I was able to block my day off to go down to the Joseph Beth in Lexington (a 2.5 hour drive) for this event on April 28th! My bookstabestie Christy (@cbookaddiction) lives in Kentucky, and she’s about 2 hours away from Lexington, so we planned to meet and attend the event together. I hadn’t seen her since we went to YALLfest together in 2018! I was a little sad that I didn’t know about the event sooner so I could have blocked off my Saturday too, and just stayed down there for the night. (We didn’t get back until 11:30 and I am way too old for this shit lol!) Adam went down with me, and it took us a little over 3 hours because traffic was TERRIBLE. We stopped at Golden Corral for dinner when we got down there at about 5 pm, then headed over to the bookstore about 6.
There was a line when I first walked in, which I thought was strange. When I bought a copy of Puppets, I was told that the line was to get a pre-signed book, which you had to have to get into line, and TJ was *only* personalizing them. I was like, okayyy but I don’t really want my name in it, so can I just go through the line and have him sign it? (His signature probably takes the same amount of effort as signing my name FFS, so what’s the issue??) And the chick at the register was ADAMANT that no, I could not have him sign it, the only thing he was signing would be names, and if I didn’t grab a pre-signed copy I wouldn’t get a signature at all. She made it into a big thing and even said (with attitude) “I can get my manager if you don’t understand the process.” -_______-
So, I paid for a blank book and she took it, and I then had to go stand in a long line just to be handed a pre-signed copy and a line number. Sorry, but that is the STUPIDEST SHIT I have ever heard. I’ve been to almost fifty book events over the last 10 years and I have literally never had someone tell me that I could not get my book signed when I met the author. Not one single event I’ve ever been to has been run like this one. Normally, when it’s a ticketed event and you get line numbers, you get the ticket when you buy your book and the line order is first come, first serve (based on order of who buys the book first); and then you stand in line to meet the author and get your book(s) signed, and the only restriction is just a book limit for more popular authors with large events. Even the Karen Marie Moning event I went to that had hundreds of people was run that way.
And what pissed me off even more? After I had already picked up a pre-signed book, one of the people that was running the panel told us TJ would be personalizing one book and signing another. Sooo I could have just gone through with a blank book and got it signed. WHATEVER. I won’t go back to that JB again unless it’s someone that I really care about.
Anyway. TJ is awesome! Adam and I saw him speak in a panel at YALLfest last year, and he’s super fun to listen to because he’s magnetically charismatic and hilarious. He spoke a lot about representation in his books – queer, ace, and mental health (namely anxiety and ADHD). How he grew up bullied for those things, and books were his escape, so he wanted to give that escape to others with his own stories.
He wrote all 3 of the books in this arc (Cerulean Sea, Whispering Door, Puppets) back to back in 2019. I don’t know if I’m remembering this exactly right, but they’re about different kinds of forgiveness – I’m pretty sure it goes forgiving others and forgiving yourself for Cerulean Sea and Whispering Door respectively (I may be misremembering), but I know he said that Puppets is about forgiving those who don’t deserve forgiveness, and about who has the right to forgive. (You’ll understand if you’ve read it.)
Puppets was inspired by a Roomba – in which he told the story of how his Roomba got stuck in a corner and made a super sad and defeated little beep, and thus Rambo was born. He hinted at a possible sequel to Cerulean Sea (!!) and said there will be a short story in the Puppets universe called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (which will be our first taste of horror from him, and he wants the reader to root for the end of humanity). He wants to get into horror in the future and doesn’t plan to return to YA. He also talked about some of his backlist titles, joking that readers who start with the three mentioned above think that he only writes happy feel good books, and that Wolfsong is not happy and will crush your soul (which makes me want to read it even more, not sure what that says about me…). He also wants to get into screenplays.
When I got to his table to get my book personalized, I told him I’d just finished the audiobook of Puppets and loved it. We fangirled together over the narration (it is AMAZING, highly recommend) and I told him that Nurse Ratched was my fave and that her voice was perfect – he said that he knew within 15 minutes of the interview that Daniel Henning would be the narrator *because* of his Nurse Ratched voice!