Read on to get advice from these wonderful YA authors, find out what’s going to happen in FIRE WITH FIRE, and who their movie dream cast should be!
How did you end up collaborating Burn for Burn together?
SIOBHAN: Jenny and I actually met in grad school. We were both taking a program called Writing Youth Literature Masters in Creative Writing specifically for people who wanted to write for teens and young adults. I sat behind Jenny in a class. I liked her style very much, and was always thinking of ways to get her to be my friend. We went shopping and we bonded over a day of fantastic outlet shopping. And then we realized that we lived around the corner from each other in Brooklyn. So, we became writing buddies and helped each other work on our own independent books and then decided, “Wouldn’t it be so much fun if we could do something together?”
Describe your writing process.
JENNY: We did it in a very non-traditional, collaborative way. We outlined the whole thing together. We talked about the story for about a year and a half and just worked on the outline, the beats, and all the little and big moments. There are three different girls, with three different perspectives, so we picked it according to the scenes we wanted to write. It wasn’t necessarily according to the girls. I would do a scene, and she would look at it, and give me notes and then I would make those revisions, and then I’d show it to her again with more notes. Then we would put it in the master document on Google Docs. Both of us felt free to mess with it. It was both of ours. We didn’t feel we each owned it, it is a true collaboration.
What were some of your favourite novels you have read when you were a teen?
JENNY: As a teen, I really loved Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, and I also really loved To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, and Prince of Tides. I was reading V.C. Andrews, and Danielle Steele as a little kid (9-10 year old), and I was also reading The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley. So I continued on with both, sort of straddling that line of still a girl, not yet a woman.
SIOBHAN: I loved Catcher in the Rye. It was a big one for me and I loved a book that I read in high school called The Collector. It was a dual perspective about a guy who kidnaps a girl and kept her imprisoned in his basement, and then you get to hear the story from the girl’s point of view. It was amazing. My other favourite was a tragic romanced called Ethan Frome.
What advice would you give to young aspiring writers who want to be published?
SIOBHAN: One of the tips that somebody gave to me, and I like to share it with teens is “Write a story from start to finish.” Even though the hardest part for aspiring writers is getting through that mucky middle of the story, where you don’t love the characters anymore, and you think, “What is this? I don’t know where to take this story.” If you can push through and write to the end, you’re going to learn so many lessons that will help you write your story. It’s like a full body workout for writers, is what I say. You learn about character development, pacing, and it just teaches you so much. If you can get start to finish, I feel like you’re half way there.
JENNY: I usually say to the girls that email me and ask me for the publishing rights to just say, “Don’t be in a rush.” Enjoy this time right now, while you’re still yearning and working towards it. Find your voice and really just hone your craft. I think that publishing as a long-term career, has so many different milestones. It feels like you’re going up the ladder and never quite reaching the top. To just be published, you get the pure satisfaction and joy because it is your work. Take the joy in being published. Enjoy the sweet anticipation of that, because once it happens, it feels like the “end all, be all.” And then you get it, and it’s not. It’s the beginning of a long road.
Revenge and bullying are some of the themes in the novel, how did you come up with the plot for Burn for Burn?
JENNY: We were talking a lot about our high school experiences and being hurt by somebody and the way that hurtful words can just stay with you forever. It’s like a bruise that doesn’t really heal, and you could later laugh about it with friends, and have a glass of wine and just be yakking it up, but I think the pain is still sort of there. It doesn’t really leave. We wanted to explore that and have an opportunity for somebody to take that moment back and have something to say instead of being voiceless, or slinking away in shame, so you can stand up to that person.
SIOBHAN: The other thing we were sort of interested in is the process that can happen when you know you’re writing a three book series. You can take up certain liberties in terms of plot, how you reveal a story, little clues you can put down in book one that will pay off in books two and three. And just having a lot of fun and being careful with that story. It’s something both of us were excited to do.
If you could be any of your Burn for Burn characters who would you be and why?
SIOBHAN: I really love Kat. She is tough. She’s got a lot of heart, a lot of warmth underneath that toughness and she is really a loyal true friend. If you’re in her inner circle, if you’re close to her, she would do anything for you. I think those are admirable traits in a girl.
JENNY: I feel closet to Lillia. For book two, we did end up splitting it up by girl because over the course of the books, we got closer to certain characters and Lillia is Korean-American. She has a younger sister. She’s pretty sheltered in her ivory tower. That character came really easily for me, and she (Siobhan) was doing most of Mary’s and then we split up Kat.
If Burn for Burn turned into a movie, which actors would you cast as Mary, Lillia, and Kat?
JENNY: *laughs* We talk about this all the time. Mary would be Elle Fanning.
SIOBHAN: She would be very delicate, very fragile.
Photo Credits: Elle Fannings (The Gloss), Kat Dennings (RealBeauty.com), May Whitman (StarMedia)
SIOBHAN: For Kat, sometimes we’d say a younger Kat Dennings.JENNY: May Whitman whom I love. She’s the greatest child actress in the world. She was in One Fine Day, Independence Day, and Hope Floats. She’s been in all the greats since she was three or four years old.
SIOBHAN: She plays a Kat-like character in Perks of Being a Wallflower. She’s sort of tough.
JENNY: And Lillia would be really tough since there are so few Asian actresses. There’s a real hole for that, so it’s really hard to specifically name a teen actress. I think we’d have to get an unknown.
SIOBHAN: Let’s discover somebody, make a star out of them.
What can we expect from Fire with Fire?
SIOBHAN: Oohh a hell of a romance. Hella heat! Fire with Fire is a literal title. We turn up the heat big time!
JENNY: We turn up the heat, and turn up the secrets.
SIOBHAN: People who have questions about the “special things” happening in book one with Mary. Those questions get answered big time in book two. We will not leave you hanging for long. She’s got some special things going on, kind of simmering underneath the surface, so we’ll be talking a lot about that. And also there’s a big time love triangle.
JENNY: I was really looking forward to writing the romance the most.
Do you have any other projects coming up individually or together?
JENNY: I have a project that comes out in spring 2014, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It’s about a girl who writes letters to boys when she’s trying to find closure, when she loves somebody and tries to move on. (It’s something I used to do. I used to put letters in a hatbox and put them away.) But she addresses them, puts them in an envelope and goes through the motion, and the letters all get sent.
SIOBHAN: I’m working on something with no due date, or release date for it. But I’m working on a magical realism story about a girl in a lakeside town and some magical stuff happens. No title yet. It’s very, very loose.
Thank you to Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian, and Simon and Schuster Canada for the wonderful opportunity!