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Black, Paige & Bardugo, Oh My! A YALLWEST Roundup

The following post is from Food, Fitness & Fiction Contributing Editor Amber Lee. SO sad to have missed YALLWEST this year (it was my 14-year-old son’s birthday), but so glad Amber could attend.

YALLWEST 2016 was amazing. From the minute I arrived, I could see Margaret Stohl (author of Beautiful Creatures and Black Widow) unloading boxes of book merchandise from a truck. I also got to talk to the fabulous Jennifer Niven (author of All the Bright Things) and shake hands with the YA icon David Levithan (Every Day, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Boy Meets Boy, and so many more). I was utterly starstruck and had the best time being a complete fangirl and was surrounded by thousands of others who felt the exact same way. All the authors were so nice and down to earth, the panels were hilarious and illuminating, and just being in a place where everyone loves books as much as I do was exciting in itself.

I was lucky enough to get a few exclusive quick interviews with a few of my favorite YA authors.

First up is Holly Black (pictured below) who I have adored since I was a tiny kid holding the gigantic hardcover Spiderwick’s Field Guide and trying to find rocks with holes in them in my backyard to look for fairies through. Her most recent book is The Darkest Part of the Forest (January 2015, Little, Brown) which is a standalone novel. I sort of awkwardly hovered around waiting to talk to her and was amazed because she sat down and had a genuine extended conversation with every single person who came up to talk to her.




AL: If you could be any fictional creature, what would it be and why?

HB: In the Spiderwick Chronicles? Or all my books?

AL: Oh, anything!

HB: It’s great to be a fairy, because they live forever, and they don’t have the dietary restrictions of vampires. Or maybe a changeling, since I can still be me but also a fairy.

AL: For a different kind of fantasy, what Hogwarts House would you be in?

HB: Oh, probably Slytherin!

AL: What was your favorite book growing up? Spiderwick was honestly one of mine.

HB: What age?

AL: Elementary school, maybe?

HB: I think my very first, like, super obsessive thing was Lloyd Alexander and the Prydain Chronicles, or like high fantasy books because I love them so much.

AL: What do you want to see more in young adult literature, or just fantasy literature in general?

HB: Oh, I just want to see more of like, a diversity from the young single teenage girl heroine. Because there’s such a vast variety of characters you can have and issues you can talk about if your character in a high fantasy novel is older, or married, or has children.

AL: Do you know any books like that that are out there right now?

HB: I remember, it was years ago so I can’t remember the name but you can look it up, but I read this one series of high fantasy story where the main character was pregnant, and on this epic fantasy journey. That sort of thing is just so interesting and unexplored.


Next is Danielle Paige! She was honestly just so lovely and I feel like I interrupted her talking to all her cool author friends, but she was so sweet and happy to talk to me. She’s most famous for her Dorothy Must Die series, and the most recent edition of it is Yellow Brick War (March 2016, HarperCollins). I really love re-imaginings of classic stories like fairytales and pop culture monoliths and this new version of the Wizard of Oz never fails to surprise.

AL: What fantastical creature would you be?

DP: What are my choices?

AL: Like vampires or werewolves or dragons, or anything from mythology.

DP: Oh! I want to be a witch!

AL: In which Hogwarts house?

DP: Ha, Slytherin. Like, no pause.

AL: And what was your favorite book growing up?

DP: That’s impossible, I love so many things. I’ll say, like, Great Expectations or Wuthering Heights or something by Jane Austen, or Frankenstein, or Dracula. Like totally, I’m a classics girl. And when I was a kid, though, my favorite book was This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I just loved it because it was the first thing I read about going to college and it was like that 20s era, it was so much fun, I loved it.

AL: What advice do you have for teenagers who hope to write when they grow up?

DP: I always say two things. Like, everyone always tells you to write what you know, but I say to write what you don’t know. I honestly think that my best writing is from taking a leave and like writing something that was originally way outside of my real life. I say like, take an extra step. And two, I know everyone says this, but keep writing. I meet so many aspiring writers and it’s like “I just need to get past this one thing!” and just even if you’re not in love with this one thing you’re writing, just keep going onto the next thing.

Danielle Paige was so nice and was even like “You should tweet me a link to your interview when you post it!” and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I don’t have a twitter. I may make one just to tweet her a link.


Leigh Bardugo is up next, and it is pretty obvious why she had one of the longest signing lines in the entire festival. I couldn’t handle the line but did end up sitting way closer to her than most of the people queuing because all I’d eaten all day was coffee and free pudding and I decided to take a pizza break. Her Grisha universe started with Shadow and Bone and the original trilogy but recently expanded with a new series starting with Six of Crows (July 2015, Henry Holt and Company), which is amazing and was coincidentally the first book I reviewed for Food, Fitness & Fiction!

AL: If you could be any fictional creature, what would it be and why?

LB: Probably a dragon because they cause the most trouble. Or maybe a dire wolf because winter is coming.

AL: Which Hogwarts House would you be in?

LB: I’m Slytherin and proud. No apologies.

AL: What was your favorite book growing up?

LB: It’s tough to pick a single book. I loved Dune, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and just about everything by Stephen King.

AL: What authors of forms of media impacted you the most when writing the Shadow and Bone series?

LB: I think the biggest influence was probably Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes. When I was drafting, I listened to a lot of Prokofiev. When I was revising, I was all about Stevie Nicks and Florence and the Machine.

AL: What advice do you have for teenagers who hope to write when they grow up?

LB: 1. Finish a rotten, messy, crazy first draft; just get the story on the page. 2. Read outside of your comfort zone. 3. There is no expiration date on your talent.

Wow, I talked to a lot of Slytherins that day! Probably partially because I’m a Ravenclaw myself, YALLWEST was amazing all around for learning new things about my favorite authors and the YA industry as a whole with panels on jobs or just people talking about their experiences. It even branched out into YA-based television and comics, too, which I really appreciated. I’m really glad they brought a version of YALLFEST all the way to Santa Monica an hour and a half away from where I live, and anyone who can should come next year! I’ll see you there!

If you to check out more about these authors, here are their websites:

Holly Black

Danielle Paige

Leigh Bardugo

Amber Lee is a high school junior from Irvine, California and a staff writer for the Beckman Chronicle. She likes having too many hobbies at the same time to actually really improve at any of them: like reading, writing, art, useless historical research, drums, guitar, webcomic-ing, boxing, Muay Thai, and critical consumption of mass media. You can follow her on FacebookTumblr, and Instagram.


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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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