Author Encounter | Anna Todd, at Indigo Green Room Eaton Centre

22557520With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey (originally Twilight fanfiction) and the Mortal Instruments series (which allegedly began as Harry Potter fanfiction), the success of Anna Todd’s After series should come as no surprise. Originally published on Wattpad as fanfiction of British boyband One Direction, After received millions of views and was eventually picked up by Simon and Schuster for traditional publishing.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Anna in the Indigo Green Room before her signing last Wednesday. I hadn’t read the After series on Wattpad and new little beyond the fact that it starred Harry Styles and had millions of fans online, and I was interested in finding out more.

In brief, After is about innocent college freshman Tessa falling in love with bad boy older student Hardin. Their relationship is a classic good girl/bad boy romance, with Tessa’s goodness making Hardin want to reform.

Fellow blogger Hayley commented that the relationship between Tessa and Hardin was “so toxic, but I couldn’t stop reading!” Anna admitted that their relationship was indeed toxic, but pointed out that it’s fiction. She brought up an interesting point about what we look for in book boyfriends versus real life boyfriends. Readers want some level of difficulty in book boyfriends, she says, without necessarily wanting it in real life. She spoke about the popularity of the bad boy trope and pointed out that the idea of a boy wanting to change for the better, for the sake of a girl he loves, is attractive. Anna was quick to point out that most readers distinguish between the fantasy of this within fiction, and what we actually look for in real life. “I wouldn’t want my husband to treat me like [Hardin treats Tessa],” she said. Yet fiction is a safe place to indulge these fantasies, and allow ourselves to fall for a boy who would be better for no reason other than love for us, and us alone.

Anna says that After is “a combination of all these things I love.” Beyond the hero being originally inspired by Harry Styles, Anna’s love of the Fifty Shades trilogy is also reflected in Hardin and Tessa’s romance. Another influences include Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice (an early scene between Hardin and Tessa closely resembles Elizabeth and Darcy’s first encounter at a party).

Meeting Anna at the Indigo Green Room, Eaton Centre

Meeting Anna at the Indigo Green Room, Eaton Centre

The transition from Wattpad fanfiction to published novels was very smooth, which Anna credits to her editor at Simon and Schuster. She views the published version as a definite improvement to the unpolished original. Awkward phrases and grammatical errors were smoothed out, and the story expanded to add complexity to certain characters.

Despite her positive experience with traditional publishing, Anna maintains loyalty to the Wattpad community, and asserts her thankfulness at the support of the online community. She particularly loves the constant stream of feedback from readers that Wattpad provides. When working with her Simon and Schuster editor, Anna admits the switch from crowdsourced editing to editing by a single person felt odd, and that, in order to mimic the Wattpad environment, her editor gave more detailed edits than he usually would.

After has since been picked up for a movie deal, and we naturally asked Anna about who she sees in the roles. She says Indiana Evans is far and away the definitive choice for Tessa in her mind. For Hardin, she thinks Douglas Booth would be a great choice, and she would love to see Ansel Elgort as Landon (a classic good boy and friend to Tessa). For Zed (a friend of Hardin’s whom fellow blogger Hayley describes as “the Wickham” in the series), Anna admits that he was originally based on Zane from One Direction, and in her mind, she still can’t think of anyone else in the role.

Just a small section of the long line awaiting Anna's book signing at Indigo Eaton Centre

Just a small section of the long line awaiting Anna’s book signing at Indigo Eaton Centre

What’s Anna working on now? Other than publicity for this title and writing the fourth book in the series, she’s also expanding on a story about Landon’s romance with someone (I can’t remember the name and can’t find it on Google, but Hayley, who’d read the entire series on Wattpad, was really excited to hear this, so I think fans of the series will be thrilled). The next two books will be published by Simon and Schuster over the next couple of months, and Anna highly recommends waiting for the published versions — Simon and Schuster’s editing has smoothed out the rough edges, and the stories have been expanded for print. As well, Anna says that she may change the ending of the entire series for the print version, just because of the way the characters and storylines have developed in print.


