Tamora Pierce at the National Book Festival

October 10, 2013 Tamora Pierce, The Will of the Empress, Tortall 6

Tamora Pierce, 2013 National Book Festival. Photo © K. Pekar

Let me tell you, Tamora Pierce is awesome.  She writes amazing fantasy with fantastic characters.  She’s funny and fierce and she has attitude, and I want to be like her when I grow up. (I’m actually less than a decade younger than she is, but still.)  Here are some of the highlights from the talk and audience Q&A she gave at the National Book Festival on Sept. 22, 2013:

  • Her next book is about Numair’s childhood and youth, learning magic along with his friend Ozorne, and what happens when Ozorne becomes emperor.  This was originally going to be a trilogy, only thanks to J. K. Rowling, editors now know that kids will read really long books, so it sounds like it may now be a single book. 
  • She may go back and write more about Aly someday.  She’s also planning a book about Tris attending University.
  • Someone asked if any of her characters is based on herself or anyone she knew.  “Let’s see,” she said, describing herself and the character, “red hair, glasses, short, has a temper…” If you’ve guessed Tris from the Winding Circle books, you’re right.  (If you guessed Alanna, my daughter Robin informs me that Alanna was based on Tamora Pierce’s sister.)  
  • Beka Cooper’s pigeons are also based on real life; they were birds she knew and fed in a park she visited regularly.  The model for Slapper looked just like the one in the books; she called him Gloucester after Richard III.  He used to land on her shoulder and slap her with his wing.
  • Asked about her tattoos, Ms. Pierce pointed to one and said, “This one says ‘Cats walk all over me.'” [general laughter]  Above it is a feminist symbol from the 1970s, “before they kicked me out… for having a sense of humor [more laughter]… and sleeping with the enemy.”  [Much laughter and applause]
  • About writer’s block and how to get past it, Ms. Pierce said it “is the single biggest problem that writers have, bar none.”  She suggested introducing a new character, or having something happen, because you can never tell how people will act in an emergency.  She also suggested telling it from a different point of view.
  • As to why she wrote Battle Magic after The Will of the Empress, instead of in chronological order, she said that everyone was upset that she had split the quartet up in the Circle Opens books, so she wrote The Will of the Empress to get them back together again.  She wrote Melting Stones in part because she wanted to write the Beka Cooper books in first person, but she’d never written first person before.  She had Evvy’s voice in her head, so Melting Stones became practice for first person narrative.  (Robin tells me that it was also done as a special project for Full Cast Audio, which is why it came out as an audiobook well before it was published in print.)
  • And finally, asked why she writes books with strong female characters, she said, “I set out to write what I wanted to read when I was 12… I wanted something I could believe… I wanted characters that were real to me… and I wanted them to be girls.”

I just have to say it again.  Tamora Pierce rocks.

Tamora Pierce signs books at the 2013 National Book Festival.  Photo © K. Pekar

6 Responses to “Tamora Pierce at the National Book Festival”

  1. readerholicnotes

    It sounds like it was awesome to get to hear her talk. I think it’s always so interesting to hear authors talk about their characters and how books ended up like they did.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      The only drawback is that so many events are going on simultaneously. For instance, there were at least 3 other authors talking and several others signing during Ms. Pierce’s talk. And if you want a decent place in the signing lines, you need to get in line hours before the signing starts, which pretty much guarantees you won’t get to hear the author speak. Hence the need to buddy up and take turns standing in line!