Married to the Empire

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Signing with Karen Traviss

For those of you who read here for the Star Wars stuff, you've probably been wondering why there's been so little of it. The stormtroopers haven't done much in a while, or more specifically, my stormtrooper hasn't. Last night, however, he and Todd attended Karen Traviss's book signing at a Borders in Dallas. Karen Traviss has written several novels, and she's currently on tour with her new book The Clone Wars.

I confess that I'd never heard of her. I don't read the Star Wars books with the exception of Timothy Zahn's trilogy. But that was because we'd gone out to dinner with him after his book signing, and I thought it would be polite to read his books. Regardless, I enjoyed listening to Ms. Traviss talk about her books and answer questions.

Something she said intrigued me and left me mulling for several minutes. Someone asked her what books she likes to read. She said she doesn't like to read. She laughed and mentioned how shocked people always are to hear that because the common assumption is that all writers are readers. She went on to talk about the way she writes, which is to let the characters form on their own, then follow their lead. She commented that the characters often surprise her and don't do what she'd like for them to do, but they always act within character.

That discussion led to one about point of view. She asked if there were any teachers in the crowd. Another woman and I both raised our hands, although we both admitted that we no longer teach. I'm a former English teacher, and the other woman is a former reading teacher. Ms. Traviss asked us if students are taught about point of view, and we both said yes. She said that she is often surprised at how many kids/teens/young adults she meets who have no concept of point of view. She said that they can't understand that the characters' thoughts are their own, not hers. They absolutely can't seem to get their minds around that.

I thought about that for a while, and at the end, I spoke with her about it. I told her that I think some people can't understand that because they're not good writers. Writing is so difficult for many students, and they painfully plan out everything in a mechanical way. Because writing is hard for them, they can't grasp the idea of characters leaping out of someone's mind and taking form. She seemed to think that was a good explanation. We can teach kids about literature and writing, but that doesn't mean that they will all truly understand it and become good at it.

I always enjoy something that makes me think.


Vader's Mom said...

FUN! I've seen her name on several books that I've picked up for Jeff. He enjoys her writing.

Wish I could have been there.

Cathy VanPatten said...

I have a very close friend who is a novelist, and she doesn't read much either. I don't think she dislikes reading, I just think she spends almost all her time writing or researching, and she doesn't have much time for pleasure reading--plus it's just not all that high up on her priority list.

Having done a bit of writing myself, I think it is the closest thing to magic I'll ever experience when the characters start to take on lives of their own. It's so strange because they are definitely the writer's--they come out of the writer's head, after all--but if they are fleshed out properly, they become something other than the writer, and yet they are all still within the writer. And man, if you as a writer try to force one of those characters to do something not within his or her nature to do, the writing will fall flat as a badly mixed cake. LOL!

Edi said...

Oh my - my ds would have been thrilled to the gills to have had his photo taken next to those characters!

He is 6 and for the past year he has gone crazy over Star Wars! We sometimes have to make rules like "no talking about Star Wars at the table" or in the car b/c it drives us (non-Star Wars lovers) crazy!