02 February 2015

Flashback February: That Time I Met James Frey (Q&A + Giveaway)

From Monday to Friday, I'll be sharing recaps of author events I've been to. I'm calling it Flashback February because I was on a slight hiatus for most of last year so I wasn't able to properly blog about all the bookish things I've been up to. However, I'm back now and that means...

*cue confetti and bacon*

That means recaps and more giveaways! I'm already raffling off Anna and the French Kiss. There's still 3 days left so make sure to get your entries in!

I'm starting the 5-day bonanza (ha-ha I feel weird just typing that! Bo-nan-zahhhh) with a recap from the event just last Sunday, February 1st!


Last week, James Frey was in the Philippines for a book signing tour with National Bookstore. It was a two-day event for fans in Manila and in Cebu who were very eager to meet the man behind I Am Number Four and his most recent work -- The Calling (Endgame #1). In the weeks leading up to the signing, National Bookstore got the go signal to mention in their promos that James Frey is the creator of Lorien Legacies and that he'll be signing books from that series as well. Needless to say, lots of readers were doubly excited for this event!

I'm so excited to be sharing the Q&A we had with James Frey. He's such a cool dude (yes, "dude") and I appreciate how straightforward his answers were. Read on and stick around because I'll be giving away a SIGNED copy of The Calling at the end of this post!

Which part of the book was hard to write: beginning, middle, or end? And why?

Of Endgame? I mean, books aren't really ever hard that way. You know, it's just all sort of the same. We changed the ending like four times. So I guess, that would be the hardest, only because we redid it. There are four different endings and kept redoing it so I thought it was the right ending. But you know books are... I think all books are kinda equally hard to write. In the beginning it's hard because you know there's hundreds of pages in front of you. The middle is probably the easiest. And then the end is hard because you gotta get it right. If the end stinks, the whole book stinks, right?

Endgames is described not just a book but an interactive trilogy which includes playing games with a real prize, utilizing social media, and reading e-novellas. How were you able to plan all of it and what's the most challenging part in putting everything together?

So before we started, we were able to plot it all, because before we started we wrote one big 50-page document. We laid everything out: how it worked, how they interact with each other, how to integrate it all. So once we sort of had that, it was just making sure we did it right. The hardest part was just all the logistics. The book came out in 165 countries on the same day, 35 languages. The logistics of that was very complicated. Because the book has puzzle in it, if you solve the puzzle you win a lot of money, we had to make sure that was legal all over the world -- which was also very complicated to do. Because if a country had different laws, we had to figure out a way to make sure we were following all of them. 

Doing all the social media... all the characters have Twitter accounts and Google Plus we started that a year before the book came out. That was very complicated. It was just lots and lots of work. But at the same time I have an awesome job and I'm pretty lucky to do it. And hard work is a good thing; You feel good at the end of the day. And I got little kids... gotta buy them shoes. 

The puzzle is embedded into the text of the book. How did you go about designing it?

When I wrote of the first drafts of the book, I wrote the puzzle into it that was very simple and looked like I wanted the real puzzle to look, function the way I wanted the real puzzle to function. I'm not smart enough to write the real puzzle, so I hired these three guys from MIT who have PhDs from MIT. They wrote the real puzzle of the book. Way cooler, way harder, way more fun that what I wrote. The puzzle I wrote would've solved in a couple of days. I think the puzzle they wrote might take a year for you to solve it. 

Did you contribute or help in any aspect for the movie adaptations of your books, both for I Am Number Four and Endgame?

I help and contribute as much as they want me to. With I Am Number Four it was Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, they don't really need me telling them [what to do]. So if they called me with a question, I certainly be happy to talk to them, I would be stoked if they wanted my input. But I didn't... I was not aggressive about trying to be... make things the way I wanted to make them. My experience is that generally doesn't work out well. The smartest authors are just happy movies are being made. 'Cause it increases the size of your audience very very dramatically. So I did not... I had some input but I did not try to control it. 

With Endgame, the producers made the Twilight movies, and they made all the Nicholas Sparks movies, and they made The Fault in Our Stars and they made The Maze Runner -- they don't need to hear from me either. They're old friends of mine that I've known for 20 years so I trust them. And again, if they have questions, they'll call me up. If not, then, they'll do just fine.

How were you able to process the actions and strategies according to the rules of the game? While you were writing did you think that a particular character will definitely violate the rules?

