I attended the LA Times Festival Of Books for the first time this year and I’ve already put together a recap post for my first day at the festival, including all the talks I listened to and the books I was able to get signed. You can see my Day 1 Recap here.
This is the recap post for Day 2 – when I had the chance to hear quite a few very well known authors speak about their work. Compared to Day 1, which was mostly nonfiction focused, the Day 2 conversations I picked were all centered on fiction.
By my second day at the festival, I was old hat at getting from one speaker event to the next, and at knowing to leave the auditoriums five minutes into the question portion to make sure I was right at the front of each book signing line. I hope you enjoy this second recap and I can’t wait till when I get to attend the festival again next year!
For all the buzz I have heard over the last two years about Viet Than Nguyen and Alexander Chee’s novels, I had yet to pick any of them up. I was excited to listen to the conversation between these two authors and to finally buy copies of their books to get signed. They’re definitely great additions to my physical TBR pile that I’m hoping to get to very soon.
One of the things that interested me most about this conversation was to learn about how long it took these two authors to complete their first novels. Chee actually worked on Queen Of The Night for 15 years before completing it – yes, you read that right, 15 years. Nguyen on his part wrote his nonfiction title Nothing Every Dies over 12 years, during which he was also writing The Refugees.
Both authors are also professors and have a background of activism in different areas: Nguyen on race and immigration and Chee on AIDS issues and queer rights. They are clearly super intelligent and articulate men, and it was amazing to hear them recount anecdotes (both humorous and heavy) from their own lives as they reflected on their experiences as writers. Meeting them briefly afterwards at the signing booth they were super friendly and approachable.
I primarily attended this conversation because I like family sagas and because I hadn’t seen Lisa See speak in person yet. I actually didn’t bring one of her books to get signed because, to be honest, I’ve found her work to be in the 3 star range for me so far (not hitting it out of the park), and so I didn’t want to spend money on physical copies of books I liked but didn’t love.
The other two authors I didn’t know much about but decided to purchase Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter ahead of time to get signed at the event, since it had good reviews on Goodreads. He was a true character whose latest novel – The House Of Broken Angels – is loosely based on his own family story. He had tons of great super hilarious and moving anecdotes to share from his own life, and I found him the most compelling speaker of the bunch.
Two topics covered in the talk were the authors’ love hate relationships with research while writing fiction (how it’s key but it’s also important to know not to overdo it), and the difference between writing primary versus secondary characters (and how sometimes secondary characters elbow themselves into more significant roles in a story).
I was just starting to get clued into how popular and admired Madeline Miller’s work is when I was looking into which conversations to attend at the Book Festival, and I’m so glad that I included this talk in my schedule. Now that I’ve read (and absolutely loved) The Song Of Achilles, I’m so happy I had the chance to hear her story about how she decided to start writing fiction and the background behind her decision to revisit the Illiad.
She also read a passage from Circe that was absolutely riveting and powerful, which is what made me read The Song Of Achilles within just a few weeks after the festival. Her writing is somehow classic and modern at the same time, and I just can’t get over how compelling it is to someone like me who loves classics but misses seeing that writing style in some more contemporary work.
Janet Fitch I actually was not familiar with – though I did know of the movie version of White Oleander and also about the recent release of The Revolution Of Marina M. I just hadn’t connected the dots between movie, novels and actual author. She’s clearly a big deal in the literary world though, and I feel lucky to have a signed copy of one of her most famous novels to dig into as my first work of hers that I read.
Have you read any of the books by these authors? Which was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
You can also read other recent posts on Novels And Nonfiction including my February 2018 Book Of The Month reviews, my list of June 2018 Book Releases I’m looking forward to and recent reviews of A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang.
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