June 21, 2014

Talk To The Han

A few years ago while browsing online a book caught my eye.  The cover was beautiful with a really pretty girl front and center.  The title itself jumped at me.  The plot was intriguing so I got myself a copy and haven't let go since.  I pride myself on the idea that I am one of the first Jenny Han readers in the Philippines.  

Summer series has now ended, Jenny has moved on to other books, but still she continues to hold my interest with her sweet stories and beautiful prose.  Now, with her books readily available here, fans have exponentially grown, ready to line up and meet the woman behind the books.

When my friends from
National Book Store told me Jenny was coming to Manila, I immediately asked for an interview slot.  I needed to meet her.  I regard authors... really great authors as my version of Rockstars, and she is clearly one of them.  Her stories have touched me and I wanted to meet the woman behind it all.  Finally, two afternoons ago, at the Writer's Bar in Raffles Hotel, I met the bubbly, sweet and happy author, who's more than ready to meet her fans.  
This is Jenny Han

***** Warning:  SPOILERS AHEAD *****

Lyn:  First of all welcome to Manila.  You have a lot of fans here in the Philippines, are you ready to see them, meet them….

Jenny:  Oh my gosh I'm really excited yeah.  I have so many YA (young adult) writer friends and everyone always says the Philippines is the place to go because the readers here are the most ardent and passionate so I’m excited to see for myself.  People who go and come back to me say oh my gosh it’s really so overwhelming and crazy.

L:  I’m sure you will be overwhelmed in the next few days by your fans and many are probably tweeting you like crazy as much as I have .  But you have been so busy.

J:  I have been so busy and it's a struggle finding a balance writing, working on a sequel and trying to keep up with social media and stay in touch with fans and doing interviews and stuff and it all adds up taking away from the time to do the actual writing.

L:  I have read and re-read your SUMMER series.  But for those who have not yet read it.  What is the series about?

J:  It's about a girl who goes to the same summer house summer after summer.  It's her mom’s best friend’s house and she has two sons.  Belly or Isabel has been in love with one or both of them throughout her life.  and this begins in the summer when she’s 16 and she is in bloom in a way, she’s come into her own and they are suddenly looking at her with new eyes too.

L:  Belly grew up and fell in and out and in love again with this man.  Why did you make Conrad so difficult to love and Jeremiah so easy to love?  because I fell in love with Jeremiah myself and in the end I was like Why?! Why?! I was pretty upset

J:  It’s almost like…you know with two brothers…Conrad is the more difficult one and Jeremiah has always been an easy one… you know easy for a mother to love, easy for a girl to love.  Conrad’s so insular, his emotions and everything, he keeps it all inside but Jeremiah is open and comfortable and easy with himself.  Conrad is a lot more sensitive, it’s just all inside.  He really doesn’t know how to express himself. 

L:  Until the last book where he throws it all out

J:  Yeah he puts it out there.  I love both of them and I was really struggling with it too up until the end honestly

L:  Was there a certain point where you said no no no, she’s going this way and not this way.

J:   In the third book, I don’t remember exactly what point it was but I was going back and forth and my best friend Siobhan who I co-wrote Burn for Burn with I said I don’t know what to do, I was like I thought I knew what I was doing and now I feel really conflicted about it and she was like You know what to do.  She’s like it’s always been Conrad and you know it And don’t be afraid now.  Because I think part of what challenged it was getting a lot of emails from fans and they’d go Please I love Jeremiah, don’t hurt him.  and he’s such a love bug.  He’s just so cuddly and easy and sweet and it hurt me to hurt him.  And in the end I had tears in my eyes as I was finishing it

L:  At the end, Belly waves at him and he turns back to his date.  But is that IT for Jeremiah?  Or is there a possibility of a book about him?  Because I know you wrote in your blog that a fourth book for Belly is not gonna happen because you left it where it's supposed to go.  But with Jeremiah it seems like an open thing. For fans there has to be a next story…

J:  There always is.  For me, when I'm reading something or when I'm writing something, the end never feels like the end.  It’s the same with life too, there's no such thing as happily ever after because you know how the happily ever after ends with a kiss and then the next day you wake up and have a fight about who left the towel on the floor and then life keeps going and people make mistakes and people don’t stay together forever.  And that to me, that’s real life.  For Jeremiah, I don’t think I would do anything for him again.  If I was ever going to do anything, the most fun to me would be a prequel of Laurel and Susannah, their friendship.  To me that is the most interesting because you know where things end up but the interesting part is finding out how that came to be because I don’t know if you remember this but Laurel actually dated Adam first and then Susannah ended up marrying him so to me that would be an interesting story if I were to do it but I'm probably not (laughs).

