Last month, I posted an open invitation to the Hopewell Hotel, asking if anyone was interested in participating in a roundtable discussion of September's picks, Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson. Before I knew it, I had a number of volunteers, ready and willing to talk about hotel life, New York City, Law & Order, and unicycling actors - not necessarily in that order.
(Psst....If you want to be a part of the October roundtable, where we'll discuss Lips Touch by Laini Taylor, please leave a comment below with your email address!)
Little Willow: Let's jump right in. What was your favorite part of Suite Scarlett?
Melissa Walker: Being introduced to the Martin family was sheer delight. I've never met characters whom I wanted to know in real life so quickly. I think my favorite parts were the intros to each of them -- I was so excited to hang out with them for a while!
Lindsay F: When Spencer punched Eric. Big brother to the rescue!
Marjolein: I loved that there was a big piece for theater,(I think Suite Scarlett itself would be a perfect story to turned into a play!) the long gone glory of the Hopewell and the mysterious Mrs.Amberson with her even more eccentric demands.
Little Willow: What was your favorite scene in Scarlett Fever?
SamanthaRowan: When Max muscles Dakota out of being Scarlett's lab partner. It's a good piece of foreshadowing and it reaches all of us on a deep level. We all remember the pressure of finding a lab partner or being picked for the dodge ball team.
Melissa Walker: I loved it when Scarlett met Lola for lunch and they finally talked openly about things with Chip. It felt so real and sisterly, especially for these two girls who love each other but don't always communicate well. Fantastic moment.
Lindsay F: When Scarlett pushed Max off his stool. ...I think I just may like violence in MJ's books.
Mariah: When Spencer got pelted with doughnuts!
Little Willow: Do you think Suite Scarlett warranted a sequel? Why or why not?
Micol Ostow: Definitely! Scarlett and her world are so colorful that I think there must be infinite sequels and stories to tell!
Mariah: Yes, because the characters could never stop giving wonderful stories and making messes of things!
SamanthaRowan: Yes. There were certainly enough story lines to follow. There's probably a logical sequel to Scarlett Fever too.
Melissa Walker: Yes, and I would very much like to follow the Martin siblings into middle age. Please, Maureen?
Lindsay F: I think Suite Scarlett was a good stand alone novel. However I think Scarlett will always be doing something worth writing about. I feel like Scarlett Fever was more of a cliff hanger than S.S.
Marjolein: Defininetly warrented a sequel, and I am still curious what is going to happen now that I finished reading Scarlett Fever.
Little Willow: Which of Scarlett's siblings did you like the most? Why?
Olivia Wood (elfarmy17): Oh, Spencer, definitely. He's the older brother I've always wanted. He has his own life, but he's okay with sharing parts of it with Scarlett. As she says (somewhere in a paragraph regarding Spencer's past girlfriends, I think), Spencer “always shared the stuff that mattered.” They're the epitome of what I think two siblings' relationship should be: separate people who do their own stuff, but still incredibly close.
Mariah: Spencer! He is one of the few male characters in a book, who is not the love interest, that I have fallen for! Without any egging on by the main character's feelings, I fell head over heels!
Little Willow: Spencer was my favorite Martin as well.
SamanthaRowan: Spencer. I can feel him with the most clarity. I still have a little trouble believing he's straight, though.
Melissa Walker: Oh, okay, I'm going with Spencer too. I was going to try to be contrary and say Lola, but the truth is, Spencer has my heart. And Samantha, I see what you're saying but I do think that grown-in-NYC boys sometimes put out a metrosexual vibe (hate that word, but it's the best thing I can think of to describe it), that isn't traditionally "masculine" but is still straight.
Lindsay F: This is so hard because they all have their merits. Spencer is the obvs choice because I think Scarlett likes him best. However, I think Lola wants so badly to do right by her family and she's so nice. And Marlene - it's hard to like her, but I think MJ has done a fantastic job setting her up for some great character growth. You can tell Marlene really does look up to Scarlett even though she acts like a brat towards her.
Little Willow: What did you think of the family dynamic?
SamanthaRowan: The parents played too small a role for me to say. Lola and Spencer's relationship is interesting to me. The tension in it belies a complexity that would be great to explore.
Melissa Walker: I love the way they all interact -- I find it so true to live that there are allegiances and animosity and secrets.
