I am so insanely excited to have Jay Asher on my blog today! I read Thirteen Reasons Why in college and it just slayed me. Such a phenomenal story, totally brilliant. AND because he really iscompletely awesome, he's donated a signed copy of Thirteen Reasons Why. Information below.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a very powerful and emotional book. What inspired this book?
A close relative of mine attempted suicide when she was a junior in high school, the same age as Hannah Baker in the novel. Around that same time, I came up with the idea of an audiotour-style novel, using two simultaneous narrators. Nine years later, the subject matter and the structure came together, and I began writing the book. I knew the structure allowed me to discuss the very serious issues with an element of suspense, which was important to me. There's no reason serious books shouldn't also be entertaining.
Did you always know the direction you wanted Thirteen Reasons Why to go? Or did Hannah and Clay surprise you? I always knew the emotional arc of Hannah's character, but the details that happened along the way were mostly surprises. As well, I had already written a large chunk of the book before I realized Clay's role in the story. Basically, I wanted to keep myself in the dark as much as possible, discovering the story as I went along. That way, if it was a suprise to me, I figured it would also be a surprise to the readers.
Did you have any idea writing this book the kind of reaction it would have? That so many people would so connect to it, would find it so powerful and emotional?
I had no idea this many people would love the book and tell so many other people about it. I always figured it would have a very strong, but rather small, following. There just happens to be a lot more people than I anticipated who allowed themselves to open up and try to understand what Hannah was going through. Many times, that's because they could identify with her a little bit. Other times, it's because they knew other people who'd been through similar circumstances. My main focus while writing Hannah's story was to write it with completely raw honesty, and I think that's what connected with so many people.
What has most surprised you (positive, negative or both) about the response to Thirteen Reasons Why? On the positive side, it surprised me how many readers say the book inspired them to reach out and get help. They identified with Hannah in some ways, but also recognized where she could have, and should have, done more for herself. On the negative side, I'm always surprised when people say they didn't like the book because they didn't think Hannah had good reasons to kill herself. Of course she didn't! Does anyone? Yet it still happens. The alternative is to have written a book where, when people were done with it, they said, "Yep, she totally did the right thing." People who were hoping to read a book like that, they make me a little nervous.
The Future of Us, your upcoming release, is not really Contemporary. Was it a lot different than writing Contemporary? Which do you prefer?
The premise required us to set our world in 1996, but we didn't write it any differently than if it took place today. Along the same line, there's a sci-fi element to the story, but we wanted it to feel very real. So while it's set in the mid-90s, and has a fantastic element, we wanted it to feel like a realistic contemporary novel.
You also wrote Future as part of a team. What was that writing experience like? Would you want to write as a team again, or do you prefer solo writing?
It honestly felt no different than writing alone... just faster. Before Carolyn Mackler and I wrote a single word, we had several discussions about our writing styles and philosophies. Because we have very similar thoughts on those things, the entire time we wrote and brainstormed the story, we never clashed. Sometimes we challenged each other, but always pushing toward the same goal. Having someone to bounce ideas around with every step of the way, the process flowed much quicker than usual. So while I would be afraid to write a book with someone else, because there's no way they could compare to writing with Carolyn, it was much more enjoyable to write as a team (with that team!) than writing alone.
What's next for you? Any information you can share with us about your work in progress? Nothing I can share, no. Like I said, I like surprises!
Oh you tease!! I cannot wait to see what you will be working on next! Thank you so much for taking part in my event! It's been awesome having you here!! And, as mentioned previously, Jay has donated a signed paperback of Thirteen Reasons Why. This is an International giveaway. (Everyone should tell Jay how awesome he is, because he is the one shipping the book. The contest will close, as are all Just Contemporary contests on December 10th. Enter on the widget below. (Also, I feel like I have to say that I am jealous of whoever wins this one. This is one of the books I would love to have signed! Le sigh.:) )