As an aside and possibly minor, but to my mind important, note about my feelings on celebrity fanfiction in general: while I have few reservations about fanfiction on fictional characters getting mainstream recognition, the idea of fanfiction about real people does make me very uncomfortable. Not that I’ve never fantasized about celebrities, but to actually make these fantasies public seems to me somehow a violation of those celebrities’ boundaries. All that to say that the origin of After makes me uncomfortable not because of its plot or any pre-formed opinion about the quality of fanfiction, but because of its use of a real celebrity as the hero.

I did receive a copy of this book for review, and will put aside my reservations about its origin and celebrity fanfiction in general as I read it. Just a thought, and if celebrity fanfiction becomes more of a trend, I’d love to know what the rest of you think about it.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for the opportunity to meet and speak with Anna Todd.

Author Encounter | Teresa Toten and Amy McCulloch


When I received this invitation from Random House of Canada, I had just recently read Amy McCulloch’s The Oathbreaker’s Shadow and had absolutely fallen in love with it. So I jumped at the chance to meet her, as well discover a new (to me) author Teresa Toten.

Teresa Toten, being awesome

Teresa Toten, being awesome

We got to chat with the authors over cupcakes and pop, and quite frankly, I think Teresa Toten may be my author twin. For her upcoming YA novel The Unlikely Hero of Room 13Bshe was planning to use for her epigraph a quote from a song she thought we bloggers would be too young to know: Puff, the Magic Dragon. In particular, the line “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys,” which always makes her teary. Thing is, that line makes me teary as well. The song is particularly memorable to me for the silliest reason: my mom got a perfect score when she sang it on a videoke (like karaoke, but on a home TV) machine, proving to my sister and I that she knew the secret to high videoke scores. I later learned that the song was about drugs, but personally, I’d always found the lyrics to be unbelievably sad, about the loss of childhood. My mom passed away a couple of years ago, and it’s the silliest memories, such as that of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” that remain. All that to say that Teresa Toten immediately won me over when she quoted that song.

Then she said she changed her mind about the epigraph, and instead decided to use a verse from “If,” a poem by Rudyard Kipling. She then launched into a heartfelt reading of the poem, moving around the room and basically pulling all my heartstrings that somehow always get stirred with that poem. Yes, the poem has probably been used time and again on motivational office posters, and yes, I wish the ending had referred to women as well as men, just because. But really, that poem has been my Invictus-type inspiration for the longest time. Probably the first time I got chills at an author event for bloggers, so thank you for that, Ms. Toten.

Her upcoming novel, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, is about a teenage boy with OCD, and it’s not just like us flippantly saying we have OCD, but an actual psychological disorder that forces him to spend half an hour outside the door of his own house before he can enter. I have a bad habit of calling myself OCD when it comes to editing stuff at work, but Toten’s novel shows it as an actual debilitating condition, certainly nothing to be flippant over. Toten’s website includes You Are Not Alone, a list of resources for anyone who wishes to learn more about dealing with OCD. Adam, the boy with OCD, falls in love with Robyn, a girl in his teen support group, and the novel tells their love story. As part of their support group therapy, each member has to come up with a superhero persona, and Adam, naturally, decides to be Batman to his Robyn. Seriously. And Teresa Toten is a punny enough author to pull this off.

Teresa Toten has also recently joined Twitter! Follow her @TTotenAuthor.


Amy McCulloch, talking about her book and her awesome Pinterest board

I read Amy McCulloch’s book The Oathbreaker’s Shadow and absolutely loved it. My review will be posted shortly, but mostly I was impressed at its Eastern influence, its unique, rather epic fantasy angle, and the way it manages to stand out among all the YA fiction in the market. The author spoke about her Pinterest board, where she includes images of the books and travel experiences that influenced her novel. Personal favourites the Dune series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy are among her clear influences, which may explain why I loved this book so much, as were some pretty awesome travels in Cairo and Namibia.

