The Summer series marks one of the rare moments when my sister's tastes coincided with mine. She made me get all three books and was disappointed when I wouldn't spring for a hardbound. When I found out that Jenny Han was coming here, she was the first person I texted. I promised that I would head there to get a book signed for her and so last Saturday, I was there bright and early (lined up at 8:30 am for the 2:00 pm signing and got number #128).
There was a good crowd at NBS. Fans showed up in book t-shirts. Some showed their devotion by lining up at 11:00 pm the night before (there were free hot drinks for the first 30 people in the line, courtesy of Jenny, I heard). While the crowd may not have been comparable to some of the other book signings held in recent months, it's always good to be in the company of fellow fans and readers. I ran into some old friends and made new ones, and we filled in the waiting time with conversations about our favorite books and our TBR lists.
The afternoon began with a short Q&A. I wasn't able to get all of Jenny's answers' verbatim, but she talked about:
• her mentors, including David Levithan
• her favorite books, like The Time Traveller's Wife and the Hunger Game series
• the Burn for Burn series and writing with her best friend Siobhan Vivian: "I'm the good girl; she's the bad girl."
• the Summer series being optioned for TV
• diversity in literature: "Lara Jean is Asian because it was natural for the character... I believe in diversity in literature. It must reflect what we see in the world (paraphrased)."
One of the best things I heard from Jenny was when she said that '(her) priority is to write an honest and truthful story.' I missed recording the first part of her interview but here's the part that I did manage to catch(not verbatim, but pretty close):
Q: Do you have any advise for aspiring writers in the audience?
Jenny Han: My advise would be to do exactly what you are doing which is reading a lot and hearing other people's voices but trying to figure out what your voice is. I think my advice would also be to have a lot of adventures and to get your heart broken a couple of times because it's very good material for you. All those emotions, you can pour that into your writing.
What is your writing process? How does it work? Do you sit down and write every single day?
JH: No, not when I'm on the road and not when I'm on deadline. When I'm on deadline, I write a lot, a lot. (And right now, I'm on deadline. I'm going to be late! I'm going to blame you guys.)
You're writing P.S. I Still Love You right now. So will the ending still change or do you know who she'll end up with?
JH: It's still very malleable right now. We'll see. We'll see.
Are there any other series or trilogies or stand-alone books that you're dreaming up?
JH: Always. I have a few more books in my head that I've sold recently but it's still all being formed.
Your books have inspired some fanfiction. Do you ever read fanfiction? How do you feel about it?
JH: It always feel a little weird, yeah, because I think that for the writer, you write the story and then you kind of have to say goodbye to it, in a way and let it be what it's going to be. And then people can, you know, write fanfiction, or kind of imagine their own endings to it but I think that once it's in the world, it's no longer just yours so you just have to divorce yourself from that.
Do you read your own book reviews? How do you feel when you hear what people say about your writing?
JH: I think it's almost like the way that life is, when you kind of remember the mean things that people say about you and the nice things, you're like 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' you don't really believe it. So I try not to read reviews too much. It can be difficult, especially when you're writing a series, to hear outside opinions because you're just trying to finish and do what you want to do. But the temptation is always there to look and see what people are saying. I often succumb to that.
Soon the floor was open to fan questions:
I would just like to ask, of all the characters you've created, who can you say was closest to your heart and why?
JH: Probably of all the characters I've ever created, I'd probably say, it's a book that you guys may or may not have read -- it's for younger kids -- it's called Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream, and it's about a little girl and her grandfather. That book is dedicated to my grandfather who passed away and that's very close to my heart. It's that story and those characters, a little girl and her sister and her grandfather.
Will you ever write a spin-off of Jeremiah for The Summer I Turned Pretty series?
JH: I don't think so, because I felt like Jeremiah, in my mind, is doing fine. He's happy, he's good, and I feel like his story is pretty much closed for me. I have a lot of stories that I want to tell and I want to keep going and doing new things.
But Jeremiah is fine. Don't worry about him. He's living a happy life.
If you were to describe your latest book, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, since there were cookies there, what cookie would you choose to describe your book?
JH: For that book, I might choose to describe that book as a lemon cookie. A little bit sharp, mostly sweet and sunshiny, but I think it's kinda like a warm, sunshiny book.
Your books are all about first love, first heartbreak, first crush, and do you believe that you can get over a first love and if you don't mind, who was your first love?
JH: Oh my gosh! (crowd shrieks in delight) I think that you can get over your first love but I think a part of them will always reside in your heart. But I think it's almost like the dream that you had of them but not the real person. Who they were to you at that moment and who you were at that moment.
My first love was a guy -- I'm not going to say his name because --
(Interviewer recites a list of male characters that Jenny has written: Reeve, Alex, Jeremiah, Conrad? Who's Conrad?)
JH: Yeah, this is like a Conrad-ish guy and once in a while, he will still show up in my dreams to haunt me. And I'm like, 'What are you doing here?' But it will always be the high school version of him, not the person he is now. I think that it's the nostalgia of that.
You mentioned earlier that Ashes to Ashes is coming out this September. Can you tell us a little more about it?
JH: Fire with Fire ends in a sort of fiery place. I'll say that there's another death to come, a beloved character. And I can say that it definitely gets a bit juicier with the romance as well. It gets a little scary and it also gets a little bit steamy.
Before the book signing, Jenny thanked the fans, "It's just so overwhelming. I feel that my heart is just like overflowing with love from you guys, and I'm so grateful and thankful. Thank you so much for the love."