Sunday, July 13, 2014

Recap: Stephanie Perkins' Book Signing Event in Manila

We are always excited whenever an author is invited to visit the Philippines. Meeting them after reading their works used to be a rare thing for people here, and so we're very thankful to everyone (the authors themselves, the publishers, and National Book  Store) who now make one of dreams within our reach.

Last Sunday, we had the amazing, spectacular, wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with Stephanie Perkins. It was a surreal experience because Anna is an absolute all-time favorite of mine and the three of us have been Stephanie fangirls since it came out. The excitement I felt even the week before it's set to be held was intense. I couldn't sleep the day before and kept imagining that my 15-year old self would have DIED if she knew this will happen 4 years later. 

I know I'm not alone in this sentiment, and that was confirmed when over a thousand PH fans from Cebu and Manila gathered to meet Stephanie and have their books signed by her. One fan in Manila even lined up outside the public signing venue 25 hours before the event. Now THAT is commitment. 

The better part (for me at least) was that we were also lucky enough to ask her questions about Anna, Lola, and Isla, as well as her personal experience while writing them. We learned so much more about this lovely author and her characters during this interview and so I want to share them with you. 

Without further ado, here's the full recap of the Q&A session with Stephanie!

Dea: How have things changed for you as an author since your debut, Anna and the French kiss, came out almost four years ago?

A lot, I hear. That is crazy. I think that the way that my life has changed has been reflective of how the industry has changed. When Anna was published, Contemporary was not that popular and not a big deal, so when I got my contract and went through the publishing system first time, no one was really paying attention. It was expected to be a very quiet book that kinda disappear quickly. It took everyone by surprise, especially me, when people really liked it and kept talking about it and it was all word of mouth; there was no marketing behind it. The marketing budget was being given to Paranormal books at the time. And now, of course with Rainbow Rowell and John Green being two of the biggest names in YA right now, there’s definitely a shift and it is people like me who are reaping the rewards of their hard work so I’m very grateful to them. Coming here was just… I never considered it even in my wildest dreams – that’s not an exaggeration, I never thought this might happen.

Jarrod Perkins
  • Stephanie’s biggest inspiration is her husband, Jarrod. They met online when she was 17 and living far away from him. They talked online for about 4 and a half months before their first date, when he flew out to where she was living and took her to senior prom (Just like Cricket did!). She also shared that they wore matching shoes–Chuck Taylors–at the prom, which she then ended up wearing in her wedding as well. (SO SWEET). 
Aside from her own life, she draw inspiration from movies, television, and books. It’s all about trying to recapture a moment and get that on to the page the best that she can.
  • When asked of the things she learned about the publishing industry while writing and publishing Isla, Stephanie answered that she learned more about her own process rather than the publishing itself writing Anna, Lola, and Isla. While working on Lola, she started working 18-21 hours a day, and added that the amount of good work she could accomplish diminished very quickly. That was one of the reasons behind the delay between Lola and Isla.
  • The hard thing with writing Isla was having a different structure. It wasn't a typical romantic story kind of structure where they like each other for a long duration of the book until they get together at the end. Stephanie shared that Isla is a girl who has always been shy and short on confidence. She has this massive crush on this boy for three years and something happens in this book that actually triggers a relationship to happen unexpectedly between her and her longtime crush. Stephanie gave them Happily Ever After very early on in the story and then she had to take it away, and give it back to them again to make a bigger Happily Ever After at the end.

