Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an author event at Powell’s Books, Cedar Hills Crossing featuring Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Jo Walton.

Jo Walton’s first new novel after the award-winning Among Others is now out and judging from the first chapter, it promises to be an absolutely spectacular read.

author event
Stage all set with My Real Children front and Center

Before reading from her newest novel, My Real Children, however, she introduced us to Ada Palmer who is also a sci-fi and fantasy author, as well as a historian and composer.

Ada Palmer sang two songs during the night, including a very science-fiction inspired song, “Somebody Will” from the album, Make them All Real.

Jo Walton was as fun to listen to as I imagined after reading What Makes this Book so Great. After reading from My Real Children, she answered questions and one of the first was, what it felt like winning the Hugo and how has that changed her.

“It’s awesome winning an award because it means people actually like my book,” she said, emphasizing how appreciated it makes her feel. As a book lover herself, I can only imagine how it feels.

Jo Walton Reading
Jo Walton read from My Real Children and then stopped right when it was getting good! (It’s on my shelf now…)

However, she’s not really sure if its affected the response to her other books, except when it comes to publication timeline. Since What Makes This Book so Great came out this year as well, she assumed that My Real Children would have a February 2015 release date until her publisher told her things were going to happen a bit faster than that.

In fact, My Real Children starts in February 2015 for this very reason.

Another result of winning awards is her books are now being translated into many different languages. Answering questions from translators is fun, and she gave us some examples of how it is interesting.

  • In Chinese, there is no word for just “sister” or “twin.” The word can’t be separated from birth order, it is always older or younger sister, or older or young twin. With the translator, Jo Walton went through the entire text of Among Others, which is a twin and the sister she lost (plus magic and faeries).
  • In a different language, there are different counting words for monsters and humans. What words should be used for Tooth and Claw, which is a romantic victorian type novel, except from the dragon’s perspective. There are humans mentioned. “Use the monster words for the humans and the human words for the dragons,” Jo Walton enthused. “If I could have done it in English, I would have!”
  • Another problem with Tooth and Claw  was one translator (I believe it was Czech) believed the whole thing was an allegory and kept calling up asking “does it mean this or does it mean this,” and Jo Walton said it was problematic because the answer was always “uhm, no.” I suppose sometimes dragons are just dragons.

If you want to know which of her own books are her favorite, check the publication order. It is always the most recent one she’s written. She has an upcoming book:  “Plato’s Republic but with greek gods plus robots,” and right now, that is definitly her favorite.

With her older books, “I can see what’s wrong with them and I can’t fix them anymore because they are in cold type,” she says. “You get it as good as you can and it goes to print and then you get better and they don’t.”

She definitely gave a local Portland shout-out to our favorite independent bookseller, Powell’s Books, by saying “Powell’s is the best, and I’m not just saying that. You are really lucky.” One of the best things about being on this kind of tour is seeing all kinds of thriving bookshops with great community. Powell’s is definitely the bookstore we love the most too.