Well there are no rules! That's the beauty of it. You could have them doing anything they wanted. The only rule is there are no rules. And so that led us... that granted us the ability to make the characters do anything they want, to be as good as we wanted them to be or to be as awful as we wanted them to be. No rules is a good place. It gives you lots of freedom. Good place in a book, it's not a good place in life. 

You have 12 players in your new series. Did you have a hard time creating their character sketches, especially their nationalities?

Not really. First we decided out the cultures. So we looked for the oldest cultures in the world and the most mysterious ones. The ones we could viably say may have had some contact with aliens. It was important to have them all over the world. Cultures with huge ancient ruins, cultures with ancient writing that says odd things. And then once we had the cultures, we started making characters sort of appropriate to the culture. So they have the same religious beliefs, they use the same kind of weapons, they have the same military strategy. Then it was just deciding who we want to be good, who we wanted to be bad. We tried to balance that out. We can't make all the Asian characters bad can't make all the American characters good. You gotta sorta balance it out. There are good and bad characters from all over the world. Does that make sense?

So in Asia, your good characters are Shari who's from India. And Alice who's from Australia... I guess that's not technically Asia but kind of. And then... Chiyoko. Chiyoko's good. Chiyoko's kind of cool 'cause she's in the middle; she's good and bad. She's my favorite. And then bad characters you have Baitsakhan who's very bad -- the worst. And you have An who's really bad too. And Asia got five characters which is way more than anybody else. 

Will there be more Asian characters? Not players. 

Yeah, for sure. Gotta figure out how to get Manila into the book. Gotta get a chase scene, probably a chase scene in Manila. 

What sets The Calling apart from other books in the same genre?

Well what's the genre? It's not dystopia 'cause it's set in today's world, right? Dystopia's always some future world, future imaginary world. So yeah we're definitely not there. What sets it apart? It's way fucking better and way cooler! And Filipino readers love it way more. We try to make it different by setting it in our world; by setting it in a world we all know and recognize and live in. And then... (has anybody finished it?) So something happens at the end of the book that is definitely not like a lot of the books that involve love triangles. And that was a deliberate decision -- me saying, I'm sick of love triangle books so I'm gonna do something that you don't expect me to do. And also I think, you were asking about the Global characters -- that's a big difference. Most books have white American characters, right? I'm kind of bored with that. I live with a bunch of white Americans. I wanna make a book that has characters from all over the world and acknowledges cultures and people from all over the world. Because in today's world, my audience is not just white Americans. I have readers from the Philippines, I have readers from Japan, I have readers all over the world. And I think it's cooler to make a book that has characters from all over the world.

Among the 12 players, who's the player that best describes you?

Baitsakhan -- I'm mean and I'll chop your head off. I don't know... I don't know if any of the characters are really me. I always say, as a writer, unless you're writing directly about yourself, every character is you in some way and none of them are you. If there's one who most resembles me it'll be Jago, the ugly scar guy. Um... but I don't think any of them are really me. I like... I have different reasons for liking all of them. I always say if you're writing a book you have to treat all your characters equally. You have to give them equal care, equal attention, and equal love or the book will get messed up. Like, if I like the character way more than another character you would be able to tell that when you're reading it, right? So you sort of give equal care to the good ones and the bad ones.

Is there a scene that you wish to change or remove?

No, I think the book is perfect. I mean certainly when you write a book and when you get into a culture, you go through the long process of editing where you change and remove and add and do all sorts of things to the book. And part of that is taking input from the publisher. Part of it is, what I think, as you move through it, you're re-writing it. Right now I think it's pretty good. I'm pretty happy with it. I can't think of anything I want to take out.

Do you already have a title for the second book? Can you reveal it?

We had a title and then we changed it... and now we're changing it again. I don't know what the title's gonna be.

A message for his Filipino readers:


I'm giving away one SIGNED copy of The Calling (Endgame #1) to one entrant residing in the Philippines. (If you're abroad and know someone who lives here and is willing to take your book for you, go right ahead!) I will notify the winner via email and Twitter/Facebook. The winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

Good luck!

Thank you to National Bookstore for bringing yet another author to the Philippines!

And special thanks to the Endgame-ARG Wikia page! I had to Google the names of the characters because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to spell them.

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  1. YEY! I hope I win this contest.

  2. I am really loving your blog. I think I joined all your February giveaways. I'm sorry, can't help it. More power.

    1. Haha! It's okay! There'll be mooore giveaways in the future. ;-)