Interview: Jenny Han
Current Song: Breakfast at Tiffany's score music by Henry Mancini
Jenny Han is undeniably cool. She likes corn on the cob, knee socks, and television shows such as Freaks and Geeks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She will gladly discuss classic novels one moment and classic 80s kidlit the next, as evidenced by the interview below. Jenny now has her own book to chat up, a story called Shug, which is as sweet as the title implies. I highly recommend it, especially to middle school girls and to their parents and teachers. (Read my book review here.)
Let's find out now how the book began -- and if Jenny would rather know Logan Echolls or Logan Bruno.
When did the inspiration for Shug strike you?
I was in my Writing for Children class in college, senior year. My instructor Ruth used to give us little writing prompts every class, and on that day, it was "under the tree." So I wrote, "Under the tree sat Mark and me, and under the tree was where I first knew I loved him." And from there, little Annemarie was born! That was the first sentence for quite some time, but I ended up scrapping it later. In my mind, though, that's where the story begins.
Which character are you the most like?
I'm probably the most like Annemarie, but there are definitely elements of me in every character. I think I incorporated feelings I felt into the book, but not necessarily specific incidents. Things like feeling embarrassed of your parents, feeling left out, that sort of thing.
Describe yourself at twelve years old.
At twelve, I was skinny and all legs and arms. My hair was long and I wore glasses. I loved
stationery and books and a boy named Tyrone. It was 1992, the year The Chronic came out, and my favorite song was Nuthin But a G Thang. My best friend's name was Sarah, and I was about to meet my future best friend Aram.
The sisters are named after characters in The Color Purple. How old were you when you first read Alice Walker's novel?
I was either thirteen or fourteen, and I read it in the library, cover to cover. What resonates the most for me is Celie's voice -- so raw and real and plain. It just cuts right into you, and you feel for her so much, it's like you're right there with her, getting beat by your daddy, beat by your husband. Falling in love for the first time. All of it. It makes me want to cry right now just thinkin' about it!
I hear you are a fan of The Baby-Sitters Club. So am I. My favorite baby-sitter was Mary Anne - she was short, smart, bookish, brunette, and had a cat. Who was yours?
Mine was Claudia, of course! Come on now, she was the cool one! She had the clothes, had the attitude. I loved that she was Asian, whenever my friends and I would pick favorites, I always had dibs on Claudia because she was Asian. I'd be like, "Sorry, y'all, she's mine, we're like the same person."
Who is the better guy, Logan Bruno from BSC or Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars?
Best. Question. Ever! This is no contest: Logan Echolls, hands down. He's all tortured and
conflicted on the inside and glib and charismatic on the outside. You get to peel away his layers and heal him. Don't you just want him to put his head in your lap and smooth his hair and soothe his troubles away? Plus, he's cute (and the cuteness just grows on you), and rich and smart. Logan Bruno, on the other hand, became awfully controlling and that's just too much when you're in the 8th grade! If I were going to pick a BSC man, I would pick Bart, of Bart's Bashers. Or, Sam, Kristy's cute older brother! It's all about the cute older brother! But I digress.
Who are your favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters?
Next best question ever. My favorite characters are Faith, Giles, and Anya -- I love the redemption theme the three of them have, plus they're all cool and funny and kick ass in their own ways.
What are your favorite episodes?
I'll pick one from each season, although picking one from 2 is seriously like picking your favorite child. I can't do it.
Season 1: Angel
Season 2: TIE: I Only Have Eyes For You, Becoming Part 2
Season 3: The Prom
Season 4: Wild At Heart
Season 5: Forever
Season 6: Once More With Feeling
Season 7: Selfless
I read at your website that you like knee socks, as do I. Solid, striped, or patterned?
I'm gonna go with argyle! But I do like to wear a white pair that have stripes on top, like the athletic kind. When I wear them with shorts (around my house) I feel like Parker Posey in Dazed and Confused. Seniors rule!
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Deep down, yes. I just never knew it was possible!
Are you writing full-time?
Yes, pretty much.
What's next for you?
I am working on a novel about a country girl named Dale. I'm trying to get it finished this summer. Fingers crossed!
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Visit Jenny Han at her LiveJournal and her website.
Shug was released in hardcover in 2006. The paperback was released in fall 2007. Look at the adorable cover.
Read my second interview with Jenny Han.
Read my review of Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.