Monday, June 6, 2011

Questions, Not Answers

On Saturday I was on a panel at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago-- which I somehow managed to avoid hearing about until this year. How does such a travesty occur? I know not.

Anyway, the other panelists were Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters, about a pair of father and son grave robbers (which I have heard many good things about, and it is now sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me) and Katie Crouch, author of The Magnolia League, which incorporates many hoodoo elements (it was so fascinating to hear her talk about it-- and now it's also sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me). And then we had our fabulous moderator, James Kennedy, who wrote The Order of Odd-Fish, and just had a little girl named Ingrid, which is my sister's name.

Highlights: Daniel Kraus describing the concept of a "Rat King" to the audience while I convulsed in my chair. (Google if you dare.) Katie Crouch singing us a lullaby. James Kennedy asking a question and then shouting "KRAUS!", thereby startling us all. It was one of the best writing conversations I've had with multiple authors.

Anyway, I was asked a particularly good question, and I wanted to share the answer with you, in case you're interested. The question was this:

What is the one thing/the message you would like people to take away from your book?

I try to avoid preaching of any kind, and it's not just because teenagers can sniff out a message from a mile away; it's because I want to give people space to think and breathe while they read my book. I don't want to stifle anyone. That said, I do think every book says something other than what's on the pages, whether you intend for it to or not when you write it. So yes, there are some things I think my book says, because I have interpreted it as a reader, just as you will.

But I would much rather you come away with questions than answers. Questions about virtue, and what it is, and if it makes you worth something, and if being "good" is the most important thing, and if it's not, what is? Or: is the consistency of your character the best thing you have to offer the world? Can you can be defined, and should you even try? Or even: what should you look for in a friend, or a boyfriend, or a girlfriend?

I know books are a great escape, and my book, with all its action, may not give you a lot of quiet moments in which to think. But my favorite books made me think as much as they entertained me, and that's my hope for Divergent.


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