Bookitcon Chapter 2 Recap Panel 2: Facts vs Fiction

bookitcon chap 2

What is Bookitcon you ask? Its a charity event run by the seriously awesome Nori (of ReadWriteLove28) held in South Jersey to help promote literacy in children. The event raised money buy new books for two K-8 schools in Camden, NJ whose libraries need updating as well as create a library for the nonprofit group Grace in the Mud.

Well that’s the official reason – the unofficial reason is its an event for South Jersey that brings in a boatload of YA authors from across the genre divide so readers can meet, greet and be merry. Which I totally did and more importantly survived. Read my recap to find out about the author shenanigan’s, then mosey over to my recap about Panel 1 Surprises in Publishing – this recap covers the second Panel of the day!

 Facts vs Fiction Panel

Mod: Claire Legrand


  • Mackenzie Lee
  • Kendall Kulper
  • Mia Siegert
  • Sandy Hall
  • Beth Fantaskey
panel 2
Left to Right: Claire Legrand, Mackenzie Lee, Kendall Kulper, Mia Siegert, Sandy Hall and Beth Fantaskey (photo credit: Kiersten Kozbial @wlabb)

Second panel of the event and boy howdy was I read for this! Panel 1 was way cool and informative and the opening stage of everyone introducing themselves for this panel was amusing and fun. High hopes were met!

Question: Where did you find inspiration?

  • Mackenzie said that for THIS MONSTROUS THING she felt inspired after seeing the Benedict Cumberbatch run of Frankenstein (while she was in London). In high school the book had been one she could have read, but after a friend said it was boring she chose not to.  After the play she became interested in FRANKENSTEIN and everything involved in it.
  • Kendall said for SALT & STORM she had been reading another book set on an island, but felt it didn’t really capture the island community experience so she really wanted to write about that. The experience of knowing everyone and everything that is happening, but still secrets could be harbored. For DRIFT & DAGGER, after a request from her agent to write a companion to S&S, she wanted to write about her favorite minor character Mal (who yes is modeled after a certain space pirate). She wanted to explore how a person could go from a place of self-loathing to a place of acceptance.
  • Mia‘s novel JERKBAIT is semi-autobiographical in that the experiences her character goes through mirror experiences she has had as an athlete and that feeling of coming up short when you have that one goal in mind. She been training to be in the Summer Olympics 2016 and now is finding it hard to see what comes next without that goal. She also wanted a way to understand a lot of the shit she went through with one particular person, as well as experiences of her life as a whole.
  • Sandy‘s first novel, and the subsequent ones, came from being a people watcher and making up crazy stories for the patrons she sees as a teen librarian. As a librarian she was once asked by a young girl if there were any “normal college experience” novels, something that showed a typical life and not one filled with umpteen amounts of drama, pregnancy or suicide. Sandy’s apologetic no sparked the foundation for A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT and she hopes that the girl has found the book as an answer to her question all those years ago.
  • Beth said that originally her Jessica books were rooted in real life; her daughters (all adopted) may never know who their real parents are . In thinking about that she took it several steps forward to write about a teen girl on the cusp of adulthood finding out she’s really vampire royalty with an engagement to a vampire prince. For her newest book, ISABEL FEENY STAR REPORTER, it was rooted in her doctoral dissertation about the time period and the female reporters of the 1920’s.
  • Claire said SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS was inspired by her own need as a kid for such a book about anxiety and depression. WINTERSPELL came about because she always felt the traditional story of “The Nutcracker” was missing something–a sense of the sinister and sexy.

Question: What role does or does not research play? How do you decide what real life experience to use?

  • Beth stated that JESSICA was drawn almost completely from her imagination while ISABEL is three years of her life in fictionalized form. She was so immersed in the time that the book flowed easily.
  • Sandy doesn’t require a lot of research, since its about contemporary times, but she does like to root her fictionalized settings in as much reality as she can. For instance she likes to look at real school calendars to get an idea of how a college or  high school calendar would look (when are certain events, when do certain holidays occur, etc) and she’ll visit schools to get a feel for their layout and atmosphere.
  • Mia “trusts in the process” as she was taught, trust that it will dictate itself.  She wrote as the story came to her and is a total pantser when it comes to writing.
  • Kendall loves research. She really likes to experience what her characters experience as much as possible. She went on tall ships and went sailing for S&S. She does however find research to be a double-edged sword because you’ll think of insignificant details–like a screen on a window–while writing, stop and wonder “but did they have screens on windows back then?” and spend five hours researching whether or not they did to make sure its accurate (probably to have it cut anyhow).
  • Mackenzie tries to read other fiction set in her chosen time period before moving onto more dry academic texts. With Historical you can always say you’re not really ready to start writing because there’s more research to be done (again a double edged sword).
  • Claire, acknowledging that this may be sacrilegious considering the crowd, hates research. Doesn’t have the patience. She does the absolute bare minimum needed for WINTERSPELL and eagerly anticipated getting to the fantasy world setting of the book so she could make it all up and call it fact.

Question: Would you like to experiment in other genres?

  • Mia is currently writing a political thriller. She stays consistently contemporary in her writings, but all over the genre map therein.
  • Sandy enjoys what she’s writing, but she wants to write a book for every age–kid’s, teens, adults, etc.
  • Beth is moving into the cozy mystery genre with her new three book deal.
  • Kendall‘s first (written) book was really hard scifi, her second (written) book was dystopian so it took her a while to get into historical fantasy. Would also like to write for all ages.
  • Mackenzie loves what she writes mostly because she writes in vastly different historical periods. Every time she begins a new story its like beginning a brand new genre because the research, the information, the location is different from her last book.
  • Claire writes mostly fantasy because that’s what she is  most comfortable with (I totally understand this). She is obsessed with magical realism and would one day like to write that as well.

Question: Experience with rejection that you had? (I apologize for this being truncated as I lost some concentration when my friend asked me a question)

  • Mia, in possibly the most deadpan and awesome delivery of the day, said she had over two hundred rejections in three years (I believe the number is 207). She relayed a story about how she was once told that you keep trying until your 78th rejection – then you give up. Ironically her 78th submission for JERKBAIT was the one that landed her a publishing deal.
  • Sandy laughed a bit nervously and said that Mia would hate her road to publication story – she never had that process. She publishes with SwoonReads – which if you don’t know how that works its a crowdsourcing platform. You upload your manuscript and community members read, rate and comment on it sometimes landing in a publication deal. So far that’s worked well for Sandy and she’s happy for it.
  • Mackenzie once got a rejection that said her novel, which is in pre-pub now, would never be published because of its “gay agenda” and how disastrous the reader found it to read.


  • The panel had several alternate names: “All the Things Panel” (the authors represented a very wide range of genres) and the “Pot Potpurri Panel” (P3 – I can get behind that).
  • Claire has possibly the best moderator voice I’ve heard.
  • Mackenzie talks a mile a minute. During introductions she managed to pack her life story into under thirty seconds. That might sound like she had nothing to say, but she said just as much as the others did (who took longer – not a criticism, just a comparison of time).


Lexie Words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s