Young adult lit darling and outspoken advocate for diversity in children's literature Jenny Han is making an appearance at Har Mar Mall's Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. May 10.
The New York Times bestselling novelist arrives at the Roseville mall a week after the release of latest book, "Always and Forever, Lara Jean." A follow-up to Han's bestseller, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," "Always and Forever" continues the pursuits of the letter-writing, cookie-baking, college-bound, middle Song sister and her romance with Peter.
Q: You have spoken about the need for greater inclusivity and diversity in young adult and children's lit. Are YA books getting better in these areas?
A: My main objective is always to tell the truth. I write diverse books because the world we live in is diverse and I want my books to reflect that truth. I don't think kids of color should have to search far and wide to find books that reflect their experience. I do think more people have become aware of the lack of representation in children's books and the industry is striving to correct that.
Q: Your PR people believe your series is the first time an Asian girl was on the cover of a New York Times bestselling YA book. With many covers whitewashed, how hard did you have to fight for this — or did the publisher realize early on that with the author's last name being Han, this was fine?
A: From the very start, I said I wanted a photographic cover with an Asian girl front and center, and my publisher was very supportive of that. My wish was for an Asian-American girl to walk into a bookstore and see a girl who looked like her on the shelf. Always, my hope is for all kids to feel seen.
Q: Do songs influence the title of your books? Let's see, we have "Always and Forever," "P.S. I Still Love You," "To All the Boys I've Loved Before."
A: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" was influenced by a song, but not the one you're thinking of — it's "Cheated (To All the Girls)" by Wyclef Jean. He does a little riff on Willie Nelson's song in it.
Q: Whose music do you like? I'll be shocked if you are either a Willie Nelson or Julio Iglesias fan.
A: Beyoncé, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and Adele are a few of my favorites.
Q: There will always be young adult readers, so your core audience will last. But do you have any interest in writing books for an older audience?
A: I have interest in telling all kinds of stories, and at some point, I'd love to write a book for adults. But I think my heart will always be with my teen readers. I don't think you ever love anything as passionately as you do when you're a teen. You remember the books you read as a young person your whole life. I feel so lucky to write for young adults.
Q: There's a lot of baking in your books, so you're probably good with the sugar, eggs and flour?
A: I love to bake. I've finally perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I also love to give away pans of cinnamon rolls, because cinnamon rolls make people so warm and happy.
Q: As someone who hung out in Chapel Hill and took classes at UNC-G when I attended undergraduate college in Greensboro, I ask: How obnoxious a Carolina basketball fan are you?
A: I am semi-obnoxious. Some might say very. Go Heels! 2017 champs!
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9's "Jason Show." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.