Jenny Han

First Draft, Ep. 82: Jenny Han


The original post for this episode can be found here.

Sarah ENNI: Hi friends! As of this month, the First Draft Podcast is 2 years old. Wow. I genuinely cannot believe that. I want to thank all you listeners SO much for putting up with sketchy audio quality and inconsistent releases. My goal is always to bring you the very best conversations, and I think this podcast continues to succeed in that, but there’s always room for improvement. So, I would be forever grateful if you would help First Draft grow by filling out a short survey. You can find a link to the survey on the First Draft website, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s just 10 short questions, and it will be incredibly helpful to me in improving the podcast going forward. Thank you so much!

[theme music]

ENNI: Welcome to First Draft with me, Sarah Enni. Today, I’m talking to Jenny Han, New York Times Best Selling author of the TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE series and the SUMMER I TURNED PRETTYtrilogy, and more, as well as the co-author of the BURN FOR BURN series with Siobhan Vivian.

[music fades]

ENNI: Jenny is a Type A personality, where A stands for “adorable.” She’s poised and well-spoken, but also unapologetically girly and silly—a perfect combination for someone who is exploring young adult themes of identity and how it gets wrapped up in first loves. Jenny invited me to her apartment in Brooklyn, where we had sparkling water, looked at blossoming trees, and glimpsed the East River out her window. So, get a slice of confetti cake and bust out your old Leonardo DiCaprio poster, and enjoy the conversation.

ENNI: Alright, you ready?

Jenny HAN: Mmm hmm!

ENNI: Okay! Um, so hi, how are you?

HAN: I’m doing great, how are you?

ENNI: Yay! I’m doing really well. Thank you for having me over.

HAN: My voice just sounded really smoky, just then.

ENNI: Ooh, getting the NPR voice going. HAN: Husky, ahem! [coughs] Husky. ENNI: I like it.

HAN: It’s usually very, um, girlish sounding.

[both laugh]

ENNI: We’re gonna get real.

HAN: Yeah!

ENNI: Um, so, I usually start these interviews with, uh, with asking where were you born and


HAN: Mmm, I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.

ENNI: Alright, which is—?

HAN: Well, a suburb of that, so Chesterfield, more specifically.

ENNI: Oh, okay! Okay, being—growing up there, was um, reading and writing, what kind of—how did that play in your life?

HAN: I’ve always loved to read; I thought it was always my thing. Like, I was in the bathtub, in the bathroom—

ENNI: In the bathtub!

HAN: [laughs] –-at the dinner table—well my mom would, used to call up and be like, making sure I was still like, alive, that I didn’t like fall asleep in the bathtub—I’d be in there for like, two hours, reading the books. But I’ve always been in a really big reader, and um, writing my own stories at a very young age, from the very beginning.

ENNI: That’s neat that you were writing your own stories; how young?

HAN: Seven, I had like, um, journals with chapter books about like, leukemia, or um, a girl’s parents getting divorced.

ENNI: Oh my gosh!

HAN: A girl named Dawn and her annoying little sister.

[both laugh]

ENNI: Which was bi—autobiographical?

HAN: Yeah, yes! Quite based on my little sister. Um. So yeah, I was reading and writing from a young age. I felt like it was something that I was good at, you know? And so—and that I really just enjoyed. My elementary school teacher would give us these, the composition books, and we’d write our stories in them, and um, mine would always be missing from my desk, ‘cause she would like, show it off to all the other teachers.

ENNI: Aww, that’s cool!

HAN: But, very mean, and known for being kind of abusive. One of my worst memories in um, elementary school was when, the day that we learned long division, and she called me up to the board, and I wasn’t like bad at math, but it wasn’t like my best thing, but it wasn’t like—I didn’t feel like, like I was DUMB, you know? And then I didn't—couldn’t get it right away, 'cause it’s just the first day. And she just grabbed me by the face, and started shaking my chin and went, “Why can’t you understand?!” And then all the other kids were like, laughing.

ENNI: What?!

HAN: And so then I always felt dumb, in math, kind of from that moment.

ENNI: Wow!

HAN: It was a weird—weirdly prophetic, in a way, do you know what I mean? And I just felt like I lost my confidence. But, I also found this story that I wrote um, when I was home like, maybe like, ten years ago, and I found this story that I wrote and she had written it, um, “I’m going to see your name in a book one day.” Do you know what I mean? So it was one of those things that, to me, the lesson that I took away from that was that, I think that kids really do listen to teachers, and when adults are telling you something about yourself, you believe it. And I think that it goes both ways, like I believe that I was a writer and I also believe I was like, bad at math.

ENNI: Terrible at math.

HAN: You know? So…

ENNI: Wow! Ooh, that’s so interesting, 'cause you can’t even be like “this is the teacher I owe so much,” it’s like, well…

HAN: No, I mean, I saw her at the mall, years and years later, and then she came up to me at the Burger King and was just like, “What do you do; what are you up to?” And I was like, “Uh…” And she just had such pride, like she, I think she felt like, really good about her career as a teacher. Even though I had heard that she was, um, suspended or something, for like… Yeah, I mean like—

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: I remember when I found out she was going to be my teacher, like I was going to cry,

because my neighbor had been like, slapped by her—it was just, she just had a reputation for it.

ENNI: Wow!

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: That is intense!

HAN: I wonder where she is now. Yeah, I don’t know.

ENNI: Wow. Interesting, huh! Oh, I was interested in the—the fact that you, as a kid were writing contemporary stories, you’re kind of writing about real—

HAN: Yeah, always!

ENNI: —even as a kid you were reading some fantasy and—

HAN: I was reading more contemporary stuff as a kid, but… I do enjoy a good fantasy.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: What, what kind of books were—do you remember loving as a kid?

HAN: As a kid?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I remember I really loved, um, DEAR MR. HENSHAW.

ENNI: I don’t know that one.

HAN: You don’t know that one? Oh it’s by um, Beverly Cleary, and um, it’s about a boy who writes letters to an author, but they become more of like a diary.

ENNI: Aww!

HAN: It’s about like, his dad who kind of like, ran out on the family. It’s very–it won the Newbery

Award, um, early 80s.

ENNI: Ooh. I read like, so many of the Beverly—I remember Ramona Quinby and all that stuff.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: But, uh…

HAN: And then, uh, I love HATCHET.

ENNI: Oh yeah.

HAN: This kid, uh—it’s funny the things I remember the most of those books, though, like in

DEAR MR. HENSHAW, like he and his mom are in the car, and they just have this heart to heart, and then they’re eating KFC, and then they had forgotten to get the forks and so they were using, like, the bones, I guess, to like spoon—spoon up the—


HAN: —the mashed potatoes. And then in HATCHET the best part of the book—I think is—when he finally figures out how to like, kill the, um, foolbirds.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And then also when he gets the food at the end out of that uh, helicopter.

ENNI: Yesss—

HAN: And he had this like, orange drink and those like, MREs or whatever that he was eating.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, those are very funny specifics!

HAN: Yeah, but it’s always food! So it’s like, food’s in my—

ENNI: Ohhh…

HAN: Food is always a part of my, um, writing, and I think that’s 'cause when I read it, it’s the most—it just feels very visceral to me and I can just like, taste it. You know what I mean?

ENNI: That’s so interesting.

HAN: I can probably recite to you—and I haven’t read those books since I was that age.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But I can just… remember the way that like, with the um, turtle egg that he finds.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And it tastes like, leathery, you know?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: All that stuff, it just never really leaves me.

ENNI: That is crazy interesting, that’s so—and it’s always been that way?

HAN: Food, yes!

ENNI: And are you a big, um, probably a big cook and baker, or…?

HAN: I like to cook, yeah; I like to cook. I’ve always been interested in food. Partly 'cause I think, when I was little, too, my grandma lived with us and, um, she only really cooked Korean food.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And I always wanted to eat American food.


HAN: But she didn’t know how to cook it, so I would just um, cook stuff, but I didn’t have like a cookbook or anything so I would just like, make stuff up.

ENNI: Make it up!

HAN: For my sister and me, so I would like, make applesauce or like, pancakes, or my specialty was Country Crock with cut up green scallions.

[both laugh]

ENNI: What?! That’s amazing.

HAN: And we’d use it as like, sour cream and onion dip, you know what I mean? My sister would like, dip her Lays into it.

ENNI: Oh my god!

HAN: I’d be like, “Babe, I made dip!” I called my sister “babe.” But anyway, yeah, food’s always been an interest of mine.

ENNI: That is really funny.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Okay, and well—and this is jumping ahead a little bit—but I did read an interview where you said you’d like to make a cookbook of food that you remember in books?

HAN: Mmm hmm!

ENNI: Is that still, like, something you think about?

HAN: Oh my god I would love to do it, because it’s like reading CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, too, the Turkish delights, like those things I can just, I remember so clearly, or um, THE MIXED UP FILES like the—

ENNI: Yesss!

HAN: The macaroni and cheese that they get—

ENNI: Yeah!

HAN: —at the end, um.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: There’s something that’s like, so homey about that to me.

ENNI: Well, and it’s interesting that, that you’ve found so many great examples in contemporary books, because I remember talking to Leigh Bardugo about this, and of course she–her books are so like, plush, you know? Like uh, fabrics—

HAN: Yeah!

ENNI: —and, and all that stuff, and food is a big part of it.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: And she was talking about how, in fantasy books, that’s such a thing, to sort of ground it and make it relatable, I think. But you talk about the feasts that people have, and um, so it’s funny how books are—how food in books is like, it really is so notable.

