Interview: Lynn Zubernis talks Family Don’t End with Blood and the awe-inspiring personal messages

Image by Jeffrey Zubernis/via Ben Bella Books with permission

Lynn Zubernis is a clinical psychologist and passionate Supernatural fangirl. Family Don’t End with Blood is her second book, where she collected personal messages and essays from the fans, the crew, and the cast of the show. She talked with SPN Hunters exclusively about the book and her passion for the show.

It’s always fun meeting other fans. Supernatural has helped so many fans deal with loss, grief, and addiction. We all have stories to tell, but it’s not always easy to make our voices heard. Lynn Zubernis managed that with her new book Family Don’t End with Blood. The book is a collection of personal stories and essays from the whole SPNFamily, including the cast and fans of the show.

If you were ever in doubt of your next book to read, Family Don’t End with Blood is definitely the one you want to pick up next. SPN Hunters was lucky enough to chat to Zuberis about her book, the collection of the stories, her passion for the show, and much more. She even put up with the sound of drilling work on elevators going on in my apartment building (or the joys of apartment living) to chat.

SPN Hunters: Thank you for taking your time out of the day. I have to say that the essays in the book are so inspirational. I’m on my third read-through at the moment. It’s just brilliant. I just love the messages from it.

Lynn Zubernis: Yeah, I feel like I can agree with you because I didn’t write most of the book. I feel like everybody just really went there and worked so hard on it and wrote such personal things. I’m just so in awe of them.

SH: And it can be so hard to write just personal messages, especially when you know it’s going to be in print.

LZ: Oh yeah, it was really hard. It took them a really long time because none of them are writers; the fans or the actors. None of them had done something like this before and they all found it very different. It’s different to giving an interview and having someone quote you. This is writing from your own heart and putting it out there as your own thing. There was a lot of anxiety around it.

SH: I’m really not surprised, and that’s for everyone. I was really surprised that you got some of the fans in, because they’re have no experience.

LZ: No. It was an elegant situation for the fans and actors. It was equally unfamiliar for all of them and that was really clear at the book release party. We had fans who had written chapters and actors who had written chapters. When I was back in the greenroom with all of them, they were sort of huddling together feeling the same way.

I thought this was really emblematic of how we all are.

SH: So what’s been the reaction since then from the people who wrote chapters?

LZ: Everybody feels really good about it now and relieved. I keep asking people “I know you were nervous beforehand. Is anyone worried you put out too much?” but I think the reaction to the book and chapters has been positive. So many people have said “I was going through a really difficult time and the book really spoke to me and changed something.”

That feels so good that the reaction is now relief. The message they wanted has come through.

SH: That’s brilliant that they’ve got relief, because they should be really proud about what they’ve put out there.

LZ: They are now. I really think it didn’t really hit them that it would make such an impact until people started coming up to them at conventions and tweeting them, and telling them what a difference it has made. Now they have told me, most have said they are proud of what they did. It took the reaction of others to feel that pride.

SH: I see the reaction from fans has been overwhelmingly positive about the book. Is it as much as you were hoping for or has it been bigger?

LZ: It is what I was hoping for but I wasn’t counting on it. The reason I originally wanted to write this book (and it was just going to be fan stories) was after writing Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, which was a memoir and me telling my whole story, embarrassing moments, and doubts, and people started sending me their stories. They wanted to share how Supernatural had changed their life, so I wanted to write the book because I always try to challenge the negative stereotypes of fandom.

This fandom, the Supernatural fandom, has been such a healthy and positive thing for so many people. I wanted to put the message out there. I never even considered putting the actors’ stories in. I never even thought the fandom had changed things for the actors, until Jared [Padalecki] suggested it. And even putting the two of them together, I didn’t dare hope it would have the impact that it seems to be having.

SH: And what an impact it’s had. I keep seeing tweets from people recommending the book and I can’t help but jump in there and say read it. If you can’t watch an episode, you can at least read what the fandom means to so many people.

LZ: Yeah and I could have had a book of 500 stories, but I tried to select stories (especially fan stories) that were different. There’s a chapter in there that would speak to everyone. I’ve literally heard that there’s a chapter that’s spoken to someone; a different chapter for different people. It’s what I’d hoped for, and I’m glad I’ve accomplished it.

Image: Smart Pop Books/via Ben Bella Books with permission

SH: So, you said Jared suggested the connection with the actors’ stories. How did it develop from that point?

