On Wednesday evening (September 21), I was able to attend one of Sarah Dessen's two stops in Canada on her mini-tour promoting What Happened to Goodbye! I've been so excited for this event since Penguin Canada announced several months ago that Sarah Dessen would be finally coming to Canada for her very first book tour here!
Usually, I try to arrive early at these book events so I can get a seat, but my final class didn't end until 6 p.m., so I had to rush over afterwards to Indigo Eaton Centre where the book signing was taking place. Thank goodness my sister and my Mom were attending the signing too because they arrived early and saved a seat in the second row for me! And it's a good thing too, because when I arrived to the section where they had set up the stage, the place was packed! There must have been hundreds of fans anxiously awaiting Sarah Dessen's arrival. I was also able to meet up with geekgirl from Geek Girl's Book Blog during the event, and it was so great seeing her again and chatting about books as we waited!
The event began shortly after 7:00 p.m. and Sarah Dessen was all smiles as she walked up onto the stage to a loud round of applause and cheering. Because of a strike at Air Canada, it had taken her what must have been several frustrating hours to finally arrive in Toronto... and she'd only had time to quickly change before arriving at the store. She must have been exhausted after such a longer than necessary day of travel with hardly anything to eat... yet she warmly greeted everyone in the crowd with enthusiasm!
She quickly dived into reading the first chapter of What Happened to Goodbye first. I may have barely taken in her words as she read though because I was too busy thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm in the same room as Sarah Dessen!!" After she finished reading, she took some questions from the audience, and was all too happy to elaborate and go off on a tangent with her answers.
Sarah talked about how all her novels have a small grain of truth to them from her life, but how she liked to make the rest of the details up because it's less boring than her own relatively normal life. When it came to writing What Happened to Goodbye, she had been watching the TV show Kitchen Nightmares and liked the idea of someone like Gordan Ramsey taking a failing restaurant and completely giving it a new look. If you've read the novel already, then you will already know that Mclean's father has a career accomplishing a similar task to that!
On a more serious note, she told us how one of her earlier novels, Someone Like You, had some basis from a tragic event that happened when she was in high school. When she was younger, a very popular boy in her school died in a motorcycle accident, which is also what happens to Scarlett's boyfriend in the novel. It had been very shocking to her because, previously, she had thought of death as something attributed to only older people... and not someone her own age.
Moving onto a lighter topic, Sarah Dessen talked about how she'd grown up in a small town in North Carolina where everyone knew each other. Humble and friendly, she still thought it was surreal how she could go to a book signing when only the day before, she'd been dropping off her daughter to preschool. She thought of her job as almost like being a secret agent because many of the mothers waiting for their children didn't realize she was writer, just that she worked from home!
When someone in the audience said they had loved a book of hers which had been released the year they'd been born, the laughs were brought out when Sarah replied how it made her feel old to hear that. She also went on to say how she doesn't like writing sequels because she's a romantic at heart who liked happy endings... and when she has finished writing a novel, she feels she has done her best to tell her character's stories. If she had to write a sequel though, she would write one for This Lullaby as it was one of her favourite novels to write... and especially because of Dexter.
Sarah also talked about Along for the Ride and how she had written it when she had just become a mother. Some of the things which Heidi, one of the characters in the novel, goes through were along the lines of what she also experienced. Since then, she has had more of an appreciation for the mothers in her stories! And when someone told her that she was their inspiration for writing, she grew teary-eyed. Sarah gave advice to the aspiring authors in the audience by telling them to write everyday and be disciplined about it. She had her lazy days too when didn't want to write and would prefer to only surf the Internet.
Soon enough, it was time for the book signing! Because I was in the seated area, I didn't have too long to wait... so before I knew it, I was nervously making my way up to get my books signed. I think I mumbled something about her enjoying her time in Toronto while she was here and how it sucked that Air Canada had canceled her previous flight without even a warning. (Meanwhile, in my head, I was reminding myself to breathe.) Anyways, Sarah Dessen was incredibly sweet!
Thanks so much to Sarah Dessen for coming to Canada to meet some of your Canadian fans... and hopefully, you'll return again one day! Also, lots of thanks definitely goes out to Indigo Eaton Centre and Penguin Canada for organizing and hosting the event!