Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

From Cat Valente's Friday signing - her first at Powell's

"Sadly, I did not bring beer this time," I said. "But I am buying the book!"

I said this to Catherynne M. Valente, no, excuse me, New York Times Bestselling Author Catherynne M. Valente. Writer, friend-of-a-friend (said friend: musician S.J. "s00j" Tucker), and creator of the looks-like-a-decades-old children's book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She signed at Powell's Cedar Hills Crossing. I drove to work yesterday so I could more quickly get the heck to Beaverton and join her.

(I also took advantage of being in that part of Beaverton and had dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I had both. A burger and fries, I mean, and the burger had mustard, mayo, pickles, tomatoes, and grilled mushrooms on it. My stomach was satisfied.)

I'd met Cat before, at a joint Cat/Sooj appearance in a Portland cafe in 2009 to celebrate the release of her adult novel Palimpsest. (Cat and others read from the book; Sooj sang songs she'd written inspired by it.) That time she'd asked in advance for beer if anyone could provide something local and good. I don't know beer very well, so I got advice from Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts (thanks, Bobby!) and took a suggestion from Cat of what she'd like and found something for her at Belmont Station. This time Cat remembered I'd brought her beer!

Valente read Chapter 1 of The Girl Who... after announcing that the book had made the New York Times bestseller list (#8! Woo hoo!) Hers is a good voice for readings. This is not true for all authors. (She just did her first audio book. Random note: her director of her recording session was the same guy who narrated Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.) Her reading audience was a happy, attentive audience. Tidbits from her Q&A:
  • Before The Girl Who... was written, she'd written a story for a Young Adult anthology, retelling Hansel & Gretel from the witch's perspective. She thought it would get tossed from the book, but the only change the editors asked for was "fewer sub-clauses." Valente feels hopeful about the range of subject matter allowed in YA. (She added "I've never met a run-on sentence I didn't love.")

  • Because she originally published The Girl Who... a chapter at a time online, she couldn't change the earlier parts of the book in case the book went in an unexpected direction, so before writing it she plotted extensively for the first time in her writing life. On the other hand, her intricate Orphan's Tales novels, the ones that pay style homage to the even more intricate 1001 Arabian Nights? She wrote them without any notes. "I thought it'd be easier just to write the books than to do character maps!" she said, and expressed awe at how a fan then did create character maps for that work.

  • The published The Girl Who... is subtly different from the original online version, because of gentle edits. For one thing, she changed one thing as a nod/in-joke directed to a 6-year-old whose parents had read the story to her. (The book's main character, the girl named September, had mentioned "losing" a shoe, and the 6-year-old in that serious-kid way said "That's leaving,' not 'losing.'" Valente wrote a similar line for the dragon-like wyvern character in the book.) Also, it meant that little subversive touches she'd added as she'd written were less likely to be questioned by the publisher in a "Should we really have that?" way.

  • A sequel will happen. It'll be called The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

  • She wonders if the vocabulary might, might, sometimes be too advanced for younger readers. She's already been to first-grade classrooms and had to ask "Anyone know what 'circumnavigated' means?" I'll hope they figure it out from context.

  • Feedback about the book so far has included this: "Our 13-year-old has locked herself in her room with it." Valente thinkS that girl likes it.
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