Rainbow Rowell at Congregation Kehillath Israel

Rainbow Rowell and Margaret Willison (and Baz and Simon!). Photo: Shoshana Flax.


Rainbow Rowell wrote Wayward Son in secret. A sequel to Carry Ona risky proposition itself, in that it’s set in the fictional universe for which the protagonist of her realistic novel Fangirl writes fanfiction (got all of that?) — seemed like it might be a bad idea, even to her. But here we are. And there Katie and I were last Wednesday night with copies of the new book in our laps, watching Rowell in conversation with pop-culture commentator (and her long-time friend) Margaret H. Willison at Temple Kehillath Israel, sponsored by Brookline Booksmith.

When Rowell set out to write the sequel, one of her first steps was to check if a fanfic bible for Carry On existed; finding none, she hired an assistant to create an encyclopedia to help her keep straight what she’d already established about the world. As with her previous books, she also created a playlist; a song serves as an “emotional bookmark” for a scene. But for her, the best way to stay in the right headspace is to write for four to six hours a day, for four to six days in a row — it is, as she put it, as if the story is in the middle of a river, and if she doesn’t write regularly, then she spends a lot of each writing session wading back out to it. Asked how she handles writer’s block, she said that her previous work as a newspaper columnist taught her not to be precious — she just writes through it. And she knows she’s doing it right if a scene doesn’t need dialogue tags because the characters are each saying what only they would say. 

Both Rowell and interviewer Willison were frequently funny (Willison, before asking a question that she admitted was more of a comment: “I’m moderating, so suck it”), as well as insightful. And the rest of the audience was just as interesting. One fan showed up in full cosplay as Deja from Rowell’s “relentlessly joyful” new graphic novel, Pumpkinheads. Another announced, upon discussion of how Baz gets more attention than Simon, “Simon Snow is the love of my life.” (Rowell said she gave Baz her own birthday — which, considering that J. K. Rowling gave Harry Potter her birthday and the two universes are pretty closely connected, might say something about this author’s own character preferences.) And another attendee asked if, in Wayward Son, we will see any more dimension to Carry On character Agatha — but Rowell made a case that she has some dimension already. 

It all made for an entertaining, informative evening. Pumpkin mocha breves, anyone? 

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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Jodi Santillie

Omg I got a shoutout! I’m the fan who dressed as Deja!

Posted : Oct 03, 2019 09:58


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