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Interview: May 24, 2016

In this technologically-ripe age, teens are finding tons of new ways to make friends, be it through online forums about shared interests or conversations with people you know IRL via text or email. Either way, it's clear that there are more ways than one to get to know a person. In GENA/FINN, authors Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson --- who met online, by the way --- team up to share the story of two girls who become fast friends through their shared love of a popular television show. In this interview with Teenreads.com's Katherine Szabo, Hannah and Kat discuss their love of fandoms and how they feel technology has allowed people from various backgrounds to connect.

Teenreads.com: Although you’re both writers, you come from very different backgrounds. Hannah, you’ve written several novels and have even contributed to a few anthologies, but this is Kat’s first book. How did you two meet and decide to collaborate on this book together?

Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson: We met writing fanfiction, just like Gena and Finn! And, just like Gena and Finn, we went from talking about our fandom to talking about other interests to eventually talking about ourselves. Once we became friends, we started writing all kinds of things together. GENA/FINN is not our first collaboration, but it is our first joint attempt at original fiction instead of fanfiction.

TRC: Combining two different writing styles and personalities can be very difficult. What were some of the best things about collaborating on GENA/FINN?  What about some of the worst?

HM and KH: Working with your best friend is a blessing and a curse. When things are going well, it’s great, and that’s what enabled us to finish the first draft of the book in just a few weeks --- we were having a blast most of the time. The flipside is that when the plot got dramatic, it brought up a lot of emotions. We had to write scenes involving Gena and Finn being angry and rude to each other, and even though it was fiction, it was hard to read what the other person had to say.

TRC: Did you each write one character or did you fully collaborate? Can you walk us through your writing process(es)?

HM and KH: We each wrote one character, which is probably the most collaborative way we could have worked, because we were literally having conversations most of the time. We’d decide on the structure of the scene and what needed to happen --- for example, in this scene they’re talking via email and they need to exchange real names --- and that would be the extent of the planning. Then we’d just write it, neither of us knowing exactly what the other character was going to do or say.

TRC: GENA/FINN combines text messages, email, fanfiction, poetry, sticky notes, letters, blogs and private messages to advance the plot. What made you decide to use this technique?

HM and KH: Both of us favor a very present, first-person approach to writing. To tell this story any other way would have been to remove the narrative voice too far from the action. Gena and Finn were actually conversing via texts, emails, etc, so that was the way the story needed to be told.

TRC: When Gena and Finn first begin talking, their communication is limited to messages, then emails and texts. Even when they do meet, they spend a lot of time using technology to communicate. What do you think about the role technology plays in our communications with friends and loved ones?

HM and KH: This is a very generational question, and you can actually see a hair of difference between Gena and Finn in their approach to technology, even though they’re only four years apart. Gena is a very natural digital communicator and is comfortable initiating relationships online. Finn is slightly more cautious, as if digital communication is a second language for her. Add in Finn’s (two years older) boyfriend, Charlie, and the disparity is even more pronounced --- Charlie hasn’t stopped to consider that the people he games with online are real people.

TRC: GENA/FINN showcases the fact that relationships made online are equally as valid and meaningful as those made in “real life.” How have your own internet friendships affected your writing of this novel?

HM and KH: GENA/FINN wouldn’t exist without our friendship, which was formed online. A few of the side characters --- Gena’s friend Alanah and the girls’ fandom friends --- are homages to people from our real online lives. Even Tylergirl93 has a basis in online reality, we’re sad to say!

TRC: The idea of fandoms plays a huge role in GENA/FINN.  Are either of you a part of any fandoms? How have the fandoms you have participated in influenced your writing?

HM and KH: We are both intermittent fangirls. Readers have correctly guessed that GENA/FINN’s "Up Below" is based on the CW show "Supernatural."

TRC: This novel also highlights the importance and power of fanfiction. Have either of you ever written any fanfiction? If so, how did writing fanfiction affect your writing? 

HM and KH: We have, and continue to do so. Fanfiction is a great low-pressure way to write and to share your writing.

TRC: It’s great to see LGBT* relationships in YA novels, but it sometimes seems as though bisexual characters like Gena or Finn are often non-existent. Is this an important issue to you personally? Was it important to you to acknowledge bisexuality in this novel?

HM and KH: It’s very important, and Hannah also addresses the issue in her previous novel, NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. It’s also important to understand that bisexuality isn’t contingent on who you choose to date. We deliberately left the ending of GENA/FINN a bit ambiguous so readers could fill in the OTP (or OT3!) of their choice, but whatever ending you imagine for the girls, whoever they end up with, it doesn’t change their bi identities.

TRC: It seems as though there are several co-authored YA novels these days. What are some of your favorites?

HM and KH: We are both fans of great anthologies --- for more from Hannah, and many other excellent authors, check out VIOLENT ENDS.

TRC: What’s next for each of you?  Should we expect more fantastic collaborations?

HM and KH: We hope so! We’ve got an idea in the baby stages, but in the meantime, Hannah is working on a book about a seafaring, monster hunting family, and Kat is working on a book about a high school prom date bidding war. Both are due to hit shelves in mid- to late-2017