Monday, November 19, 2018

The Twelve Notes of Christmas

The story in my third novel begins on the Monday before Thanksgiving. That's today!

In Hungary, there's a special edition being released this year that includes a note from me. The words are essentially what I wrote for the review copies that went out in the U.S.

Dear Reader, 
Since the debut of my first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, the themes of hope and forgiveness have been at the center of my interactions with teens. Many have told me they finally felt understood within the pages of that book, even if it could never reflect all parts of their lives. Others, while they could appreciate the book, didn't see it as a reflection of their experiences. A novel about their lives, sadly, would not be hailed as "a brave, honest look at the teen years." So, after a book tour that had me speaking to such a variety of students in all fifty states in the U.S., I felt drawn to explore hope and forgiveness again, but in a new way. 
The story of What Light has been glowing in my mind for a long time. I read a newspaper profile about a family with a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year, they hauled the trees south and sold them on a lot where I live in California. The part of their story that stood out most concerned their children. When not selling trees, they attended a nearby public school or hung out with friends. When the holiday was over, the whole family went back home. Two sets of friends? A defined timeline? There had to be a story there! But it would take about a dozen years before I found it. 
I continuously brainstormed and took notes even after I began work on Thirteen Reasons Why. That book describes the suicide of someone who lost hope in the future and was unable to forgive the past, though hope and forgiveness are found by someone left behind. If I were to address those themes a second time, I wanted to bookend them in an uplifting story about love. 
I looked closer at my notes for What Light and saw that potential. It would let me revisit many similar issues, but through different lenses. Love rather than hurt. Overcoming rather than succumbing. Forgiveness--especially the forgiveness of self--rather than guilt. 
I wrote this book for the teens I've met who've had too many dark days but hold on to hope that things can get better. And I wrote it for the teens I've met who have mostly good days but who still encounter sadness and difficult decisions. 
It is a story I've wanted to share for a long time: What Light. 
With gratitude, 
Jay Asher

This edition will also include a dozen sticky-notes throughout the book, annotating certain passages. I thought I'd share those notes with the rest of you! Below, you'll see the chapter, page number (U.S. edition), and corresponding text (when appropriate), and my notes.

CHAPTER 2 (beginning)
NOTE: Chapters 1 and 2 were originally switched, but it felt stronger to meet Sierra while surrounded by her friends. 
CHAPTER 5 (page 36): Andrew, in a tattered Bulldogs baseball cap, walks by me with a watering hose draped over his shoulder.
NOTE: I told students at a middle school that I would mention their mascot in a future book. Go Bulldogs! 
CHAPTER 5 (page 41): The oldest lady, with a long gray braid, holds up a poster featuring a garbage truck strung with Christmas lights.
NOTE: My young son loved garbage trucks, so I told him I would mention one in this story. 
CHAPTER 7 (page 60): With his arms buried into the top half of a tree, Mr. Hopper leads a customer into the parking lot.
NOTE: Mr. Hopper is the man whose Christmas tree lot inspired What Light
CHAPTER 9 (page 90): “After we brought my tree to the hospital, Dad gave me that inch-thick slice he’d cut from the base. I took it to my room and painted a Christmas tree on one side of it, and I still have it propped on my dresser at home.”
NOTE: I still have these pieces of wood from the first Christmas trees after my wedding and the birth of my son. 
CHAPTER 10 (page 94): Mrs. Trujillo looks ready to wrap me in a hug but sees that my hands are fairly occupied.
NOTE: Mrs. Trujillo is based on someone in my extended family who was born in Mexico. Christmas always reminds me of her warm, excited, loving personality. 
CHAPTER 12 (page 126): “People think what they want. That’s what I’ve had to accept,” he says. “I can fight it, but that’s exhausting. I can feel hurt about it, but that’s torture. Or I can decide it’s their loss.”
NOTE: My favorite paragraph in the book. 
CHAPTER 14 (page 138): What draws some people into the store who would otherwise walk by is the candle-making in the front window.
NOTE: Watching someone make candles at Christmas time was something I did with the first girl I liked in high school. 
CHAPTER 19 (page 199): “You’d better be sorry,” I say. “That wasn’t romantic at all!”
NOTE: This shocking experience, with the trampoline and motion sensor light, happened to me. 
CHAPTER 19 (page 205): At the top of the envelope is a red heart drawn around Elizabeth Campbell in the return address.
NOTE: I found “Elizabeth Campbell” in the same cemetery where J.K. Rowling got some of her character names. 
CHAPTER 22 (page 232): “…It’s kind of like Linus’s big speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
NOTE: I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, so I had to mention it in my Christmas book. 
CHAPTER 24 (beginning)
NOTE: This book has 24 chapters so you can begin reading on December 1st and, if you read one chapter a day, finish on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018 Concerts...So Far

Whenever I attend a live music event, I kick myself for not attending more. So this is my public commitment to attend more concerts, big or small!

The latest show I attended, I arrived in time to see Johnnyswim, an incredible husband and wife duo. For their last song, they grabbed a guitar and microphone and brought the show right up to the lawn seats.

The main act was Needtobreathe, a band I've listened to a ton this past year. Their musicianship is incredible, and was matched by the best visual presentation I've seen at a concert.

The previous week, I attended a much smaller show at a smaller venue. My ex-wife, JoanMarie, performed covers and originals, and the place was packed with old friends and new.

The week before, I attended my friend Trey Pearson's show on his very moving Safe Space tour.

The hat I'm wearing above was purchased at the previous week's show, where JoanMarie and I celebrated the good times of our marriage by going to see Willie Nelson. First to take the stage, of course, was his iconic guitar, Trigger.

Then came the living icon himself.

Before that, I got to see a band I'd only heard about three days prior while on a research trip to New York. When I flew back home, I found out this band were playing my hometown in a matter of hours!

Blue October quickly rose up high on my Absolute Favorite Bands list, as well as my Favorite Live Acts list. Their recent hit, I Hope You're Happy, will forever hold an extremely special place in my heart.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sunday, April 01, 2018

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 of 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 2018