Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

The following is my annual Easter re-post.

Every so often, a reader tells me their impression of something I wrote in a way that deepens my own understanding of my own words. Someone in Florida once told me how a decision one rof my characters made helped her illustrate a sentiment she'd been trying to get across to her friends.

Here's what she told me:

In the past, I've had to help friends realize that life goes on even after you've made a poor decision. Not because you move on or get over it, but because you grow as a result of it. You build something new, something with a higher purpose, using what you've learned as one of your bricks.

When I read that, my heart leapt! Since there was no way I could say it any better, I immediately knew I'd be using her words in future speeches...and blog posts.

So what does this have to do with Easter?

One of the most beautiful ideas surrounding this holiday is that we're all given an opportunity to make corrections if we find ourselves traveling down a road we don't want to (or shouldn't) be on. In fact, we're given this opportunity to change every day. Every second! But sometimes we need a calendar to remind us.

Refresh. Repair. Rebirth. Whatever you want to call it...

Renewal is a wonderful blessing!

Easter 2017

Friday, April 07, 2017

13 REASONS WHY: A Netflix Premiere

It's been a full week since you've been able to watch the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. And it's been a week and a day since the red carpet premiere, so I'm just now barely starting to begin to come down from La La Land, and thought I'd share a bit about that magical experience.

My book's journey to the screen began  when I met Selena Gomez and her mom, Mandy Teefey, for a sushi dinner. They impressed me immensely with their passion for my book, their understanding of the characters and message, and their ideas for adapting it.

Fast forward eight years, and it finally happened! While those years saw several false starts, the end result makes all of us feel it happened exactly how it was supposed to happen.

The day before the premiere, my wife and I drove down to L.A., directly to the Paramount Pictures lot.

That's where the premiere would happen, but first we acted like giggly tourists as guests on a studio tour. Joining us were the equally giggly Kristen Pettit (she edited Thirteen Reasons Why) and Peter Emmerich (he created the map inside the book). In the distance behind us is the Hollywood sign!

Our hotel was across from Capitol Records, with another distant view of the Hollywood sign.

And in the other direction, a much closer sign of our show!

The next afternoon, the day of the premiere, several of my guests came to our room where three hair and make-up stylists made the women premiere-ready.

From left to right in the picture below are Nate Asher (brother), Sarah Pinon (sister-in-law), Kristen Pettit (editor), Romina Russell (YA author), Mary Weber (YA author), Laura Rennert (literary agent) JoanMarie (wife), me (, Elyse Marshall (publicist), Trey Pearson (musician), and Ben Scrhank (publisher).

When we got to the premiere, the red carpet festivities had already begun. You could take photos next to the beautiful Mustang from the show, as well as blue lockers from the hallways of Liberty High.

JoanMarie and I walked the red carpet, where more cameras were pointed in our direction than ever before. That's Derek Luke (Mr. Porter) to my left!

One of the people I feel blessed to know because of this journey is the beautiful person and wonderful actor who drove that Mustang, Christian Navarro (Tony).

If you've read interviews I've done about writing the book, you may know that the TV show My So-Called Life had a big impact on me. When I found out Wilson Cruz, who played Rickie Vasquez on MSCL, would play a lawyer named Dennis Vasquez on my show... Well, the full-circle elements of this project have been incredible.

This entire thing would not have happened as wonderfully as it has for me if not for the dedication of my literary agent, Laura Rennert, and film agent for Thirteen Reasons Why, Sean Daily.

Other YA rockstars in attendance, pictured with Romina and Mary below, were Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi...

But there was also a rockstar rockstar named Courtney Love!

Then we all headed into the theater...

...took our seats...

...and watched the first episode of a project lovingly handled by so many talented people.

I could not bmore grateful for what all of these people have achieved.


Thank you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

PIPER: Follow the Story

The book has finally been announced and the cover revealed! Read the Publishers Weekly exclusive by clicking here.

(story description at end of post)

Piper, a graphic novel written by Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg, illustrated by Jeff Stokely, will be released by Razorbill (an imprint at Penguin Random House). The following is a photo-illustrated conversation between Jay and Jessica regarding the history of this collaboration.

