2023 was the year for world builders at Phoenix Fan Fusion. This year we say another amazing line up of guests as usual but in this case the spotlight was on authors. One of the best things, in my opinion, about Phoenix fan fusion is there ability to explore nerd culture by including some of the less obvious branches of the culture. Sure it may seem obvious that in a pop culture convention that books would play an enormous part but the truth is that most conventions look to add VA’s, TV and film actors and triple A guests and while that is a great draw and a good time for fans, it does sometimes mean that other equally important aspects can be less common that you may think.
Phoenix Fan Fusion never disappoints when it comes to guests and this year was no exception. This year they bought some of the most amazing authors from near and far and everyone one was a heavy hitter in their own right. Authors such as James A. Owen author of the amazing Chronicles of the Imaginarium series, Caroline Kepnes, Author of the You series, Pierce Brown Author of the Red Rising Series and this is just to name a few.
I can tell you that some of the rumors that writers are dark, brooding and cynical are greatly exaggerated we spend all weekend listening to stories about writing process about personal histories and general life philosophy and what I can tell you is that these are some of the most amazing people. Each one seemed so over joyed just to be be around their fans as well as fellow wordsmiths talking about everything under the sun. One author specifically, James A. Owen, is so in love with literature that when he speaks about it you can not only see his child like wonder but you can actually feel it yourself and be brought back to a place where you believe that magic can be real.
There were some really interesting insights as well, we were able to hear Authors who wrote for big publishing houses as well as those who do all self publishing, one Author we met, Courtney Leigh, knocks out a book every few months, she told us she writes some times as many as 3 books at a time and almost exclusively uses digital platforms to self publish. Another author we spoke with was very rigid that they only work on one book at a time and in writing historical fictions was very intent upon assuring total historical accuracy and told us how it would sometimes take years to research a book on top of the writing process. Each author was able to explain their process a bit and while each had their own specific and unique process they also, all, shared quite a bit in common.
One of the favorite terms I learned this past weekend was the term “pantser”. This term is used in the writing community to describe a write who basically just sits and writes. No outline no specific plan just a basic understanding of a couple of the main events they want to include but as they say, the story when it comes out ends up being just as much a surprise to them as it is to their readers. Rory Power explained that she normally writes a rough draft of a whole book and then goes back to write an outline. For her, this helps her take the story she wrote and see if maybe she could build up different parts or to make sure she has included enough information to make the key points make sens.
Westly Chu told his fans how his family could always tell where he was in the writing process based on his mood which ran the gambit from low to high then to disinterested then back to interested and finally to completion.
Evelyn Sky said that its absolutely necessary that you take time off and go out and do things. She reminded us that all writing comes from personal experience and if you stay in and write 5 books in a row you are writing all those books from the same sum of life experneice after a while all your writing will start to sound the same. She taught us that you need to normalize taking breaks and not being too hard on yourself when it comes to just taking time off to go live and refill your tank with fresh ideas and experiences.
Carline Kepnes said that the link between drinking and writing, one made famous by authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allen Poe, was actually not all that prevalent. She says she has tried writing drunk but that ultimately what came out was all “crap” though she did say that there was something of a sweet spot in writing with a little bit of a hangover for some stories.
The one thing they all said in common was that you have to find yourself. There is no perfect to writing but there is a perfect formula for you and that formula is as unique as a fingerprint, it will fit you and it will serve your writing. This will take on whatever inspires you. Some people shine under stress and some writes said they imposed their own deadlines on themselves just to keep their mind under that pressure, some said they would have specific playlists that had tense music or happy music, scary music, action music etc. and they would listen to only that when writing bits of the book for that mood. There were a lot of methods but over all point is that there are no wrong answers, if it gets the story out of your mind and onto a page, there is no wrong process. It is equally true that there is no short cut. A lot of the authors mentioned the phrase that many aspiring writers have heard “write what you know”. Most said that writing what you know doesn’t really apply when you are writing sci-fi and fantasy novels about things that aren’t actually real or at lest not yet.
Pierce Brown said in one of his panels, that he thinks of this saying when he is writing a character that he knows is smarter than he is, how can I write what I know if the character knows more than I do?
His answer and the answer many other authors present affirmed was that you can use your manuscript like a time machine. When we write the story just have them do what you would do then when the story comes together more and you get a fuller understanding of how the story is going to play out, go back to certain key points and improve the choices made by your “smarter” characters now with fuller knowledge of what is coming next. This will give the impression that they have intuition or problem solving skills that you couldn’t give them the first time around.
Pierce Brown said he likes to focus on the dumb mistakes his “smart” character make because it helps him to relate to a character who he feels like he has a bit less in common with.
As a fan we all get excited by the things we love and when we come to a pop culture convention we are all the more excited because we are with those who are just as excited by those same things but this year we experiences a new level of this phenomenon because we actually met people who created the things that we were so excited about and you know what? They were just as excited. They were just as happy to see the fans ans the fans were to see them, just as excited to talk about their characters and worlds they had created as the fans were to ask the questions and in those moments we were all kids again, we all believed in magic, we all were ready to go on a quest to fight the baddy and to win the day. All of us wearing the guises of adults but if you could see our shadows in those panel rooms, no doubt you’d see our bath towel super hero capes flapping behind us in the breeze.
Thanks you to all the amazing story tellers who cam to Fan Fusion and than you to Fan fusion for bringing them out.