As some of you know, I had the opportunity to interview one of my all-time favorite authors, Morgan Matson in Toronto a few weeks ago as part of her tour for her fifth book, Save the Date. Was it one of my favorite book events ever? Yes. Was it a highlight of my blogging career? YES. Would it have been amazing even if I hadn’t been moderating? I think so?
Here’s what went down at the event for those of you who couldn’t attend or just want to hear what it was like to be an event host! Since this is super-long, if you want to just get to the question part, those are in blue text below.
Before the Event
Some of us book bloggers were invited by Simon and Schuster Canada to a cocktails meet-and-greet with Morgan Matson pre-event. We did this with Jenny Han a year ago, and it was so nice to spend some relaxing time with her, so I was really excited to do this again with Morgan.
After giving her gifts (I brought donuts and Montreal style bagels from my fave local shops), we got to chat all things Broadway with Morgan (she bawled her eyes out at the Canadian-grown Come from Away, by the way), our latest YA faves (we both raved about Stay Sweet by her friend Siobhan Vivian), and how much we all enjoyed her books.
Morgan actually told us that Siobhan Vivian’s last book had a character named Morgan, and she was annoyed and told Siobhan she couldn’t just go around naming characters after people. It was because of that convo that Charlie, the protagonist in Save the Date, has a best friend named Siobhan – Morgan was totally getting revenge!
Morgan, Mackenzi (Morgan’s Simon & Schuster Canada publicist) and I then headed over to Indigo Yorkdale (the bookstore) early to regroup and get ready for the event. We met store manager Taylor, who took us to the “green room” aka the store offices where we could leave our bags.
Morgan signed some books in the back room while we chatted through the format. She also very kindly signed the giant stack of books I brought, and we talked about one of my favourites of her “extras”: a scene in the Target edition of The Unexpected Everything where two characters from Since You’ve Been Gone go on their first date after getting together. We also chatted about the many, many extras she has written. “Wouldn’t it be great if we packaged them into their own little book?!” Morgan suggested. Um, YES.
After a quick touch up of our makeup (during which I complimented Morgan on her awesome studded shoes and she told me they almost stopped her from coming to Canada because the studs were considered weapons!), we were brought out to a crowd of 100 YA fans! Indigo Yorkdale has a great winding staircase, so we got to see everyone look up at Morgan and start cheering, which was SO fun. I felt like a celebrity, even though I was clearly just celebrity-adjacent.
A lot of people asked me if I was nervous to host the event. Truth be told, I was more nervous in the lead-up to the event than the event itself. Once I got up on stage with Morgan, it was like talking to a friend over coffee. I had a list of questions that I’d prepared, but I did occasionally go off book and ask a few follow-ups, like about Morgan’s Easter eggs, or about friendship in general. Even with all the research I did on Morgan beforehand (yeah, I totally Hermione’d this interview), she actually surprised me with a few of her answers.
The On-Stage Interview:
Some of the things I asked Morgan (there was more, but I honestly can’t recap it all!):
If any of your books could be made into a Broadway musical, which would it be and who would you want to compose it? Morgan rightly chose Since You’ve Been Gone because she felt like each of the tasks that Emily is assigned could be a song. And of course she would want Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of Hamilton to do it – she mentioned that she also thought he would be great at it, since he did Bring It On: The Musical as well.
I also asked Morgan about her trend of placing writers of various types into secondary (or sometimes primary) roles in her books. Morgan said she felt it was a way of putting a bit of her own life into her books – that is the life she lives and it’s something she knows very well.
Which Matson boy would Teen Morgan have dated? Which would she date now? Morgan said she felt like Teen Morgan would have been super into Frank from Since You’ve Been Gone because he was class president and valedictorian and she was super into that type as a teen. Now she would choose Clark from The Unexpected Everything since he’s a writer like her and they would understand each other’s lives.
On why Save the Date has such a short timeline, Morgan said she went in with the idea of this limitation and what would happen with a weekend this epic. The limitation definitely made it hard for her to write, because she had to learn how to write a three-day book – and the first couple drafts were upwards of 500 pages long. It was also hard for romance to happen in such a short time but Morgan said she was really looking at the family in this book and how to navigate the huge changes in their lives during this one weekend. A wedding is, as she said, by definition a ceremony of change, so she wanted to explore what that meant.
Which Taylor Swift song would be the theme song for Save the Date? “Speak Now” because it’s set at a wedding, but also “Long Live”.
