I spent the afternoon driving through London in the back of a silver Mercedes.
But I wasn’t the VIP.
The VIPs in car were Scott Westerfeld, New York Times number-one-bestselling author of the Uglies trilogy, and up-and-coming Irish writer Sarah Rees Brennan, author of the The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant.
My job yesterday was to ensure that Scott and Sarah made it to their venues, had all the proper materials and caught the train on time.
It was kind of like babysitting.
But then again, the kids I normally babysit do not sign their names next to President Obama’s signature in a school’s visitor book or discuss upcoming manuscripts and various methods of research.
“I wanted to know if the supports of Millennium Bridge would hold human weight for a sword-fighting scene I had in mind,” Sarah told a crowd of giggling students. “So I hopped up on the rails…”
After she finished relating how a guard ran over to persuade her not to jump (“Sir, I’m writing a book…No, really, I promise I’m an author”) and we were pulling away from the school, I turned and asked, “Sarah, what if the supports didn’t hold human weight?”
“Yeaahh…I didn’t think of that at the time. I bet the guard would have dragged me out the Thames, though. But I needed to know.”
Scott didn’t mention standing on any bridges, but he too, is dedicated to the background of a story. For his newest book, Leviathan, he researched the architecture of zeppelins, 1900 metallic-horse machines and mountaineering misadventures to make his fantasy book seem as realistic as possible.
A teacher remarked to Justine Larbalestier, Scott’s wife and the author of How to Ditch Your Fairy, how interesting and educational she found Scott’s presentation.
“Yeah, but after the hundredth time—” Justine said before she caught Scott’s eye, “—it’s always interesting, honey,” she finished and pecked him on the cheek.
I liked the presentations too, but my favorite parts of the day were the unscripted moments, like when a fourth-year student came to school early to meet Scott because his class was going on a field trip during the event.
Or when an earnest 12-year-old girl asked the authors for an interview and had been preparing the questions for days.
Or when another girl handed Scott her battered copy of Uglies and said she had literally loved it to pieces.
At the end of the day, the tour is not about rides in silver Mercedes.
It’s about the kids who just love the books.