An Interview with Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian, and Morgan Matson
From late nights studying together in graduate school to late nights trying to meet their publishers’ deadlines, Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Siobhan Vivian have stuck together through it all. Find out how this trio of YA writing powerhouses met, why friendship is so central in their stories and in their lives, and, most importantly, which of their characters would fall in love with each other.
How did the three of you become friends and why do you feel it’s important to have a close group of supportive friends?
MM: We all met in graduate school in New York City a decade ago! And we’ve stayed friends ever since.
SV: Dude. Was that really ten years ago? Feels like ten minutes.
MM: I know. I didn’t want to believe it either.
JH: In some ways it feels like twenty years ago to me! What I really love is that even though the three of us no longer live in the same city, we still go away on writing retreats together and do book tours together. Our books keep us close.
MM: Jenny organizes the most amazing writing retreats. We all hang out and write and catch up. It’s a yearly highlight.
SV: I feel it’s so important to have friends who understand this weird thing we all do. I can ask Morgan and Jenny anything…from the business side (is this deal point in my contract too aggressive?) to the creative side (where’s a fun place my two characters can make out?).
MM: And it’s so great to have friends you can text when you need story advice, or just to commiserate with someone who understands the process. It makes what can be a pretty solitary job feel a lot less so. Also, Jenny is a genius book-title-er.
Do the three of you have similar or different creative styles? Do you approach writing your books in a similar way?
JH: We have really different creative styles. I write a first draft almost like a series of vignettes, never in order. It's very spare. I figure out the shape of the book as I piece it all together.
SV: I think Morgan’s a lot like me, because she also has a background in screenplay writing, and we enjoy thinking about structure, all the narrative places a story could potentially go.
MM: It’s true! And as for my process, I can’t write out of order—I need to write in a linear fashion, straight through to the end. And I don’t really have an outline. I have a vague idea of where I want to go, but that’s it. I like getting some surprises along the way.
SV: Same here. I feel like Jenny intimately knows her characters from the first page, whereas I have to put them on a journey and make them do stuff in order to discover who they are.
Which characters from your respective books do you feel would be friends with each other? Who would get along the best? Would any of your characters have crushes on each other?
SV: I’ll say that John McClaren from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Levi Hamrick from The Last Boy and Girl in the World would be friends. They both have a quiet nerdy confidence about them.
MM: I think Andie from The Unexpected Everything would definitely have a crush on Jesse Ford from The Last Boy and Girl!
SV: I was thinking that also, but I don’t think Andie and Taylor from the Summer series could be friends IRL. Andie is like a dressage show horse and Taylor is like a wild pony.
JH: Natalie from Not That Kind of Girl would be friends with Margot from To All The Boys I've Loved Before. They're both driven, high-achieving girls with bright futures.
MM: Emily from Since You’ve Been Gone would totally be friends with Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. I think they have similar personality types! I can see them hanging out at home together and cooking.
JH: I can also see Lara Jean having a crush on Roger from Amy & Roger's Epic Detour because—mix tapes!
MM: Lara Jean would introduce him to doo-wop girl groups and Roger’s life would never be the same.
What’s the one piece of advice you would like to give aspiring writers that you wish you had when you first started out?
JH: I would tell them not to be in a rush. Because, yes, it is absolutely amazing to be able to write for a living, but there is also something truly wonderful about writing just for you, just because you have to, because you can't not.
MM: Read a lot, and write a lot. Don’t expect to be a perfect writer on the first try—writing is a skill, and just like any other skill, you get better at it the more you do it!
SV: Find friends who will support you, who understand your work, and who know how to get the best writing out of you. You don’t have to do it alone! That’s what keeps the three of us together.