Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian Signing in Toronto!8:00 AM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!