Author Interview: Jay Asher

Monday, May 17, 2010

In 2009, I read Jay Asher's debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why. A year later, the story is still as fresh and as new as if I had just finished it. In fact, it has become one of my favorite Young Adult novels of all time. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend it. It is a MUST read.
Today, I am extremely honored to be given the privilege of interviewing the author of this honest, thought-provoking, and engrossing novel.

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1. In one of your interviews, you mentioned you have always liked writing and you started with comic strips. Do you remember the very first comic strip you made? What was it about?
Nate the Gopher was the first comic where I made several strips based around the same characters. Much of it took place down in the hole where Nate lived, but he also traveled all over town by digging tunnels. Peanuts was a huge inspiration for me and I've always thought it would be fun to have one cast of characters to write about for many years, commenting on life in little snippets.

2. What is the best thing about being a writer/novelist?
My favorite part of this job is speaking at schools around the country. For one thing, it gives me a chance to meet my readers face-to-face. For another, I've always had a desire to be a stand-up comic, so this lets me get that out of my system a little bit. I don't think I could ever do straight stand-up because everyone would be sitting there expecting me to be funny. But if I'm talking about writing and happen to be funny, then it's an unexpected bonus for the audience.

3. Someone picks up Thirteen Reasons Why and asks, "What is this about?" In 1-3 word/s, how would you answer them?
I would tell them I can't do it in 2 or 3 words. I used to simply say the book was about suicide, but people immediately came to conclusions about the book that weren't necessarily true. Instead, when I describe the book, I concentrate on the suspense elements of the story, which is what I concentrated on while writing it.

4. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I have to start with strong characters and then trust those characters to know more about their lives than I do. Sometimes Hannah would say something I didn't fully understand, but I wrote down her words anyway because they "sounded" right coming out of her mouth. Maybe a few pages or chapters later, suddenly her words made total sense.

5. Where is your favorite place to write? To read?
I love writing at Linnaea's Cafe, which is a coffeeshop downtown with an artsy vibe to it. It was the inspiration for Monet's Garden Cafe in Thirteen Reasons Why. I like hearing the buzz of conversation around me while I write. But when I read, I like the quiet of my home. I'm also learning to read on airplanes, which really helps the time fly by (pun absolutely intended).

6. What is the best advice about writing that you have received?
There's this cliche, "Write what you know", that gets repeated a lot (which, I suppose, is what makes it a cliche). Someone finally turned that cliche on its head and said, "Don't write what you know, write about what you want to know." Too many writers only tell stories about people and situations they're completely familiar with, which often leads to dull and predictable stories. But if you're excited about learning more the world of your characters, readers will be excited, too.

7. What is the best thing a reader has ever said to you about your novel?
My very first 'favorite quote' came when someone said the book made her want to "be wonderful to everyone." That's such a beautiful statement! Since then, I've had many people say they wouldn't be here had they not stumbled across my book. It's hard to top that.

8. You are to be stranded on a deserted island with five companions. If you could choose five fictional characters to accompany you, who would they be and why?
Wow! Most people ask what five books I'd bring along, but five characters? Well, I'd have to say Hannah and Clay from my own book, since I'm sure there's plenty I still don't know about them. And then, because it's only fair after all the crap I put them through, Hannah and Clay get to choose someone from their school to bring along. For my final fictional character, I'd have to bring Grover from The Monster at the End of this Book. Grover's so wacky, I'm sure he'd be able to keep us entertained on that desert island for a long time.

9. What can we all look forward to reading from you next? Any upcoming projects?
I'm working on a couple new YA novels, so I can't wait for everyone to read those. I'd also like to get some of the middle-grade novels I wrote several years ago published, but I'll definitely have to edit them quite a bit to make them publishable. But they're so fun, I'd love to have those out there.

10. Do you have any messages to your readers and fans?
It would have to be the same message Hannah gives on Cassette 7: Side B.

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Thank you so much to Mr. Jay Asher for taking the time to answer some questions with us!
For more from the author himself, you can go to see his webpage and his blog. If you would like to read my review for this novel, you can see it here. To purchase Thirteen Reasons Why, click here.

3 comments:

  1. Great! Interview! He is a great writer. I remember reading this book the day it came out and wow what page turner. I guess I need to reread the book because I don't remember the message on Cassette 7: Side B.

    Thanks so much,
    Heather

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  2. This is an awesome interview! I loved Thirteen Reasons Why. It haunted me for weeks.

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  3. Great interview, I adored 13 Reasons and it's one of my fave YA books too :)

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