Last Saturday, June 21st, we were lucky enough to have met the lovely NYT best-selling author Jenny Han in her PH book signing tour that kicked off in Manila. We here at Teen Readers’ Diary have been certified Hanny Badgers since The Summer trilogy came out a few years ago, so you can bet we’ve been counting down the days towards this event!
Mary Ann and I (Dea) arrived at the venue for a Q&A session with Jenny with 30 minutes to spare. What better way to wait for it to start than to catch up with some wonderful PH book bloggers?
At 10 am, Jenny Han arrived and we were ready to know more about her and her books. We got to ask her one question each and she graciously answered all of them. We learned a lot of cool things about Jenny that ranged from her writing process to love letters and celebrity crushes!
Read on for the summary of the Q&A.
Other things we learned about Jenny Han:
- Jenny and Siobhan Vivian have been friends since they met in graduate school in David Levithan’s class in New York. They became best friends and then lived in the same neighborhood. When asked of the difference between writing her own novels and collaborating with Siobhan, Jenny said they helped one another by trading pages of each other's work and giving feedback. She shared that they have different strengths; Siobhan is good at storytelling because of her screenwriting background and she went to film school, while Jenny’s strong suits are more in character and dialogue. The big difference when they are writing books together – they are equally a thousand percent in it because they both had ownership over the story and thus they can both "discipline" it.
- Siobhan and Jenny did it differently than most collaborations by planning the whole book out. They have a 20-page outline of the story and they divvied it up according to what they’re excited to write about. The three main characters show up in each other's scenes so much that they had to know each character equally well.
- In the first book, they both wrote the characters equally. For Fire with Fire, however, Jenny did most of the Lilia's, Siobhan did most of the Mary's, and they split up Kat in the middle.
- When she was asked if The Summer Trilogy was based on her first love, Jenny said there are pieces that are there. She said that as a writer, it’s one of the best things when she has personally experienced some things. She use those emotions to fuel the story and hopefully make it feel real.
- She gets asked a lot if she ever considered writing a spin-off for Jeremiah. The answer is no. Jenny said Jeremiah got left in a good place as well. He’s an upbeat guy and he bounces back. One of the key differences between Conrad and Jeremiah is that Conrad is more sensitive and kept it all in him, while Jeremiah is a lot more emotive with his feelings. She doesn't worry about Jeremiah and she’d be more worried about Conrad if things hadn't gone the way things went. She adds that he’d be in a dark place for a while if that happened.
- Jenny also used to write letters to the boys she loved when she’s ready to get over them, but these letters were for her eyes only. For Jenny, writing a love letter is more of a personal experience of you exploring your own emotions and she would have been mortified if any one of the letters she wrote get sent out. Just like in Lara Jean’s case, they were not meant for other people to see. She still has the letters.
- Jenny has a little sister whom she get closer to as they get older. She’s inspired by her sister as she’s making her stories, and Kitty is most like her.
- In her experience, it’s harder to write stories for young kids. It’s akin to painting on a smaller canvas since you have to be careful having such a small space to express yourself. Writing Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream was the biggest challenge for Jenny and it took her longer to revise and polish it up.
- Jenny’s usual day involves: waking up mid-morning but staying up late writing. She checks emails and social media, converses with her editor and publicist and then writes for a few hours in the afternoon. If she’s having a minor writer’s block she checks in on Twitter.
- Her American and Korean heritage inspire her writing very much. As an example, she related the limitations of the MC’s high-functioning alcoholic mother in her first book, Shug, and the limitations of her parents because of the language and cultural barriers. She used a lot of her personal experiences in that story even though it doesn't appear that way on the page. In TATBILB, she’s inspired by the dynamic of big sister and little sister in Korean culture [little sisters always listen to the unnies (big sisters)]
- When she was asked if she meant to have similar plots in Shug and TATBILB, Jenny said that thematically there are certain things that she just really want to write about and there’s always going to be sisters. Almost all of her books have some sort of sister relationship because it is an important piece of her life, and so she will always write about that and first love.
- Jenny has a nail blog to keep track of what she’s done. You can check it out and follow it here: Just Another Mani Monday
- When asked if she ever felt like running out of story ideas, Jenny said no. She has three other books in the back of her head that she wants to write and have been thinking about over the ten years. She shared that it really is a matter of having all the time to do all the stories she wants to tell so not yet, and hopefully never.
- Jenny was asked: what makes contemporary novels stand out for you and have you ever thought of branching out to New Adult? Jenny answered that personally, she loves to read Fantasy as well and would love to do one if she has a great idea. For Jenny, the big difference between Fantasy and Contemporary is the world building. She tends to write smaller stories and said it takes a different kind of gift to be able to write those big, world building kind of books. She would love to do it if she got something amazing, and adds that perhaps smaller is more intimate. Emotions and experiences are pretty universal whether you are in contemporary or fantasy. As far as NA goes, she hasn't read a ton of it. She doesn't think she would be branching out to NA anytime soon because her stories tend to be warmhearted and a little innocent. She doesn't know if she’d ever do NA since YA can also be sexy. She also said she doesn't think there need to be a delineation between the two things because a lot of adults read YA, teens read adult, and they all crosses over.
- Her first book, Shug, is always gonna be special to her as well as the newest book. The middle ones are also special but usually it’s the first and the last.
After the Q&A, Jenny obliged us by giving a message to all her Filipino fans!
*sorry for the shaky cam! :)
She also signed our books along with the ARC of Ashes to Ashes that Jenny surprised us with (!!!), and posed for pictures with us.
Jenny with her fans over at @jennyhan_ph
Me (left) and Mary Ann (right) with Jenny
PH YA book bloggers with Jenny Han
We then went to National Book Store Glorietta 1, where fans gathered for the public signing at 2 pm. We weren't surprised at all by the big turnout, but hearing that some fans lined up at 11 pm the night before totally did!
Crowd of Hanny Badgers waiting for Jenny Han and the event to start
At 2:30 pm, Jenny was warmly welcomed by hundreds of fans. Check out this very brief video of her entering the venue.