On Tuesday night, I bravely took the 55+ mile drive from my college’s campus to Vroman’s in Pasadena, in the rain might I add, for the launch of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones with Marie Lu and Roshani Chokshi.
I have been to quite a few book signings and book launches now, but the Launch for Wintersong was by far my favorite. I laughed the entire time. JJ, Marie, and Roashni were hilarious and had such amazing commentary. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go. It was an amazing first event, of hopefully many, for me at Vroman’s.
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Release Date: February 7th 2017
Genre: New Adult (officially classified as Young Adult, but because of character age, I’m saying New Adult), Fantasy, Romance
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
The set up at Vroman’s was really cool. They have a great area upstairs space for events, which also happens to be next door to the Young Adult section. There were pieces of sheet music, white roses, and other snowy decorations on the table along with food and more books in the back. JJ announced a photo competition on instagram for a Wintersong print (which JJ drew the design for) and said that those who asked questions would receive one (you can see a picture of the print below)
Right from the start, it was evident that Roshani, JJ, and Marie were good friends. They talked about how they met (Roshani and JJ through internet stalking, and Marie and JJ through JJ’s previous job. and more stalking.), and how their books came about. JJ also brought up how she grew up in Pasadena and applied to work at Vroman’s three times when she was younger.
Leigh Bardugo (Yes!!! That Leigh Bardugo, the author of Six of Crows, was in the audience): What are you guys working on right now? I know some of you have sequels in the works…
JJ: I am working on the sequel to Wintersong. It will be out in 2018. I know some of you that have already read the book have asked me if there is a sequel, and yes, there is. I know that the wording was kind of confusing in the deal announcement saying there is a companion novel, but it is actually a direct sequel to Wintersong.
ML: I am working on the sequel to the book that hasn’t come out yet. My book coming out this fall is called Warcross. It is about a girl who works as a bounty hunter in New York City. She’s kind of down on her luck, and she gets a phone call from a billionaire. He’s a young billionaire who has created a game that has kind of taken over the world, and he wants to hire her for a job. So, that’s like the basic premise of the story.
It’s like Overwatch but if you’re in it.
RC: You said young billionaire, and like my heart just started racing.
ML: Fifty Shades of Grey.
RC: Oh, no! What have I done to myself?
ML: Forget you ever heard that.
RC: What am I doing. I am working on a YA fantasy that comes out in Fall 2018, and it is called The Gilded Wolves and it is, I don’t know, a love letter to Tomb Raider and the Belle Époque era France. I just wanted to talk about food in it, and just have a lot of people glare across from ballrooms, so that’s the book. The end!
What person, place, thing , or song has been the most influential on your writing as a whole? (This was the question I asked, and it’s how I got one of those beautiful Wintersong prints pictured below)
ML: For me I would say it was Brain Jaques’s Mattimeo. I read that book when I was eleven years old. It was the first fantasy novel I ever read in my life, and I absolutely fell in love with it and I credit that with getting me into writing fantasy and science fiction and reading fantasy and science fiction.
RC: It is actually the closing lines of Lolita from Vladimir Nabokov. I don’t know, it was like, I read it in High School just to say that ‘I’m reading and you guys don’t understand it’s so dark and it was banned’, but then I got to end and I was in tears because the language was so transcendent to me. And I will never forget those words “I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, and the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”. And I just died. And I still die. Like, I think about it and I’ll cry.
JJ: I don’t actually have an author in particular or a book in particular that I found particularly influential on my work. I have always loved reading as a child, so my formative years were reading, also I loved Brain Jaques and Lloyd Alexander. I was kind of talking to the employees here, cause you know this is actually my hometown bookstore. I grew up in Pasadena, and I used to come here a lot. I applied to work here three times. In high school and you guys never hired me. I just want you to know that… Upstairs here is the children’s section, so I just used to go down that aisle. For me it’s like all of children’s fiction, I guess would be influential.
And musically though…so the story of what I was writing before I wrote Wintersong. I really kind of have a creepy crush on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And Marie understands.
ML: This is why we’re friends.