HAN: It is! It’s interesting, 'cause I was thinking about, um, the book series that I’ve–I started working on it, and I kind of put it aside, um, to do this third book about Lara Jean—

ENNI: Mmm hmm!

HAN: But it’s not contemporary.


HAN: And, um, I was thinking about the food, and food’s also so political, too, because when you make certain decisions, even in fantasy, of saying what kind of food they’re eating and you think about like, what world exists beyond the world they live in, like what’s in season, and… You know,

you think about like, diversity and race, like what—just like, what’s available to them, and what that means in terms of like, a larger world that exists.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Or doesn’t.

ENNI: Or how much food they’re eating, and—

HAN: Or yeah! Or like, if I was going to say I had figs or, you know what I mean? Or like, something, some sort of spices or something—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: That’s like, where is it coming from? And—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: What is the character’s understanding of it—even if it’s something that’s like, in fantasy or like a fairytale or something, you know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah, that’s so interesting! Can you talk at all about what, the thing you’re writing, is it—?

HAN: It’s still like, no, because I’m still trying to figure—I haven’t unlocked it yet.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: I think, for me, it was—I started working on this when I was working on the first—oh wait, when did I start working on this? Maybe on TO ALL THE BOYS or maybe on BURN FOR BURN—

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: I would just kind of like, sneak over and—and do a little work on it, and I think was because

I wanted a little bit of a palate cleanser, 'cause I’ve always done a contemporary voice.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: I think, um, um now it’s been like um, ten books in—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And you just want to, I think, A) feel like you’re challenging yourself and keeping yourself interested, but also you want to feel your voice feels really fresh, and I think—I always write in the first person, too.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: So I think it can become a difficult thing, 'cause you really wanna capture like, a different voice each time.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —but there’s pieces of you, obviously, that go into the voices.

ENNI: Yeah!

HAN: Anyway, but I think, um, doing a voice that isn’t contemporary was allowing me to write in a different way and maybe be a little bit more… poetic, too.

ENNI: Yeah!

HAN: And a little more lyrical with language, 'cause I kind of think it’s a—it’s a bigger canvas.

ENNI: Yeah, less kind of slang, and then you can kinda choose…

HAN: Yeah, yeah.

ENNI: Ah, that’s really interesting. Is—and is, so this is first person as well, the—

HAN: It is, but then it, maybe it won’t be. I don’t know, you know? I’m still—I’m trying to figure it out.

ENNI: Ooh, that’s so cool! Well that’s fun. The—okay, let’s see. Oh, well, the other thing I wanted to go back to is talking about writing letters.

HAN: Mmm hmm?

ENNI: That is really interesting that you remember that book so vividly, because you wrote letters.

HAN: Wait, which book?

ENNI: The, this DEAR MR.–


ENNI: Mmm hmm!

HAN: Maybe, I mean I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I do like books with letters in them.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Maybe because, I’ll say, I know why it is, I really prefer to read books written in the first person—

ENNI: Oh, yeah!

HAN: And, it’s like, ever since I was a kid, I would be like—I would open it up and if it was in third person I was like, “Mmmm…”

ENNI: Wow, interesting!

HAN: Not interested. And so, even now, as an adult, when people recommend the book I’m like, “Is it in first, or is it in third?” and, um, I think it’s just so much easier—you latch in really quickly.


HAN: You know, you tap into that vein, because you’re just with the main character.


HAN: And I think, for me, the spell kinda gets like, cast over me really fast if I’m already in that person’s head.

ENNI: That’s so interesting. So pretty early on you kind of had that preference already–?

HAN: Always, oh yeah, always. The things I’ve loved the most were in first person, and generally, I

mean, if letters it's—you’re writing it as you.


HAN: And so I think, um, epistolary books also can—

ENNI: Kindof spoketoyou.


ENNI: Yeah, so well, I would love to hear you talk a little bit about um, I just read the, one of the great ar—um, interviews that you did, where you were talking about writing about the inspiration for uh, ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, and actually writing those kinds of letters

yourself. And that—when did that start?

HAN: Ah, I think I wrote my first one when I was like… thirteen or fourteen.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: And what, I mean, what like, what was going on that you were like, “I have to, like, do this thing,” like, “figure out a way to express these feelings.”

HAN: I think it was… me trying to get over somebody, and I hadn’t been able to express myself to him directly.

ENNI: Right, right.

HAN: I just had a lot of like, bottled up feelings and thoughts and like… about this person. And so, for me, and I think I—I, so I still have these letters. I think the first line has something like, “Writing is the thing I do best and so that’s how I’m going to like. Like. Say what I want to say to you—”

ENNI: Oh wow.

HAN: “—is through—”

ENNI: Writing it down.

HAN: Writing it down, yeah.

ENNI: And was it like, I’m so curious about this, 'cause that's—that’s sort of, um, I think a lot of girls do like, have all these feelings and like, write poems a lot of the time to express that.

HAN: Yeah, I did that too, yeah, poems—I even wrote a play. [laughs]

ENNI: You really wrote a play?!

HAN: Yeah, about this person! [laughs]

ENNI: So it was one person, a lot of these things?

HAN: Yeah, he was, he was um… he played a big part in my adolescence.

ENNI: Yeah. That's—because that’s pretty young to have like, so many feelings about one person.

HAN: Yeah, it was like, for a long time. I mean, there were other people that kind of came in and out, but he was like, sort of like a cipher, like, looming over.

ENNI: Wow. Ooh, that’s so interesting. I like—I don’t want to ask too many—

HAN: [laughs]

ENNI: I don’t want to make you, like, reveal too much of who this person is, but that’s fascinating.

The—okay, so… So, when you were writing, did you write multiple letters to this one person?

HAN: No.


HAN: It was one, um, I might even have it here—it was very thick. So it was like, um, front and back. Small print. Thick, like maybe… Like, ten pages or something? Do you know what I mean? And then, the whole point of it was, that I was going to seal it and like, not think about it.

ENNI: And then you’d be done…

HAN: And be done, and feel like, at peace with it. And then—so then I had his, and then I had like, I think I had four.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: So there wasn’t a tremendous number of them, but they were like, intense.

HAN: They were intense.

ENNI: Oh, okay, okay. I don’t mean this in a bad, in a, I don’t know, I’m going to say this: that’s so young to like, feel like, this intense like, “Okay, I need to get over this person.” That’s like—

HAN: Yeah, I mean, it was really young!

ENNI: But it was a very mature feeling and thought process to have.

HAN: Yeah I mean, yeah, I’m trying to think, I mean, was it fifteen? Like it was feeling like, 'cause

I had liked him for—since I was eleven.

ENNI:Oh wow.

HAN: Do you know what I mean? So it was like a long time of like, thinking about a certain person.


HAN: And, um—or maybe I was twelve? No, I was twelve, I was twelve. Twelve turning thirteen. Um… So it was young, but you know, I think that, that I was writing all the time, and so like, I had like, a lot of stuff dedicated to this… weird um, relationship and… I don’t know, for me it was just a way of making sense of things and feeling very consumed by him, you know?


HAN: You know, like, um–do you watch MY SO-CALLED LIFE?

ENNI:I haven’t yet,no!

HAN: Well there’s a whole thing where like she’s just kind of like, when she’s like, she’s always like thinking about him, he’s always like sort of like, a present, like, sort of like, a buzz in the back of her head.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And that was how it was with me too, for this person. Um. We had a lot of drama. Um, what was I, wait, what was I saying—what was the question you were asking about me?

ENNI: Um, writing—

HAN: Writing it down, yeah, and it was, but I also remember I have kept a diary since I was really young, too.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And I remember writing that like, very vividly I wrote a kind of scene and, and actually it feels excruciating looking back at the old memories. But I was like, “people are going to say that like, I’m not really in love, and, um, this is just like, puppy love. But like, I know better. I know this is like, true.”

ENNI: Aww.

HAN: And I was like, “Even one day I might look back on this and think it wasn’t. But like, it is.” And I think that’s the thing of how relative it is to a moment—

ENNI: Right.

HAN: —in where you are, and like, also experiencing things for the first time, and the—the purity of that. Um, 'cause, I mean, who can I say—how can I say now, I don’t know. Like it’s like, I’m not the same person I was back then, you know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah, yeah.

HAN: So I think part of that is why I like to write young adult stories to like, honor that moment.

ENNNI: Yeah.

HAN: 'Cause I think—in, in that period of time it actually is true, you know?

ENNI: Yeah that’s really—it’s neat that you have such a great, like, record.

HAN: Yeah, it is! It is. But at the same time, I find it to be very painful, in a weird way. Like I had, um, for the release of TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, um, the first letter I ever wrote.

ENNI: Oh you did?

HAN: I just really was kind of going into it like, it’s going to be kind of like a fun, funny little thing to do that people will get a kick out of.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And then… as I was doing it, I was like, “Oh my god,” I felt like my face was like, on fire.

And I was—it was—everyone was like laughing, and it was like, all in a very friendly way.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: But it still felt like it brought me back immediately to those feelings, and feeling really like, bitter.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know? And sort of naked—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —and like, vulnerable.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So that’s the last time I did that. [laughs]

ENNI: Yeah! No, that’s so interesting. I actually, my—what, what I participated in, in YALLWEST

was juvenilia, so reading old—an old, I read an old poem.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: And like, I had—this is the first time I had done it, was dig through my mom’s attic and look at all the stuff from high school and early college and I was like, “Uhhh…” you know, I had to

choose one, and I was like, “A lot of this is like, I still feel this way.”

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: You know? Like, if these are like… it was so, I was like, "I don’t want to be on stage and have a reaction that’s not the intended reaction.” Like I’m, you know, it was—it was interesting to be like, “This is not so far… removed—”

HAN: Right, right.

