Saturday, January 10, 2015

1 Jason Reynolds, author of THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT, on finding your writing voice

What do you hope readers will take away from THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT?

I hope they take with them that coping doesn't have to be a solitary thing. You don't necessarily have to hole up in torment. It's fair to assume that most of us are grieving the loss of someone or something, so to acknowledge the fundamental humanness in it could be a helpful tool in learning to manage it. I know that sounds deep and pretentious, but to make it plain, I suppose it's just the concept that pain and loss are part of life, and the only way to move forward is not to negate or deny grief, but to own it and still actively choose life and happiness.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Oh, I still don't have the key to writing a novel. Ha! I wish I did. But I will say that everything changed for me when I realized that there was value in my voice. In MY voice. Growing up, wanting to be a writer, the one thing that we all know is that it is imperative that you read. It's a non-negotiable rule in the "I WANT TO BE A WRITER HANDBOOK." And I agree. It's the cornerstone of it all. But it's double-edged because what reading does, is expose you to everyone else's voice. If not careful, it can create a weird box for you, one made of titanium, seemingly impossible to break out of. For me, it made me think that if I didn't write a certain way, I wasn't good enough. It had convinced me that my intuition, my raw, gut feeling, had no place in published literature. But then I started re-reading some of the books from my childhood. I started revisiting Walter Dean Myers. And what I found was that if I did it right, I could swing it my way. I could be really, really disciplined as a writer, so disciplined that I could make the voice and style of my work seem loose and insecure, purposely. I could make it sound honest. Real. Human. And that was it. It was like breathing for the first time, and writing became a lot less oppressive for me, and instead an incredibly liberating experience. Moral: read, but not just to expand your vocab and study story structure. Read also to see if you can pinpoint where the honesty lies in the writing. It's not always easy to find it, but it was a big help to me when I did.

What are you working on now?

So much. I'm editing a middle grade novel, As Brave As You, that's coming out in 2016. I have two more YA novels that will be edited right after, one written in verse. And lastly, I'm working on a four book middle grade series about a track team. I'm SUPER excited about that one! I've already submitted the first book of the series, and am currently working on the second. So, I'm busy, but I'm happy. And grateful.


The Boy in the Black Suit
by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Released 1/6/2015

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

Purchase The Boy in the Black Suit at Amazon
Purchase The Boy in the Black Suit at IndieBound
View The Boy in the Black Suit on Goodreads


Jason ReynoldsJason Reynolds is crazy.
About stories.
After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. He is the author of the critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit. You can find his ramblings at 

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