JAY: You and I met when you invited me to speak at a regional SCBWI conference, but we connected over a love of dark and eerie stories.

JESSICA: Right, but that was not the first type of story we collaborated on.

JAY: No, we first wrote a screenplay about adults reliving their childhood moment of glory. We even did a read-through of the script at your house, with your friends and parents and husband all taking roles. It was hilarious!

JESSICA: Well, we thought it was.

JAY: I still think it worked. It just could have worked…better.

JESSICA: So we decided to find an idea that was dark and eerie. You were on a layover in some airport and called me to brainstorm.

JAY: There was one legend both of us had always loved, yet never got the cinematic treatment it deserved: the Pied Piper.

JESSICA: There was that old movie we found online where the Piper gleefully twirls around the village, which was anything but dark and eerie.

JAY: But it was disturbing!

JESSICA: We knew we had to tell that story, but in a way that merged our strengths as writers. You love writing characters with complex relationships.

JAY: And you'd already done a ghost story, but were currently writing a nonfiction book.

JESSICA: With Piper, it helped that we’re both research geeks.

JAY: To be honest, I don’t think I did this much research on anything in college!

JESSICA: Didn’t you drop out of college?

JAY: So anyway… We came up with the premise, a relationship the Piper gets into while ridding the town of rats. And while we added characters and storylines, we really wanted the traditional legend to remain intact.

JESSICA: Because the legend worked—it had a perfect amount of creepiness—but it also had unanswered questions. So that’s what we filled in, making the story larger, while preserving the history.

JAY: I remember thinking, “I should have paid attention in seventh grade when we learned about European feudal systems.” But I couldn’t imagine ever needing to know that stuff!

JESSICA: Lesson to our readers: Pay attention in class!

JAY: To keep the story accurate, we even reached out to one of my longtime readers in Germany, Rene Kissien, when we hit roadblocks or needed things translated. He contacted people in Hameln (yes, that is the correct spelling) and had them send photos of specific things for us, including a page from a book with the first mention of the Pied Piper.

JESSICA: A visual touchstone for our story was Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. That’s why we initially thought of a screenplay. We really wanted to see this and not just read about it.

JAY: Or, we wanted other people to see it and not just read about it.

JESSICA: Right, and since our first attempt at a screenplay was fun but never made it to the big screen, we approached Razorbill about doing it as a graphic novel.

JAY: And they said yes! They’d never done a graphic novel, but loved the story and wanted to make it work.

JESSICA: We collected graphic novels with illustration styles we thought could work. We were going to leave the artist selection up to Razorbill, but wanted to show them how we envisioned it. I remember going to my library and texting you photos of graphic novels with a creepy-cool style.

JAY: But we knew there were artists we were overlooking, so I went into a local comic book shop, Dr. Cain’s Comics and Games, and gave the basic premise to the owner. Reid Cain gave me a few suggestions, including a name he thought could be perfect. He handed me an issue of The Storyteller Witches, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely. Immediately, Jeff’s style shot to the top of my list. And, I learned, he lived only fifteen minutes from me!

JESSICA: When you sent me photos of that book, I ran to my library and got a copy, and he immediately became my first choice, too. And he didn’t live anywhere near me!

JAY: Razorbill narrowed their list of artists to around five people, including artists in other countries. But you and I had our fingers crossed for Jeff. And we got him!

JESSICA: And then you got to meet him before me, which was totally unfair.

JAY: What!?!? I swear we saw you at that coffee shop.

JESSICA: Cute. Anyway… Jeff turned out to be the perfect illustrator for this. Didn’t he say he had specifically been wanting to do a project on Germanic folklore?

JAY: Yep. And here it is!

JESSICA: Then we went to New York and met the crew at Razorbill who would be working on this project. I mean, you’d met most of them already, but not all of them.

JAY: But the initial reason we were there was because you’re the founder of an awesome paranormal investigating group, Ghost Stories Ink, and somehow got permission to do an after-hours investigation of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which has an incredible history. Tiff, who was working on Piper, even joined us because she’s into spooky stuff, too!

JESSICA: It was definitely a unique way to get to know one of my new editors. She and I shook hands in front of a haunted mansion, then I did a K2 sweep of the location and explained the best way to capture EVPs.