ENNI: “—from who I am now,” and so it was very difficult to like, pick one that would be sufficiently silly, or whatever.

HAN: I think people really liked that.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And I thought I was going into it in a very like, hmm, lighthearted way.

ENNI: Yeah, but still—

HAN: But then it was like, “Uhh, this is weird.” ENNI: [laughs] Yeah, it’s not fiction! It's—it’s like— HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: That’s a whole different kind of like, privacy thing. Um… But, okay, well the other thing I did want to make sure we talked about when we talked about the real letters was that you sent one to… Leonardo DiCaprio—is this true?

HAN: That is true.

ENNI: [laughs] I want to know all about this! HAN: That is true. I… felt deeply, for Leo. ENNI: Yay!

HAN: Um—

ENNI: So did I.

HAN: It was, really for me was like, when I saw ROMEO + JULIET.

ENNI: Oh yeah.

HAN: That was like, I was like, “UGH.”

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: I was just like, hit by cupid’s arrow, I was very into him, and, um, I like—this was before the

internet was like, a thing.

ENNI: Mmm.

HAN: And so I had—it was like, the internet existed, but in a much different way.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Right? And so, also, it was, the paparazzi didn’t exist in the same way, either.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know? So I made sure—I had every single picture of him, that had been like taken, that

I had like put on this like, bulletin board.

ENNI: Yes!

HAN: And so I felt like, very proud of it, 'cause it was like, all of the pictures, of Leo.

ENNI: [laughs]

HAN: And, um–

ENNI: The collected works!

HAN: Yeah! And I had, like, the posters… I had like, this soundtra–both soundtracks of ROMEO


ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And then I also loved him in BASKETBALL DIARIES.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, I followed his whole career.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I think, the funny thing is, by the time TITANIC came out, I was no longer—

ENNI: You were over it!

HAN: —into him. I was over him because—

ENNI: Ahhh.

HAN: He felt private, and like, personal to me, in a weird way, with ROMEO AND JULIET and then he became like, this megastar, and I was less… into that.

ENNI: Yeah, there was a lot of—then it—then well, and you’re sharing him with the world, and that's—

HAN: Yeah and I think, also, he had—for ROMEO AND JULIET he was so perfectly cast because… he had such a, um, like, angelic look to him.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And I think it’s something, for young teenage girls, you kind of like, latch onto these… really not super muscular, or manly guys, oftentimes, because it’s very nonthreatening.

ENNI: Yes, almost androgynously…

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Mmm hmm!

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Justin Bieber!

HAN: And you can—yeah exactly, Justin Bieber’s um, a really good example of like, people who just, who aren't—or Justin Timberlake, like with the—you know what I mean?

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: There’s nothing about them that screams like, “MEN.”

ENNI: This is like, I could talk about this forever but um—because I find it fascinating and I’ve

recently had a friend who—this is going to connect—I had a friend who was a guy who was like, shocked, when I told him that a lot of fanfiction is women writing about two men in relationships, and he was like, “Wait, are you serious? That’s what people are writing about?” And I was like, “Yeah,” because women do so much of… separating the sex from themselves, because sex is often scary, for women, and… especially young women. And I was like, “This is a way for them to experience feelings, but it doesn’t involve them directly.” And I think be—falling for men who are almost womanly is like, this is not like this agro, aggressive thing, like it’s, this is safe, and it feels like, experiencing those feelings in a much different way. And it's—it just like, I don’t know. It makes me feel like, close to my teenage self, you know? And like, young girls now.

HAN: I kind of think, rarely is it a thing with—when you have a big, like crush on somebody when you’re, like, young, it’s not really about sex.

ENNI: Yeah, totally.

HAN: Right? It’s like, it’s more about like, projecting—it’s like a romance.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, yesss!

HAN: You know? And you’re sort of like, seeing them, in that romantic way, but then it’s not like, necessarily in an explicit way.

ENNI: Yeah!

HAN: 'Cause so much of it is still unknown, I think to you, at young age, in terms of like, the specifics of sex or, you know, the male body or whatever.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So it’s very much just about like, his face, and the things he says, and the way that he looks at her.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: The Romeo stuff. But I thought that was so amazing—wait, but, 'cause you actually sent this one.

HAN: So I sent it, and I very carefully um, I thought I could catch his eye by um, making the envelope myself. I definitely had a crafty phase, um, where we’d like, make scrunchies, or like—

ENNI: Ooh!

HAN: —make, you know, whatever. But we would make envelopes. I really was very into stationary—I’m still into stationary.

ENNI: Ooh, yeah.

HAN: And like, cards and collecting like, cute stickers and stuff.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And so I used like, um, like a J.Crew, um, catalog. I like, tore out a picture of like-—um, a page of like, boxer shorts. So I made the envelope out of that.

ENNI: [laughs] That’s awesome! HAN: And put the—the letter in that. ENNI: That’s really clever!

HAN: Never heard back–

ENNI:[sighs] HAN: —sadly. ENNI:Tragic.

HAN: However my friend, about a year later, she was a model and so she would go to New York sometimes, um, to work, like—it was a very exotic thing, 'cause we were in Richmond, and like, nobody was—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —a model, but she would go and occasionally do that. And, um, I remember she told me—

she came back one time from New York, and she said she was at like, a BAYWATCH party, and

she met Leo.

ENNI: Oh what?!

HAN: Yeah! And then she and her—one of her roommates went out with Leo, they like, went in his limo and went back to his hotel room—and nothing happened, but they were just hanging out. Like, she said he was so immature—

ENNI: Ohh…

HAN: —that she couldn’t believe that he was—he said, she was like, “He claimed he was twenty- three,” but she was like, “He was like a. A little kid.” And she was very disdainful of him, I think, at that point she had, you know, she felt like, more sophisticated I guess.

ENNI: Interesting…

HAN: 'Cause even though we were only, at that point—I think that was when we were, like, sixteen or seventeen.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know? But she said that he was like, immature.

[both laugh]

ENNI: Whoa, that’s so interesting!

HAN: They’re all just hanging out at his hotel room doing nothing–and nothing happened with


ENNI: Right.

HAN: It was just, a thing, so even back then Leo was definitely like, the model.

ENNI: Yes, he has a type!

HAN: Budweiser type, yeah.

ENNI: Interesting, dude that’s so—

HAN: But then I kind of was like, I was devastated, because I was like, picturing that was—you know what I mean? It was a weird thing.

ENNI: Well, oh my god, like. You don’t need reality like, when you have a crush like that.

HAN: Yeah, I know, strange!

[both laugh]

HAN: I mean, at that point I was kind of over it, too, because it was after TITANIC.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But still, it was still kind of like, I still felt jealous.

ENNI: Yeah, totally! Oh my god. Um, well I love that—I just love that you did send one.

HAN: I did do that.

ENNI: In the context of TO ALL THE BOYS it’s like, um—

HAN: It’s the only one I ever sent! And it was really good.

ENNI: [laughs] It’s a good one. If you’re going to have one, that’s a good one. Um, okay, while I

don’t want to jump to TO ALL THE BOYS yet, I do kind of want to keep going a little there.

HAN: Sure.

ENNI: So. So, you've—you were always writing, always reading, were you—was that something you wanted to study? Did you think that you wanted to be a writer?

HAN: No, because like I said, I grew up in the suburbs in Richmond and um, it just wasn’t something that people did.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know? It wasn’t like, “I’m going to be a writer,” it felt very unrealistic to me.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And, you know, both my parents immigrated to the States like, in the like, late 70s.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: And… You know, had more like, blue-collar jobs, and it wasn’t. It felt like a weird thing to be wanting to do, and it didn’t even occur to me, honestly, as a—as an option, because… What would you do? Like, you know, A) I had no resources to think about that, like—

ENNI: Right.

HAN: And then B) it’s like, there’s no guarantees that you would ever actually sell a book.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: So then, what do you do?

ENNI: Yeah, yeah. So you were a little, just more nervous, almost, like, not letting yourself…

HAN: Not even that, it wasn’t even on the radar—

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: —of a thing that I could do.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: It really wasn’t.

ENNI: But you always identified that writing is what you—

HAN: Yes.

ENNI: —could do.

HAN: Yes.

ENNI: So what did you end up studying?

HAN: So, I ended up studying um, psychology, and then I minored in English and Criminal Justice.

ENNI: That’s really interesting, criminology—how did you get, like, interested in that?

HAN: I don’t know, I think I really just liked, like              [laughs]

ENNI: Really?

HAN: There was a moment like, mid-90s where criminal profiling and like, FBI stuff was VERY


ENNI: Oh yeah.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: It was like, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it was like, what, I guess like, X-FILES.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: It was a lot of stuff like that, that people were um, it was like a sudden trend. Forensic psychology was a sudden trend.

ENNI: Well then a lot of like, uh, it was when like LAW & ORDER was taki—took off too—

HAN: Yeah, yeah I know what you mean.

ENNI: And all the kind of procedural stuff. Were you into that kind of stuff?

HAN: I liked it, yeah. I did.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I liked John Grisham and I liked um—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Patricia Cornwell, um, had a house in Richmond for a really long time.

ENNI: Oh really?

HAN: With her own like, heliport and stuff. So, actually she was the author…. that, was like, a real author that lived in Richmond.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: And she came and spoke, one time, to our class like, in high school, once.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: But meeting like, someone like that. It’s like meeting Mark Cuban.

HAN: Yeah,it’s like not– ENNI: It’s like a reallybig deal. HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: That’s… crazy.

HAN: Like, totally.

