It’s the season in which we celebrate what we’re thankful for, and this year I’m very thankful for a television show. Not just because it has brought me tremendous joy over the past twelve plus years, or because it has allowed me to find some of my closest friends, or even because it has gotten me through some tough times. This year I’m thankful that Supernatural and the special people who make the show and are fans of the show allowed me to give something back to the community I love – the SPNFamily.
Even at this time of year – maybe especially at this time of year – many of us are hurting. As a psychologist, I know that better than most. Anxiety, depression, self doubt, and loneliness make life a lot more challenging. One of the things that helps is feeling like you’re not alone in your struggles, particularly if people you relate to or admire have been through some of the same challenges. That was the idea behind Family Don’t End With Blood, a book with chapters written by most of the actors on Supernatural as a message of support and encouragement to the fandom. When you hear that the Supernatural actors have doubted themselves, fallen into despair, even wondered if they could get up again and keep fighting – but that they DID – and you read it in their own words, raw and uncensored, that is the best kind of inspiration to do the same. I was honored to work with the actors and fans to put this book together.
Since Family Don’t End With Blood has been published, we’ve received countless emails, tweets and messages about how someone read the book when they were at their lowest point, and this was the thing that convinced them to keep fighting. That words written by Kim Rhodes or Briana Buckmaster or one of the other actors rang so true they felt understood. That words written by Jensen Ackles or Misha Collins or Jared Padalecki convinced them they really were not alone. The actors have heard the same from many fans, on social media and at conventions. We are all so very grateful. We wanted the book to make a difference, and we are absolutely blown away by how much of a difference Family Don’t End With Blood has made.
The stars of Supernatural were in Washington DC for a convention with Creation Entertainment a few weeks ago, celebrating the success of Season 13 of the show and answering fans’ questions. Many of the actors appearing at the convention also wrote chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood. Both fans and actors shared in the book how the show has made an impact on them, changing lives and in some cases even literally saving lives. As fans, we often take this for granted, knowing how life-changing it can be to be passionate about a television show or a film or a band or whatever it is we geek out about. But in the case of Supernatural, the show and the fandom have had an equal impact on the actors, including the two actors who bring the iconic characters of Sam and Dean Winchester to life, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. At the convention, Jensen and Jared were onstage for a panel and were asked by a fan about their experience writing chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood. They shared some insights about that process and about working with me as editor of the book (both seriously and with playful ribbing, which is par for the course with Jared and Jensen).
Fan: So I just finished reading your chapters in FDEWB and I really enjoyed both of them, they were incredible writing by both of you. And as a writer myself, I wanted to know about your process.
Jensen: Mine’s simple. I didn’t write it.
He looked pointedly at me where I was sitting in the second row, so I weighed in. Indignantly.
Me: Yes you did!
He went on to explain what he meant, perhaps because of my intimidating stare. Or not.
Jensen: I’m not a writer, I don’t pretend to be, I don’t attempt to be. Lynn, who put the book together, I said to her, I will answer questions, like interview style, and you can transcribe it and put it down. I’m comfortable with that. But if I sit down and put pen to paper, it’s a whole lot of nothing that comes out. So I’m better to kind of freeform and speak.
[Okay, that’s true. We had several conversations during which I tried to convince him that he could do it the old fashioned way, but he ended up convincing me in the end. I’m fairly certain nobody who knows me is even remotely surprised by that.]
Jensen: He, however [pointing to Jared] took about…. What was it, Lynn, seven years?
Me: (laughing) Two.
Jensen: (also laughing) Two years…
Jared: (also laughing) TWO YEARS. I took two years, no lie. And he [Jensen] knows, because we went as a family, as two families, to Turks and Caicos. So it’s the Ackles and the Padaleckis and we’re all staying at the beach and I’m sitting there at my computer like looking at notes, looking at this and that.
Jensen: (is nodding)
Jared: I also am not a writer…
Me: The hell you’re not.
[Pretty sure anyone who has read Jared’s powerful 40 page chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood would agree with me. I mean, it’s FORTY PAGES!]
Jared: So it was difficult to find the words. Lynn, I love you, so much.
Me: [flustered because he blew me a kiss from the stage but managing to speak. Sorta] I love you too.
Jared: Lynn would just send, like every six months or so, like ‘hey how’s it going? Any update on your chapter…?’ And I’d be like yes, working on it. It was also very stressful because in my case, it was also a lot of stuff that I hadn’t really ever said publicly, so I did it with her guidance.
Jensen: So the process is really just harassment (looks at me pointedly) to a degree that forces you to do something.
The audience laughed, while I tried hard to glare at Mr. Ackles. I probably failed.
Jared turned back to the fan who had asked the question.
Jared: Thanks for reading it. If anybody hasn’t read the book, there’s a lot of honest soul exploration in it.
That’s an understatement when it comes to Jared’s chapter, and for many of the other chapters in the book too. Everyone who wrote a chapter really bared their souls and shared their genuine personal feelings and experiences in the book. That was the whole point.
Jensen smiled too and thanked the fan, whose name was Kinzie, for her question. I’d like to thank her too!
Jared and Jensen (and all the other actors who wrote a chapter) have told me that since the book was released, they’ve been asked to autograph many copies and have been touched to hear that their words have made a difference to so many fans. We are all so very very grateful to have had the opportunity to reach so many people with our words, to validate people who have felt the same emotions and gone through similar struggles, to inspire people to keep fighting, and to give back to the SPNFamily.
Jared and Jensen, in spite of all their teasing, appreciate each other’s chapters in the book too. When I asked them to show each other how they felt when they first read their chapters, this is what they did. I may have needed to grab for the tissues when I saw it.
If you haven’t read it yet, you can pick up a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. If you’re a fan of anything, whether it’s Supernatural or something else, hearing how the people on the ‘other side’ feel about being a part of something that others geek out over and how it has impacted them will be eye opening and validating. Hearing how other fans have been changed by their love of a television show lets us all know we’re not alone.
A portion of proceeds benefits Random Acts, the non-profit started by Supernatural actor Misha Collins (who also wrote a chapter) spreading kindness and helping those in need worldwide, and Attitudes in Reverse, working to fight the stigma around mental health challenges and make sure those who need help can get it.
Here’s a clip of Jared and Jensen at the convention in Washington DC talking about their experience writing their chapters:
If you’re making up your wish list for the holidays, or have a fan on your list to buy for, this just might be the book. There’s an amazon link on our home page here. If you do read FDEWB, we hope it means to all of you as much as it means to all of us.