Books, Creative Writing, Life, Writing Challenge

Meeting Pierce Brown

Last spring, Kent devoured through the first two books to the Red Rising trilogy and couldn’t stop raving about Pierce Brown, the author. He immediately started leaving his copy of Red Rising on my side of the bed (he’s subtle like that). So I gave in and picked it up one night in April. I observed the author picture and bio: a young, white, decent-looking man wearing a leather jacket. His eyes were very blue.

“Pierce Brown has piercing blue eyes,” I said to Kent and he nodded knowingly. Or maybe he was the one who said it first. Either way, the phrase Pierce Brown’s piercing blue eyes would eventually become a catchphrase between us.

“Hey, Pierce Brown’s camping in Washington. I saw a picture of him out in the nature with his piercing blue eyes,” Kent said to me once, for example.

“When do you think Pierce Brown knew the ending to the trilogy? Did he know from the start how it would all go down or is he like, crouching at his desk right now, refining the ending with his piercing blue eyes?” I asked Kent another time.

But anyway, back to the night I started reading Red Rising. Admittedly, I went in with fairly high expectations, so when I was greeted with common dystopian themes– an absurd gap between the higher class and the lower class, some kind of Big Brother system, the use of propaganda to control the population, and that one rebel who changes everything– I was like, Give me something that I didn’t already read in the Dystopian-themed English course I took in college. 

I remember I was on a plane to Washington DC when suddenly, everything in the book changed for me. An event I didn’t see coming ripped at my heart and I had to make a couple trips to the tiny bathroom to load up on tissues. I even lost my new septum ring in the process of blowing into tissues while heaving back tears, cramped next to a stranger on a plane that was flying over Nashville.

From then on, Red Rising lost all the predictability I thought I knew and I became a member of the Pierce Brown Fan Club, along with Kent. And then I got my hands on the sequel, Golden Son. It was even better than the first. It was near-perfect. It was so good that it holds the record for the shortest review I’ve written on Goodreads. It goes: “Absolutely stellar sequel to Red Rising. Bloodydamn.” That was all I could manage at the time.

It was May when I set Golden Son back on the bookshelf and Kent and I looked at each other, wondering how we were supposed to wait close to a year for the third and final book in the trilogy to come out, Morning Star. We had both grown a soft spot for Red Rising, because it was one of the few books that we loved equally as much. Our tastes often differed; Kent’s a plot man and I’m more interested in character.

I think it’s the biggest reason why I loved the sequel– Darrow, the protagonist, grew on so many levels and I felt that I could finally connect with Darrow, who seemed like an invincible leader that kept all his tricks hidden from the reader. I could never know what he was thinking. Not being able to follow Darrow’s thought process, even though Red Rising is written in Darrow’s first-person perspective, made me feel disconnected from him at first, but after seeing him take control of his actions time and time again, I understood him. Darrow made me want to be a person that shows more than she tells.

So, you can imagine my excitement when Kent shared the news a couple of months ago: “Pierce Brown and his piercing blue eyes are coming to Austin for a book signing!” We put down the event on our Google calendars. Kent ordered a hard-cover copy of Red Rising in preparation (we had the paperback one). Instead of counting down the months until the release of Morning Star, we looked forward to meeting Pierce instead.

That day was today. It was a hot day and our dogs had their tongues perpetually out as we dragged them along with us to St. Edwards University, where the book festival was being held. We were bummed that our request for an ASL interpreter was too last-minute of a notice for the book festival committee to fulfill, but we went to the panel that Pierce was on anyway. We grinned at each other when we saw Pierce enter the gymnasium and observed his mannerism for the next 45 minutes.

Once, Kent and I Googled the phrase “hottest author” and Pierce Brown’s picture made the first result (I was being uncharitable when I described him as decent-looking). Pierce Brown is a hot author and, watching him interact with the other authors and the moderator onstage, it was clear that he knew it. He was confident and calm throughout the panel. He made the audience laugh so many times! And every time, Kent and I would wish that we could understand what he was saying.

When the panel ended, we made a beeline to the book signing tent and we couldn’t believe it when we saw that the line to Pierce Brown’s table was already so long! If we couldn’t have access to what Pierce Brown was saying during the panel, we wanted to at least have a few minutes to talk with him. We didn’t want to finally meet him when he was exhausted and with a line of a bunch more eager fans waiting behind us. But then we saw him walking up to the tent, maybe 20 feet away to where I was standing.

It was now or never. Well, now or a very long wait later. I made my move. Pierce saw me as I approached. He seemed relaxed, friendly, and open to greeting me. We looked at each other. It was official: I was making eye contact with Pierce Brown’s piercing blue eyes. And then I did what every Deaf person does when they meet a new hearing person: I gestured my deafness.

After I got that out of the way and Kent joined me with the dogs, I pulled out my notebook, which had a message that we had pre-written (again, something that many Deaf people do). I watched Pierce as he read our note. The note told him about how today was the best day this year for Kent and me and that a close second would be our wedding day in July (we were only half-kidding). Pierce aww’ed at this part and even held up his arm to show his goosebumps.

He hugged us both and then we taught him how to say Red Rising and Golden Son in ASL. I am happy to report that Pierce picked up the signs pretty quickly. Finally, Pierce signed our books and he wrote, “To Kent and Leila, thank you for teaching me to sign!” before he took his seat and started signing– the other kind of signing, the one that you do with a pen– a bunch more books.

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And so Kent and I had a few moments with our favorite author this year. They were such sweet few moments. Pierce Brown is someone that seems to genuinely enjoy meeting his fans and doesn’t look weird in person. He also smells nice.

Writing Challenge Prompt 3/30: Write about meeting an author you love. 

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