ENNI: This isn’t something that just anyone could aspire to.

HAN: Yeah. I think a lot of people probably wanted to be forensic psychologists because of—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —of that.

ENNI: But I—it’s funny for me to think about the—your books are so not like—

HAN: I know! I know.

ENNI: [laughs] So I love that you were like, studying some grizzly shit.

[both laugh]

ENNI: Or why people would want to kill other people. It’s intense.

HAN: But it’s a lot about the human condition, and like thinking about character.

ENNI: Interesting, okay, so. So that’s what you wanted to do, criminal psychology, or…?

HAN: Uh, yeah. And then, um, but then when I was studying psychology I realized, I was like, “I hate physics.” I hate anything math-related, and there’s a lot of that, in order to do anything you have to have your PhD.

ENNI: Oh wow. [laughs]

HAN: Um, and then I took a class um, at UNC called Writing for Children, and that’s when I started writing my first book, SHUG.

ENNI: Mmm.

HAN: In that class, and, um, that’s when I was like, “I would love to do… publishing. I would love to be an editor. I wanna be working in magazines.” That was where I was thinking. I still wasn’t even REALLY getting to a place of thinking, “I’m gonna write this.” Or be a writer, it was just thinking, how can I be a part of this world—

ENNI: Interesting.

HAN: —and I was specifically thinking about children’s books.

ENNI: Okay, okay. Throughout college, were you still writing fiction for yourself?

HAN: No. Oh well, you know, in high school I was, but I was writing a lot just, of like, stories with me and my friends, or like, um, I took one Creative Writing class, but… In college I just took that one class, and that was um, my senior year.

ENNI: Because, and the reason I was asking whether you kept writing or not is because I think it’s so interesting that when… when you did start writing fiction, that it started with that voice, that young voice. And it seems like that’s kind of just… always been the pull for you.

HAN: I think so. I mean, so I started writing that when I was, um, I guess I was twenty—nineteen. I was nineteen turning twenty when I started writing SHUG, and then… that was the first thing I ever did. But I loved books for teenagers so much, even though there wasn’t what we have now, and

there wasn’t like a plethora of stuff available, but I did really grow up on BABY-SITTERS CLUB books and um, SWEET VALLEY, and SLEEPOVER FRIENDS and PEN PALS, like everything at the time that was a new series, I was always on it. Like—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Every single one, like, camp books um, the horsey ones I wasn’t as into, 'cause I wasn’t like a horse girl, but I would read them, SADDLE CLUB. And I read them so fast—

ENNI: Uh huh.

HAN: You know? And it was like, whatever there was, I went to the library every day after school because I went to um, a high school, that was like thirty minutes away from my hometown.

ENNI: Oh wow!

HAN: The Governor’s School, I don’t know if you heard of those, it’s like a magnet program.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And then the bus would drop us off at the library, and my mom couldn’t pick me up until after work. So I would be there for three hours like, every day after school, and I would just always

read books.

ENNI: That’s amazing.

HAN: And so, I read the whole like, young adult section.

ENNI: Oh yeah. [laughs]

HAN: Um, Christopher Pike I loved…

ENNI: Oh yeah.

HAN: All of that felt relatively closeby–

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —still, when I was writing SHUG it hadn’t been that long since I was out of being a teenager.

ENNI: And you were consciously, at the time, thinking about children’s publishing.

HAN: I was.

ENNI: Children’s books.

HAN: Mmm hmm.

ENNI: So was that factoring into want—I mean, it’s just funny to me that—that it’s always been so clear for you.

HAN: I mean weirdly because I wasn’t ever thinking about being a writer.

ENNI: Mmm.

HAN: But, you know, so even after I wrote stories and showed them to my class, then when it was time to graduate, I applied for, I think like six different programs. I got into all of those programs, but I went to New York because that’s the top choice—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —to go to do that. And the first one that I got was like, UPenn, and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” I liked Philly.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And then I was waiting and waiting for The New School one, which is like probably the least um, prestigious sounding because it’s not like, you know, a PhD for, you know?

ENNI: Right.

HAN: It was like an MFA in Writing for Children and it was also the least known of their programs—it was the youngest. They had—it was, it wasn’t my—and their poetry is—is um, pretty well-known, and their fiction. And then anything else, they had non-fiction but of the

concentrations, the children’s was like the baby of that.

ENNI: Interesting, so you were kind of, I mean it wasn’t you taking a risk, but it was like—

HAN: It felt like a big risk, because I was taking out loans.

ENNI: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

HAN: Yeah, to go there, and moving to New York, and it felt like that’s where I should be, if I

wanted to be a writer, too—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Because that’s where publishing lives.

ENNI: Yeah. [laughs]

HAN: And so, it was like, “this is—this is like, the way to do it.”

ENNI: Yeah, wow! You had a lot of direction, at a pretty young age.

HAN: I think it’s because um, my parents have always… put a lot of, like, trust in whatever I

thought was best.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know? And, I think, um, they never really like, put pressure on me to do… a specific thing, or to try to lead me in any directions because I think they just felt like they weren’t really equipped to know what was best for me, you know, as immigrants. So they were always like, “You know better than us.” And so I think—

ENNI: Interesting.

HAN: —um, a lot of that is in SHUG, my first book, which, on paper, doesn’t seem like… that much like my life, um, but the book is really about like, her having a lot of responsibilities and stuff because her mom is an alcoholic—a high-functioning alcoholic, but… just isn’t really able to, um, be the kind of mom she wishes she could be–

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —and be available to her in certain ways, or provide for her in certain ways, and so I think a lot of my experience as just being like, um, a second generation, and like, a Asian-American kid—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —was, were in that book.

ENNI: Wow! Oh, that’s really interesting. So you kind of learn to trust your instincts and then to take direction.

HAN: Yeah! Yeah, so I remember when I got into the program, and people were like, it was the least likely seemingly fruitful one, because, you know, if you do some sort of education program,

then you’re gonna—

ENNI: You can be a teacher.

HAN: You can be a teacher and you’ll have a job, or be a librarian. Um, but my mom was—I remember talking about it and she was like, “You have a talent and you shouldn’t, like, be afraid to just go for it, and we believe in you.” And she was there, very encouraging in that way. If they were afraid, they weren’t like, saying it to me, you know?

ENNI: Yeah. That’s amazing. It’s really a gift that parents… don’t often give to their kids, is just like… it’s okay to try.

HAN: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the kind of the opposite in some ways of like, helicopter parenting, because they—neither of them went to college, you know, and certainly not in the States, you know, so I think nowadays part of the reason people are such like, helicopter parents is because they have been through it and they’ll know all the different steps.

ENNI: Or they think they know.

HAN: Like, “oh you should take"—or they think they know, or to direct, like, you should take this

AP class um—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —or this internship at this place, because I know somebody who’s there and then we’ll put this on your application and say you did this program. You know what I mean? To make you stand

out. Or like, all those different things.

ENNI: Yeah, it gets exhausting even thinking about it. That’s intense. Ohh, well that’s really—and then you’re an oldest, uh, older sister.

HAN: Yeah, yeah.

ENNI: And I’m like, also an older sister. So I’m like, we’re just forthright and like, confident.

HAN: Yeah, I mean—

ENNI: It’s like a leadership—

HAN: I think—

ENNI: —position.

HAN: —for my sister and I, too. I was—I was definitely the one that was like, "You need to get, like, what’s up with your internship situation.” You know what I mean?

ENNI: Yes, totally! Helicopter sistering.

HAN: Totally!

ENNI: I signed my brother up for his college classes. [laughs] I went through the course catalog with him, and was like, “Do this, do this.” But also because I really missed school, so, I was taking

it out on him. Um, that is really, really interesting, so—so the, how was the program? How did you find it?

HAN: The program was, in so many ways, like, amazing because that’s where I met, like so many people who I’m still friends with, but also like, who are like coworkers and like, colleagues.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And I think, just being in New York, going to meetings and like, meeting agents and—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —and editors and, that, I think it’s invaluable. I think the program’s grown a lot since, like I

said, it was really in its infancy—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —um, when we started out. So I didn't—so like, we didn’t even have. Um. So the way that it went was you had a workshop and then you had um, two literature seminars you had to take.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: But my first year they didn’t even have anything that was specifically targeted for children’s literature. Yeah, it was just um, fiction and. I don’t know. The reasoning behind it was they felt there wasn’t like, a canon.

ENNI: Ohh.

HAN: They were like, they were like, “You need to learn the canon, of like” and I’m like, “I went to college!” So, you know what I mean?

ENNI: We covered this in high school.

HAN: Yeah. I’m here specifically for this. And so it was definitely like, a struggle, to get that recognition, and to get the respect I think that you see… I think, nowadays, um, because like, money talks, and this is thing that makes money people are, um, less dismissive.

ENNI: Yeah. Young adult fiction is like buoying houses—

HAN: Right.

ENNI: —publishing houses, and—

HAN: Although there’s still a feeling of like, lesser or—

ENNI: Right, right.

HAN: Right, but, in the program we had to fight for stuff and then they, and then we—which we got.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: We got the one class. You know?

ENNI: Good. So, I was, that’s what I was going to ask, is if you felt like you were kind of shaping the program, being a part of it—

HAN: Oh for sure, yeah!

ENNI: —at so early a stage.

HAN: Yeah, and we just kept pushing and then, I think people after us were able to keep pushing for more.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But it was just, my feeling was, you know, we’re paying the same amount of money as everyone else in this program, but we’re getting the least.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: So.