  • If she could be Anna, Lola, or Isla, Stephanie would be Lola. Lola is the bravest of the three and it was the quality she struggle with the most. She admire that Lola is an individual who really doesn’t care about much of anything. She’s almost at that point and better now than she was as a teenager. She also quipped that if you were Lola, you are a different person everyday.
  • For Stephanie, the most important key to creating a realistic and satisfying relationship on the paper is to make the characters work for the Happy Ending before giving it to them. She said it would really be boring to make a story about a perfect relationship of two perfect people with everything always going right. People can’t actually relate to that because we’re making mistakes all the time.
  • She loves companion novels even as young reader when she discovered Stephen King, who weave in the monsters from his other horror books into his current ones. Stephanie does it as well because it’s a nice treat for readers and she just genuinely love her characters. She spend several years crafting and planning out each novel before writing it. She has a hard time letting them go because, cheesy as it may sound, they feel like friends to her. For that, she sees herself writing many more companion novels in the future.
Photo credit:

  • She participated in NaNoWriMo to prove to herself that she can start and finish a project. To this day, she considers it to be one of her greatest personal successes. It was the thing that gave her the confidence to turn a project into a real book. She also shared that Anna, Lola, and Isla all have NaNoWriMo drafts.
  • She admitted to putting Isla and Josh in Anna with the intention of writing about Josh later on. She didn’t know a lot about Isla when she wrote Anna, so Stephanie kept her quiet in a very minor part to have a few years and think about who she was. However, she knew Josh and what was really going on inside him. To tell a story about this nice, artist boy, she deliberately put Isla in Anna to have the opportunity to write his story and hoped that her publisher would take it.
Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

  • Stephanie’s Philippine travel is her most surreal one. On the other hand, she also revealed that one of her best travel experiences was the Paris trip she took when she got a book deal for Anna. It was something she couldn't do while writing the book because of financial constraints as a librarian. When she could finally go, she went for a full month. She had a week alone which scared her, but writing Anna’s story made her want to try be braver, and it was very empowering.
  • When asked if who among her characters were the most likely to walk into the forum, Stephanie answered that the most likely candidates would be Isla and Josh. They are both big readers so it’s probably them that would come there together and keep to themselves because they’re pretty private people. They’d be hanging out in the graphic novel section.

After the Q&A and before the signing starts, Stephanie and NBS surprised all the bloggers with.... ISLA ARC's!! Thank you so much Penguin Teen for providing them!

Gorgeous Isla-inspired nails of Nicole at The Twins Read

The signing part proceeded and we each got to chat a little bit with Stephanie while she signs our books. She's so adorable and sweet. Aaand she complimented us on our outfit. 

Mary Ann and I(Dea) with Stephanie

Stephanie's husband, Jarrod, also joined in the signing/bloggers' photo session and posed with this awesome banner made by Kayla of @SPerkinsPH and The Bookish Owl. It's already a given that Jarrod is a fun and cool person since Stephanie revealed that all three boys from her books has a little Jarrod in them. These pictures just establish those facts firmly.
The Filipino words on the banner translates as Anna and the French Kiss

Jarrod signing the dedication page on Isla

 Some people asked Stephanie  to read the words on the banner out loud but she refused. LOL. She probably thought the "P" word on the banner sounds dirty in Filipino (and it does, a little)

Kayla of @SPerkinsPH's shirt, which Jarrod doodled on with faces of different personalities

And of course, it wouldn't be complete without a group picture!

We then went to Glorietta 1 an hour before the public signing starts. The 600+ people who registered were already waiting when we arrived. A lot of the fans prepared banners and a few even dressed up as their favorite Stephanie Perkins character. 

The crowd was craaazy when Stephanie arrived. I'm always overwhelmed with a sense of pride when I go to public signings. We PH fans sure welcome authors with such enthusiasm, and I love that the authors recognize it too. 

Remember the person I mentioned who lined up 25 hours prior the event? Well, he and six other fans were gifted with Isla ARC for the dedication they showed!

Photo credit: National Book Store on Facebook

I feel like I was on a high that entire day after meeting Stephanie Perkins. For Mary Ann and I, it surely was an achievement-unlocked experience. I'm really hoping she and Jarrod visit us again in the near future!

Lastly, check out Stephanie's sweet message to her fans in the Philippines!

Once again, we'd like to thank National Book Store, Penguin Teen, and Stephanie Perkins for a remarkable event!

Reminder: We are giving away a reader's book of choice and a pre-order book from a list of upcoming YA titles. Isla is one of the books listed so feel free to enter if you haven't

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