So just how does an award winning author's experience in Hyde Park lead to one of her leading characters being afraid of ducks? All was revealed during an evening in Newcastle with award winning YA US fantasy writers Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.
As we arrived at The Bewick Hall, Newcastle LIbrary, we were handed a 'Shadowhunters Army' button badge, and the 'army' were indeed out in force. The room was packed to standing room only, made up of clearly devoted fans of one, or both, of the authors.
The first half took the form of an informative question and answer session with the authors. The second an opportunity to meet the authors and get their books signed.
The moment the Q&A session began the room was immediately filled with arrow straight arms pointing at the ceiling. Each question demonstrated an indepth knowledge of the various plots and characters from clearly knowledgable fans. It didn't matter that the microphone didn't work properly, the authors answered each question in turn, clearly taking time to give thoughtful, insightful and often funny responses.
Watching the interaction between the two, it was clear just how close they are, as was their obvious shared love of the fantasy genre, both in their childood and formative years.
Though perhaps what was more fascinating were the differences between the two. This was most obvious when discussing their approach to writing.
Cassandra the obsessive planner - setting out whole series in advance - literally book by book, chaper by chapter. In contrast Holly revealed a much less structured approach - spending much more time working and reworking the plot from an original idea in her head, continually being frustrated as the product failed to live up to her original idea. She spoke about how she would often write and re-write chapter one.
It was genuinely fascinating to hear an award winning author speaking about her frustrations with her own writing process, and her efforts to overcome this; consulting other authors and even once trying to use without success a dictaphone.
In contrast Cassandra's solution was to simply start at chapter three!
Now back to Hyde Park. Cassandra recounted the story of a picnic in Hyde Park, London where she had been feeding the ducks, until she realised that one of the fillings was in fact duck! Appalled at her act of aiding and abetting cannibalism she beat a hasty retreat - pursued by the ducks! Cassandra then disclosed that it was this experience that she later drew on when coming up with the idea of Jace being afriad of, as well as hating ducks.
The session was full of such insights. It is perhaps no surprise that Holly, once described as ‘Queen of the Faeries,’ was influenced at a young age, by the book and illustrations of Brian Froud and Alan Lee's 'Faeries.’
The second half of the evening was the eagerly awaited book signing session, where fans queued eagerly and patiently, and in many cases for over an hour for the precious signatures. Many with books littered with posted notes colour coding significant and favourite episodes and incidents. Upon reaching the front of the queue, they were met with authors who spent time interacting with their fans, genuinely interested in stories or ancedotes and posing for photos. Everyone left the venue smiling, carrying their treasured signed copies.
I was left with a genuine sense of profound respect and admiration not only for the authors, but the legions of devoted fans. Everyone I think including me had a really enjoyable evening. Thank you Cassandra and Holly!