Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian make friendship a part of the creative process

There’s an unspoken warning that comes with working with people you’re close to for important projects. People tell you to proceed with caution, as all the pressure could either bring a team together, or divide them to a point of no return.

For Young Adult authors Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, teamwork does make the dream work. The duo met in grad school in NYC, and have been writing partners ever since. While both women have successful titles under their belts (Jenny just released the final book in her widely popular To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, while Siobhan counts Stephen Chbosky as a fan), they’ve also worked on the Burn for Burn series together.

Young STAR caught up with Jenny and Siobhan while they were in town for their National Book Store book signing tour to talk about their writing dynamic, plus K-Dramas and the role of YA in today’s world.

YOUNG STAR: Hey guys! So you tweeted about watching K-Dramas on the plane. How did you find them?
SIOBHAN VIVIAN: Well, Jenny has introduced me to a couple of K-Dramas over the course of our friendship. We watched Boys Over Flowers, some of Coffee Prince… Actually, we happened to watch Strong Woman (Do Bong Soon) because it was available on our plane. And I just kind of kept laughing out loud, poking Jenny. Now we’re caught up, and we’re ready to watch episode three.

Do you get ideas from the romantic scenes for your books?
Jenny Han: Well, I would think, as I was saying to you (looks at Siobhan), you need to watch K-Dramas because I think they’re so good at heightening emotions. When you watch (them), you’re laughing, and you’re crying, and you’re feeling everything so vividly. And I thought it’s really good for a storyteller to have that because you feel peoples’ depth and strength of emotion.

Siobhan: I would say that narratively speaking, K-Dramas are amazing at making you root for one person, and then root for somebody else in the next episode. I really love the push-pull I feel when I’m watching them.
It’s been a while since you released Ashes to Ashes, but I just want to ask: what’s it like for you to work together on a book, given that you’re such good friends?

Siobhan: Well, Jenny and I have sort of been writing in tandem for many years. We met in grad school, and we had been writing buddies when we were in New York. So we’re really used to kind of reading each others’ work and writing notes on it. When we decided to write the Burn for Burn trilogy, we had a really good foundation to kind of move from there. Most of it felt like a natural extension of what we were already doing. We were more than just admirers of each other’s work. We’re actual friends, so it felt really comfortable working together.

What do you think the role of YA is in terms of how the world is right now?
Jenny: I think that my duty is to write truthful stories that are honest, that are sincere. My role is that of someone who writes stories for young people and who has a connection to that group, just letting people know how important members (they are) of the community. I think a lot of time, it’s like with young people — speaking for myself — you don’t really think you can do much ‘cause you’re young. But I think it’s sort of developing and growing into people who are voters, people who show up for a council meeting. You’re part of a community, and whether or not you can vote, you still are member of society who will be paying taxes at one point. So it all matters to you. These decisions that are made today affect you now.

Siobhan: And I think even more to your point now, forget all the taxes, is the culture and the space you foster as a young person with your friends. Are you a person who is accepting and tolerant? Are you a person who’s empathetic? Are you a person who will step in if you see somebody getting bullied? I think all of that helps to lend to a community that doesn’t allow or will fight for other people when it’s time to. It’s easy to feel disconnected from stuff when you’re young. But if you create a welcoming place in your school, say, create a club that supports minority kids or gay kids, that helps. And that will echo and trickle on to when you’re an adult. And that stuff counts.

The books of Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian are available in National Book Stores nationwide.

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