Sunday at New York Comic Con brought together five proudly self-proclaimed geeky authors at the Geeky YA FTW panel. Moderated by Kristin Hackett, the panel included Lily Anderson, author of The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, Danika Stone, author of All the Feels and Internet Famous, Sarvenaz Tash, author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, Brian Katcher, author of The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, and Laurent Linn, author of Draw the Line.
Out of the books above, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love and The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak are set at comic book conventions, with The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love set right here at NYCC. When asked why he chose to set The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak at a convention, Brian Katcher said, “My editor wanted me to write something similar to Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist but instead of the kids being cool, make them geeks.” His editor was initially worried that readers wouldn’t be able to pick up on all references Katcher alluded to in his book. The editor asked him, “All these obscure references. Will these readers know what you’re talking about?” Kather’s response? “Yes, they will.”
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love author Sarvenaz Tash explained how eBay really helped her deep dive into her fandom of choice, which was the musical Grease. “When I was in high school is when eBay started, so I had access to all this stuff.” Her love of Grease played a big part in her high school career. She explained, “In my senior year of high school, I decided to go to as many events as possible that Danny and Sandy went to, so I went to the Pep Rally and other things I wouldn’t normally go to.”
Laurent Linn spent his childhood (and adulthood) obsessed with Muppets. When asked to detail what he is a geek for most, Linn responded, “Muppets, absolutely Muppets. I build puppets and did shows. It’s been my obsession since when I was little. Eventually, I even worked for The Muppets and was the Creative Director for SesameStreet.”
Since this panel on geeky fandom took place at NYCC, it seemed natural for Hackett to ask them their thoughts on NYCC. Linn said, “It’s all about characters and characters you identify with.” Sarvenaz Tash likes how open and varied NYCC can be. “I love the passion everyone has for their own thing. No one is a freak here because everyone is a freak here.”
When the topic of the recent popularity of geeky YA came up, Kather was happy about the development. “When I was growing up, the word geek used to burn. I think it’s wonderful that now people like to read, like to create.” Tash pointed out, “I wrote this book because I had this story to tell, not because I thought “Oh, fandom is popular now.” Stone added, “I feel like for a long time we were reading fairy tales of the popular guy and the girl who when she took off her glasses was a supermodel.”
The protagonist of Draw the Line is gay, but Linn was quick to note, “It’s not about a gay kid. It’s about a geeky nerd kid. He happens to be gay.” Linn continued, “He prays to Obi-Wan. Because that’s his deity. How do we get strength through what we love, what we’re fans of?”
Sarvenaz Tash has an interesting story about her favorite convention.”My favorite convention is the one my husband and I accidentally stumbled upon in Dusseldorf, Germany on a layover on our honeymoon.” They went to a hotel near the airport hoping to get a few blessed hours of sleep and saw a bunch of guys in costume milling around the hotel. Tash explained, “Apparently, we walked up to the largest Star Trek convention in Europe.” They forewent sleep and hit the con instead. Tash wasn’t dismissing NYCC though. She said of NYCC, “This is my home con. The Javits is a great place to write about, so many adventures. Plus, did you guys see that great cosplay of the Javits Center yesterday?”
Was it hard to write a book set at New York Comic Con? For Tash, it wasn’t. “This is the easiest book I ever wrote,” she said, adding, “The hardest part is that I fell in love with (Graham) and had to put him through so much. As I was writing a really hard scene for him, I was cringing for him and thinking “I’m so sorry.” Linn agreed with Tash on that last point. He added, “As creative people, the hardest thing is to try to stop your characters from getting what they want. If they get everything they want, that’s a boring story. We love our characters, but we have to put them through this.”
What’s their dream writing jobs? Lily Anderson wants to write Gwenpool: The Novel. Lauren Linn wants to give the world the backstory of Grover.”I want to write Grover’s backstory. What makes him who he is? I asked Frank Oz what’s Grover’s backstory and he said I don’t know. He just is.” Sarvenez Tash said she’d love to write Hermione and Ron’s early marriage. She explained, “Ron’s my favorite character. I think writing their banter would be great.” To which, Lily Anderson quickly replied, “Please send me that.”
Are any of the authors into cosplay? Brian Katcher is already planning his next. He said, “My next cosplay is The Tick‘s The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight.” Someone in the audience broke out into applause upon hearing this. It was me. Sarvenaz Tash said she already lived her dream cosplay, when she threw herself a Tri-Decade Tournament for her 30th birthday. Everyone at the party had to come dressed as Harry Potter characters and compete in Minute to Win It style games.
During the Q&A, someone asked the panelists when they started writing. Anderson started out writing fan fiction, “first Harry Potter fanfic and then musical theater fanfic. Please don’t find it,” she explained. Sarvenaz Tash started writing at a young age. She said, “I started writing at age 7. I really loved The Westing Game and tried to write my own version of The Westing Game.” Katcher, on the other hand, said he “never wrote a creative thing until I was 25. I was down and out in Mexico and my girlfriend told me that she was moving to Germany, and I thought, I should write a book.” I want to read that story!