Last night I went to a book event called Transgression: Writing On the Edge of the Acceptable. It was an author panel featuring Eloisa James, Damon Suede, Ellen Kushner, Sarah Rees Brennan, Marie Rutkoski, and C.S. PACAT!!!!
C.S. Pacat, whose Captive Prince I reviewed, lives in Australia, so having a chance to meet her in New York City was so exciting.
The panel discussion was wonderful. The writers seemed to have all written some degree of queer lit, and they talked about taboo within the literary world: how publishers have rejected them for pushing boundaries, how readers have responded to their work, etc.
Here are some highlights:
- C.S. Pacat pointing out that what we often think of as “taboo” – violence, sexual assault – is actually seen on our TV screens every day. In reality, true taboo can be found in unexpected places: sentiment, raw emotion, unconcealed affection.
- Damon Suede describing how he entered the romance industry as a man: he was raised in a lesbian household and grew up thinking all men were “florists and interior decorators.” Said that the idea of being bossed around by a bunch of women sounded like “heaven.” 😀
- Marie Rotkoski saying that sometimes the sexiest writing doesn’t mention body parts; instead she tries to weave sensuality into all of the prose.
- Damon Suede in defense of the romance genre: It’s optimistic. It tells the reader that they’re not doomed to die alone in a cold, cruel world.
- C.S. Pacat in defense of the romance genre: Romance tells the reader that “they deserve to be loved” and “deserve to have a heroic self,” even if they don’t fit into the confines of conservative identity labels.
- Ellen Kushner talking about letting projects go and not being ashamed of past writing. At some point you just have to go onto the next project. Even if past work seems like crap, you have to acknowledge that you did your best at that moment in time. She used the analogy of a 30 year-old thinking about how they can tie their shoes so much better than when they were 3 – what’s the point of lamenting the incompetence of your past self?
- C.S. Pacat saying she starts projects by imagining she’s walking into a bookstore and picking up her idea of the perfect story.
- (And in general the authors all had contradictory writing advice, which is encouraging, since they’re all obviously hugely successful.)
Highlights of the C.S. Pacat signing:
- she signed all of my books! I now have the complete, signed Captive Prince trilogy
- she was SO easy to talk to. Some readers came with fanart (one woman made a beautiful, Captive Prince-themed charm bracelet!), but if you kind of stood in front of her table and just put your books down (like me), she would immediately give you a compliment or ask you a question.
- I appreciated this so much! I’ve been awkward at so many book signings and I always blame myself. But she took on full responsibility for ensuring that every reader had a great time. It made me realize that maybe I wasn’t the only awkward party in past reader-writer exchanges…
- Here’s the story of her pseudonym (because she used to be ‘S.U. Pacat’):
She picked S.U. Pacat because people call her ‘Cat,’ and so it was like ‘Supah Cat’ (she’s kind of nerd-tastic)
Then this super serious Australian publisher guy told her she had to change it.
But her American publishers were like, “The name is branded!! You can’t change it!”
So she just changed the initials, using ‘C’ for her first name and ‘S’ because it’s like ‘C.S. Lewis.’ There you go.
- She asked me which book in the trilogy was my favorite, and we had a brief conversation on how we both like to analyze our favorite scenes in fiction
- so she wrote this in my favorite book in the series (I mean, they’re all my favorite, but…):
Also, she said that she meets once a month with writer friends of hers to just analyze and pick apart one particular book. And that sounds like a great exercise? She’s written a few posts about scene analysis/writing.
C.S. Pacat has super straight teeth?? Like a Hollywood, Fassbender-worthy smile?
I never knew her pseudonym is pronounced pa-CAT, emphasis on the final syllable.
I haven’t read Ellen Kushner, but she was so down-to-earth, yet articulate and outspoken, that I can’t wait to pick up her Swordspoint. (They ran out of copies at the event.)
Yay for book signings!