JAY: I’d gone on one other investigation with your group, but this one was way more intense!

JESSICA: Soon after that, you came back out to my neck of the woods and…

JAY: Oh, right, I gave a presentation at the place where you work. That was fun!

JESSICA: I wasn’t talking about that. But, yeah, everyone was so excited that “Jay Asher’s coming here!?!?” Umm…hello! I’m there every single week! But…fine. Whatever.

JAY: I know, it was fun.

JESSICA: What was really fun was borrowing a rat so we could take photos fitting for our upcoming book.

JAY: What? That was not fun.

JESSICA: It was fun for me! Except when he peed on my hand and I accidently got his tail in my mouth.

JAY: Okay, that part was actually fun.

JESSICA: This entire project has been a blast, from start to finish.

JAY: And now we can finally talk about it! Yay!

JESSICA: You know what’s going to be the funnest part of all?

JAY: Funnest is not a word.

JESSICA: The funnest part is going to be when people can actually read it!

JAY: And it won’t be long. People will be able to read it for Halloween!

JESSICA: I’m totally giving out gummy rats for Halloween.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Jay Asher and co-author Jessica Freeburg brilliantly reimagine the classic Pied Piper legend as a powerful graphic novel about loneliness, love, and vengeance. Fans of Neil Gaiman andThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll will devour this eerie, atmospheric retelling. 
Long ago, in a small village in the middle of a deep, dark forest, there lived a lonely, deaf girl named Maggie. Shunned by her village because of her disability, her only comfort comes from her vivid imagination. Maggie has a gift for inventing stories and dreams of one day finding her fairy-tale love. 
When Maggie meets the mysterious Piper, it seems that all her wishes are coming true. Spellbound, Maggie falls hard for him and plunges headfirst into his magical world. But as she grows closer to the Piper, Maggie discovers that he has a dark side. 
The boy of Maggie’s dreams might just turn out to be her worst nightmare… 
With striking illustrations from Eisner-nominated artist Jeff Stokely, mixed with Jessica Freeburg's work on historic and legendary horrors, Piper is an exciting new departure for Jay Asher that deftly touches on the same themes of truth, guilt, and redemption that made  Thirteen Reasons Why a beloved bestseller.

Friday, February 03, 2017

3rd Time, Still a Charm in Florida

There are only three schools I've visited after the release of each of my three books. And I've always visited them in the same week because they're located very close to each other in Florida: Charlotte High School, Lemon Bay High School, and Port Charlotte High School.

The first time I visited, they'd displayed one of the American Library Association READ posters of me reading The Monster at the End of This Book, and took a photo of me pointing to that poster. The next year, we took a photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing to that poster. This year, we took a photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing to that poster.

These schools always go all out, both in making me feel welcome, and getting the students excited.

Here was a backdrop for one of my signings:

At another school, I signed under a tent similar to the Bigtop in What Light. The students who helped me wore nametags labeled Sierra and Heather. It wasn't until the end of the day that I realized those weren't their real names. (I assumed they were chosen specifically because their names matched those of my main character and her friend. Nope! Just a cute addition.)

These cookies were delicious. And check out the Easter mug! It's exactly how I envisioned the one Sierra uses, though hers obviously didn't include her words, "I've been raised to believe that everyone can become better."

For an assignment, a student illustrated each of the reasons from Thirteen Reasons Why...

...and several scenes from The Future of Us.

One class shared with me highly annotated copies of several pages from Thirteen Reasons Why.

And have you ever eaten a tie-dye cake? Because I have!

It was also great timing for my third visit to the area, because it coincided with the release of artwork for Netflix's upcoming adaptation of 13 Reasons Why!

I was having lunch with several students when the first video teaser went live.

If you haven't seen it already, here it is:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Twelve Crazy Days Before Christmas (2016 edition)

The following story, to be told over the 12 days leading up to Christmas, is from a picture book manuscript I wrote years ago. I finally decided to post it here for all of you, and a friend agreed to do an illustration for each day. Every day, the latest installment will be added to the bottom of this post.

Just click the pics to enlarge!