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Smart Chicks author tour comes to Naperville
Readers of all ages love a good paranormal romance
By Anna Madrzyk | Daily Herald Staff

Kelley Armstrong


Jennifer Barnes


Melissa Marr


Alyson Noel


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Published: 9/20/2010 12:01 AM

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Smart Chicks Kick It Tour

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22

Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, on the campus of North Central College

Tickets: $5, or free with book purchase from Anderson's Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville

Info: (630) 355-2665 or

Jennifer Barnes is working on her Ph.D at Yale. Carrie Ryan graduated from Duke University's law school. Margaret Stohl has a master's degree from Stanford.

When it comes to being smart chicks, they've got pretty solid credentials.

They are also all authors working in one of the hottest-selling genres in publishing today: paranormal romance.

That means vampires and faeries, werewolves and necromancers, shape-shifters and ghosts. Above all, the books feature gutsy young heroines who kick butt, figuratively or literally.

This is young adult literature, but with a huge crossover appeal to older readers who like the tight writing and rousing stories.

"These are smart women writing good books," said Erin Keables, who works at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

"The quality of the writing is definitely enhanced by the quality of the authors," she added.

Six best-selling paranormal romance writers will be at North Central College in Naperville on Wednesday for the only Chicago-area stop of the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour - an author-organized, author-funded blitz of 12 cities in 14 days.

Appearing in Naperville will be Alyson Noel ("Dark Flame"), Kelley Armstrong ("The Reckoning"), Melissa Marr ("Radiant Shadows"), Jennifer Barnes ("Raised by Wolves"), Jackson Pearce ("Sisters Red") and Carrie Ryan ("Dead Tossed Waves.)

Fans will be able to participate in a Q&A with the authors and get their books signed. Giveaways include autographed bookmarks, T-shirts and one grand-prize basket filled with books from all 19 writers on the national tour, tote bags, bracelets, necklaces and more.

Anderson's is the local sponsor, but the bigger venue was chosen to accommodate the hundreds of fans expected, from grandmothers to teenage boys.

For years, the conventional wisdom in publishing was that nobody really wants to read books about teens but teens. J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" turned that on its ear as millions of adult readers immersed themselves in the young wizard's magical world.

Then came Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series and the popularity of paranormal romances exploded.

Adult paranormal romance novels tend to be grittier and a little more graphic in both the violence and romance departments than those for the young adult market.

The authors on the Smart Chicks tour build their stories around strong, smart, capable young heroines.

"(Strength) can be kicking butt, but it doesn't have to be," Armstrong said. "There are so many different kinds of strength, for men and for women."

Typically, the main character is around 17 or 18 years old. The search for identity is a common theme - and it's one to which young readers can relate, authors say.

For adult readers, the books offer "a really good escape, a really good rousing story," Noel said. "Teens get that as well, in addition to identifying directly with the characters."

The authors on the tour read each other's books and recommend them to readers.

"It's such an embracing thing; we're sharing our readers with each other," Marr said.

Most book tours are organized by publishers, not the writers, and putting this one together has been a tremendous amount of work. But it's worth it, the authors say.

"Meeting the readers is just the absolute best part," Noel said. "There's just so much enthusiasm and excitement getting out among people who have the same passions you do about books and characters and storytelling."