A creative writing class. Peter V. Brett takes his time until the very last evening before the assignment is to be handed in. Then all of a sudden it’s just there: the story of a boy who never walks further away from his village than a few hours walk, until he gets to a hill. Then he has to go back – or he’s not gonna make it home in time, before it gets dark. Before the demons rise. But the boy wants nothing more than see what is behind that hill …
This short story will stay on Peter’s mind for years – and he begins to wonder: What is behind that hill? And what is up with those demons rising from under the earth every single night?
That’s the answer Peter V. Brett gives to the question how he came up with the idea for his „Demon Cycle“, in Wittwer book store in Stuttgart, April 27th 2018. The sixth and last book of this series just came out in German: „Die Stimmen des Abgrunds“.
But let’s take a step back.
I‘ ve been excited for this reading for weeks. Peter V. Brett from the state of New York in the USA, on tour in Germany – and he is coming to Stuttgart! When I saw the announcement on his Instagram, I must have let out a little happy squeal. Peter comes across as such a laid back person on his social media and I have enjoyed the first three books of the series so much that this reading is a must for me.
I finish work early on this Friday to get to Wittwer on time – but I underestimated the way from my office in Stuttgart West downtown to Schlossplatz. Lucky Sophia is already there and saves me a seat – right in the front, on a couch. I am happy to see her again, it’s been ages! I get my copies of the books still missing in the series and go pay for them. (I forgot my own copies of the first three books to have them signed – classic Lily!)
It is warm in the bookstore and slowly getting more crowded. Sophia and I spend the time talking about books and writing. We decide that she is going to tweet about the reading and I do an Insta story. Say hello to the hashtag #pvbrettgoesstuttgart!
A few minutes before the reading is going to start, Peter comes to take a picture of his books on the shelf – just behind the table where he is going to read. So, unexpectedly, he stands just in front of the crowd. He says Hi and that he is super excited to be here and didn’t expect that so many people would come. „Phew, I didn’t mean to make a speech just now … See you in a few minutes!“ Super relaxed – this is going to be fun.
Now I am even more excited – and need to put that energy somewhere. Why not post the first photo of today’s story on Instagram? „Waiting for @pvbrett“ Instantly there is a reply of one specific person and my grin couln’t be wider. It is Peter himself messaging me: „I see you.“
“People die when poetry demands it.”
Finally Peter and his German translator Simon come on stage. Peter announces he is going to do his best to look like he understands every single word of what Simon is going to read from the German version of „The Core II“. I think he is doing a pretty good job at this – and try to imagine what it must feel like, hearing your own story read out in a foreign language. „Surreal“ is the word that comes to my mind.
The scene Simon is reading is chosen well: It makes the audience curious for the book without giving away too much. I haven’t read the last books of the series yet, but am relieved that all protagonists seem to have survived – until the start of the last one at least. Sorry for the mini spoiler.
Speaking of spoilers: Before the Q&A starts, Peter asks the crowd to avoid spoilers in their questions. They can ask more detailed questions about the plot (or ending!) later during signing. One thing gets all the clearer during the (spoiler free!) questions and Peter’s answers: This „all protagonists have survived“-thing is going to change dramatically during the last book. (Personally, I am rooting for Rojer – even though my gut feeling is a little worrying …)
“It might sound cliché, but G.R.R. Martin changed everything! … The good guys don’t need to win!”
During Q&A Peter stays just as warm and cheerful as in the beginning. It is clear to see that he loves what he does. (“Stark or Lannister? C’mon, what do I look like?”) In addition to questions about the plot of the books, people ask a lot of questions about the writing process. When he tells how the outline for the first book of the series was 200 pages long and that he already knew back then how the last book was going to end, I am deeply impressed.
Even more so, when he shares a little anecdote that puts a huge smile on my face at the same time: Even after plotting in such depth, characters do not always act as they’re told. At one point a character was to be telling a huge lie on which the whole plot of one of the books depended. But all of a sudden, it just didn’t seem right to Peter that that was what the character would do. (“It was as if the actress playing Leesha looked at me and said: I’m not gonna say those lines.”) So what did the character do instead? She blurted out the truth.
Just imagine what it must have taken to rearrange the whole plot after this …
“It’s drowning in sugar, ‘course I gotta love it!”
Of course Sophia and I queue for having our books signed. Still cheerful, Peter takes time to speak to everybody, to answer questions, pose for photos … Everybody is having such a good time, even standing in this queue is fun. One guy brought Peter a sweet piece of pastry called „Amerikaner“ – meaning „Amercian“ („An American for an American.“) – because he has seen Peter posting pictures of funny or typical German food he had during his tour here in Germany.
When spoiler questions come up, people in the queue turn away, pressing their fingers in their ears, humming to themselves.
Sophia and I start chatting with the three girls in front of us in the row – and suddenly find ourselves within a group of young aspiring writers. Of course everbody in our small group asks Peter a writing related question. His answers are refreshing and downright motivating, I think everyone of us sat down at their desk at home, continuing to work on our projects.
(“Writer’s block doesn’t exist. Just sit down every day and write, until it becomes a habit. It is going to get easier with time, just like building up a muscle.” — “So it’s a bit like working out?” — “Yeah – you get sore and all, but you gotta keep going …” — “… and then the endorphins kick in.” I see exactly what he means.) His „Good luck with your book“, that he writes into one of my copies, does the rest.
Sophia and I are full of energy, motivation and inspiration. Even after we had our books signed we stay a little while, sitting on the sofa, taking in the atmosphere. After we set out to go home, we stay outside the bookstore, chatting and laughing. We do not realize how long – until Peter, Simon and the others from the publishing house come out of the now closed bookshop, proceeding to Stuttgart main station. Peter smiles at us as he passes by.