This panel was to die for! There was never a shortage of laughs or funny comments. The panel was primarily about romance of all types, including ones with diverse sexualities and ethnic backgrounds, and who doesn’t love that? All the authors were so fun and excited to answer questions and be here today. They all played off of each other and I honestly would love to see what an author lunch of the 5 of them would be like. Multiple panelists … ahem …(Mackenzi Lee and Julie Murphy)… forgot the questions more than once, which added some lightness and fun to it all.
Let’s start with Jenna Evans Welch who was here for her book Love & Gelato. She was very fun-loving but with a lot of depth, just like her books. The way she just casually mentioned that it’s “better to fall in love in Europe” had everyone loving her right off the bat. Her goal in her writing though, was to explore grief in a positive and uplifting way. She focused on creating a family of friends that her characters could grow with. The way she so vividly described crying in a coffee shop as she wrote made her so relatable.
Next–Adam Silvera. I’ve read two of his books, so I was super excited to hear him speak! He explained that he encountered his first gay character in Alec from The Mortal Instruments series at age 19, though at first, he said, he thought he was just projecting his own “gay vibes” (laughs followed). And regarding his newest book They Both Die at the End, Silvera said he was once told that a gay Puerto Rican character was “unrealistic” even though he himself exists–which, if you know Adam Silvera, this will make you laugh because you know it’s so true. He said “don’t be afraid of putting your characters through Hell.”
I didn’t know a lot about Mackenzi Lee before the panel, but now I’m dying to read her book The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. She mentioned that she gets fussy about her story being called either “light and fluffy” or “heavy.” Funny thing is, she hates writing kissing scenes because she thinks it’s weird thinking about how teenagers touch each other when they’re making out..but in book summaries, she wants the making out to be explicitly clear. She was once told her book was “really gay,” and everyone laughed so much at that because of course, it’s about two gay young men. While her books have been rejected multiple times for the sexualities and skin tone of some of her characters, luckily Lee seems to have taken that in stride.
Kathryn Ormsbee was another interesting personality on this panel. She used her experience on a Shakespearean mashup web show (called “Shakes”) to write her newest novel Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Coupling her experience with an adaptation of the Anna Karenina story is bound to be interesting! Immigrant parents and the small city she lives in affects everything in her character’s backstory, from the unfulfilled artistic ambitions to the people she meets. And for any aspiring authors, she had some great advice: record yourself saying all the dialogue to see where it goes and what feels natural.
The final author on the panel was Julie Murphy, here for her book Ramona Blue. Her statement that “one book cannot be everything for everyone” resonated so deeply with the underlying panel theme of diversity. The first character she identified with was actually in her own novel Dumplin’, because she was a fat character. This time though, she particularly wanted to tell the story of two queer girls that are just friends and not in a romantic relationship. It was the real life story she told of horribly fake-crying while watching Passion of the Christ in high school that had everyone cracking up. My favorite quote from her was that “true writers don’t need permission to procrastinate.”
All in all, this was a fantastic panel with the perfect balance of comedy and serious topics. Now I can’t wait to read all their books! If they’re this great in real life, just imagine their characters!