A chat with Jenny Han on the "All the Boys" films and more

While we typically do our Amazon Fishbowl interviews in person here in Seattle, different times call for creative measures.  Enter the Virtual Fishbowl. One of our recent guests was Jenny Han, author of multiple best-selling young adult novels, including the wildly popular To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, which has been adapted into three original movies for Netflix. The first two films were huge hits, and we are dying to see the final one—Always and Forever, Lara Jean—but the release date remains a well-kept secret as of this writing.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation I had with Han about filming the last two movies, pensive baking, and more.

Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review: So, of course we have to talk about the new movie!  P.S. I Still Love You came out in February and I’m so excited for Always and Forever, Lara Jean. How are you feeling about the last movie?

Jenny Han: I’m really excited—you know, we filmed them back to back. So, in a way it feels just like a continuation of the second movie for me experientially. But I think that the fans are going to be really happy with the third. I think it’s a really nice way to close out Lara Jean and Peter’s story.

Is it kind of bittersweet having had the books already come to an end, and now you’re seeing the last of the films?

It was definitely bittersweet. When we were wrapping up, everybody cried. Because it’s been almost like a TV series in the sense that we’ve all been working together on these films for a few years now and have gotten to experience this kind of wild ride together—and when I look back at pictures of Lana [Condor] and Noah [Centineo] and everyone and they look so young. It’s been really sweet to see them grow up, and watch the characters grow up. It’s cool.

It’s pretty unusual how close you are to the cast of your films. Did all of you just bond instantly or how did that happen?

People always say that film making is like going to camp, and it definitely had that feeling because, you know, we were all just together in Vancouver and it was a pretty small little group and I would say that the cast is super friendly and people hung out a lot during their free time and kind of explored the city. So, yeah, I think the group was very close.

And you went to Korea for the filming of the final movie, what was that experience like? Can you tell us about that?

It was amazing. You know, I think that felt very emotional to me to be able to go back to Korea and do this film. And my parents were there—my relatives drove up—and everyone getting to have that experience with me was really special. And we got to shoot some really cool places.

Also, I’ve been to Korea a bunch to visit my family; but I’m always there with my family. This is the first time I’ve been to Korea kind of on my own in a way and, for me, that was cool just to be there for an extended period of time and kind of get to know the city on my own and not have my cousins shepherding me around, taking care of me. I had to sort of be by myself, which was cool.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before started out with letters and came out of letters you’d written as a teen. Do you still write letters?

I write cards to friends, and I still do write letters by hand. I have a stationary collection ongoing since I was, like, 10 years old and so I like to go open up my stationary boxes—I have many boxes—and then pick out which one I’m going to use.

If you were going to write a letter to your teenage self, what would you say?

I think I would say that, where you are right now is not forever and there’s still so much ahead. And the things that you think are really important are important in the moment, but it’s not necessarily going to affect your whole life. I always struggled with math and that always felt like the world was ending when I was doing badly in math. And now I don’t even do math! So I’m fine.

Can you talk to us about pensive baking? Have you been doing a lot of that lately?

Yes! What have I done this week? This week I made ice cream, which is a similar feeling of satisfaction. When you see the ice cream come together in the machine and get thicker and thicker. I think for me, what baking is about is having all the ingredients and then putting them together and having an actual product that comes out, that looks the way that it’s supposed to. That’s very satisfying.

I think as a writer, you could feel like the process is interminable and infinite and you could go on forever and ever without finishing something. And this, with baking, there’s a very clear end to it and a reward! It’s a different kind of brain work in a way, it’s kind of meditative. Measuring out the ingredients and slowly combining things feels like a good way to set pause on the thing that I was stressing over and do something else for a minute.

Have you ever come up with any really great ideas while you’re in that meditative baking-cooking state?

I think it’s more like, I come up with ideas. It’s something I call the dead zone—which is if I’m on the subway, if I’m in the shower, right before I fall asleep at night—when your brain is almost gone completely, almost turned off in a way, and then I think your mind is able to go to these creative places. It kind of frees you up, frees up that brain space in a way, and I’ve got my best ideas during those times.

Are you doing much reading right now?

I’m doing a lot of reading right now. I’m doing more reading now than I normally do.

A couple of years ago I had a New Year’s resolution that I was going to read a book a week. And then I broke that in the first month. And then I was like, I’m going to read a book a month and then I broke that too.

And I think because I’m always on deadline, I’m always writing my own stuff, I find it difficult to gear up to read a book that’s not my own because I tend to get so immersed in the novel that it’s not easy to get out of that world and back into the world that I was in. So I am doing a lot of work these days, but it’s not that kind of work. And so I’ve been reading a lot of books.

A couple of years ago you wrote a chapter book, which I loved, called Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream—are you thinking about writing for a younger audience again or more young adult? Do you know what your next project will be?

I mean, I have so many ideas and things I’ve started. Right now I have a lot on my plate that I can’t really divulge, but I definitely have aspirations to write for all different ages.

Do you have a daily writing routine or are you just fully immersed in this project that you can’t tell us about?

I’m still writing so, well, I guess I can talk about one of the things—which is I’m doing an episode of a TV show that Shonda Rhimes is doing. It’s this anthology about love so I’m doing an episode of that, and working on that. I actually do have a routine. Right now I have a routine. In my normal life I don’t, but I think the pandemic has put me in a different head space, and so now I work kind of all day long.

Back to cooking and baking: when you were in Korea, did you have any really incredible meals or special foods that really stick in your mind?

Oh my gosh. So many memorable meals. When I’m in Korea, all I do is eat. It was fun to share that with people who had never been to Korea. Most of the crew had never been to Korea, the cast had not been to Korea, so I was, I think, maybe the only person who had ever been there before. So that was kind of fun to get to show it off a little bit and go shopping and eat the food with people who had never experienced it before. We went to a baseball game. That was so fun.

I don’t suppose you can tell us when the movie is coming out?

I can’t! (laughs)

Well, we can’t wait to see it and I’m really looking forward to your next project!

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.