It seems like 2018 is the year of the supers (super hero movies like The Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther) and this year YallWest decided to join in with its own Super panel about what makes human characters in YA books so fascinating to readers.
The panel’s moderator, Margaret Stohl, was joined on stage by Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone), Melissa de la Cruz (Disney’s Descendants and Blue Bloods series), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me series), Marissa Meyer (Renegades and The Lunar Chronicles), and Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).
The panel started off with the age old question: Who is (or was) a powerful person or role model in your life?
Tahereh Mafi stated that her mom was the biggest influence in her life because of the way her mom has dealt with troubles in her life with grace and dignity and admitted that she aspires to be like her mom. Ransom Riggs agreed that Tahereh’s mom is a great woman. He also said that his grandmother was an important role model in his life as a child, since she infected him with a love of books, of reading and of curiosity.
Tomi Adeyemi also mentioned her mom as an important role model in her life. She talked about admiring her mom at her age, Tomi’s mom moved to another country, raised a family and did what she had to in order to persevere for her family. The question she hates being asked is “How does it feel to write strong, powerful women?” because she believes that just being a woman is to be strong.
Marissa Meyer fondly remembers her Uncle Bob being the influence in her life and showed her that just because he was huge Trekkie fans and loved going to sci-fi conventions didn’t mean you couldn’t also cool and charming with lots of friends. Melissa de la Cruz agreed with Marissa that it’s important to have family that encourages and supports you. She mentioned how her parents showed their strength when they left a prosperous and lavish lifestyle in Manila to come to the United States and lived a humble, much less lavish lifestyle and focused all their energy on making sure their kids had what they needed.
What characteristics do you like to emphasize or empower in your characters? Do you think it’s affects by the writer’s gender or personal/external factors?
Marissa Meyer as child was a big fan of The X-Men because of the inclusiveness of the characters, but at the same time she felt that The X-Men were for boys only and because of this tried to focus on inclusiveness in her characters. Tahereh Mafi believe empathy is a very important thing to emphasize both in books and in real life. Tomi Adeyemi agreed with Tahereh about empathy but added that bravery is something she strives to empower in her characters. She wanted to make clear that while her characters are influenced by her culture they aren’t based on culture. Ransom Riggs said that he doesn’t like super perfect characters, he likes to give his characters powers that are both a blessing and a curse.
This led the way to the topic of the “Superman Problem” which Tomi Adeyemi has a serious problem with. The Superman Problem, the authors explained, is when a character is pretty much good everything, so much so that he’s boring yet ends up creating his own problem. Ransom Riggs and the other authors pretty much agree that the backstory for those types of characters and they why and how they became the way they became is much more interesting than reading about perfect characters.