L:  You mentioned in your blog that there’s no Summer movie yet

J:  It has been optioned for TV by Lionsgate

L:  Congratulations!!!

J:  Thank you.  But I’ll say that with the caveat of….. Lionsgate is awesome.  They did Hunger Games, the do a lot of great TV shows like Nashville, Mad Men.  But it's a long road and they did option it but it's a real crap shoot.  It's a long shot because there’s like a million gate you’d have to pass through before it actually gets on the screen

L:  You never know lots of books now are becoming movies.  So when it does happen, who is you dream cast

J:  Ok pie in the sky which would probably never happen because these people are on TV but I would say I really like Mary Louise Parker on WEEDS as Susannah or laurel.  For Belly I really like Hailee Steinfeld who’s in True Grit.  She’s very pretty and she’s part Filipino!

L:  Yes she is

J:  She’s gorgeous.  The boys I like Logan Lerman.

L:  He is so cute

J:  He is so cute right?  and I’ve always like the guy from Weeds (Hunter Parrish).  He was up for the role of Peeta (Hunger Games) but he didn’t get it.

L:  Where did you get the idea for your new book TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE?

J:  I got that idea because I used to write love letters to boys when I was trying to get over them and I would do pages and pages of the letter then I would seal it up and put them in this hatbox that I had and it was just for me.  And it's the same thing that she does but hers get sent unfortunately

L: So Lara Jean is you

J:  In a lot of ways yes.  I think her character has a lot of similarities to my character and my personality.  She loves to bake, looking at asian fashion, she’s very close to her sisters, and I'm also close to my sister.  This book is actually dedicated to her.  There are three girls here and in some ways Margot is very much an older sister, and Lara Jean is very much a middle and Kitty is the youngest but you also see them shifting in their dynamics.  With my sister, I'm the older one and I’m always giving her advice and stuff, but she would also take care of me so I think, especially as you get older, things change.

L:  What did she say when she read your book.  Did she say…oh wait, hey, this is me!

J:  She was texting me to say Oh my god I know that.  The character most like her is Kitty though the youngest sister.  And Kitty is also very spunky and spiteful, my sister was like that too as a kid so… lot of attitude.

L:  Your characters here are Korean American and Elaine of Shug (Han’s other book) is also Korean American, is this your way of acknowledging your culture

J:  Absolutely.  In The summer I turned pretty, Kim is also Asian and in Burn for Burn, Lilia is Korean American.  I just try to write a world that reflects to me what I think the world looks like. And I also want to honor my own culture, my own heritage.  It's very personal to me, it's very dear to me, so I love to explore those themes and that experience.

L:  Korean culture is actually popular worldwide.  K-pop! TV dramas! Do you watch it?

J:  Oh my gosh yeah.  I love K dramas.  It's partly why I wrote this book because I always wanted to do a book with contract dating in it and that’s in this book.  I love K dramas with contract dating.

L:  What if they ask to turn your book into a K-drama

J:  I would love it! It would be a dream come true.  I’ll be like Can I consult?

L:  Do you speak Korean?

J:  I do speak Korean.  I wouldn’t say fluently.  I would speak to my grandma, my parents, relatives.  I can watch K dramas without reading the subtitles but I wouldn’t call myself fluent

L:  Have you been to Korea regarding your books?

J:  You know what I’ve been published in so many different languages in Asia except for Korea which is so sad.  It makes my mom so mad (laughs)

L:  At a certain point in the book I started wondering if there was a chance that Lara Jean would end up with Josh because of the way he was acting towards her.  Could she have gone that way?

