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Writers on Writing: Jay Asher



Before we go into Jay’s interview, I wanted to let all of you know that Terri Prizzi is the winner of my fabulous Haters contest! Yeay, Terri!

jayasher Okay, now into the moment you have all been waiting for. Jay Asher shook the foundation of YA fiction last year with his book ’13 Reasons Why.’ He’s a fabulous author who’s debut work received countless awards and recognition. He is currently STILL on the NYT best seller’s list and I’m sure he’ll be there for a while yet. Thank you for joining me today for my Wednesday Writer’s Write series, Jay!



What is your brainstorming process for a new book? When an intriguing idea hits me, I don’t write any of the story until I get a good sense of the characters who might show up. Then I write an opening scene to establish a certain atmosphere which I’d like to carry throughout the book. Once I have my premise, main characters, and the atmosphere set, then the brainstorming kicks into full gear. I don’t outline, I simply take out a notebook and jot down ideas for interesting scenes which might occur when those characters are faced with the overall premise of my story. When it seems there’s enough material to sustain a novel, I start writing…but I hardly ever look at my notes again. I just assume that when I fully understand what I’m trying to accomplish with the novel, the characters will lead the way. Any good ideas I had during the brainstorming portion will naturally pop-up if they’re meant to be there. When I finish writing, then it’s fun to go back and peek at my notebook to rediscover the scenes that didn’t make it into the book.

Can you explain your typical work week day? I don’t have a specific schedule, but the day’s a hodgepodge of coffee, checking my Amazon ranking, answering letters from my readers on MySpace, putting together book club packets, brainstorming/writing my next novel…and sometimes I can run to the gym for fifteen minutes. Oh, and food!

Tell us about your big break in the writing industry. My big break was twelve years in the making. That’s how long it took from the time I sent in my first manuscript to when I sold my first book (Thirteen Reasons Why). My previous manuscripts were all humorous and for younger children. Because why would anyone want to write a serious book??? When my agent began submitting my first novel for teens, it got rejected about nine times. Then, within two days, three editors made offers! Of course, you never know for sure if a book is going to be successful. You never know if it’ll be stocked by libraries and bookstores until it actually happens. So there was a lot of finger-crossing. But they did stock the books, and when teens found out about it and read it, they told their friends about it. And it just kept growing from there.

What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers? Join a critique group. That’s the best thing you can do for your writing. You have to be flexible enough to make whatever changes will make your story stronger, but confident enough in your original idea to not let the manuscript get off-track.

Tell us about what you’re working on right now and what we can expect from you in the near future. I’m working on another teen novel right now, but I try not to give away many details because it freaks me out when I feel people are waiting for a certain type of book. I will say that my next book is a tad more lighthearted than Thirteen Reasons Why.

Thank you so much for joining us, Jay! It’s so great to hear that we’ll hopefully see another fabulous work from you in the future. You can pick up ’13 Reasons Why’ at your local bookstore or here.

13 reasons why
Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. ’13 Reasons Why’ is his first published novel.

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