Today I’m really excited because I have my first interview with a YA writer, Jason Hershey.
So glad you can join us, Jason.
How long have you been writing and what keeps you writing?
I have been writing all my life. I wrote poems and short stories in elementary school and much later on, after I finished college, I dabbled in screenplays.
I wanted to write from different points of view so I tried to put myself in different shoes and see the world through a different pair of eyes. The need to tell stories, to have the voices of characters be heard and understood keeps me writing.
I sat down one day and had this urge to write and the story of To Die To Live just poured out of me. In this novel, Thelonious Mitchell is the main character. His story continues in the second book The Chosen Path. In both books, you get to see his struggle and his heartbreak as he tries to overcome his circumstances and find his ‘spark’ in life.
Most of my books come from my own experiences as I grew up. This makes my writing very personal. I want to create realistic, true to life characters that any reader, male, female, rich, poor, young or old, can relate to.
Do you identify with your main characters? Is there something of you in them?
The characters in my novels tend to be based on myself and friends. Thelonious Mitchell is me. I can 100% relate to his circumstances growing up. The struggles he has are directly related to either something I personally went through, or something a friend did. He is real and relatable. He's a kid from a bad neighbourhood who is determined to not let his zip code define who he is now or who he will be in the future. I think that's a situation that many people can relate to.
What about settings? Are they places you are familiar with?
Again, the settings are directly related to places where I have lived and grew up. I never name Thelonious’ hometown, but it could literally be any inner-city. The college he attends is based on my own college, Bethel College in North Newton, KS. As a kid from South Phoenix, Arizona, the culture shock I experienced moving to the tiny Town in Kansas was eye opening. It took me a long time to appreciate it. I tried to convey this in the stories. I want people to understand how awkward it is to go from living in a town of 3 million to becoming part of a community of 1600.
Do you want your novels to get people thinking?
My books are written with the purpose of telling a story from a different point of view. Thelonious is not your normal MC. He's not overly popular or smart, he's just an average guy from a rough neighbourhood who has lost everything and is struggling with who he is. But unlike a lot of main characters, he doesn't have a white knight rushing to his rescue. He meets people along the way who offer a different way, but he also meets people who will pull him back. He has to figure life out himself and have the grit and determination to succeed, because nothing is going to be given to him.
When do you write? Do you have a routine?
I write whenever I have a chance. I am also a teacher, so I tend to write on breaks and on weekends. I carry a notebook and pen around with me and just put pen to paper and write whenever inspiration strikes. Between teaching, my kids and wife, as well as coaching two soccer teams, the opportunities to write are not consistent or long, so I have to use every opportunity I can to jot stuff down.
Are you a keen reader yourself? What kinds of books do you enjoy? Do you think a writer must also be a reader?
I love to read. Hardy Boys books were my favourites as I was growing up. Now I love Walter Dean Myers (Monster being a favourite!) as well as James Patterson (Alex Cross books) and Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta books). I don't know if all writers are all avid readers, but the ability to tell stories and create sympathetic and convincing characters is a must, and reading can definitely help you hone that ability.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today, Jason.
Thank you so very much for this amazing opportunity.
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Here are Jason's first two novels. Take a look.
Thelonious "Theo" Mitchell is a down on his luck teenager, wandering aimlessly through life with no desire or focus. When tragedy strikes, he is taken in by his aunt and uncle. Thrown into a new school with unfamiliar surroundings, he befriends the class "troublemaker". After yet another tragedy, will Theo fall victim to life, or use the tragedy as a spark and motivation to embrace all that life has to offer?
From the author of the emotional "To Die To Live", comes the next riveting chapter of one man's search to find his purpose in life. Thelonious "Theo" Mitchell, now a college freshman, is eager to put the death of his friend, Draven, in the past. Devoting himself to school and sports, he meets Sabrinna, a beautiful co-ed who sweeps him off his feet. Untrusting and hidden behind a wall, he allows himself to fall for her. Will he find his soulmate and someone who can restore his faith and trust in people? Or will she leave him reeling and continuing his search for a purpose in life?