J:  Margot did break up with him and Lara Jean also liked him first.  And people get mad coz they're like a sister should never do that to a sister. And I'm like She liked him first!  But then she also swallowed it when she found out that Margot liked him, and you can't really choose who you like.  Also when you are in a neighborhood situation.  The boy next door, it's easy to fall in love with him coz you see him all the time.

L:  It's the most romantic thing

J:  Yeah and it's the easiest thing too.  I think that, there's always a possibility with me and my books they can go any way, same thing with Jeremiah, it could have gone that way because I never outline the stories and I just like to see where the characters are gonna lead me.  And to me with josh, I didn't feel super tempted by it.  I felt like he was such a clear reminder of her past in a lot ways like he owned that part of her heart, but I didn't see him for her future.

L:  The end left me wanting.  But then I found out that this is a duet so I feel better.... What can we expect from PS I LOVE YOU? Does it come out next year?

J:  It's supposed to (laughs).  I'm working on it.

L:  What can the fans expect from that book?  Do we see more of Peter and Josh?

J:  You'll see more of Peter.  You will see Josh.  There's also another boy that you meet very briefly in To All The Boys I've Loved Before who comes back into the picture

L:  Is this the guy from the camp?

J:  No.  Wait.  I don't wanna give away too much but it's a lot about growing up.  It's about old friendships, old friend groups and changing and growing up and remembering who you used to be.  It's very nostalgic.

L:  You are a famous author now

J:  I wouldn't say that

L:  But your books are on the best sellers lists!  How has life changed for you?

J:  Oh my gosh,..well, i'm here in the Philippines.  And it's so exciting

L:  Do people recognize you when you go out?

J:  A few times.

L:  How do you react when that happens?

J:  I'm like YES, HI!  But it' only happened a few times.  I think most people don't really know what writers look like.  I think there are very few writers people would recognize in the street.  People know what JK Rowling looks like, and Stephen King.  But I think people know the stories but they don't know the face behind them which is good in some ways because then you can fully immerse yourself in the story.  And the characters live in their own world, you don't wanna think too much about the hand that's crafting it.

L:  How did you react when your book first hit the best sellers list?  What were you doing then?

J:  I was at work.  I used to work in a school library and they called me and told me and I was really surprised and excited.  It was WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER, the third book in the summer series.  But IT'S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU was simultaneously on it.  They both hit the list at the same time.  It was just really surreal.  It's like the thing that you hope for, you dream of but you don't really dare to hope too much, you're just glad that people are reading it but you don't wanna be too greedy.  It was a really huge exciting moment for me.

L:  How did you celebrate?

J:  I went and got a hamburger (laughs).  I remember just walking.  I walked for about a mile on the phone with people who were excited about it.

L:  How did your family react?

J:  I think my mom and dad had tears in their eyes.  They were so happy, my grandma too.  My mom loves to brag about me to her friends and relatives in Korea.

L:  I hope they got to read your books.  Have they?

J:  Not yet because it's not available there yet.  I hope it comes out in Korea too.  For grandma and for my relatives.

L:  It would be great for you to be able to promote your book there yourself

J:  That would be awesome!

L:  A lot of writers are now writing sci-fi and dystopian books.  Would you ever go that route?

J:  If I had an idea for it, i would do anything.  I like all kinds of books personally so.... I have one thing percolating in my head, I haven’t figured out what it is yet but I would love to do something that’s historical, I would love to do anything.  I'm open to any story that comes into my head.

L:  You mentioned that you were a librarian?  That's my dream job seriously I would love to work with books.  Every time I go into a library I just stop and breathe it all in.  How is it for you now when you go into bookstores and libraries, being a published author yourself?

J:  I love it.  I still love to go and look at whatever has just come out.  That was my favorite part about working in the library coz when I would go in at the beginning of the school year and also the middle of the school year and just buy a hundred books and it feels like you're on a shopping spree you know what I mean?  And reading all the reviews and seeing what's coming out and that was great because I'd know whatever was coming out.  I was getting excited for certain things that I could tell kids about.  Like when Hunger Games came out and I was telling all the kids (referring to students).  Moments like that when you get to be at the beginning of something is really exciting.

