Today I welcome author Jason Hershey to my Getting To Know... feature. Jason is the author of To Die To Live.
Your novel To Die To Live is a YA story, what is it that draws you to this genre?
The ability to introduce your characters to situations that are new to them. You can put them in places that you were in as a teenager and allow them to play it out differently than you did. It also allows you to grow your character and not make some of the same mistakes you did.
When you're writing do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?
Unfortunately, with work and my kids and family, finding scheduled time to write is hard. I basically write whenever I have a few free moments. I did set up a writing nook at work that allowed me to do some writing on my lunch break. It's hard, but somehow, I make it work.
Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?
No. I have always written, usually poems and stuff, but I've been busy with my career as a teacher to focus on writing. This summer, I just woke up one morning and said I wanted to start living my life and do things I've always thought about, but always had an excuse for why I didn't do it. This book is a product of the "new" me.
On top of being an author you are a teacher, do things that you have experienced while teaching inspire you in your writing?
Inspiration from teaching oddly mirrors my own upbringing. I work in the same type of inner city schools that I attended and lived in while I was younger. I get to see the hardship and the pain that some of my students come from and it's heartbreaking. I also get to see the other side of it, the parents doing everything they can to give their kids more. I also see the kids that strive to do better than their parents. That's something I think every parent should want, their kids to out succeed them. This story is definitely rooted in that struggle to do better and to find what you are truly meant to be in life.
When you're not writing what would we find you doing?
Outside of teaching and writing, I love to spend time with my family. I am a movie buff, so we usually have family movie night. I've also started coaching a travel soccer team, which takes a lot of time, but is a nice break for me and fun to get out and be athletic again. So between teaching, writing, family and soccer, I usually don't have much more time to do anything but sleep.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?
I love Theo from my book. It is fun to live through his eyes. Some of him is based on myself growing up, friends that I grew up with and some is just a product of my imagination. I love that Theo is evolving into a more rounded individual in the second book that I'm working on. It follows him during his first year of college. He will experience some more heartbreak, and we'll see his maturity in how he handles it.
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
I've never called myself an author. I consider myself a story teller. I love telling stories. The ability to get your audience to follow you and become engaged in the story is awesome. If I can create characters that people relate to and identify with, then you can bring them on this journey that will, in my case, leave them feeling optimistic for the future.
Do you have a favourite author?
I love Lois Lowry and Harper Lee. They wrote three of my favourite YA books of all time that I will still read to this day. "To Kill A Mockingbird", "The Giver" and "Count The Stars" are books that are totally different in theme but take the reader on this journey that is totally believable. That is something I hope to aspire to in the future.
If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?
To start writing earlier, not to take a multi year break and to pursue this will all the hope and optimism that I have now. If I had started 15 years ago, I'd be an old pro now and I would be able to enjoy this more, not so focused on learning all the nuances and intricacies of the game.
To Die To Live has only recently come out, but what can we look forward to next from you?
I am working on a continuation of this book, tentatively entitled "The Chosen Path" that will follow Theo in college as he deals with more hope and heartbreak and continues to grow. I also have a children's book series that I'm almost done with called "Larry the Hippo" that is based on stories I tell to my young kids.
Thank you so much to Jason for taking the time out of his super busy schedule to answer my questions!
To Connect With Jason Hershey
Twitter - @therealjhershey
To Die To Live
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?