ENNI: Right, least specific like, guidance and stuff.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: I mean, it seems like the first creative class you took at UNC was really beneficial. But what

was it like to—it’s really different to write in that kind of environment, where it’s being, like examined closely, and workshopped and…

HAN: It was, and especially because a lot of people were serious about writing.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And wanting to be published, and looking at it as like, a career.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And in college it’s a very different feeling, 'cause some people are just in there for, you know—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —an easy course, or whatever.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: Or just for the fun of it, which I think is also fine, that’s what college just for.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know? Just to experiment. And see what… can be of interest to you.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But this was, was, was way more specific. And… I learned, the biggest thing, I think, I learned is how to give feedback. Yeah, how to receive the criticism and also how to give it, but also… How to realize that, um, you don’t get to hold someone’s hand as they’re read your book, so… When someone’s criticizing your work, and you have to just sit there and like, listen, you can’t be like, “well this is what…” Do you know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: “This isn’t what I meant,” or whatever.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Because… It’s not you in the room with them, when someone’s reading your book.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: It’s just… the book.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: It should speak for itself.

ENNI: You have to respect the… reader’s interpretation, and—

HAN: Yeah, mmm hmm.

ENNI: Oh, interesting.

HAN: And their experience is their experience—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —of how they’re reading your book.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, so, so… You said that, in the first class at UNC you started what became


HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Were you continuing to work on that, in the program?

HAN: Yeah, I finished it when I was in the program.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: While you were starting a bunch of other things, or did that become your main focus…?

HAN: That was—I was working on that, and then, um, let me think, I think I finished it… I sold it

when I was still the program, too.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: So, it was, it was, um, definitely a whirlwind. Like, I was living in the dorms, you know?

ENNI: Really?

HAN: I really remember, so I, so I’d submitted it to my workshop. Um. And Sarah Weeks, she writes—she writes middle grade. She, um, called me and was like, “Do you—” this was the first time I submitted, in her class and she was like, “Do you have an agent? Are you done with this yet?” And I was like “No.” And she was like, “You need to… finish it, and then you can send it to my agent.”

ENNI: Wow!

HAN: And so, it was really that storybook idea of what a graduate program looks like for a young writer.

ENNI: Right, right right.

HAN: Um…

ENNI: That’s amazing.

HAN: Yeah, it was cool! And I’m still with my agent.

ENNI: That’s great! Wow. I love that Sarah was able to encourage you in that way, and see that potential.

HAN: Yeah, it was tricky because, you know, she—she could’ve waited until the end of the year, do you know what I mean? Like, until the end of the course, because it was just the beginning.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Of, of I think it was the spring semester of the second year.

ENNI: And you weren’t quite done with it, yet.

HAN: No.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: But it did give me a push, like, propelled me—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —to want to finish it.

ENNI: So SHUG is… interesting to think about, because… it’s sort of atypical for middle grade, in that it… feels so… introspective. Not that there’s not middle grade that’s like that, but it feels almost like, almost like a bridge book maybe for young adult, for—for younger readers who are really kind

of graduating to young adult themes and stuff like that, because it… It feels like a YA kind of book, but it’s obviously like, very specific to sort of twelve-year-old-type issues. Did it, I don’t know, is that like, was that your intent, or did you think about… middle grade is, a lot of time like, adventure stories and stuff.

HAN: I think I just thought about what kind of books I liked to read. And that’s what I liked. You’re right in that, especially when—at the time that I sold it. Um, middle grade had a lot more adventure.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Kind of thing, it was, what was that, there was like HARRY POTTER, you had—there was a lot of, of action stuff.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But, you know, I loved like, Judy Blume’s JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER. I like those kind of stories.

ENNI: Yeah, mmm hmm.

HAN: And like, when you look back at ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET—there actually isn’t a whole lot of action in that book.

ENNI: Right, right.

HAN: You know, it’s really just about, um, a moment in a girl’s life.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, yeah.

HAN: And, uh, I think that was the struggle for me, with that book, was figuring out what was going to be—what is actually the plot.

ENNI: Right, right right.

HAN: Do you know what I mean? 'Cause it's—it’s, yeah, it’s slice of life. Yeah, it’s like, a coming of age, but what—what is it, what minor thing that this book is about, you know?

ENNI: Mmm hmm, that’s always tricky with contemps, sometimes.

HAN: Yeah, yeah.

ENNI: Or that’s, what’s tricky, to get a contemp idea that has a hook to it.

HAN: Right.

ENNI: Um, but…

HAN: I don’t think that book really has a hook, I mean. [laughs]

ENNI: It’s kind of getting to know, like Shug is the hook.

HAN: Mmm hmm.

ENNI: And getting to know her—

HAN: I think it’s just about her voice, you know?

ENNI: Yeah. Because I wonder how you think about stakes…. They're—in contemp is like, when you have to sit on panels with people who are writing on dragons, like, it’s sometimes hard to be like, "Well, no, contemp can be every bit as absorbing, and impactful, and like, exhilarating.” But it just is really like, that boy sitting next to you in science class, like, carries more weight than when, you know—or you know, as much weight as finding the sword or whatever. Um. I think people have to either get it, or, or they don’t.

HAN: Mmm. I mean, I think you have to just create those stakes.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And you have to make it feel big.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know? I think that’s also one of the reasons why I was dabbling with this other story—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: 'Cause the other makes that feel like, life or death.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And something that’s not contemporary/realistic, it could be…

ENNI: Right.

HAN: Life or death.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I mean, you could do that in contemporary/realistic, but it’s not the kind of story that I… tend to write.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Or read.

ENNI: Right. Or, but we are going to talk about—about BURN FOR BURN.

HAN: [laughs] Sure, yeah!

ENNI: Which is a little more intense!

HAN: Yeah, it is—yeah, it’s intense.

ENNI: Um, which is why it’s so great but, um, well, okay, let’s… let’s talk about, um, about… finishing up with SHUG and then thinking about what, what to do next and where, and where you went next. And, and the SUMMER series. Um, 'cause I’m interested in why the shift to an older voice, or how that kind of came about.

HAN: So, SHUG came out in 2006. And I think THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY came out… three years later, in 2009.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And, um, in the meanwhile, I’d been working on different stuff. And, um. I… think that I am remembering this correctly, when I say that I pitched my editor a book and gave, I think the beginning pages of it.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And… they came back with an offer, but it was like, pretty small.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And I didn’t really, necessarily feel that anybody was like, LOVING it.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and it was kind of coming off of SHUG, which had done, um, pretty well. I think it would have been considered a bigger success maybe if um, it had been a more modest like, advance.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know what I mean? Like, it wasn’t. It wasn’t like a huge blockbuster hit—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: But it was on some state lists, and, you know… I felt like I had a lot of… fans, who really liked it. You know what I mean? But it wasn’t like a huge—it wasn’t TWILIGHT.

ENNI: Right, right right.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Not that I got TWILIGHT money for it, I’m just like, it wasn’t TWILIGHT, it was, it was like a moderate success, and um, they felt like they couldn’t give me more.

ENNI: They couldn’t match it.

HAN: They couldn’t match it, yeah, for the next thing. And I, so, I remember hearing that, and then,

I remember thinking I was like, “Let me just take a minute to like, think about this.”

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Thinking that… I wanted to put a pause, and figure out what makes sense, for the next move, because I didn’t want to… keep going down a path, um, that was going to be… books that, was like, less and less excitement um, for, within—

ENNI: Right.

HAN: —within the house.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: And then, what’s gonna like, happen to me?

ENNI: Right.

HAN: Will I continue to like, have a career? And, um—

ENNI: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s a crucial stage, that people struggle with… universally, right, with the like second book, and then you really are making big choices. So it’s really great to hear you say that you’re thinking strategically, and that—

HAN: Yeah, I mean, I love—I’m a writer, first and foremost, but the business part of it has never like, scared me, I always enjoyed that part.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And… I’m pretty optimistic, too. So, I think of things like an opportunity.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: You know? And when it happened, I said to my agent, I was like, “I don’t wanna take the offer.” And they’re like, “Well do you—what do you want to do? Do you want to go out with it?” You know, and I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that either, because… I want to just like, take a minute, and think about what the next book was going to be, because…” Yeah, I just, it was, it felt like to me the more bold move wasn’t to say, "Well then, you know what, forget y'all, I’m putting like…”

[both laugh]

ENNI: Right right right, yeah! HAN: I can find somebody else. ENNI: Right.

HAN: 'Cause I think I’m, I think I like, I’m not, I think I kind of sold it. It’s not that. And they would have bought it, too, themselves, but… Um, I really liked my editor a lot.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and… I just wanted to figure it out, there—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —and see what I could do.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So it was like, sort of a little bit of a stop and start, I guess.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, but you were thinking about how to challenge yourself, kind of.

HAN: Not even challenging myself, I think, 'cause there were other stories that I could have done next, it was really more thinking what’s… in terms of timing.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: What should I do next.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: You know, if I should keep trying with middle grade, I have a YA that I was also thinking about doing.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, for me it was about timing.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and, I have, I was working on different kinds of stuff. It wasn’t just middle grade when I was at The New School, in fact. YA was… more my sweet spot. It was just more, and this is why I started doing it with SHUG.

ENNI:Right. HAN:You know? ENNI:Right.

HAN: And… then I thought, “Let me do this other thing that’s like, older.”

ENNI: Well yeah, I guess that’s what I was going to ask is, what, what was it about SUMMER— THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY—that made it seem like, “this is the right choice”? Just a different age level, or was it…?

