Tuesday, April 21, the Canadian authors Sara Gruen and Lori Lansens were scheduled to meet at the Toronto Reference Library to talk about their most recent books – At the Water’s Edge and The Mountain Story respectively.
I read Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants when I was in high school, and it was the book that pulled me into the world of adult fiction. Then recently, Random House gave me an ARC of her latest book, At the Water’s Edge, and I flew through it. Both books were set in worlds I never thought I would find interesting at the time, but I was so captivated by Gruen’s writing and her characters.
So I was really excited to meet her and get my book signed, but I wasn’t too sure about anything Lansens had written. I attended mostly to hear them speak together and learn something about writing. And learn something, I did.
Lori Lansens reading a section form her novel, The Mountain Story
Both authors read sections from their recent publications, and then sat down with our host to discuss some themes from these books and their writing process. The latter was the topic I actually found most interesting.
While Gruen mentioned that she tended to procrastinate and had to wait for a story to find her, Lansens said her writing process came a little more easily, as her characters for a book came knocking long before she was finished writing the current one. Gruen said she would lock herself in her house for six weeks wearing pajamas while her story poured out of her, and Lansens talked about writing as an addiction, which Gruen agreed in saying that writing is almost a high for her. It just goes to show how there is no one way to be a successful writer.
Lansens also said something to which Gruen agreed that made the audience chuckle; they said that they believe in “method writing”. You almost literally have to become your characters as you think like them and let their emotions pour out of your fingers, and then “go downstairs for dinner and act like a normal human being”.
When asked why these ladies choose to write when the process can be so painful sometimes, Gruen responded, “it’s better to write than to not write”.
Lansens and Gruen were both seemingly comfortable in front of the crowd (which I know a lot of writers are not okay with public speaking), and were very welcoming to the audience’s questions about their novels.
After the questions and a long applause, Lansens and Gruen headed to the back of the Appel Salon to sign books. Both authors were super nice and signed all of my books. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Lansens’s The Girls on my bookshelf that I’ve had forever. I told her that I wanted to be a writer and she was very emphatic in wishing me the best of luck, which was awesome. I love meeting writers and getting their advice on how to perfect my craft. Then I got my chance to tell Gruen how much I am in love with her books, to which she replied, “I only wish I could write them as fast as people read!”
I’ve gone to quite a few author events like this one, and I have to say this was one of my favourites. Both authors complimented each other on stage, and they were both intelligent and kind, and super sweet when I got a chance to speak with them. I’m getting my hands on a copy of The Mountain Story as soon as I can, and really recommend you go check out At the Water’s Edge, as well.