Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian Signing in Toronto!

8:00 AM

On Thursday, September 27, I attended Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian's book signing in Toronto for their new co-written book, Burn for Burn! This was their very first time venturing into Canada to promote their book together, and I'd been counting down the days until I could meet them! For those who don't know, Jenny Han is the bestselling author of the Summer series, and Siobhan Vivian is the author of The List and Not That Kind of Girl.

As soon as my class was finished for the day, I quickly made my way to Indigo Yorkdale and was shocked to find myself first in line for the event! Crazy awesome, right? With several hours to kill, I was glad the time could pass by faster when another girl arrived in line and we talked about some of our favourite contemporary books. 

And then later on, I finally got to officially meet the super sweet Sonia from The Story Queen! We talked about our love for Jenny Han's Summer series, the way it gives us FEELINGS, and how torn we were between Jeremiah and Conrad when we read the final book, We'll Always Have Summer. By that point, I couldn't stop gushing about the books and how excited I was to see both Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. (And after the event, Sonia introduced me to another nice book blogger, Tiff from Mostly YA Lit! )

Just after 7:00 pm, the authors made their appearance on stage to a loud round of applause! The best friends quickly introduced themselves and launched into talking about the inspiration for Burn for Burn, and how some humiliating events when they were teenagers helped to inspire them writing the book. When Siobhan was younger and at a party, a popular boy she liked was kissing her and then laughed in her face when his friends saw him and couldn't believe he'd be with her unless he was drunk (or something similar along those lines). When Jenny was a teen, a boy she liked called her fat in front of everyone in the cafeteria, and she could only run away and cry afterwards. She described him as sort of like Conrad from her Summer series, but without his redeeming qualities.

I thought they showed real courage in sharing their personal experiences with everyone, because if something like that had ever happened to me, I don't think I'd ever want anyone to bring it up again. It's nice to know that years later, they can laugh about it together though. In Burn for Burn, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian wanted their three protagonists to get the revenge that they never got, since they wondered why they never said anything back then. The authors next moved onto reading from Burn for Burn! Jenny first read a party scene from Lillia's perspective, and Siobhan followed up afterwards by reading a flashback scene from Mary's POV.

Once they finished reading from the book, they took questions from the audience! When asked about the writing process for Burn for Burn, they said it took about a year and a half to flesh out the storyline and characters. Instead of writing a particular character as some authors do when co-writing a book together, Jenny and Siobhan would divide up certain scenes they wanted to write and then send them to each other for editing and critiquing. And because Burn for Burn is the first in a trilogy, they also had to plan ahead for future books.

Someone next asked an essay-style question about the "evolution of social structure", so Jenny and Siobhan talked about how bullying isn't exactly new territory in schools, and how the isolated setting of Jar Island in Burn for Burn helped to build tension. The characters are stuck with other people on the island with nowhere to exactly go except by ferry, and with technology, everyone knows each other's business these days.

We also learned that Jenny and Siobhan first became friends when they studied youth literature together in graduate school. They would write together at Starbucks and it helped to know that someone was there to support them. Jenny Han had wanted to be a writer since she was a young girl, and Siobhan Vivian worked in television for the Disney Channel for awhile before turning to write YA.

A couple questions were then directed more towards Jenny Han and her Summer series. She never outlined the books in the series (Burn for Burn was the first time she ever outlined for a book!), but always had a vision of a girl in a wedding dress holding hands with a boy. She was constantly undecided between Conrad and Jeremiah, and especially so when writing We'll Always Have Summer, the final book in the trilogy. Siobhan Vivian then chimed in that Jenny was really nervous when writing We'll Always Have Summer because she had a feeling people might feel betrayed by Jeremiah's mistake, and it was tough to take her characters there.

You could really tell that Jenny and Siobhan had absolute fun writing Burn for Burn together! When critiquing each other's novels, they described it as being like an Aunt who cares a lot, but will ultimately pass the responsibility back to the parent. Burn for Burn felt more like their baby. When asked if there was a moment from the novel they didn't agree about at first, they chose the spin-the-bottle scene from Burn for Burn. Jenny really wanted it in the book, but Siobhan didn't at first, so they ended up moving it to another part of the book where it was a much better fit in progressing the story. Sometimes the pair would pretend to be characters, like Rennie and Lillia, from the book and act out scenes to help with the dialogue!

A question about Asians portrayed in YA was also asked because Lillia, one of the central characters, is Korean. Jenny Han didn't want to portray any stereotypes in Burn for Burn, and added that she didn't make a character Asian on purpose; it's just a part of their being and they come fully formed as a character to her. Lillia may have been an Asian character, but that didn't absolutely define her... which I think is absolutely true and something you can agree about if you've read Burn for Burn! We also learned that Lillia is modeled after Jenny's sister, who was also popular in school. The last question of the night related to YA recommendations, and they both answered with books like Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity and Gayle Forman's One Day.

Once the questions were finished, it was time for the book signing! Both Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian were really sweet, friendly, and all smiles as I gave my books to them to be signed. I was trying my best not to fan-girl too crazily, but I don't think my excitement could be contained! (I was also nervous too. My hand wouldn't stop shaking when taking a picture for my sister...) I couldn't believe I was meeting them face-to-face! While I tried to remind myself to breathe, I scrambled to find something intelligible to say and probably ended up mumbling I was a book blogger and that I loved their books...

Thanks so much to Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian for visiting Toronto and meeting some of your Canadian fans! I sure hope you'll both return one day. And lots of thanks also goes out to Indigo Yorkdale, Chapters/Indigo, and Simon & Schuster Canada for hosting the event!

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  1. Thanks so much for the recap!! I'm so sad I had to miss it (I deffo would have made the trip to TO if I had been in the country!), but I'm glad I did have the chance to meet Jenny earlier this year. She's so adorable!

  2. Great recap - it was so fun meeting Jenny and Siobhan, wasn't it? It was so awesome to meet you, Liz, after reading you blog for so long!

    I got so excited that I also wrote a long recap of the event. =)