Question #1: Jenny Han is:
a) an author
b) a blogger
d) all of the above
Jenny Han's debut novel Shug is as sweet as the title implies. From the first chapter - make that the first page - I knew I had found a book I would treasure and recommend. If you are in middle school, or if you have or work with kids in middle school, put this title on your must-read list. (Read my full-length book review.)
After reading Shug, I visited Jenny's website and discovered her blog. These online resources revealed that Jenny knew her fair share of pop culture. We talked back and forth via our LiveJournal blogs and discovered that we both loved the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the 80s film Teen Witch, and the book series The Baby-Sitters Club, among other things.
I interviewed her last year, and now The Edge of the Forest is allowing me the opportunity to chat with her again. Ladies and gentleman, I present you with the blogging writer of the month: Jenny Han!
In case anyone here has yet to read your awesome novel, Shug, please tell them about the story.
Shug is about a twelve year old girl who isn't quite ready to grow up just yet. She longs for change and at the same time, she fears it, especially when it comes to love. Oh yeah, she's crazy about her ex-best friend Mark, who's gotten a little too cool for school.
What do you hope readers think as they read the final page and digest the book's sweet contents?
I hope that readers feel that it's a truthful ending that's really a beginning. That's what I love about books, the way you know an ending is when things start to really get good. I hope they know that Annemarie is going to be okay, that life is hard sometimes, but that there are also really sweet, unexpected moments that come when you least expect them.
Which idea struck you first, to write a novel set in middle school, or to write a story with character names derived from The Color Purple?
The Color Purple references definitely came later. While using the name Shug was a conscious decision, I did not realize I had also used Celie until someone pointed it out to me after the fact. Then I was like, ohhh, that makes sense somehow.
Why do you blog?
I blog because it's fun and it's a really easy way for me to connect with my readers. The icing on the cake is meeting cool new people I'd never have encountered otherwise -- like Little Willow! I also use it to keep up with old college friends and also to just journal.
The majority of your posts are about...
B-List celebrities, inane details of my life, and TV.
If Shug herself had a blog, the majority of her posts would be about...
Oh, she'd probably have book reviews and perhaps a sappy love poem or two. She might complain about her mom and her sister, too. She's definitely the kind of girl to keep a diary.
Guesstimate the age (range or average) of your book readers. Guesstimate the age (range or average) of your blog readers. Compare and contrast.
VERY interesting question. The average age of my readers is probably eleven or twelve. My blog readers are more like 20-something, with an occasional twelve year old sprinkled in.
If your blog were a pop star, who would she (or he) be and why?
She'd be Mandy Moore. Like, she knows she can't sing like Christina, but she's got a decent voice and she tries to offer her best to the world. She's cute, she's got great skin and she's pretty wholesome. She likes to walk that fine line between appropriate and the tiniest bit controversial. She yearns to be taken seriously, but she also knows that she sings songs like Candy, and that's cool too!
List a quick safety tip for kids surfing the Internet and/or posting blogs of their own!
Um, I guess I'd tell kids to use their best judgment and not put up slutty pictures of themselves on MySpace. Girls, don't do it! I know it seems totally fun and harmless, but it's not just the cute guy from your Spanish class who's looking at your profile. There are real dirtbags out there who are not to be trusted.
Your blog userpics showcase Cher from Clueless, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story, Allison from The Breakfast Club, Jordan and Angela from My So-Called Life, and Pippi Longstocking. Which userpic depicts your current mood?
Angela! It's always Angela! Honestly, I interchange them depending on my mood—if I'm feeling sassy, I use Cher. She's my default userpic, so I'm usually feeling pretty sassy. If I'm feeling rebellious, I use Pippi, and so on. Because, aren't we all a princess, a basket case, a criminal? Does that answer your question? ;)
All of these icons come from TV and film. 3 of them are based on books. I know you heart Pippi—see the next question—but have you read Emma (Clueless = contemporary version of Emma) and The NeverEnding Story? TNES is one of my favorite books and films.
I loved Emma, loved P&P even more, and almost maybe loved Persuasion the most. Scratch that, I loved Mr. Darcy the most. I have not, unfortunately, read The Neverending Story. Clearly, it's on my to-read list! I'm still scarred by the Swamps of Sadness.
Blog + friends + writing + Pippi love = The Longstockings, a group blog for writers. Tell us more.
We all met at New School, a couple of years ago, and some of us started a writing group our second year of the MFA program. From there, it grew into the blog. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, I am on a writing retreat with the Longstockings in the Catskills! So far, we've written tons, hot-tubbed, and consumed many brownies. We meet every two weeks and critique each other's work and just catch up on what's happening with each other. It's a really great source of support and encouragement.
Buffy should end up with...
ANGEL ANGEL ANGEL! Angel is her soul mate. It's a done deal. She "loved him more than anything in this life." Her words, not mine. Did she say she loved Spike more than anything in this life? Nooo.
Marc Blucas in I Capture the Castle was...
Miscast. I'm sorry. I was never a Riley fan, either. Nothing against Marc, but he just wasn't Neil. Neil is more of a young Matt Damon, maybe a James Franco. For the record, Simon was even more horribly miscast. Simon is totally Ryan Gosling. Swoon. Or Christian Bale!
How's your new job as a library assistant treating you?
It's treating me so fine! I've only been there a few weeks now (and I was out sick for one of them) but the Calhoun School is so nice and the food is so good. The kids are all really smart and I've really enjoyed recommending books to them. My second day of work, my supervisor Jenna told me to head over to Barnes and Noble and pick out a bunch of books for their YA collection. I almost passed out from the awesomeness of that moment. I felt like I was on that supermarket sweeps game show.
What's next for Jenny Han?
Well, I've got a few different things cooking. It's too soon to say what's next exactly, but I hope good, good things.
Teen Witch rocks because...
It's Supersonic, idiotic, disconnecting, not respecting, who would really ever wanna go and top that?
Read my first interview with Jenny Han.
Read my review of Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.
This interview was the Blogging Writer feature in the March 2007 edition of The Edge of the Forest, a children's literature monthly.