LindsayF: It's not perfect so it's believable. They all really love each other, but it's obvious that they have favorites among the siblings (not necessarily the parents).
Marjolein: Somehow I loved every sibling of Scarlett. Spencer indeed has the largest part in the book of the siblings, but I liked Lola and Marlene .
Little Willow: What did you think of the family livelihood?
Micol Ostow: Very quirky and creative - a wonderful use of a unique setting and location. I could see this book being made into a movie for just that reason - everything is larger-than-life in the best possible way!
Mariah: I think it was a very cool idea because even while being in a contemporary setting, the hotel idea is so out of the box that you want to experience it for yourself.
SamanthaRowan: I found it a little hard to believe. In my day job I'm a journalist and sometimes cover hotels in New York City. A hotel with so few guests couldn't even pay its water bill.
Melissa Walker: So. Much. Fun. I think the books could be an amazing play. MJ, you on that?
Little Willow: Bring on the stage adaptations! Yes!
Lindsay F: I hate to say this, but I really think the parents were a bit selfish to keep the hotel. I know the story centers around the hotel, but in reality the hotel would have been sold and the parents would have moved the family somewhere more affordable. I'm sure Mr. and Mrs. Martin could have gotten jobs at another hotel. That being said, because it was in fiction and things worked out, owning a run down hotel? Super fun!
Marjolein: The family is of course a bit eccentric, but that is also the power and coolness factor why I really like them. How they kept the hotel alive with so little quests puzzled me, but indeed, in fiction everything thats impossible in real life can happen. And otherwise whe wouldn't have known the Martins. Would love to spend a day in the Hopewell to observe the family livelihood for a day(or a week).
Little Willow: Have you ever stayed or would you want to stay in a hotel for an extended period of time? I haven't, but I loved the TV show Early Edition starring Kyle Chandler, who you might recognize from Friday Night Lights. Anyhoo, on Early Edition, the main character stayed at a hotel (where he was delivered an awesome newspaper and visited by a beautiful orange cat, but that's another story!)
Lindsay F: I have never stayed in a hotel for more than a few days, but I think it would be a really fun experience to stay long enough for it to feel sort of like a home. I grew up wanting to trade places with Eloise which is probably why I'd love to live in a hotel. It would be so interesting to meet people from different places and you'd probably learn a ton of things from them. Oh yeah, and I was a bit obsessed with the 90s movie, Dunston Checks In. If I lived in a hotel I could become best friends with an orangutan and thwart crime! Who would say no to that?
Micol Ostow: I'm someone who REALLY likes my routines - I'd want to be home and sleeping in my own bed after a few nights. That said, while I was on my honeymoon this past year I stayed in some fantastic resorts that I was mighty sad to have to leave!
Mariah: I never have, but I think it would be fun until a point. Then I would want my room and routine back.
SamanthaRowan: I haven't and don't think I'd like to. That said, it's all the Martins know. I'm sure it seems normal to them. And they'll miss it when they leave.
Marjolein: I have stayed in hotels two times now for holidays,one was a very big one, and the other one was a little Italian boutique hotel. Very different, but both awesome to experience!
Little Willow: What was more interesting to you, Spencer's stage acting or his new television career?
Lindsay F: The stage acting. As a reader, I felt more involved with the stage acting, since Scarlett was around for more of it. Although I do really enjoy how Spencer's acting career is making him a bit notorious around town. I am really excited to see how it all pans out in the next book. Maybe I just want more Spencer.
Olivia Wood: Also the stage acting. All of the drama surrounding Spencer's big television role was hilarious, but I find his stage acting more appealing because while he's still completely in character, it feels more personal -- like he's putting more of himself into it.
SamanthaRowan: I think his stage role is more interesting. But I may be biased. We heard a lot more about his stage role so it was easier to visualize.
Melissa Walker: I like the TV stuff--it was fun to have Spencer recognized by more people and in such a criminal role.
Little Willow: Maureen Johnson is a fan of Law & Order. She's talked about this at her blog many times, and then she had Spencer appear on a fictional show that sounded an awful lot like L&O. If you were on L&O, what would you play? (A lawyer? A detective? A witness? A suspect?)
Lindsay F: A suspect! That way I'd get to act all shifty!
