Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers announced this week that it will publish a new YA trilogy by authors Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. The launch title, Burn for Burn, is scheduled for fall 2012 release, with Fire with Fire and Ashes to Ashes to follow in fall 2013 and 2014, respectively. Justin Chanda negotiated the deal with Emily van Beek of Folio Literary Management for North American rights. U.K., Australia, and New Zealand rights were acquired in a pre-empt by Razorbill/Puffin U.K., and Novo Conceito acquired Brazilian rights at auction. Executive editor Zareen Jaffery, who joined S&S from HarperCollins last week, will edit the trilogy.
The novels are told from the perspectives of three high-school girls who overcome their differences and band together to seek revenge on those who have wronged them. Along the way, a supernatural element is introduced, revealing what brought the teens together—and why.
Van Beek, who expects that rights to the trilogy will be sold in additional territories, has represented Han since she published her debut novel, Shug, in 2006. Burn for Burn is her first project with Vivian. “Our submission was very thoroughly considered and highly targeted,” says the agent. “Simon & Schuster is Jenny’s primary home, and is a brilliant home for this trilogy. Everyone there has been enormously supportive of her, and now has taken on the care of Siobhan as well. And with the addition of Zareen to the team, all the pieces have come together.” S&S will release Han’s We’ll Always Have Summer, the conclusion to her trilogy that began with The Summer I Turned Pretty, in May.
Jaffery, who read the proposal for the trilogy and sample chapters of Burn for Burn while vacationing between jobs, is thrilled with her editing assignment. “I read the proposal overnight and loved it, and by the time I got back to Justin the following morning, he told me he’d already bought the trilogy,” says the editor. “It was great to see we were on the same page. I’m excited about this project and feel very lucky having walked into it. Jenny and Siobhan have created these characters so vividly. Their relationships are incredibly complicated, but relatable. It is a very atmospheric novel—the setting feels like a character itself. And overlying everything is a phenomenal page-turning plot. You can sense that something is not right, and when you learn what it is, it’s a mind-blowing moment.”
Han and Vivian met while attending the New School MFA program in 2005. “Through our friendship, we began critiquing each other’s work,” explains Vivian, whose earlier YA novels are A Little Friendly Advice, Not That Kind of Girl, and Same Difference, are published by Scholastic’s Push imprint. “When we were students, I didn’t write a word that Jenny didn’t read—and vice versa. As that working relationship progressed and our friendship developed, we started talking about how much fun it would be to write something together.”
The authors brainstormed about possible book projects, and over time, one idea clicked with both writers. “We focused on the general idea of revenge—of taking back the night,” says Han. “We began talking about the experience of having someone really hurt you as a teenager, and asking what would we do differently as an adult in that situation. At 15, kids aren’t empowered to fight back or stand up for themselves, and being hurt can be devastating. We decided to write a story that would be empowering, and at the same time deal with the consequences of one’s actions.”
After what Vivian calls “some very judicious outlining,” the coauthors each tackled separate sections of Burn to Burn, trading what they wrote with one another. “Jenny goes into my writing and punches things up, and vice versa,” she says. “It’s a true collaboration in that every word of the book both of us have considered and read aloud to each other. We work on each part of the novel simultaneously.”
Miles now separate the authors, who were once neighbors in Brooklyn. Vivian currently lives in Pittsburgh, where she teaches a course on writing youth literature at the University of Pittsburgh. “Since I moved away a little over a year ago, Jenny and I regularly take mini retreats together, to hole up and work,” explains Vivian. “And when we can’t be together, we share what we’ve written with each other—on the phone, or Skype, or e-mail. We use all the avenues we can to collapse the distance between us.”
Han and Vivian are both quick to point out the comfort they find in collaborating with a trusted friend. “The creative process really becomes lighter when we’re writing together,” says Vivian. “Before this project, it was always a relief to get Jenny’s perspective on my writing, but in this case it’s even better, since we have the same end goal. If I get stuck on a scene and am having a hard time figuring out where to go next, I know I have a friend just a phone call away. That is such a relief.”
“We are really lucky,” Han affirms. “Siobhan and I keep telling each other that it’s important first and foremost to protect our friendship, but we have such a great working relationship, and have had for such a long time, that I wouldn’t feel complete if she didn’t see every draft of what I write, and give me notes. That is very comforting to me—and very valuable.”