Friday, January 20, 2012

Dinner with the Princess of the Kingdom of Poison and Flame

As promised, here is part 2 of the dinner with authors series. Part one is here. And, this link will explain my title better than I can.

Last year, my husband and I learned that we would have the opportunity to meet Seanan McGuire, a new author whose blog we both read and contribute to, whose books we both like, and who we both wanted very much to meet in person. She was attending Arisia as a special guest. Boston is not only relatively close, but is also the setting of the trilogy I'm writing, so I was happy to have the excuse to visit.

We approached after her first panel, which I'll note only worked because Arisia is not a giant convention; had we been competing with tens of thousands of others, we wouldn't have been able to get close. As it was, several of her fans and blog followers wanted to say hi, and I, as usual, hung back to give this Person I Admire space. When Josh and I introduced ourselves, she jumped to her feet, looked in dismay at the table between us, and said she couldn't hug us yet.

We got our hugs, and she readily accepted the offer of dinner. We decided to eat in one of the host hotel places, because the convention was in January and Boston in January is brisk. Unfortunately, many others felt the same way, so the eating arrangement was a bit crowded. We managed.

The wait for dinner gave us a chance for my husband to share his story of dinner with Stephen King (I'll let him blog about that one), and for us to hear Seanan's stories of meeting famous people. It put me very much at ease to hear of someone I was in awe of being star-struck. It also helped that I felt I knew her from the blog, though I quickly learned that a blog can't capture a person's full personality. Seanan McGuire is a lot more than words on a page, whether printed or electronic, and my post here is only going to capture some aspects.

Despite my conversational fumbles, things took off once we had warm food in our bellies, and it kept going. Because the restaurant was so crowded, we left for quieter ground, and found a small area set aside with tables and chairs where we could sit and talk.  And, we did. We talked about her books (she didn't give any spoilers, but she talked about the characters in ways that confirmed what I thought I'd already picked up), and then we talked about other people's books, music, ebooks, fan interactions, and politics. (I know I said not to discuss politics, but the conversation naturally progressed that way, and no feelings were hurt. Don't try this at home.)

Before I knew it, I'd spent hours chatting with this incredible woman who I felt enriched for having gotten the chance to spend time with. She was gracious, always waving people over if they smiled or waved at her. She wouldn't ignore us while she talked to her other friends, though; she'd introduce us, and include us in whatever new conversation her friend sparked. She was funny, though the conversation did take some brief, serious turns. She was (and still is) extremely intelligent and well-informed, and I remarked to my husband long after that I didn't think she said a single thing she hadn't been able to back up with data and evidence. (At a panel later, someone questioned her about something we'd discussed, and she had lots more information where that came from.)

Later on, during a panel, she and her fellow panelists got to talking about Mary Sues. She said that she'd taken the Mary Sue Litmus Test, and she'd scored as a Mary Sue, so she was dubious about the term being thrown around about strong female characters. I didn't have the test in front of me, but I ticked off just some of the things I'd observed during our interaction: she can write so well I had an attack of, "I will never be this good" while I read her most recent book. She can sing and write music; some of her songs from "Wicked Girls" are on constant rotation on my iPod. People love her, as evinced by all the people who came up to talk to her. She's doing what she loves, and other people are reading and positively reviewing her work. She got to go to Australia, where poisonous deadly creepy crawlies live (one of the areas of interest I don't particularly share), and was given a tiara there. (To you laypersons, this is called winning the Campbell Award for the best new SF/F writer in 2010.)

Best of all (okay, maybe not ALL) was that she gave us a mention in her blog. We were a highlight of a convention! I squealed and texted all the friends I thought would care, emailed my husband, and squealed some more. Any awesome person writing that paragraph about me and publishing it for her many, many fans to see would've made me happy, but for it to be from someone I so admire just made my month, and the warm fuzzies carried me through a very long, cold winter.

So that's why I advise that people approach authors they like, but do so politely, respectfully, and in a way that acknowledges their humanity. Think of all the experiences you're denying yourself if you don't.


  1. That sounds like such an awesome evening! Thank you for sharing. (Your husband had dinner with Stephen King?)

    1. He did. He was very young (around 2 years old), but he has a funny story about it. I'll bug him to post it.

      It was an awesome evening. One of my highlights of 2011.