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is about a teenage boy who lives in a society where the breaking of a promise leaves you with a physical scar and forces you into exile. This boy grew up completely bound by the rules of honour, and aspires to be bound by oath to protect his best friend and future ruler of his world. Unfortunately, in doing so, he unwittingly breaks an oath he doesn’t even remember making, one that had bound him since infancy. The book is about his quest to discover the source of this oath, and find a way to free himself from it. It’s an amazing book, about duty, honour, and the moment when we realize that all we’ve lived our lives for may not be what we expect.

Amy McCulloch is an avid Tweeter. Follow her @AmyMcCulloch.

Amy McCulloch and Teresa Toten

Amy McCulloch and Teresa Toten

Thanks to Random House of Canada for the opportunity to meet these authors! Both authors were kind enough to sign copies of their books for my readers. Watch for giveaways soon, when I review their books on this blog. And with that, I leave you with this final image of cupcakes. Because cupcakes.


Author Encounter and Giveaway | Edward Rutherfurd and Danielle Trussoni


Due to a work schedule that, over the past few months, has included evenings and weekends, I haven’t had a chance to attend many of the wonderful events that publishers treat book lovers to in Toronto. This Random House event was the first I’ve attended in a long time, and what an evening it was!

IMG_1352 IMG_1353

Random House of Canada certainly knows how to treat their guests. They served perogies, crepes, cheese and crackers, prosecco …and, my personal favourite, blue martinis!


And books, of course. Lovely, lovely books!

IMG_1358Edward Rutherfurd is an absolutely charming man. He’s on Twitter, but admits he doesn’t tweet much — his publishers supply most of his content. Referring to his novels, which usually tip the scales at almost 1000 pages each, he quipped, “When you write as I do, Twitter, as you can imagine, is a challenge.” He does however check his Facebook page regularly, and responds personally as much as he can to the people who post there.

He told us quite a few fun facts as well, for example, the Mona Lisa was stolen in the early 20th century, and Pablo Picasso was accused of the theft. I don’t know if that’s included anywhere in his novel, but I at least want to find out more about it. During the book signing, he asked each of us bloggers for our card or blog URL. “I need to educate myself about these things,” he said. I told him that my sister loved Russka, and he admitted it was a very difficult book to write. In fact, at one point, his editor came to his house, sat on his couch and told him she wouldn’t leave until he finished the book!

IMG_1357Danielle Trussoni spoke as well, and talked to us a bit about her book. She didn’t set out to write about angels, she said. Rather, she was doing research for a different book when she came across some fascinating information that eventually led to her writing Angelology, and then Angelopolis. She isn’t particularly religious, but she did grow up in Catholic school, so has been aware of a certain degree of angel mythology since then.

You can follow her on Twitter, @daniellemybella, “my bella” being her father’s name for her when she was a child.


[Link to Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post]

Random House of Canada generously offered us bloggers a chance to grab another copy of both authors’ books to get signed and offer as a giveaway on our blog. So good news to all my Canadian readers: you can enter below for a chance to win either Edward Rutherfurd’s Paris or Danielle Trussoni’s Angelopolis! (Giveaway open only to Canadians, I’m afraid, as shipping overseas, particularly for the 800+ page hardcover Paris, will be rather costly.)

Full disclosure: I haven’t read either book, nor have I read any of either author’s other works. I did consider including the giveaway with my review, but given my current reading pile, Paris may be out in paperback by then. And I want to share these books with you now! So for information on the books, check out the descriptions on the Random House of Canada website:

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

Edward Rutherfurd also gave a teaser description about Paris: A woman falls in love with a Frenchman, except circumstances force them apart, so she settles for an Englishman (“always a poor second,” he quipped). Then years later, she returns to Paris and sees the Frenchman again at a party, except while she has aged, he has not, and of course, it turns out, that’s the Frenchman’s son, who happens to be a friend of Hemingway. (“Sorry,” he said. “You know I have to put things like that in.”) She falls in love with this young man, but her daughter does as well.

My impression? Paris may seem like a hefty 800+ page tome, but it sounds like a really fun soap opera read… and I mean that in a good way. Somewhat like Downton Abbey but intergenerational, and in Paris!

Click here to enter! (Canada only)