LZ: From the point of his casual mention and me thinking “all right, I never thought of that,” I contacted all the actors I already knew and asked them if they wanted to say something. Everyone immediately said yes, but not everyone could do it because of time constraints. Every single person and actor had something powerful to say.

It was then just a case of shepherding everyone through their many drafts. There was some handholding, and people were so anxious about it.

SH: Was there much editing involved, or did you leave the essays the way people had written them?

LZ: There was some editing involved and everyone was open to that. Everyone was grateful for the editing, but there’s less than you might have expected. I’ve put together edited collections before and there was a lot. I didn’t know what to expect with the actors and how much editing would be needed.

There was some but not a lot.

SH: Their voices come through with each of the essays.

LZ: Yeah and that’s why we didn’t want to over-edit. Part of the things that make the actors’ chapters so powerful is that they’re in the words of the actors. We didn’t want to change that and make it into our voice. We wanted their genuine message and voice came through.

SH: Who was the first one to get their essay in?

LZ: Oh wow! I’m not sure if I know about that. I think it was Gil McKinney. He turned it around super, super fast. He was like “Oh, I haven’t written in a long time…oh here it is!” It came through very genuinely and only required minor edits. I think he was the first.

SH: Which out of the main four was the last to come through?

LZ: They were all the last ones, but they are very busy. I think the final version of Jared’s might have been the last one. That seems appropriate as Jared’s is the longest chapter in the book and it went through the most revisions [by him]. He wanted to get it right and he did get it so very right. I don’t quibble.

There were a couple of times where he told me that he had started over [on this chapter]. He didn’t feel like it was right and needed to start over. He put so, I can’t even tell you how much work he put in.

The fandom is so important to him (and all of them). They really wanted to say something and say it right, so it would be authentic and meaningful.

SH: Which has been your favorite essay [out of all] in the book? Can you even choose?

LZ: It’s like choosing between my children. I love them all so much. I have a special soft spot for Jared’s because of the journey (it was intense). I also really love Rob’s. It really affected me emotionally, partly because he writes it from the perspective of taking me through what happens. Hearing how vulnerable and frightened he was really got to me.

There’s so much to [the essays]. There’s no fluff.

I love all the fans. They put themselves out there. When I read Burner Cades’s I always remember when I met her. We were sitting at a convention and she got to talking to me. When I told her about the book, she shared her story about how Jared had sensed something was wrong and literally saved her life. I remember crying when she told me and reading the story again got to me again. She’s now become a friend and helped me at the book table. I’m so glad her story’s included.

SH: That story sent shivers down my spine.

LZ: Me, too!

Photo Credit: Supernatural/The CW Image Acquired from CW TV PR

SH: So, moving onto your interest in the show. What was the first episode you ever saw?

LZ: The first episode I ever saw was the pilot but I didn’t get hooked on the show. I had a friend who was hooked and had the episode on a VHS tape. She showed us the pilot and we watched it. I watched the first season casually. It was early in Season 2 and my mouth was on the floor.

I can’t remember the exact episode, but it was the one with a mountain backdrop, when the brothers connected and when Dean got emotional for the first time. I thought he was more of a stereotypical character, but he really wasn’t.

SH: Are you a Dean girl or Sam girl?

LZ: I’m a Dean girl but you can’t separate them. So much of what makes Dean him is the connection with his brother. So, I’m a Dean girl but I can’t separate the two.

SH: So a Winchester girl?

LZ: Yes, I would say so. And I’m a huge Jared fan, after working with him so closely over the past few years. I have MAD love for Jared (and Jensen!). It’s mixed up.

SH: So, what’s next for you?

LZ: I keep saying that I won’t write another book, but I also have a book coming out in November, called Supernatural Psychology, which I co-edited with Travis Langley. That’s a book focused on the characters and the psychology of the characters; the trauma, loss, and PTSD that they’ve faced.

I’m also thinking about a sequel to Family Don’t End with Blood, because I have more from the fans and actors to share. I have a lot of people with stories for if I do another book.

Family Don’t End with Blood is now available, telling intimate and emotional stories from the fans and those involved in the show.

The Winchesters will return with Supernatural Season 13 on Oct. 12 at 8/7c on The CW.

Have you read Family’ Don’t End with Blood? Share your thoughts on the personal messages and the book below.

Update Aug 19, 2017: It was pointed out to us by WFB Supernatural on Twitter that we’d incorrectly named the book “Family Don’t End in Blood” rather than “with Blood.” Thank you for correcting us!