Micol Ostow: An extra! Law & Order is one of my favorite shows, but I am SO not someone who ever wanted to be in front of the camera! A crowd scene might be okay. Or, maybe a writer for the show instead!
Mariah: I guess a suspect, because maybe my character would be the red herring or someone who would confuse the audience! Which sounds like a really fun gig.
Melissa Walker: I would like to be on the jury so I could practice my reaction faces.
Marjolein: Definitely the detective part!
Little Willow: What did you make of Scarlett's boss, Mrs. Amberson?
Lindsay F: She is one of my fictional BFFs. I desperately want to hang out with her and concoct schemes.
Micol Ostow: Wonderfully eccentric and no-nonsense. Kind of my hero. I want to be her when (if!) I grow up!
Mariah: She is hilarious and would be a horrible boss. (But she is fun to read about!)
SamanthaRowan: She's one of the most real characters in the books. I've lived in NYC for a while and I feel like I've met her. There are probably thousands of her on Manhattan island as of this writing.
Melissa Walker: I love, love, love her. She hits all the right notes and I love it that she calls Scarlett "O'Hara."
Marjolein: Very eccentric, a bit diva-ish, and would love to have her as my new boss!
Little Willow: What did you think of Chelsea and Max?
Lindsay F: I really hope Scarlett can become good friends with Chelsea - she seems really sweet and not at all stuck up or self centered.
Olivia Wood: I mainly felt sorry for Chelsea. Her mom prodded her into all of that horrible stuff, and she was so intense about it. It was like that kid in Akeelah and the Bee who wasn't allowed to have fun with them the night before the Bee because he needed to be studying.
SamanthaRowan: I feel some sympathy for both of them. Their mother has made their lives too weird and they struggle with relationships as a result.
Melissa Walker: I thought they were in a really interesting situation, and I hope in the future they can face it together instead of in the divided way they are currently dealing. I think Scarlett can help!
Little Willow: Who would you date, Eric or Max?
Lindsay F: Definitely Max! Eric is a WORM!
Olivia Wood: Max - he's the dark-haired "brooding musician." Eric has his merits, but even if I don't go into the downsides, he's too old for me, anyway. :)
Melissa Walker: Max, totally. I do love a Southern guy, but Max is the interesting one at this point.
Little Willow: Did Scarlett get a little obsessed with watching Eric's commercial online? Do you think this was scary, or just something that's so, so easy to do in this day and age of YouTube - and Facebook, and Twitter - where we can all watch and “friend” and “follow” people 24/7?
Olivia Wood: I'd say a lot more than a little! The extent of her obsession was a bit scary, but it's existence in itself wasn't. I don't do that in terms of any one person, but sometimes I (like Scarlett) am terribly lonely, so I end up obsessively hitting “refresh” on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader...I get where she's coming from.
Mariah: She did get obsessed, but I can see that happening all the time. At least she actually knew him. Some people do that kind of stuff without even meeting the person.
SamanthaRowan: It seems clear that this was the author's intention. I thought it was a little sad. Scarlett has a fantastic life. She has very good friends. She's smart and doing great in school. While her family is weird, their bond is super-strong. And, she's excellent at stage directing. It's sad to see a young woman of her talents tripped by a relatively short-term guy like Eric.
Lindsay F: Scarlett was definitely obsessed and it was incredibly painful because I have done similar things and realized what an idiot I was. So reading that part was like poking an open wound.
Melissa Walker: I loved that part. I thought it was so realistic and something that tons of girls do. Really easy to relate to.
Little Willow: Do you follow Maureen's online endeavors? She posts frequently at her blog, her Twitter, and other such places.
Lindsay F: Yes! I only wish she could blog more, her posts are hilarious! Thank goodness for Twitter. Does anyone remember when MJ was retweeting updates from Astronaut Mike?? That was so funny! In my head MJ is one of my BFFs because of her online presence.
Micol Ostow: I adore Maureen's tweets. She's hilarious - always makes the most of her 140 characters.
Olivia Wood: I originally found her through the vlogbrothers (John Green's YouTube channel) when she was subbing for John while he was on paternity leave, and now I'm proud to say I live in one of Twitter Mama Maureen's jars. It's very nice there. She takes good care of us. I also follow her blog, of course. It's a bit confusing, though, when she, her agent, and readergirlz all reference each other in their posts.
