On the Road with the Pen Fatales

by Ruby on October 5, 2011

A conversation between Jessica Brody (My Life Undecided, The Karma Club) and Gabrielle Zevin (All These Things I’ve Done, Elsewhere) about packing, books, and the upcoming Pen Fatale tour.

GABRIELLE ZEVIN (G.Z.): I’ve been telling people that a pen fatale is a gal who only needs a pen to cause trouble. But, um, I just made that up. What do you think a pen fatale is?

JESSICA BRODY (J.B.): I love your definition! I might just have to steal it! For me, a pen fatale is a female writer who, without access to her pen (or laptop, or other necessary writing tool) would be simply too fatal to be around. That certainly describes me! Just ask my husband…when I attempt to go on vacation without my computer.

G.Z.: Oh, I know! You’re on vacation, but your computer is probably sitting at home, missing you. There are books to be written.

J.B.: What is the one thing you never leave behind when traveling?

G.Z.: Jessica, I’m high maintenance! Can we make it five things? Or ten. I could definitely get it down to ten. The real answer here is my photo ID. Not if I want to get on a plane at least. Okay, so here’s a hypothetical travel situation: Your suitcase is gone. Your carry-on has been destroyed. What do you do?

J.B.: Shop!!!! Can you arrange this? You have friends in the mob, right? Oh, wait, no, that’s your main character. I’ll tell you what, if you make my luggage disappear, I’ll make sure yours does as well. Then we can shop together. Good thing I’ve memorized all my credit card numbers.

G.Z.: I approve of this plan. Speaking of main characters, I’d say that one of the characteristics that Anya in All These Things I’ve Done and Brooklyn in My Life Undecided both share is the fact that they make a lot of mistakes despite the fact that they’re always trying so hard not to. Are growing up and making mistakes basically the same thing?

J.B.: Then in that case, I’m still growing up! I make mistakes daily. But I truly believe mistakes are what shape us. If we never made a mistake, we’d never learn. We’d never grow. We’d never move past our childhood. You can’t grow up without trying new things, and you can’t try new things without making mistakes. And how boring would books be without mistakes? ;) Of all the things that Anya (your main character) has done, which one is your favorite?

G.Z.: The thing I’m most proud of her for doing doesn’t happen until the sequel, and I think I can even say it without spoiling anything. It’s that she has an idea, a really good one, and she takes steps to turn that idea into a reality.

J.B.: Every time I see your book title somewhere, I think of that song, “All These Things that I’ve Done” by the Killers. Did that influence you in any way in writing the book?

G.Z.: There’s a long story about the title, but the short, deeply incomplete version is that Anya Balanchine kind of is that song for me. There’s a line from it that goes “I’m so much older than I can take” which captures the irony of youth for me — the way a young person can feel incredibly old and beyond redemption. While we’re on the subject of music, would you like to propose a theme song for the Pen Fatale Tour?

J.B.: I would…but I doubt anyone would listen to it except me. My taste of music tends to skew toward the “younger” side. But I’ll suggest one anyway. How about, “We R Who we R” by Ke$ha? Because every night we’ll be going ha-ha-a-a-hard at the bookstore, we’ll be tearing those book signings apa-a-a-a-rt. And even though we’re all different and write different style of books, we’re all supersta-a-a-ars in our own way. Too cheesy? Yeah, I was afraid of that.

G.Z.: Jessica, I will totally listen to Ke$ha with you.

J.B.: What are you most looking forward to about the Pen Fatale Tour?

G.Z.: Other than all the Ke$ha you’re going to be spinning for us? Meeting tons of readers, of course! Not to mention the company of three sophisticated lady writers.

The Pen Fatale tour features Alyson Noel, Gabrielle Zevin, Jessica Brody, and Mary Pearson. Come meet them October 9th at 3pm!

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