We had an absolute blast at the first annual California Capital Book Festival on Saturday!
The day started off with Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense, romance, and historical author. I was incredibly excited because, as one of the first 200 people to enter the festival, I won a free copy of her latest book! The woman was SUPER impressive, and not just because she’s written 50 books since 2000! In addition to writing 3 books a year, she also hosts an annual online auction for Diabetes research, which brought in 2.4 MILLION dollars last year! Her talk gave tons of information on the industry- how she met her editor at a conference in Utah, how traditionally published authors make about 8-10% of sales of their books (after their advance is paid back), how e-readers have transformed readership, and how “reading is magical” for an author. I absolutely adored this woman, and if you live in the northern California area, you should definitely check out her latest book launch at Barnes & Noble in Citrus Heights on Tuesday at 6:00 pm!
Next up was a YA Discussion Group with Talia Vance and Donna Cooner. Since they’ve blogged at YA Muses, they were already super comfortable and fed off of each other. Their dynamic was great! The standouts for me from this breakout were the personal stories. While writing Spies and Prejudice, Talia decided that the main character had a pet St. Bernard. Of course, this required online research. Which necessitated a trip to a local breeder. Which finally resulted in the purchase of a drooly St. Bernard puppy! They had Huckleberry for 4 years before health issues took him to Doggie Heaven. I will admit to getting a tad bit tear-eyed listening to Talia talk about her fur child. Donna’s story was no less emotional. She, like the main character in her first book, underwent gastric bypass surgery. And like her main character, she’s had to battle the negative self-talk in her head, even as her body transformed. It was so interesting to hear where her inspiration came from. The idea for her latest book, Don’t Look Away, was taken from her experience with the scrutiny, notoriety, and buzz that came her way with the success of Skinny. Don’t tell my husband, but I totally bought both of these authors’ books, they looked THAT good!
Next came a Fiction Panel with 3 lovely romance and mystery authors. Cindy Sample is a self-published, sassy sixty-something year old writer of romantic humorous mysteries, including her latest, Dying for a Dude. Then there was Elizabeth Maxwell, who’s latest book is about an erotic romance author who’s characters suddenly show up in real life. Finally, there was Jessica Inclan, who’s recently released novel includes over a dozen family recipes. This was an interesting bunch of ladies! I’m not entirely sure they should have been sharing the same stage, since they are so vastly different. The one thing that sticks out about their panel discussion was their frustration with being pigeonholed into a certain category or genre. Most traditional publishers want to know what shelf their book should be on, and each of the ladies’ books could be placed on multiple different shelves at the bookstore.
After this panel, we split up!
Lindsey attended the YA BFF’s panel, featuring Jennifer Lundquist, Hannah Jayne, and Jenna Elizabeth Johnson. This was an awesome panel because each of the authors came from a slightly different genre within YA. Jenna writes paranormal fantasy stories deeply rooted in Celtic Mythology. Lindsey read and really enjoyed her Faelorehn series, so it was really neat to meet the author! Jennifer Lundquist was a super sweet, very intelligent writer of middle grade and young adult books, who’s latest book launches this week! (Speaking of which, you should totally check out her launch party at the Barnes & Noble in Citrus Heights on Saturday the 1st at 1:00 pm!) She gets to immerse herself in sumptuous, sparkling masquerades while she writes… until reality hits and she realizes she’s late to pick up her kids. Then there was Hannah Jayne, a super bubbly, happy gal who writes suspense/thrillers about people dying horrible, gruesome deaths. Yeah. The lady sitting behind Lindsey totally wanted to give her a hug, haha! They were great, and a tremendous encouragement. Jenna works full time as a teacher’s aide, so she gets up early, works from 5-7 am at Starbucks, goes to work all day, and then goes back to Starbucks to finish up her writing for the day. Talk about dedication!
Meanwhile, Elizabeth was at her Mystery Sisters’ Club Panel. This panel featured Rhys Bowen, Cara Black, and Terry Shames. All of these ladies are mystery authors whose location plays an important role in the book. Rhys Bowen talked about her Molly Murphy series which takes place in New York in 1901 and her Royal Spyness series which takes place in the 1930s in Upperclass Britain. Cara Black writes about Paris in the 1990s, but a Paris that is haunted by the past. Terry Shames writes about Texas, due to a writing teacher telling her to “write about something you are passionate about. Something you know that no one else knows.” She said she knows Texas! When asked how the ladies plan out their books, Bowen said there are “two kinds of writers- the planners and the pantsers- those who write by the seat of their pants. Cara [Black] and I are pantsers.” Black said the challenge in writing a series is to “keep it fresh, yet familiar” and Shames reassured the aspiring authors in the audience when she said that she remembers hearing that “the first draft is just to find out what the story is about.”
The final break out session of the day was The Fifteeners Panel. We were curious about the name of the panel, since none of the authors looked to be younger than twenty or so. We discovered that the name comes from an entire group of authors from major publishing houses coming out with books in 2015. They all support and encourage one another throughout the craziness of the long process to publication. Alexis Bass, Kelly Loy Gilbert, Stacey Lee, Sabaa Tahir, and Jessica Taylor were warm, honest, and hysterical. We LOVED their advice for aspiring authors! Each of them seemed to have a long, torturous road to getting their deal, and the main theme seemed to be to not give up- not even on your worst day. Of the 5, 4 of them are full time writers (although two of those say it’s almost like part time because of their kiddos). Another standout piece of advice was their encouragement to network and to attend writers’ conferences. We are now following all of these fabulous ladies on Twitter, so we can continue to glean helpful words of wisdom from these experts!
Overall, we were extremely impressed with the quality of the California Capital Book Festival, especially considering this is their very first year of operation! We will definitely be there next year, since this was such a fantastically fun way to connect with other readers, writers, and fellow bloggers!