HAN: Um, I think it felt like, um, it felt sticky, in a way. You know? It was like, something about it was… compelling to me, to write it. And then my editor was really excited about it, when I told her about it.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And we just, I mean, I just saw her at um, where was I? I saw her at BookCon. Love her. Um, she’s over at Hyperion now, her name’s Emily. Um, Emily Meehan, um.

ENNI: Oh yeah, yeah!

HAN: Yeah, and she was really into it! And I think I respected her, as well, in terms um, of being like, a smart, savvy person, and so I kind of was like, “Here are a couple of different ideas I have, that I could do next.” And she was like, “I like this one the best, but you could, um like, you can do what you want to do.”

ENNI: Right.

HAN: And, um, I was like, that was my instinct too, was to do that next. So I just felt like it was also… probably um, the more like, commercial of the ideas.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: So my hope was that I could get, like, a bigger fanbase and people would be willing to follow me.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —onto the next.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah yeah.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: I think that’s… so smart. I think a lot of times, people don’t think about Option C, which is, “I don’t want to make a move yet; I want to just feel like I have confidence when I take the next step,” and that’s really great that you—

HAN: Or it’s like, not let other people dictate to you what the next move is going to be. Like, it doesn’t have to be either this or that, how about I just, like, take my cards off the table, then, and say like, that I’m not gonna to play this hand. You know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah, yeah yeah.

HAN: And I think to me, as a young woman, it was a very empowering moment in my career, too.

'Cause I was like, “I’m not desperate to take… this money.” And I also feel like, I think this book is worth more than this. And I’m not going to like, um, just sell it, 'cause I need money.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: Or 'cause I’m worried about what’s next.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: Because I know that, at some point, I will sell it, and I want it to be a moment where people are like, eagerly anticipating the next thing, and then they can recognize it, for what it is, which I thought it was good.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah yeah! That’s awesome. Like, especially as a young woman, and then, like, I think a lot of times it’s difficult for artists to perceive where the balance of power is.

HAN: Mmm.

ENNI: And… it’s in publishers’ best interests to make you think that… you are very lucky, that they are publishing your book. Of course. Because then they can get their way more, and whatever, they’re businesspeople, they’re, so they’re doing business. And a lot of creative people are so desperate to be able to do what they want to do, that they don’t think like that. Or, or, or realize that like, without them, and their art, none of this would happen. And being able to think that way, and take a minute, and uh, and play your—your strongest hand, that’s really cool, that you did that.

HAN:Thanks! ENNI:Yeah! [bothlaugh]

ENNI: I like, and I like talking about it, I like, I like hearing more people talk practically about writing books. And. Standing up for themselves as an author; it’s really huge.

HAN: I mean, like, to me, like, I think… it can sound, like, “Ohh,” you know. So, basically, you decide to do this commercial thing, 'cause, there’s a sort of stigma attached to the word, “commercial,” and what that means in our industry. But, for me, like, first and foremost, when I think about… my career, and the books that I write, like, no one’s under any obligation to read your


ENNI: Right.

HAN: Right. So, if people don’t want it… you know, you can do whatever you want to do, and you can do whatever you’re excited to do. And, um, that’s up to you, that’s your prerogative. You know? Um, to try new things, new genres, um, take on new challenges. But no one’s obligated to follow you there, you know? So, it’s gotta be, people buy your books, um, because they want to read them, and… if they don’t want to read it, they’re not going to read it, so no one’s gonna buy it. [laughs]

ENNI: Yeah, yeah yeah, totally!

HAN: You know what I mean? It can’t just be about you, and what your, um, whims are, I guess, you know what I mean?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Like and, um… Or it could, but then you could just do it yourself, then.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: Right, yeah, it is. And that’s part of embracing the business side of it and… thinking about it.

'Cause I like what you’re saying, like you had a bunch of different ideas. And it is just a matter of, like, picking the one that made the most sense, from lots of different levels.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And I was excited to do it, and… it felt like the most—I think that, the reason why it felt the most commercial was that it felt like the most, um, universal, in the sense that, I think, my inspiration for it was just thinking about how… I… feel, like. In every girl’s life, there is a moment where… suddenly it’s like, people are looking at you in a different way.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: It’s almost like a light has been turned on, inside of you, and people—you have a sudden, newfound like, power, um, that you didn’t have before.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And… it can be really scary, um, I think, to have that power, you know? But, at the same time, you can take that and, you know, find your strength, as well. So it’s like, coming into your own, that was what THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY is about.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: It’s just suddenly being perceived differently, even though you feel the same, and now people are looking at you differently because you are, you know, becoming a woman.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And… that was just, like, I think everybody has that moment. You know? So I wanted to just follow that beat, and then see her, um, grow up.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah. It—was it conceived as a series, or was it—?

HAN: I was—the idea was to do a bunch of summers in one girl’s life, and to see her grow up. Then I sat down, and I was like, “Dang, this feels so unwieldy, like, how do I make one arc with all these different summers?” 'Cause they’re all individual little arcs, as well.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: So then, um, I think I was maybe midway through, when I called my editor, and I was like, “Can we do a trilogy instead of just the one?” And she was like, “Yeah.”

ENNI: I talk to a lot of genre writers about like, living in one world for that long, but you’re living in just the real world for that long, but what was it like to live with those characters for that long?

HAN: Going back to the summer house, it was like, very lovely. And I spent a lot of time at different beaches, um, doing research.

ENNI: [laughs] That’s awesome.

HAN: It was cool! By the time… I was on the third book, I was ready, I was like really excited to do the next thing I was going to do, so I wanted to like, finish it up to do BURN FOR BURN.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And so, I was like, racing towards that end.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: But I was really sad, too, it was like saying goodbye. I was definitely crying as I was writing—

ENNI: Aww!

HAN: —for those last pages, 'cause I had spent now, like, a few years with them.

ENNI: Mmm hmm, and like, having to choose, how do you feel about…?

HAN: Yeah—it was really hard!

ENNI: [laughs] How did that—the main character, Belly, is choosing kind of, between two boys.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: And that was like… it was so intense.

HAN: It was intense, um, for me as well.

ENNI: Yeah. [laughs]

HAN: I kept making my job like, harder and harder.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and I don’t outline, I don’t really, like, plan anything.

ENNI: Really?

HAN: So… I was like, even—even towards the end I was like, grappling with it, of what was going to happen.

ENNI: Really?

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Wow. So, you kind of—I mean it reads like that, it reads like a girl who’s having a genuine crisis of… of decision making, and—and like really is torn, genuinely.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Like, she really loves both those boys for—in so many ways. Um. But yeah, I remember being like, “AHHH!” like, freaking out having to read that they’re going to be like, “What’s going to happen?!”

HAN: It’s like a crux, too, of—in a love triangle, it’s the fact that you would hurt anybody.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: It sucks, but it’s even worse when you know that you’ll still have the other person in your life in some way.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know? You don’t get to just like, go off into the sunset after you make your decision.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: 'Cause you’re still impacted, 'cause you’re of the family unit.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know?

ENNI: And the consequences are going to be real and present.

HAN: Yeah, and then it’s also like um, I guess thinking about it now and realizing too, I got to explore a lot of what it means to have all these different, kind of family units, um, intersecting with each other, you know? And it’s like, everyone has relationships that are separate from this relationship, especially with—within this story, it’s like, they grew up so close, and the moms were best friends and—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And, um, you know… losing Susannah, and the role that her mom kind of takes within their family.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: It's—

ENNI: There’s a lot more… at risk with her choices.

HAN: Sure, and that’s why I—when we’re talking about stakes. I think within contemporary/realistic, you have to build your own stakes, you need to figure out, like, what that’s going to look like.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Even though it sounds small compared to like, burning down villages, or like kings and queens on—in a personal level, it is like, a big deal to bust up… two brothers.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: To bust up, you know, potentially like, a best friendship between the moms.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Or potentially like, not finishing college.


HAN: All that stuff is really big in a person’s life. So those stakes are high.


HAN: Yeah, it’s like, whatever—whatever you know, little playground I have, to work within to make this like, these parameters.


HAN: Working within the parameters, how big can I make this story?

ENNI: Yeah. Yeah, like that’s a really good way of thinking about it. Um. It reminds me of your story of… having a very long-term crush, when you were younger.


ENNI: At that age, loving someone over that period of time when there’s so much changing and happening—I don’t know, do you feel like that was connected at all, to your like, thinking about those themes?

HAN: I think so, I mean I think it’s a theme that comes up my stuff again and again. And… I think

it’s partly because something about it is… compelling to me. This—the longing, the long arc that you have for somebody, and the way that you change over that period of time.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: I’d like to see what someone is like five years ago versus now, and it just gives you a lot of room to like, play with, um.


HAN: Yeah, yeah yeah!

ENNI: —romance kind of thing. I want to talk about BURN FOR BURN, 'cause I think you, you were co-writing, so I heard that you did have to, sort of—

HAN: Yeah, and that was—that was a different process for me. So we outlined everything really heavily for that first book.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: All the beats, 'cause we were gonna have to each take on different parts of it.

ENNI: Right, let's—let's—

HAN: The genesis of BURN FOR BURN, well we wanted to do something together, and um, so

Siobhan Vivian, who I co-wrote BURN FOR BURN with, um, we met in grad school—we met at

The New School program, and, um, we became really good friends. And we lived around the corner from each other in Brooklyn. And then she was going to move—with, with her boyfriend, um, to Pittsburgh. And so we were like, “Let’s do something together, um, collaborate on something.”

ENNI: As like, a way to keep touch, or—?