L:  And now librarians are telling kids about YOUR books

J:  Yeah that's exciting too and they'd be so excited when my new books came out.  I would show them what the cover was gonna look like and they would come in and talk to me about Belly or whatever.  They were just so excited for my own stuff.  I started there when Shug first came out.  I was working there for over six years.

L:  Did one of them come up to you to say, because of you, I wanna write too

J:  I think about a couple of people.  I had an intern who just graduated from high school and I met her when she was just 11 years old at the library.  She left the school but we kept in touch and she became my intern and she wants to be a writer

L:  That's kind of like having an apprentice

J:  Yeah, and I'm really proud of her and she's going to a great college and she's just doing so well.

L:  Can you give us your top ten recommended/ personal favorite books.  What's on your list?

J:  Not in any order...my favorite book is called I CAPTURE THE CASTLE  by Dodie Smith.  It's set in the 30s about a girl who lives in this crumbling castle and two american boys move nearby and they kinda own the castle.  It's an old castle that's in disrepair.  I love that book coz it feels so fresh.  I also would say REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier.  It's kinda like gothic horror.  THE PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy is a sweeping southern story

L:  That became a movie

J:  Movie wasn't that great but the book's amazing.  I loved a book called
A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams.  An adult book set in the 20s about two best friends and it came out last year.  I also love a book called THE HUNDRED DRESSES by Eleanor Estes which is for younger kids and has pictures in it.  It's really quite beautiful and sad. I love THE LITTLE PRINCE (Antoine de Saint Exupery).  Obviously I love the HUNGER GAMES (Suzanne Collins).  AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorites, it's a graphic novel about a monkey king, its like three stories in one and its beautiful.  TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Harper Lee) and the THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger

L:  Who is the author you dream of meeting. 

J:  I would love to meet stephen king

L:  You like horror books?

J:  I like everything.  But before there was much YA, I think kids went from reading young books for kids then they're reading stephen king when they're like 9 to 10.  He is a great writer and I think he is very wise

L:  He scares the hell out of me

J:  Yeah and he's also quite lovely.  Some of his stories which are not scary are so beautifully written, he writes beautiful prose too i think

L:  Did you used to read books like Fear Street...

J:  Oh Christopher Pike I loved.  I grew up with baby sitter's club, sweet valley high...all those.

L:  What other books are you working on apart from PS I LOVE YOU

J:  That's pretty much it for now coz that's pretty much taking up all my head space.  I have two younger books, illustrated, that will come out.  I don't know exactly when, it's about a very small princess named
Princess Petal with two sisters

L:  What's a regular day like for you? Do you have a specific time for writing?

J:  When I'm under deadline I try to write everyday at least for a couple of hours.  If I'm not then I'll write a few times a week.  I often write in the subway, I like to write in cafes, at my friend's house.  It's easier for me to focus when I'm not in my own space

L:  What do you do for fun? 

J:  I like to watch movies and go shopping and bake and read.  

L:  Do you travel a lot?

J:  I travel a lot on tour.  I often would rent a beach house and would write there with my writer friends

L:  Where do you get the best ideas?  Coz I've heard other writers say they get ideas while running, or in the shower or by the beach

J:  The subway is a good place for me coz my brain kinda goes into almost like a dream like state where you're not thinking anything and that's when good ideas kinda pop into my head

L:  How have books, yours and otherwise, changed your life?

J:  Certain stories and certain characters stay with me.  I think that's when you know it's a good character when they feel real to you.  Some of the books that I've mentioned to you, i also think about those characters from time to time, they're kinda like old friends.

L:  Finally what would you like to tell your Filipino fans

J:  Thank you so much, I am so honored.  I really feel so privileged to be here. It's such an honor to see the excitement and the outpouring of love coming in from the Philippines.  It's overwhelming in the best way.

Did You Know that…..

Jenny has a hand in the overall look of her books which includes choosing her cover models.

