“I used to dream about Cathy . . . dipped in chocolate . . .”
At the 2004 World Fantasy Convention in Tempe, Arizona, I heard those words spoken by a man with a British accent, and they rocked my world.
Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it WAS hilarious! I laughed until I cried, and my stomach hurt (I was seven months pregnant). It was the late, wonderful Graham Joyce who said it, bringing the panel to a standstill.
The question for the panelists had been about what books influenced them as children. There were the standard answers about classics, fairy tales . . . and then came Graham’s turn. He had read Wuthering Heights at age twelve, and was in love with Cathy Earnshaw. And then, snooping under his parents’ mattress, where his dad had been known to hide “interesting things,” he found a copy of Secrets of Hollywood Madams. His favorite part was the chapter about having professional chocolatiers come in and dip the ladies in pure Belgian chocolate. “I used to dream about Cathy . . . dipped in chocolate . . .” Graham said, and the audience and panel promptly lost it.
My sister ran to the Dealers’ Room and bought a copy of The Tooth Fairy, Graham’s stunning dark fantasy, and we had him sign it even though it wasn’t the official time for the massive book signing. We were giggling and sweating at approaching this brilliant man, a real life published author! He was so kind, so funny, so charming! We were delighted. The next time I saw Graham, in the fall of 2007, it was at the Syracuse World Fantasy, and I was on a panel with him. I was a newly published author, and absolutely starstruck to be on a panel at all, let alone sitting next to Graham Joyce, whose Tooth Fairy was so fabulous, and whose The Facts of Life is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. And when I walked into the room before the panel started, he looked up from his conversation with John Connolly and said, “It’s Jessica! Now we can start!” He remembered me! He congratulated me on getting published! And that’s when I knew that the theory that my sister and I had started formulating in Tempe was a proven fact.
Good writers are good people. I am not a competitive person, and I was scared that other authors would be, that maybe some of the people I’d met before, like Graham, and Carol Berg, would now be “weird” because I was on their turf, on the “other” side of the panelists’ table. But instead I found a community just as warm and welcoming as I could have hoped. I was given all kinds of great advice: How to do a reading, to trust my gut, to trust my agent, and to never try and outdrink an Australian. I met brand new authors like myself. I met people whose books I had admired since childhood. I met readers and publishers, editors and agents. (And a pirate.)
And the one thing they all—we all—had in common was a love of books. Specifically, fantasy books. Could anything be better? (No, no it could not.)
I’m terrible at networking. I thought I could do it . . . I can not. But I realized very quickly that it’s okay. I’m not there to make connections to boost my career or to rock anyone’s world with my pithy insights. No, I go to World Fantasy to have a good time. To see old friends, to make new friends, and to talk about books!
And to raise a Diet Coke to Graham and the image of Cathy Earnshaw, dipped in chocolate, wandering goopily across the moors!
Jessica Day George is the New York Times Bestselling author of over a dozen fantasy books for
teens and middle grade readers. She likes books, her family, books, dark chocolate, books, knitting, books, and very small dogs. Originally from Idaho, she now lives near Salt Lake City with her husband, three children, and a small fluffy dog. https://www.jessicadaygeorge.com/