Hena Khan and Andrea Menott are the authors of SUPER YOU!: POWER OF INVISIBILITY. SUPER YOU!: POWER OF INVISIBILITY is an action-packed, illustrated superhero origin story where the reader gets the power of invisibility and must decide, choice by choice, whether to use their abilities for good or evil. YEM was able to speak with Andrea Menott about if the idea of superheroes and villains came from a fascination or if it was something that was just decided, if it was it difficult to incorporate the “choose your own path” aspect to the book, about what it was like working together.
Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Andrea: As a kindergartner, I would spend my time in my room writing books! (They were “wrint and illustrated by Andrea Menotti.”) I then progressed to writing novels by flashlight in bed as an older kid!
Hena: I also started writing as a kid, and that’s something that drew me to Andrea as a friend when we were in elementary school. She was always bursting with creative energy and ideas! And we started writing together at a young age.
YEM: Where did the inspiration for SUPER YOU!: POWER OF INVISIBILITY come from?
Andrea: Invisibility was our next super power fascination after flying (which is the power in Super You! Book #1). We both have enjoyed learning the secrets of spying for other books, and this is the ultimate spy power!
YEM: The idea of a book where you can choose your own path is so unique. Where did that idea come from?
Hena: Well, Andrea and I both read the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” series as kids, but we thought we could improve on that concept and make the choices have more direct consequences and build toward something. In SUPER YOU!, the reader makes decisions that lead to becoming a hero or villain, which is incredibly satisfying!
Andrea: Yes, there is a tradition of this kind of narrative, but often the endings seem kind of arbitrary. We wanted it to feel like a game, where you could really feel victorious about picking the path to a certain outcome. (And we know lots of kids who will read the book several times until they get to be the villain!)
YEM: Did the idea of superheroes and villains come from a fascination or was it something that was just decided?
Hena: We’ve observed how much kids (and adults!) are obsessed with superheroes, powers, good versus evil, and more. Who hasn’t dreamt of having a super power and what to do with it? Superheroes and villains work so well in the pick-your-path format and allow you to make incredible choices that take you on out-of-this world adventures so it was something that we thought about doing for a while.
Andrea: Yes! I knew Hena had a good idea when she showed me this one! I also have an in-house inspiration – my husband, Yancey Labat, is a comic book illustrator. He is the illustrator of the Super You! series too!
YEM: Was it difficult to incorporate the “choose your own path” aspect to your book?
Andrea: The books were built around this concept, so they wouldn’t exist without it! It is challenging to work with multiple branching narratives – keeping them all straight requires careful pre-plotting and lots of thinking (and sometimes some clean-up of mistakes!)
YEM: What is it like to work together? How is the process different from working on a book by yourself?
Andrea: We have a lot of trust in each other, so it is usually joyful to work together. And when it is not joyful, when we’re tired or lost, we give each other moral support! Writing also requires a lot of quiet thinking space, and we are able to give that to each other when needed, which is key. Most of our collaboration occurs during the plotting phase, which seems to work best around Hena’s dining room table (with lots of coffee and snacks).
YEM: What advice do you have for someone who might want to be a writer one day?
Hena: Writing isn’t a superpower! It’s a skill that takes practice, like any other. So make sure you “train” to be a writer by reading a lot of books, writing as often as you can, sharing your work with others and getting feedback. It takes patience, but you can do it!
Andrea: Yes! You have to work at it. Imagine if you wanted to be a potter. Would you expect to sell your first bowl? No, you’d probably make quite a few lumpy, awkward bowls before you had the skill to make one that someone else would want to buy. The same goes for writing books. Don’t give up. If you love it, you will keep coming back to it, and fresh ideas will keep coming to you.
YEM: What do you hope that readers can take away from reading SUPER YOU!: POWER OF INVISIBILITY?
Hena: This book is about having fun and going on a reading adventure, about getting lost in your imagination and believing anything is possible! It also encourages readers to think about what they would do with real power and how they would use it.
Andrea: I hope they take away an interest in futuristic technologies and a curiosity about worlds beyond ours! Also, with all of our choice books, I hope readers are reminded that they are empowered to make choices that will determine how their days (and lives!) play out. I once knew a principal who started every school day with this message over the loudspeaker: “Make it a good day or not. The choice is yours!”
YEM: What is your favorite part about writing for a young adult audience?
Hena: I love hearing from readers about the way my books have excited them, made them feel something, helped them feel seen, and more. There’s nothing better than getting feedback from young people in the form of letters, emails, and at events! It’s so satisfying to see them get excited about something I wrote, which is truly the ultimate reward.
Andrea: I love talking with readers about the books and getting really thoughtful, astute questions! I also love to see how many of them are writers and illustrators themselves, and how visibly (and audibly) they get excited when talking about things like super powers. (When we visit a school, I love it when they tell us about super powers that interest them.) And yes, letters are the best, especially illustrated ones!
YEM: Do you plan to work together again soon on anything?
Hena: We’d love to keep the SUPER YOU! series going and keep writing more adventures with new powers. That of course requires readers and fans of the books, so we appreciate your support and anything you can do to help spread the word!
Andrea: What she said!