If you look at the spine of the book TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, you'll see a familiar picture of John Cusack from a scene in the movie Say Anything.  And on the front, right by the character Lara Jean is a picture of Audrey Hepburn.  

A special thanks to Mr. Chad Dee and  Mr. JB Roperos of National Book Store for arranging the interview.

June 18, 2014

Book Review: BEFORE HE WAS FAMOUS by Becky Wicks

Book:  Before He Was Famous (Starstruck #1)
Author:  Becky Wicks
Publisher:  Becky Wicks Books
Genre:  Contemporary Romance

“You have to let me go.”- Chloe
“Never Chloe that’s just the thing.  I’ve tried to let you go my whole life and I can’t, can I? I can’t ever let you go.  I think about you all the time ….I’m sick of pretending I don’t love you.  I'm in love with you.  It’s only ever been you.”- Noah

Synopsis Via NetGalley:

One guy, one girl. One in the spotlight. One in the shadows.

Falling in love with your best friend isn’t always a great idea, especially when he’s Noah Lockton - the sexiest, most famous new talent on the planet. When 21-year-old small-town photographer Chloe Campbell is offered the chance of a lifetime – to join her celebrity childhood friend Noah on tour as an exclusive blogger for a New York magazine – she’s certain both have put what happened four years ago behind them. But his eyes still burn; his voice is still a jackhammer to her heartstrings; all his songs are about her. Is it possible that that night still haunts them both?

music industry is a machine, spinning hype and rumors as much as his records. It’s not just Noah’s girlfriends who’ve got it in for Chloe (there’s no stopping the Twitter-obsessed, cat-loving pop-star Courtney Lentini for starters). Pretty soon, the jealousy and media frenzy surrounding these so-called-friends takes a life-changing turn and it seems making love means making enemies at every turn. When tragedy threatens to pull the final curtain on their relationship, both Chloe and Noah must make a choice. As much as this world leaves them starstruck, is living their dream really worth living without each other?

My Summary:

Chloe and Noah have been best friends since they were kids.  Being neighbors and having parents who are also close friends didn't hurt the friendship either, until Chloe's father dies and they commit what Chloe thinks is a mistake that can ruin their friendship.  So they pretend nothing happened and she sends Noah away.

Though they remain the best of friends, there is now something hanging between them... Something they ignore and never talk about.
When Noah wins at a talent show and becomes the biggest paparazzi magnet in New York, he invites Chloe to stay with him while she begins a new job as a photographer for a popular magazine at the same time recover from a bad breakup.  

She begins an exclusive photo blog of Noah which means she is always in close proximity to him
Noah has no illusions about Chloe versus other women.  He always knew that
Chloe was IT for him.  But biding his time and waiting for her to realize this becomes too hard and he gives in.

Fear of the unknown and losing Noah like she lost her father is just too much for Chloe.  So she breaks his heart and pulls away.  Then something happens that threatens to take away Noah from Chloe forever.  Could it be too late for them after all?

My Review:

Hot.  Spicy.  Sweet.
I really enjoyed reading this book, mostly because of Noah.  What a man!  He’s a guy any woman would kill to be with:  Gorgeous, loving, loyal plus plus.

Having Chloe so reluctant to be with him, despite the fact that they have been best friends and loved each other forever is just so hard to understand.  Most of the time I wanted to wring her neck.  It gets frustrating especially when she thinks about WHY they shouldn’t be together.  She has so many excuses but it boils down to just one thing.  Fear.  Fear of losing and being abandoned.  Fear of being broken after the fact.  Noah’s main concern has always been Chloe.  Without question, he is more in love with her than the other way around.

Main characters aside, the book is written well.  I could barely put it down and was glued to my kindle the whole time.  I like that the book was written with the POVs of both Noah and Chloe.  It’s refreshing to know what Noah was feeling and thinking instead of the usual Girl-only thoughts and questions. 

Kudos to the author for writing really great lyrics for Noah’s songs plus the Peter Pan references.  They make the entire story all the more sweeter.

The support characters are great.  My favorite hands down is Noah’s brother Jack who tries not to meddle yet in the end, is the one who unknowingly gets them together.  How?  Just read the book and enjoy for yourself.