Sunday, September 22, 2013

Authors Han and Vivian Tell Tales of Friendship and Collaboration


On Thursday at 9AM, the sophomores and juniors gathered in the common area to hear how authors Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian became friends, writing buddies and eventually collaborators. They met and became friends when they attended the New School in New York City where they studied writing for children. One of their teachers was editor and author, David Levithan. I thought that was way cool. 

When they began their writing careers, both were living in New York. They would meet at a coffee shop, write and trade pages for critiquing. They knew that having an objective reader was key to becoming better writers. Then Siobhan moved to Pittsburgh to teach and write, but they remained friends. They believe that they have different strengths with Jenny excelling in character development and Siobhan at telling a story. They decided it would be fun to work on something to together to play on their strengths and the Burn for Burn series was born. 

They spent years developing the concept together and planned from the onset that it would be a trilogy that had hints in the first two books of what was to come in the finale. I asked them why the characters were so unlikable in the first book, and they explained that yes their characters have flaws, but what the reader perceives about the characters in the first book will change as the story unfolds in the subsequent novels. The books are told from the perspective of three characters. Both Jenny and Siobhan had a hand in each character's story. The reader does not get the feel that two very different authors wrote the books--the works are very cohesive. 


One of the most interesting stories that they told was about the book covers. Usually, authors have very little say on the cover art. Sometimes the author does not even have veto power. In this case, three models were hired to portray the main characters, and a house was rented in the Hamptons on Long Island, NY, and both authors were invited to help make their books come to life. Pictures were taken for all three covers at the same photo shoot. 


One of the students asked them if they ever had any disagreements while writing together. They laughed and said that yes that certainly does happen. Then they told the story of how they disagreed about the outcome of a fight between two of the characters. They began to argue with each other from the point of view of the character that they were defending. Luckily, that was resolved, and they figured out a way to do the scene and not lose the integrity of each character's personality. 

The day ended with two juniors interviewing the authors. They are going to write an article for the October 2nd edition of SLJTeen. You can visit this blog later to find a link to their article. 

Thanks goes to Judith Lafitte at Octavia Books in New Orleans and publishers, Simon & Schuster, for sharing these fun-loving authors with my students. You can find lots more pictures of the event on the library website here. Open here to watch a video where Jenny and Siobhan talk about how they met and give more details about their book. The series has its own Tumblr page, find it here

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