HAN: Yeah, definitely! For sure. 'Cause we were always doing writing things and reading each other’s work, um, and this felt like… a way to do that. And also, a lot people were doing collaborations at the time.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, it’s interesting, because I think at the time, let’s see, what would—Kami and Margie may have been like, the first big one that happened.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and then people were—then there were a lot, like, I guess, being sold.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: But I don’t think—I think very few were as successful as that one was.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I think there’s something to that, you know, for books… maybe it’s just, my sense of it, but

maybe people would rather hear from one storyteller.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: I feel like you’re getting one vision, rather than two, I don’t know, because nothing has been, I don’t think, other than like, let’s say, I guess like, David and John’s, um—

ENNI: Right.


ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, but John’s like a phenomenon, so it’s hard to like, put him into the equation at all.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: But like, Kami and Margie’s was, was was huge, but I don’t think anything has really matched that, collaboration wise, you know, and—?

ENNI: No, not at that level.

HAN: Not at that level.

ENNI: But it—I think it is something about… what the combined voice… is, or, you know what I


HAN: Yeah. It’s difficult.

ENNI: It’s interesting.

HAN: I don’t know, it’s difficult, it's—it’s a curious thing, um, 'cause a bunch of people sold them, but I don’t think anybody—

ENNI: Kind of broke out.

HAN: —broke out, like, as big of a thing as BEAUTIFUL CREATURES did. And so we were kind of during that period, and um, we sold ours, and we set off, like, with our plan which was, I’m like—I’m not sure, I’ve never asked Kami or Margie how they did theirs. But, I know most people do theirs, like, go back and forth.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, so, you do a chapter, and then I do a chapter, and so on and so forth, and usually it’s two different voices.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: But for us, we outlined everything really detailed.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And, um, were pretty much like, in each other’s laps, as we wrote it.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And then we would take on the parts that we wanted to take on.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Because there’s three different POVs, we had understand who they were really well. So that was how it was for the first book; it evolved a little bit as we continued, partly because, as somebody who doesn’t outline, I was feeling really—I was starting to feel really constrained by having these like, outlines, and I was like, I need moments where I don’t have a leash on me, 'cause I want to have a moment of like, serendipity, where I think of something we can put in, you know? And she was totally cool with that.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So we went looser on the second book.

ENNI: Oh, interesting.

HAN: Um, 'cause it’s just boring for me if I just know exactly what scene I’m going to do that day.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah.

HAN: Um, so that’s how we did it.

ENNI: That’s so interesting, um, I like that it worked with you being like, this is, I need to switch the process up, and I mean it seems like that collaboration was—it suited you guys.

HAN: Yeah, and I would say like, for knowing how I work and what kind of personal I am, I’m always somebody who wants to make adjustments and, um, like snip snip here or cut this, like um, “Let’s try this, this time.” And be really like, nimble with it, mostly because I get bored.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So even when we would be on tour together, I hated doing the same discussion each time, so

I’m like, “Tonight let’s do this instead.”

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: “Tonight let’s talk about this, and not talk about that.”

ENNI: It’s like, improvisational.

HAN: Exactly. And that just feels more comfortable to me, because otherwise, I get bored, and it’s not fun, so it was like that with the writing, too.

ENNI: Yeah. Why do anything if it’s going to be, just, a drag?

HAN: Yeah, it’s like, boring, also I just think everything can be improved. So, why not like–to me, the challenge and excitement is to keep trying different things and making it better and better and


ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know, like, it’s just the satisfaction of feeling like, this is better than the last time.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Tonight’s event was better because, and it was because of this, so let’s try this next time.

ENNI: Yeah, that’s neat! I like that. Um, and the other question I had about the collaboration style was with it—was whether or not it ever made you nervous, because mixing business with friendship can be tricky sometimes.

HAN: You know, we went into it saying to each other that we really wanted to protect the friendship first, before anything else. Um, but I’ll say that going into business with a friend—and that is what it was, it was like going into business together—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —is a pretty risky endeavor. There’s a reason why people say don’t mix, like, friendship and money.

ENNI: Right, right.

HAN: Do you know what I mean? Like it's—it’s difficult, because, it’s like two different

personalities, and two different perspectives of how to like, do business. And um, we’re best friends, but we definitely do business in different ways, you know? And, um, what made it trickier was she ended up getting pregnant while we were touring.

ENNI: Oh wow.

HAN: For—yeah, like we found out, I found out before her husband. I kept thinking she was pregnant. I kept saying to her, "You gotta get your pregnancy test, I feel like you’re pregnant.” And she was like, “Shut up, I’m not pregnant.” And then, we took a test in Miami, and then she was.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: And so we like, called her husband on speakerphone.

ENNI: Oh my god!

HAN: I love her husband, too.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Like, um—

ENNI: That’s so amazing.

HAN: I think of him more of like, a brother-in-law. And so, it was crazy, and it put another, just another, like, here’s more—

ENNI: Complication.

HAN: —complications into this already complicated situation.

ENNI: Totally.

HAN: She was pregnant while the second book… was coming out, she had, she was pretty pregnant. Let’s see, the second book came out… Um, in August, and she gave birth in July.

ENNI: Oh wow.

HAN: So we had to tour with the baby.

ENNI: Wow.

HAN: And her husband came, too.

ENNI: Wow! Family band.

HAN: And—yeah, it was stressful. We’ve always been really open with each other, if anything, anything was like, wrong, and usually I’m the one that’s like, pushing that conversation. Because she’s very laid back—she’s probably one of the most, um, like, easygoing people, because things don’t bother her… hardly ever.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: But things bother me a lot—all the time.

[both laugh]

HAN: So it’s actually a really, really good combination. Um, and, it was, for the first time, I couldn’t like, tell her when something was bothering me, 'cause I felt like she was so stressed out with the baby, that I wasn’t going to like, heap on more stress.

ENNI: Right, you’re right.

HAN: But it felt like I was doing everything—

ENNI: Interesting.

HAN: —for the, for the release.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And, um, like Siobhan is super sufficient, like self-sufficient.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And… she says “yes” to everything, 'cause she thinks—she’s sort of like a Superwoman kind of person, like she can do a lot of stuff.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: And she’s always like, “No problem, no problem.” And, um… it’s not that she doesn’t want to say “no” to people, it’s that she—she really is capable of doing a lot of stuff.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah.

HAN: And without resentments, do you know what I mean? Like, that’s just personality. By nature, she will take on stuff—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —and putting a baby in the mix, she had, but she’d never been a mom before. You know what I mean? And she’d never been pregnant before.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So then, it was just—

ENNI: New limitations are very challenging.

HAN: New limitations, that she didn’t want to say “no” to stuff, because she wasn’t used to saying


ENNI: Yeah, that’s um, I can relate to that. [laughs] That’s kind of my personality, too and like, whenever you have to confront a wall and be like, “Oh, I can’t do this anymore,” it’s like, you don’t

like that. That’s not a good feeling.

HAN: Yeah, no, it wasn’t a good feeling and then, for me it was like, of course I WANTED her to say “yes” to stuff. Do you know what I mean? So, it wasn’t like I was trying to talk her out of it, however, I was like, “Can we be realistic about this?”

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know? So that was, it was, that was definitely like, a—a stressful thing.

ENNI: It was interesting, though, and—and in a way I wonder if you helped your friends– friendship ultimately, by having this bind you guys through that time? Like, when friends have babies, and other friends don’t have babies, that is really hard.

HAN: I mean, it’s a good point, because I think we had to physically be together to do book stuff. We had to be on the phone working on stuff, um, because it was our jobs. And I kept saying to her, I was like, "We are like, co-CEOs of this company.”

ENNNI: Right.

HAN: “And so I need you to like, be… present, for this.” You know? And um, so it was by necessity, that we had to stay close. We also—she also was really sensitive, to how I was feeling, you know? And, um, actually like, this is really sweet, but she called me from the hospital, like the day her kid was born. But she was like, “But I’m still Vani! I’m still your Vani, I’m still me, I haven’t like, changed.”

ENNI: Oh! That’s really sweet. HAN: You know what I mean? ENNI: That’s adorable.

HAN: Like I think it was, just as necessary it was—as it was for me to hear it, I think she needed to be able to say it.


HAN: And still feel like herself.


HAN:You know?

ENNI: Totally, yeah and she had you kind of, like, pulling on that—


ENNI: —like, I, I—I’m here for YOU.


ENNI: And what you—you as an artist, you as this person separate from the other things.

HAN: Yeah, from this new thing. And I think, um, yeah, she’s a really good partner.

ENNI: Yay! Um, well, let’s talk about the book a little bit, too, um, because it is darker than uh, than certainly the SUMMER series and stuff like that. The stakes are a little bit more intense. Um, did you go in wanting to try something different, or how did that come about?

HAN: It wasn’t about trying something different; it was just about, like, this is an idea that I had—

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: —come up with. And, like, when Siobhan and I sat down to think about what we would do, we both came in with like, um, three ideas of stuff that we had been letting germinate with us. And so we ended up playing with this one. Yeah, it wasn’t about steering in direction—different directions, or whatever, it was just this particular story was one.

ENNI: Oh, interesting, okay, so—and it had been in the back of your mind, and—

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: The—so, THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY and BURN FOR BURN there was like, some overlap, towards the end…?

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: I think, um, I was working on WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER while we were talking about BURN FOR BURN.

ENNI: Okay, okay. So you kind of had, like, a launching pad—was it similar with the BURN FOR BURN series, that you launched in the middle of the series?

HAN: I was working on TO ALL THE BOYS, I guess, during ASHES TO ASHES.

ENNI: Okay.

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: Yeah, that’s kind of neat! I feel like that’s… helpful, to have a pr—new project, exciting project, kind of thing.