JJ: One of the movies that I really loved is Amadeus cause it really humanized him for me as a person. He was a musical genius but also he was kind of a terrible human being. And have the most childish scatological sense of humor, so he always made poop jokes in pretty much every letter he wrote. And also he wrote music centered around poop. That’s not why I like him, but I just kind of love that somebody who writes something so beautiful transcendet can also just be kind of just a human with faults and flaws, so I think he’s probably the biggest influence.
So what I was trying to write before I wrote Wintersong was a retelling of the magic flute, which is my favorite opera shpeels of his, and it wasn’t working. It just wasn’t working at all, and none of the characters were breathing, not of the characters were alive and even though the story and the rhyme itself was okay, it just was not working. Basically, I had to sit back and think ‘what did I love about the magic flute’, which is actually music and not the story. I kind of restarted writing this book from my love of music, so I feel like I have to kind of thank Mozart for a lot of inspiration and also how I met Marie.
ML: Thanks Mozart.
How does the Asian part of you influence your writing, and, for Rosh, being part Filipino, will we see that part in your books in the future?
RC: My mom, thanks a lot.. Actually, did she call you? She’s like ‘you know you’re Filipino too’. I was like ‘Oh my god mom’. There is a Filipino character in The Gilded Wolves, especially because 1889 was pretty much just a ‘hello colonial era’ and the Philippines was under rule from the Spaniards. I’ve really always struggled with that question when growing up: what am I more of? Is it what I look like more? I don’t know either of my parent’s languages. I can beg for money and ask for food, but that’s pretty much it. But there still my stories, and so that was really important to me. I’m excited to hear what you think about this character. I hope I do it justice.
As for those Asian influences, that is pretty much it. My parents didn’t want to confuse me or my siblings growing up, so we only spoke English and in terms of bridging that cultural gap, all I had were fairy tales. And the stories my grandmothers would both tell me. They were horrific stories. You know, those Filipino folktales do not mess around. Everything is terrifying. There’s like casually severed women just running around through your bedroom, and then they’re like ‘goodnight’. How can you go to sleep like that?
And the most amazing thing is how fairy tales are so similar no matter where you look across the cultural spectrum. And that’s so beautiful. It was so inspiring to me to be like ‘oh, well you have a Cinderella story, and everyone has a Beauty and the Beast, so why can’t my story be there too’.
JJ: Well, obviously I am Asian, so everything I do is inspired by being Asian. I guess a lot of it comes down too just, worth ethic. I know this is going to sound super stereotypical
RC: Work ethic? You said work ethic?
JJ: But also, I do credit my mother for introducing me to all the things that I do love like classical music, learning instruments. I don’t necessarily consciously choose to write stories from my cultural background. It is not to say that I won’t, it is sort of just what interests me first. In this case, it was music, which is a byproduct of being Asian because of what I was raised with and because of what I was introduced to. And fairy tales and everything like that.
In the future, I do intend to write stories with Asian characters and that are more influenced by Asian stories and things like that.
ML: My answer is very similar to what JJ said. I don’t go into a story necessarily consciously writing in who I feel like I am as an Asian person. Parts of me will just creep into the story, regardless of whether or not I’m thinking about it. I usually only notice in hindsight. I didn’t really notice the Asian influences that were creeping into Legend until I went back over it and was like ‘oh, you know when they have funerals they wear white, and when there’s street food it was strange street food that you wouldn’t see in LA’ and those elements just crept into the story.
There’s a very specific scene in Legend, which takes place in this dark, dystopic, well pretty much nonfiction, world where there’s a square and everyone’s protesting and these soldiers come out and they fire down the protesters. I read back and realized I was just channeling what I had witnessed in Tiananmen Square, I didn’t witness the actual massacre, but I was there on the day of the shootings. I was five years old. It was like ’89, and I was living in Beijing. I was in the square and I remember the tanks that were in the streets. That image has always stayed with me, and it went into the story. I didn’t even know it was in there until afterwards, when the book had come out and I was like ‘oh, that is a piece of what I’d seen as a kid’.
The only book that is probably the most blatantly Asian is Warcross, which comes out later this year, and even then it’s kind of like my view. Asia’s not a monolith, so we all see a different view of it. My character is very westernized. She doesn’t speak Chinese at all, but she goes to Tokyo and sees it from a western, American point of view because that’s who she is.