May 21, 2014

Event Recap: Moira Young in Brampton

Last Monday (the 12th) I had the great pleasure of attending the launch event for Moira Young's North American tour, celebrating the finale to her Dust Lands trilogy. I'm such a huge fan of Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart, and I can't wait to dig in to Raging Star.

I went to the signing with my Mom, as per usual. We got there plenty early, since we never know what traffic is going to be like on the highway. I purchased my copy of Raging Star and we looked around the whole Chapters store before they even put chairs out. ;) Once they did set up, we grabbed some front row seats. By the time the event rolled around there wasn't quite a full house, but definitely an enthusiastic grouping of fans.

Moira came out and did a talk about her publishing journey and the growth of Blood Red Road from the conception of the idea to what it became. After her talk she answered questions from the audience before beginning to sign books.

I was a speedy typist and I believe I managed to get just about everything down that Moira spoke about. Here's a recap, in point form...

  • She started writing Blood Red Road in 2006; it started off as a very different book: she had a 1 book plan and it took place in an ice world
  • She worked for 3.5 years on the first drafts of Blood Red Road, and it ended up being unusable
  • Was discouraged and got advice from her friend Julia Green; Julia told Moira that she was now ready for revision, that she could start over; with encouragement from her husband, she began to do so
  • At first there were discouraging voices saying she was a failure etc, but then Saba's voice appeared
  • With Saba's voice everything changed: the landscape and everything fell into place
  • When she wrote Blood Red Road she had two ideas for how it would end. The first closed things off, and the second brought about a larger plot, an overall arc -- she chose that second option because she thought there would be enough for trilogy, even though she didn't know where it would be going
  • The biggest influence for her storytelling was probably the movies and books that she grew up with; her father always showed her "big, adult movies" -- epic stories like Gone With the Wind and westerns; there were no limits on what she read and watched -- all these stories went into her "imaginative well"
  • As mentioned, she didn't plan a trilogy, and writing one was difficult because she was a very inexperienced writer: she had to learn how to structure a big story
  • The whole plot of the trilogy grows from Saba: her choices, who she becomes, how she changes
  • Rebel Heart was, again, re-written and she used almost nothing from the first draft
  • Because she's a self-proclaimed slow writer she was coming up against deadlines, so she decided she needed a new way to write Raging Star; she began to taking 2 months to plot & structure, which she hadn't done before
  • At 10,000 words into Raging Star she reached a point where it would have fallen apart if she kept going
  • She stopped and began writing character studies; the book is so much about what each of the characters want; they each have their own agendas and goals, and the story comes from their interactions
  • Moira was able to hand in a first draft of Raging Star to publishers, even though she missed deadlines; when the page proofs came along, she was still making a lot of changes to language and poetry, which usually isn't done; it came pretty close, as by the time the book was completely final it went to the printers 3 or 4 weeks later
  • An audience member asked about Cormac McCarthy and whether No Country for Old Men was an influence; it wasn't, but The Road was a huge influence: the bare bones, stripped down style of it taught her that she could do a lot with a little; that you can leave space for the reader to fill in
  • Saba is the reader's camera; we only ever see what she experiences, and know what she knows: therefore we don't have details (about things like larger world building) until Saba knows something; the POV is very biased from her experiences
  • The setting of the book was influenced by the prairie views from Winnipeg and the mountains and rivers from the West Coast; she took places that she knows and transformed them a bit
  • She uses dialogue to move things along: this writing style comes very natural to her, probably coming from her life as an actor; it's the descriptions that she struggles with, and she always has to go back and fill out more details (just because she sees it, doesn't mean the reader can)
  • What's going on with the movie: they're in the 3rd round of script development right now; Moira has a lot of input on how the characters are portrayed and she'll have input into lead casting if it gets to that stage (they're looking for unknowns, really want to "break out" an actress)
  • She's learned that movies aren't books, and what works well on page doesn't always work on film
  • Belives that it's almost better not to have huge input on the movie process, because she's not a movie expert: thinks that it would be silly to control a process she doesn't know much about
  • Was asked a question about why the book is about Saba going after Lugh; Moira responded that you have to make stakes very high for your character if it's going to power a whole book; it has to be something that if your main character can't fix it, it would be a disaster -- therefore, the plot is based around Saba losing the person who means the most to her, who she sees as the best part of herself
  • Was asked about why she doesn't use quotes for dialogue; basically the answer was that when you insert dialogue tags it's an automatic step back from Saba's POV; for that particular character it would be an artificial construct to do that

Thanks to Moira and Chapters Brampton for a great event!


  1. Ashley what a great recap... I need to move to Ontario.. you guys always have the best signings happening.

    1. Thanks, Cindy!

      It's not often that I get to go to weeknight signings, so I was really happy to make this one. I wish more great events were on the weekend, but I'm thankful that Toronto is within reasonable driving distance at all.


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