Assign a donut flavour to each Grant family member: Charlie – strawberry glazed (apparently Morgan got a lot of flack for this? It’s a hated flavour?); Jeff – bear claw; Danny – maple frosted; Linnie – chocolate with sprinkles; JJ – the most outrageous, extra flavour possible; Rodney – plain old-fashioned because he’s the stable one; I can’t remember Mike and Eleanor – I will check and get back to you guys!
Best and worst thing about being a writer of teen books: best is connecting with readers and meeting them; worst is sometimes a good thing – that people c beg her for more books immediately after she’s released them and she can’t produce them that fast!
Fave line she’s ever written: The last line in Since You’ve Been Gone (I won’t put it in here because it’s kind of spoiler-y) – Morgan said she actually had it in another book that she wrote but trashed – but she saved that line because she loved it so much.
All the characters in her stories are connected, but she only writes standalones – would Morgan ever write a sequel? Morgan said she likes where she leaves the characters and she would have to do something horrible to write a sequel, like break people up. That’s why she adds in the Easter eggs in her later books instead – so people can get a glimpse at where characters like Amy are now. The only one she could see having a sequel would be if Emily from Since You’ve Been Gone got another list…hmm…
The audience got to ask a few questions then, and I had such a fun time asking the questions that I didn’t realize that I was supposed to be choosing the question askers, too. The POWER. If you were there and I didn’t get to you, I’m so sorry – that was the hardest part for me!
First, my friend Ardo asked about how it came about that Save the Date had a comic in it – and whether it was influenced by the Canadian long-running comic For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnson. Morgan latched right onto that question and said she was a huge fan of For Better or For Worse – she owns collected books of the comic and used to fight her brother for the Sunday comics.
It was actually a Twitter conversation between herself and a few other writers about FBOFW that sparked the idea for a family that has comic alter-egos and has essentially been followed through their lives. What would it be like to live with your life and memories shaped by this world that’s similar but not the same as yours? It was fascinating to hear her discussing how this took shape and how much FBOFW influenced Grant Central Station, the comic in the book.
One of the other questions that was really interesting was which of Morgan’s covers is her favorite. Morgan said she adores all of them, but especially Since You’ve Been Gone. Apparently the designers asked her for ideas for what the characters would be wearing, and she ended up sending a box of her own clothes and accessories over. She was shocked when she saw the pictures from the photoshoot, and the girls were literally wearing her things – the heart-shaped sunglasses are hers, by the way!
Morgan has also begged to get to be on location at a photoshoot, but they haven’t let her. She was especially disappointed because the one for The Unexpected Everything had dogs and she would have loved to meet them. Oh yeah, and the dogs all had headshots and she got to choose them! She says she keeps that email with the dog headshots around for when she’s feeling sad. =p
Ok, that was a lot, but for those of you still with me, the event ended with a huge signing line, Morgan and I taking selfies together, meeting up with so many of my friends who really stacked the audience for me!
Seriously, they were all in the front rows cheering me on – it was just overwhelming and so lovely to hug everyone afterwards. I felt so loved! I know people were mostly there for Morgan, but truly, it was such an honour to be up there on the stage with her as well. I also got to meet a few readers I’ve always wanted to meet, like Jen Kentfield, and Eden and her mom. Thanks so much for stopping me and saying hi.
This was definitely one of the highlights of my life. I’ve always, always wanted to do a onstage interview, and Morgan was the best possible introduction I could have to moderating. We were talking backstage about how easy it was to chat – maybe because I know so much about her and her work, but also because (she didn’t say this, I did) Morgan is probably the most relaxed and personable author I’ve met. She’s just so full of stories and so ready to hear about people and what they’re interested in. It was seriously so much fun just hanging with her. 12/10 would be Starbucks pals with her if we lived in the same city. Morgan, if you’re reading this, thank you so much, and please come back to Toronto ANYTIME (2020 = Canada for Morgan Sparkles)!
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to all the great Morgan Matson content I’ve had on this site through the years. So in case you’ve missed it:
Tons of stuff here (check the link above for the full list), including:
–Quiz: Which Morgan Matson Character Are You? – written by Morgan!
–A blog interview with Morgan Matson
–What Do Morgan Matson’s Books Mean to You? Morgan Matson Superfans Weigh In
–I Double Dog Dare You: Morgan Matson Books x Dogs