Mariah: Yes! Her blog is a riot and it is fun to see what she has to say in her tweets!
SamanthaRowan: Yes. I follow her on Twitter and read her blog.
Melissa Walker: I follow her as much as I can. Sometimes I can't keep up with her speed and omnipresence, but I try!
Marolein: I follow her site, blog and twitters, altough not everything due to lack of time.
Little Willow: What is your favorite Maureen Johnson novel? Mine is Girl at Sea. The Bermudez Triangle is my second favorite.
Lindsay F: This is such a tough question! I think it's a tie between Keys to the Golden Firebird and Girl at Sea. Although Girl at Sea is kind of edging out Keys.
Micol Ostow: I loved Suite Scarlett, and also The Bermudez Triangle, but I think I'm going to go with Devilish. I liked the paranormal aspect.
Olivia Wood: I can say this for sure: not Girl At Sea. Why? It's the only one I haven't read yet. I devoured The Bermudez Triangle in one afternoon, but 13 Little Blue Envelopes made a distinct impression on me as well. I took a tour of Europe (not nearly as cool as Ginny's) two and a half years ago, and I really want to go back. As Hank Green once said, "I actually went and looked at plane tickets about halfway through." (Yes, I'm a nerdfighter). While I didn't look at them, the book had a similar effect on me.
Mariah: 13 Little Blue Envelopes because I could see all the places so vividly, and she made me want 13 little blue envelopes to follow around and tell me what to do! I can't wait for the sequel!
SamanthaRowan: Scarlett Fever.
Melissa Walker: I haven't read a lot (I know! I need to!) but Scarlett Fever is tops for me so far...
Alex: I loved The Bermudez Triangle. Anything that helps me understand something I didn't before, but wanted to, is a winner in my eyes.
Marjolein: Suite Scarlett.
Olivia Wood: For their performance of Hamlet, Spencer and the rest of the cast took the play and made it their own. Have you ever been to a Shakespeare performance in which bigger adaptations were made? What did you think of it? Is there something inherent in Shakespeare's work that makes it so compatible with alterations?
Little Willow: I have seen various Shakespeare plays on stage and on screen, and I tend to prefer those which stick to the original lines and settings. If they do modernize some aspects, such as costuming, I like it to be simple, understated, and never stated, so that it doesn't distract from the performances or the words. The best live performance of Hamlet I've seen to date had simple costumes, not fully period but not fully modern, indicative but not blatant, and it was performed outside on a beautiful summer's night. I greatly enjoy performing Shakespeare, and I had the good fortune to be a full production which kept the original lines and setting.
Olivia Wood: (Is it unfair to answer my own question?) I went to an outdoor performance of Much Ado About Nothing over the summer, set immediately after WW2, and I loved it. I also saw a production of Twelfth Night set in the same period (also outside), and wasn't terribly impressed. I think it really depends on, well, everything.
SamanthaRowan: I have seen a few and have talked about this topic with my husband a lot. We both got degrees in English and his thesis is on a theme in Shakespeare. We agree that some adaptations of Shakespeare are great! I think the reason it's adapted so often is because it's so familiar and because the human conditions inherent in his work are timeless.
Lindsay F: I've seen a production of the Abridged Works of Shakespeare. I thought that was quite fun. Otherwise I've only seen the plays as they were written and in period costume. I would like to one day go to a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The movie is hilarious.
Marjolein: In high school I was in the theate group when we did a production of Hamlet. It was very tiny and I even hadn't a real part (just one of the people who fill the stage). but if was fun to do!
Alex: What do you think of an author being so active on the interwebz, as Maureen Johnson is? Do you like that feeling of connection or do you find yourself wishing that authors would stay foggy, mysterious beings a la J.D. Salinger?
Olivia Wood: I love web-active authors. It's so cool to follow them on Twitter and be able to have a conversation, or to watch and comment on their YouTube videos. Being an aspiring author myself, it's great to see that published authors are tangible, approachable people.
Little Willow: I think everyone at readergirlz agrees. We love connecting authors with readers - and readers with other readers, as we did today with this roundtable!
If you want to be a part of the October roundtable, where we'll discuss Lips Touch by Laini Taylor, please leave a comment below with your email address!