We are so happy to be a part of the Blog Tour for the new title by Jay Asher, WHAT LIGHT. We’ve got an interview with Jay to share, but before we get to that, here’s a bit about the story:What Light by Jay Asher
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Penguin on October 18th 2016
Genres: Holidays & Celebrations, Young Adult Fiction
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.
How did WHAT LIGHT come about, what was your inspiration? What made you think you had to write this story?
This story has been in the works since before I came up with the idea for THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, my first novel. I read an article in a local paper about a family that works on a Christmas tree lot each year, living out of a camper. The rest of the year, they lived seventeen hours to the north on hundreds of acres of farmland where they grew the trees. Their children made the annual trek, too, developing friends in both places. That situation felt unique, with so many sensory details, plus there was a built in timeline, so I knew I had to set a story there. After several false starts, I decided it would be a love story, where the girl falls for a boy even though she’s leaving in a few weeks. I gave the boy a past that Sierra’s friends warn her against, but she feels she understands who Caleb is now. I kept pecking away at the story, but realized the time to finally write it was now while on a 50-state tour for my first book. So many people have been moved by that story, and I had the perfect opportunity to give a similar message, but from a more uplifting perspective. As opposed to a cautionary tale, WHAT LIGHT shows the beauty in believing in ourselves and others.
What was the hardest scene for you to write in WHAT LIGHT and why?
The scenes that readers anticipate the most are the most stressful to write. You want those scenes to be satisfying, but also unexpected. For this book, the big reveal of Caleb’s past, which has been haunting him for years, was one of those scenes. Every word in how he describes it to Sierra is important. And in a love story, the first kiss is also hugely important.
Can you share (without spoilers) a line or section of WHAT LIGHT that is your favorite?
“I hate this time of year.”
That’s the opening statement of the book, said by one of Sierra’s friends. I think it’s hilarious that this story, so heavily wrapped around a specific time of year, begins with a statement trashing it.
If you could introduce Sierra from WHAT LIGHT to a character in any other book, who would it be and why?
Stargirl, from the book of the same name, by Jerry Spinelli. That’s my favorite book of all time and one of my favorite characters. I would love to see the kind of influence she could have on any of my characters.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love going to movies by myself. Well, not totally by myself. I always have a bag of buttery popcorn with me!
What are you currently reading?
A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts by J.W. Ocker
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid to write what you’re passionate about, even if you’re unsure how it will be received. Each of my books, either because I didn’t know if people wanted a book like that or because I didn’t know if they wanted a book like that from me, came with a lot of uncertainty. But I did know for certain that I was passionate about the stories, so I hoped that passion would translate to the readers.
What is the one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
It took me twelve years of writing and attending writing conferences before I finally sold a book. By the time I made it over to this side of things, I had a fairly realistic view of what this business is about. If it had happened in the first couple of years, there would have been many surprises.
What’s next for you? Are you working on anything right now that you can tell us about?
I have a YA book coming out in 2017, which is very different than anything I’ve done before, but which I am very excited about.
Tell us 3 random facts about you.
- I hate onions. Hate them! A more precise term for them is the Devil’s Veggie.
- The people I was most fascinated by while growing up were Charles Schulz, Lucille Ball, and Walt Disney. I’ve read so many books on all of them!
- I love random facts.
Favorite Song (right now): Humble & Kind by Tim McGraw
Favorite Book (right now): Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Favorite TV Show/Movie: My So-Called Life / Titanic
Favorite Word: empathy
Favorite Color: purple
Favorite Curse Word: #$@&!!!
If you’re looking for a cute YA holiday read then look no further. Jay Asher has written a sweet, light-hearted story of friendship, family and falling in love for the first time.
Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Oregon where she spends 11 months of the year. Come Thanksgiving, her parents and her are off to California to set up on a lot that’s been a part of her family for ages and sell their trees. For one month Sierra is in a different life, not quite forgetting her friends back home, but soaking up the time she can with her best friend who lives in California and immersing herself in their traditions.
It’s a time for friends, family and making memories, but Sierra finds out that this just may end up being the last year she and her family make the trip down which means she could be losing some of the things that make her happiest, especially because she has met Caleb.
Caleb hasn’t had an easy go of things. Something he did in his past still influences his life in ways he couldn’t have imagined and when he meets Sierra, he’s positive it’s going to ruin any chance he has with her from the start. But Sierra makes an effort to look past what he may have done and tries to find the person he is now. The bigger issue is that even if she gets past his past, she only has a few weeks with him, and she has to decide if it’s worth the heartache to even start to get involved if she’s never going to be able to see him again after the holidays are done.
I think with the holidays around the corner this will be a wonderful read for someone who isn’t looking for anything too heavy. I know there is mention of a questionable past here with Caleb’s history, but honestly, it was so many years ago, the fact that he’s still atoning and paying for it was a bit ridiculous in my mind. That said, I get where some of the people in this town were coming from… sort of. I think a part of me was really irritated with the fact that people were treating him this way even years after the incident and yes, I get that it was pretty serious, but also it wasn’t. Maybe I say that because I distinctly remember some of the very crazy fights I used to get into with my brother and I know it’s all heat of the moment stuff.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Sierra and her parents. I loved that they really talked about things… the future, their concerns and even how they met and fell in love. It’s always refreshing when you read a YA book where the parents aren’t total jerks or killed off. I also really enjoyed the relationships that Sierra had with her friends. At times I thought these girls acted in ways I just didn’t believe for 17 year olds, but for the most part, they weren’t drama filled moments and they were honest with each other and lovely to each other and that is another refreshing thing about this story.
There is, of course, romance. Caleb, while having a troubled past, is truly a sugary, sweet boy. I loved what he was doing with the Christmas trees and he definitely made me swoon at times! The romance for me though, was very surface. You get to experience them sort of getting to know each other, but I felt like it wasn’t really deep and there is a bit of insta-love.
Overall this was sweet and like I said, will make for a lovely addition to a holiday reading list if you’re making one like I do each year.
Thank you to the publisher for an early copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.