HAN: It’s helpful, and it’s also really hard, 'cause then you’re writing two books in one year.

ENNI: Eehhh…

HAN: You know what I mean? Like—

ENNI: But so different.

HAN: But different, yeah.

ENNI: Was that helpful to have?

HAN: Yeah, I guess so. The characters were so well developed in—in our heads, like, we understood who we were working with; it’s the third book. So that part wasn’t hard, it’s like, me figuring out who my characters are in the other thing, you know?

ENNI: Yeah, yeah. Interesting, okay. And—and, um, uh, I’d love to hear this kind of the set up of where, where TO ALL THE BOYS came from.

HAN: Well, TO ALL THE BOYS, um, came from… my own life, you know, I wrote those letters. Um, and… I was just thinking about what would happen if, like, the letters got sent out.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And how mortifying that would be.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Um, and also thinking about… like, I love writing about sisters, there’s sisters pretty much, like, in every book I do, there is some sort of like, sister relationship. I would consider like, so SHUG it’s um, Annemarie and Celia. And, um, and then in THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY, I would think that the moms’ relationship, to me, feels like sisters.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM is my only book for younger kids.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: Um, and that’s about two sisters. Um, BURN FOR BURN has two sisters. And… this one has three sisters. And, um, so that was what I wanted to do—I wanted to do, like, a house of girls, and then the one dad, and I was thinking a lot about, like, LITTLE WOMEN, and just, like, cozy spaces.

ENNI: Yeah, oh yeah! So, because, oh my god, the covers feel like that—

HAN: Cozy.

ENNI: —like you are in like, yeah.

HAN: Intimate. That’s how I wanted it to feel, like, you are in a real person’s room. I don’t like to look at a cover and have it feel like, artificial, like you are in, on, like a set of a photo shoot and it’s like, fake stuff.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: So, with these books, a lot of my personal, like, artifacts are in the covers.

ENNI: On the covers of those?

HAN: Yeah, yeah yeah!

ENNI: Wow! That’s amazing.

HAN: Yeah, so, we’ve already shot the cover for ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN, and a lot of my stuff is in that, too.

ENNI: That’s really neat, and—and, how special, and like, I think those are little details that, even though people may not know them, the—the vibe comes across.

HAN: Yeah, it just feels like a real person, the stuff, you know, I just think, you can imbue your possessions with like, you, and your history, and, um. I can just feel that, you know? Even in, like, a picture.

ENNI: Yeah, the love. And they stand out for that, you know? They—they aren't—

HAN: Oh, thank you!

ENNI: Like, yeah, they're—they’re not, you know, neon green or anything, but they stand out because they have this… real quality to them that’s really beautiful. Um, and so—

HAN: Thanks!

ENNI: Yeah, I’m a fan!

[both laugh]

ENNI: Um, what—and was this series, did you al—always think of it as a series?

HAN: I always knew it was going to be two.

ENNI: Two, okay.

HAN: And I really was planning on just doing the two.

ENNI: Mmm hmm. [laughs] So is it Lare-ah Jean or Lahr-ah Jean?

HAN: Lahr-a Jean.

ENNI: Lara Jean. Um, so, was that a surprise to you, to want to do it, or…?

HAN: To do a third?

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: Uh, yeah, like, it was—it was like a few months ago, where I started thinking about it, because I was working on that new thing, and I was really struggling with it. And it was going to be “new thing,” you know? And so, they need more lead time for that than they do it for, like, an existing series.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: And I thought, how am I going to get this done? Like, I don’t know, I haven’t figured it out yet, and I’m like, ahhh, like, is it crazy if I did another book about Lara Jean? I called Siobhan and she was like, “No, it’s actually not crazy.” And I talked to her about it, and then I was like, “Let me

just sit down, and see what happens.” And then I was up until six in morning, from like midnight until six in the morning I was just writing.

ENNI: Wow!

HAN: Yeah.

ENNI: That’s a pretty good sign.

HAN: The more I thought about it, the more I thought about, like, I had left some stuff on the table that I wasn’t able to do in book two.

ENNI: Mmm hmm.

HAN: And, um, thinking about the way book one begins. Book one begins with her sister going to college, and her feelings about that. And I thought, it really does make sense to me, to see her come full circle, and to be the one who’s like, leaving for college.

ENNI: Yeah, yeah! That’s neat, and—and really satisfying.

HAN: I hope.

ENNI: Yeah! That’s, well that’s really and—and cool that uh, the publisher was into it, and…

HAN: Yeah, yeah, they were excited! I had—but I also didn’t tell them right away, 'cause I was like, “Let me take a month, and just see… if it feels right.”

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: 'Cause I was just like, I’m not going to do it if it doesn’t feel like there’s a story to be told. And then I told them, and they were really excited.

ENNI: That’s really neat! Um, I’d love to hear—we wrap up with advice. So I’d like to hear, if you have advice for beginning writers, and maybe also advice for anyone looking at, um, partnering up with another writer.

HAN: Um, okay, so advice for beginning writers, like aspiring, like, young writers or just like, um—

ENNI: Um, anyone starting to write, at any age.

HAN: Um, I think, when I get asked this question, I usually say to enjoy the period of time you have, before you get published. Um, because… Um, you know, I’ve had, like, some really great moments so far, in my career. But, I don’t think anything comes close to when I first heard that my book… was going to be a book. Um, and that somebody wanted to buy it, like that elation that I felt. Um, and it really was a dream come true. And then I think that, the longer you are working in this business, the more—there are a lot of landmarks, there are a lot of, like, um, goals.

ENNI: Like goals that you achieve—

HAN: That people want to hit.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: You know, and, um… I think in a way, it’s like, guideposts keep being moved—do you know what I mean? 'Cause like, let’s say you wrote, you’re like, “I just want to have one book hit the New York Times Best Sellers list.” And then, at some point, let’s say you’re lucky enough that it happens for you, but then it’s for the next book, you feel like you have to hit that again.

ENNI: Right.

HAN: You know? And it’s never as pure, or as easy as it was for that first time, when you first were getting it published, and you had no idea about all this other stuff, that comes with just being in the business. Um, and nothing ever like—it’s almost like you want that stuff to happen, and then at a certain point it’s like, it’s just like, the relief that it’s happening, and no longer stuff like joy, because there’s more expectations on you the longer you work, you know? And… I think there’s also such a thing as—as that hit you get of like, the rush doesn’t like, last as long either.

ENNI: Right, right.

HAN: You know what I mean? It’s just like what’s the next thing, what’s the next thing, and you just keep moving up the ladder—

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: —um, without, like, an end. And in a way that’s a good thing, because you never feel like you’ve ever like, just made it.


HAN: You keep having to go—get up again and again and take the next wave, you know, and try again, you know.

ENNI: New challenges.

HAN: Yeah, there’s new challenges which, to me, that’s exciting. But I think, also, as far as like, a pure joy—it’s not the same as when, before you… knew about all of this extra stuff.

ENNI: Yeah, so stop and smell the roses.

HAN: Yeah! Stop and smell the roses and stop and get your first book… as good as you can get it. You know what I mean? Just really take that time, because once you get on the roller coaster ride you can’t, it’s like, really hard to get off.


HAN: Especially like, writing for young people, um, I think there is like, that pressure there, to not have long gaps in between um, books coming out.

ENNI: Yeah, a lot of pressure.

HAN: So, if you can do that before, and you can be—have your feet really, firmly planted on the ground and, um. I think that’s like, helpful.

ENNI: Yeah, that’s great advice! And then what about, um, maybe for people who are thinking about partnering up with another writer?

HAN: Ah, I think, you know what my advice would be is to… try not to have an ego about it, and, um, I think, to think of it as a book that you’re doing together, and not like, two separate books that you’re writing that are going to be like, joined. Um, so that means, I think, being able to comment on each other’s… writing, and, even though it’s not your section, that you should be able to look at their section, and um, come up with ways to make it better and tighter. That is essential to having

the book feel like one cohesive work. And you can’t just have like your half, that’s like, the way that you want it, you know what I mean? And not—and not the whole thing.

ENNI: Yeah.

HAN: I think a lot of people don’t do that, but, in my opinion, it’s not like you can carve the book up, you know, and say like, “Well, my part was good.”

ENNI: Right.

HAN: But like, you know what I mean? It’s like one book. So people want to hear one story, so…

ENNI: Check your ego at the door.

HAN: Yeah, and—and feel, like, full ownership over both parts.

ENNI: I feel like when you—and then I think, from what little collaborating I’ve done it’s like… Then you also feel super excited and proud when the other person writes something that’s great.

HAN: Yeah!

ENNI: It’s exciting, in that way, too. Um, awesome, well thank you so much dude, this is fantastic!

[closing theme plays]

ENNI: Thank you so much to Jenny. Follow her on Twitter @JennyHan and follow the show @FirstDraftPodand me @SarahEnni. Please help the show by filling out the First Draft Podcast listener survey. It has one of those weird URLs hat isn’t worth saying because you’ll never remember it. So, check out this episode’s show notes, and the First Draft website, at, or the podcast’s Twitter or Facebook pages, and the link will be there. Thank you so much in advance for doing it. It is gonna make a huge difference. You can also check out the First Draft Instagram page for sneak peeks as to future author interviews. And if you liked what you heard, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and leave a rating or review there. Every five star review brings me back to my happy place, in my eighth grade bedroom staring at a poster of Leo as Romeo. Thank you so much to Hash Brown for the theme song, and to Collin Keith and Maureen Goo for the logo, and to Sarah DeMont, all star First Draft intern of the century. And finally, as ever, thanks so much to you, rom-com meet-cutes, for listening.