Rainbow Rowell says that she is happiest and most productive when writing in different genres for varied audiences. After penning contemporary fiction for both young adults and adults, she is attending BookExpo to promote her first graphic novel, Pumpkinheads (Macmillan/First Second, Aug.), illus. by Faith Erin Hicks, as well as Wayward Son (Wednesday Books, Sept.), the sequel to her 2015 fantasy novel, Carry On. The new book picks up where Carry On left off, with young British magician Simon Snow and his friends Penny and Baz battling and defeating the evil Humdrum.
This is a season of firsts for Rowell. In addition to making her graphic novel debut with Pumpkinheads, Wayward Son marks the first time she has written a sequel. She calls the opportunity to discuss with readers what may or may not happen to characters they already know and love a “magical” experience. Rowell notes that the primary reason she decided to write a sequel to Carry On is that, as a reader, she always wants to know “what happens to heroes after the last page. The heroes have endured so much trauma, and we leave them frozen in that happy ending.”
Without spilling too much, Rowell does reveal that Wayward Son opens with Simon at loose ends. After defeating Humdrum, he no longer is “The Chosen One.” Hoping to get Simon out of his funk, Baz proposes that they embark with Penny on a road trip through North America. Rowell expresses pleasure at writing about the U.S. from the perspective of young Brits—and in the process replacing the classic children’s book tropes she employed in Carry On with a road trip and adding American characters into the mix.
“It’s a different playground,” Rowell says, adding that the evocation of the 1970s-era rock song “Carry On, Wayward Son” is intentional. The “Bohemian Rhapsody” spell in Carry On is a reference to the quintessentially British group Queen, although the title of the book itself refers to a slogan popular on WWII British propaganda posters. With Wayward Son, Rowell wanted the title to evoke a novel set in the U.S. heartland, rather than Britain at war—and what could be more American, more heartland, than a song by a band named Kansas?
Today, 3:30–4:30 p.m. Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks will sign Pumpkinheads samplers at Table 1 in a ticketed event.
Tomorrow, 1–2 p.m. Rowell will sign Wayward Son posters at the Macmillan booth (1544, 1545). Tickets for the signing are available at the booth at 9 a.m.