to understand that actually doesn’t have as much in common with his twin brother as he thought he did, and he’s also just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, so he doesn’t understand his body like he used to, and he’s retreating into something that feels like it does make sense: the plant world.

I too have wrestled with my body (I got diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency after a collapse on book tour) and also often feel like I am a better observer than participant in society. Alec and I cope with it in different ways — he withdraws, I jump on tables and perform — but the root cause (that’s a plant pun! Admire me!) is the same.

Why do you feel graphic novels and comics with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I don’t think we ever got tired of illustrated stories. Adults were just told for a few decades that they were silly and childish and eventually you were supposed to grow out of them. But why? We have photos with our newspaper articles. Illustrations on the blog posts. Vivid graphics accompany even the most sophisticated nonfiction pieces we consume. But for some reason, we developed this cultural understanding that to want a picture with your fiction was to be juvenile.

I think we’ve just gotten over ourselves, honestly. Hard-won territory, of course. But images are so normalized on web content now that it seems silly to pretend the presence of them ruins the neighborhood.

Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a reimagined origin story for young adults and up. Alec Holland is an introverted, intelligent teen with his eyes firmly fixed on his research — research that gets upended when he is forced to spend the summer with his twin brother Walker and his cousins in the rural wetlands of Virginia. It’s an exploration of language, identity, and humanity, ultimately asking: what does it mean to be alive?

What’s next for you in this publishing world?

I don’t have another graphic novel on the table (although I did just have another artsy project come out, the Scorpio Sea Tarot deck, which features 78 cards based on the imagery of my novel The Scorpio Races)(that art was a ton of fun to draw), and I’m working on the final book in my NYT Bestselling trilogy the Dreamer Trilogy, which follows people who can take things out of their dreams through the art world. And I’ve also got two secret novels on the ol’ hard drive that I can’t say anything about.

What can fans expect from your Miami Book Fair appearance?

Plants. Plants. Plants.

What is your favorite book that you’ve recently read?

I just finished reading PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke and adored it; I think adult readers who remember Narnia fondly will love it, too. I also finished Octavia Butler’s short story collection BLOOD CHILD and thought it was fantastic and disturbing. And finally, yesterday I closed the cover of Atul Gawande’s THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO, a surgeon’s exploration of how the simple checklist can improve medicine, engineering, and aviation. This year I told myself I wasn’t going to read anything I didn’t want to, and it’s worked wonderfully — it’s been a good year for good books.

Next, author Danielle Paige!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent graphic novel? 

Danielle Paige: I wanted to tell a love story about Aquaman town between land and the water and the woman he loves- kind of a reverse Little Mermaid. But when I learned that Aquaman always grows up in land I flipped the switch and decided to tell Mera’s story instead. Mera grows up in Xebel, the rival colony to Atlantis, Aquaman’s birthright. Mera comes to land where Aquaman (aka Arthur Curry) has grown up unaware of his heritage. She wants to kill him to secure her own throne but instead she falls in love and has to make a choice between her heart and her sense of duty. 

What character in this graphic novel do you most relate to and why?

Mera! I am not nearly as badass as her but what I love most about Mera is her capacity for change. She comes to Amnesty Bay to kill Aquaman but when she meets him and sees the goodness in him she begins to question what she has been raised to believe. And it doesn’t hurt that he looks like a young Jason Momoa. I have taken a lot of detours in my writing career and each one has brought me new opportunities and new skills and like Mera, new love! 

Why do you feel graphic novels and comics with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

I think that DC is doing such an incredible job with the Young Readers line reintroducing beloved characters with noted YA authors. And I think this line and comics in general have become so much more diverse and inclusive, welcoming so many more people into the comics tent both on the page and behind it! When I was a kid, I never imagined writing for comics, as a girl and a girl of color i didn’t imagine my place here, but now I do, and I think the next generation will just know they already have a place here and everywhere. 

What’s next for you in this publishing world? 

My sorority witch book The Ravens with my dear friend Kass Morgan just came out. It’s soapy and mysterious and so much fun. When Vivi Devereaux comes to an elite Savannah college and joins a sorority she is stunned to find out that her sisters are actually witches. Meanwhile Her sorority sister Scarlett Winter is grappling for power within the sorority only to discover another dangerous force in their midst which will threatens her and Vivi and their other sisters’ survival. 

What can fans expect from your Miami Book Fair appearance?

 A lot of silliness. DC is hosting a Truth or Dare panel. And I believe in a good dare!!

What is your favorite book that you’ve recently read?

 I just finished Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House! Very grown up magical Secret Society stuff! Loved! 

Author Tochi Onyebuchi is up next!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Tochi Onyebuchi: Inspiration for Rebel Sisters came from my mother’s own journey as an immigrant to the United States. She had lived through war and military dictatorships in Nigeria and then, as a young woman, had to deal with racism and all the complicated ways a society tries to hinder a Black woman with an accent in America. For her, home was a malleable thing. Home meant Nigeria. Nigerian food, Nigerian family, et cetera. But home also meant the family she was making in the US. Her husband, her children, her co-workers. The two places were and are always intertwined, and this is something I wanted to explore through Ify.

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

Ify. She’s very much an outsider, being a young Black woman in a majority white institution. Try as she might to drape herself in success and achievements, bigotry always manages to rear its head, often in ways that escape the notice of others. She also has to deal with how her white colleagues and supervisors exoticise her for being a refugee from a war-torn African country on Earth. How does one maintain one’s personhood when the temptation is so strong to see yourself through the eyes of those with power over you? Having gone to predominantly white schools, attended predominantly white churches, grown up in predominantly white neighborhoods, this has been one of the most enduring questions of my life

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

They’re drawn from specific places inside the writer. And it’s the special alchemy of storytelling that the more specific a story is, the wider its relatability.

What can the audience expect from your Miami Book Fair 2020 presentation?

Geeking out about anime.

Last but not least, we’re chatting with author Elizabeth Lim!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel? 

Elizabeth Lim: So This is Love was inspired by the classic fairytale, Cinderella. There have been so many retellings and reimaginings of Cinderella that I wanted to focus more on what would happen if Cinderella didn’t try on the glass slipper and had to find her own Happily Ever After. 

Aurora: What character in this novel do you most relate to and why? 

I’d relate most to Louisa, who is a seamstress and Cinderella’s loyal friend in the book. She hustles her way into getting Cinderella a job at the palace, and isn’t afraid to sneak out of work to have some fun at a royal ball. Unfortunately, there are no royal balls in my near future, but I’d definitely sneak out to go if I could!

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

I think novels with powerful and unique characters are always popular, but given 2020’s global pandemic, many of us are looking for an escape through a good story.

What can the audience expect from your Miami Book Fair 2020 presentation?

I’ll be with fellow Twisted Tales authors Liz Braswell and Jen Calonita, and we’ll discuss our favorite moments in our books, what it was like writing them, and, of course, all things Disney!  

We’ll see you at the Miami Book Fair!

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