If The Unexpected Everything and The Last Boy and Girl in the World are not already on your summer reading list, I politely ask you consider revising your list. These two books couldn’t be any more different, but they explore similar themes, especially relationships (both of the friendly and romantic variety) and how they can shape a summer or a complicated and extraordinary situation.
The Young Folks is pleased to host authors Siobhan Vivian and Morgan Matson for a quick Q&A about their new books. Big shout-out to Hannah Atkins for coming up with half of these questions. Also, for those of you attending BookCon this Saturday in Chicago, I will be moderating “The Simon & Schuster Sisters” panel featuring Morgan, Siobhan… and Jenny (Han)! More details on the panel here.
What was the inspiration behind each of your stories/concept?
Siobhan: The story really bloomed for me when I discovered a real town that suffered a similar fate back in the 1930s. The town was flooded, and the government paid people to leave, so they could build a lake. There’s nothing left of the town now, but there is a special Historical Society dedicated to preserving artifacts, maps, and personal accounts of people who once lived there. And I heard about this town right around the time of Hurricane Sandy, which affected the homes of many people I grew up with in New Jersey. So it was a perfect storm (yuk yuk yuk) of inspiration.
Morgan: I first got the idea when I was in Alexandria, Virginia. Maybe it was because I was so close to Washington D.C., but I started thinking about what it would be like to grow up in the shadow of politics, and to have to be so aware of your every move. The story started from there! And while I’ve never been a dog walker, between writing Since You’ve Been Gone, and my new book, I adopted my dog, Murphy. So he inspired a lot of the dog stuff!
Siobhan, you co-wrote a popular contemporary series with Jenny Han. Can you tell us about the different writing processes, solo versus collaboration?
Siohban: Collaborating with Jenny was such an amazing experience, and the world we created for Burn for Burn became completely interwoven with our friendship. We’d be having dinner at whatever restaurant, and after whatever small talk and catch-up, our thoughts would turn to the book. We’d talk about Kat, Lillia and Mary all the time, like they were real people. That kind of near-constant brainstorming made it easy to create the world of Jar Island.
It’s hard going from two brains down to one when you return to your solo projects, but Jenny and I still workshop each other’s writing and help each other with brainstorming.
Morgan, female friendship plays an important theme in The Unexpected Everything. How did you come up with these group of characters and give them the right kind of different personalities for them to fall in sync with one another?
Morgan: As soon as I started thinking about her group of friends, I kind of had them right away. I didn’t think about their personalities in terms of syncing up with one another – it was almost like I just saw all the four girls sitting together at the diner. I also wanted to explore the dynamic within a friend group – because you’re never equally friends with everyone. There are always best friends even within a friend group, and I wanted to explore that.
What do you hope readers take away from your books?
Siobhan: My goal is always to write a story that feels true with characters that are authentic. I want them to feel like the people they’ve read about could be real. Maybe they’ve recognized a bit of themselves or their friends in my characters.
Morgan: I hope they have the feeling like they’ve been on a summer adventure with my characters – experiencing the ups and downs along with them.
Your town is flooding and you’re ordered to evacuate. Apart from essentials, which three special things do you bring with you?
Siobhan: My photo albums, the quilt my grandmother sewed for me, and my wedding dress
Morgan: My dog, photographs and my passport
Thanks to Siobhan and Morgan for answering our questions! The Unexpected Everything and The Last Boy and Girl in the World are now available wherever books are sold.