On this week’s episode of Unleashing YOUR Great Work, we get a behind-the-scenes look into the fantasy worlds created by author JA White, a novelist who writes creepy books for kids.
5th grade teacher and Award-winning author of “The Thickety”, “Archimancy” (the first novel in The Shadow Series), and “The Nightbooks” (now a top 10 Netflix film produced by one of his childhood heroes, Sam Raimi), JA White tells us more about why his work makes him feel “shiny inside”.
From sneaking off to his childhood basement to read creepy books, since childhood books he claims “weren’t scary enough”, to having a digital billboard in Times Square, White takes us on his epic journey of the Great Work that he has slowly discovered within his writing career.
He believes whole-heartedly that “There is no such thing as wasted writing”, a motto he has clung to since his first two novels never came to fruition, one of which being completely erased off of a floppy disc (anyone born after the year 2000 will have to google what a “floppy disc” is…you’ll be shocked).
As you traverse this episode, you’ll hear the excitement I have interviewing him as he reveals the ins-and-outs about creating Great Work in his own writing, and the struggles, obstacles, and self-doubts that come along with letting the book tell YOU what to write.
Join us as we discuss:
02:01 Your work should make you feel shiny inside, and a part of the shininess comes from the suffering that goes into it.
03:25 JA White’s great work.
04:36 JA’s short story is one of the first movies that was filmed during the pandemic.
07:31 Delegate – Letting people who are good at what they do, do their thing.
10:33 JA’s sad first novel stories.
11:42 The book called Queens Nightmares.
13:34 How JA got a call from an editor who was at Disney World.
15:41 Why outlines don’t work for JA.
21:53 Writing is just figuring out what you should not tell.
22:54 JA’s hardships in writing his books.
26:53 The people that JA drew the most inspiration from.
29:17 How has the reception been for these creepy books for kids?
About the Guest:
J.A. White writes creepy books for children. The four novels of his Thicketyseries have received numerous starred reviews and other accolades that make him feel shiny inside, including a Children’s Choice Award for Best Debut Novelist. His novel Nightbooks has been translated into 11 languages and was made into a Netflix movie pr oduced by Sam Raimi, and the first novel of his Shadow School series, Archimancy, was recently nominated for the Sunshine State Young Reader Award. He is also a 5th grade teacher.
Twitter – @jawhitebooks
Instagram – @jawhitebooks
https://www.amazon.com/Gravebooks-Nightbooks-J-White/dp/0063082012 – link to amazon
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gravebooks-j-a-white/1140521423 – link to Barnes and Noble
About the Host:
Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, podcaster, author of Great Work, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk: Three Reasons You Aren’t Doing What You Say You Will Do has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and TED Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global. Amanda lives in New Jersey with her husband, two adorable kids, and a remarkable newfiepoo named Ruthie. She spends her days educating future teachers, coaching accidental entrepreneurs, and speaking about how to make progress on Great Work to colleges and corporate teams. To book Dr. Crowell to speak or inquire about coaching, check out amandacrowell.com or email email@example.com.
Thanks for listening!
Thanks so much for listening to the Unleash Your Great Work Podcast! If you enjoyed this edit and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.
Do you have some feedback or questions about this edit? Leave a comment in the section below!
Follow the podcast
If you would like to get automatic updates of new podcast edits, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or in your favourite podcast app.
Leave us an Apple Podcasts review
Ratings and reviews mean everything to us. They help our podcast rank higher on Apple Podcasts, which brings these important stories to more awesome listeners like you. Your time to leave a review on Apple Podcasts is greatly appreciated!
I always have a just trying to like write through it until I figure it out. And now I've gotten a better foothold on on what to do and when.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, author of the book, great work and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we're here asking the big questions. What is your great work? How do you find it? And why does it matter whether we do it? What does it actually take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? Stay tuned for answers to these questions, and so much more.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Welcome, everybody to unleashing your great work. I'm super psyched today. Because I have j a white or Jerry White, who is an author who writes creepy books for kids. The four novels of the thick 80 series, which I have read, have received numerous starred reviews and other accolades that made him feel shiny inside, including a children's Choice Award for Best Debut novelist. His novel night books was translated into 11 languages and was made into a creepy Netflix movie for kids produced by Sam Raimi, and the first novel of the shadow school series. Are Command C faster. The right you did you nailed it. Okay. And the first novel of his shadow school series, our command C, was recently nominated for the Sunshine State young reader Award. He is also a fifth grade teacher. Welcome to the podcast. Jerry.JA White:
Thank you so much. I'm super excited to be here. Yeah. About an hour ago. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
you've been talking all day, and I really liked your bio. Particularly, I liked the part where you said that your work makes you feel shiny inside. And I was like, that might be the best litmus test for great work I've ever heard. Right? If you're not feeling shiny inside, are you really doing great work?JA White:
Well, no, I should, you know, say that I feel shiny inside after the work is completed. And it's out there in the world. I feel very rusty, and corroded and fallen apart while creating it. So it's two different sensations.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yes. Right. And great work probably requires both of them.JA White:
Absolutely. And a part of the shininess comes from the suffering that goes into it. That's right,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
right, because you can't overcome and get to the hop top of the mountain if there was not a lot of obstacles in your way in the first.JA White:
And I think, you know, it'd be very interesting as you go forward, you know, their podcasts and talk to all these interesting people. I don't imagine there's anyone who's come to a great work with it just went like smoothly, no, no problems.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Those are not the stories that I hear. And honestly, like, who can relate to that, anyways, people who, not that I'm not even sure they exist, but the story is really boring when it's like, I decided to write a book. And then three weeks later, I wrote it. And then it was a New York Times bestseller.JA White:
Yes, I hate those people with a fiery fiery passion. Because that's that's not how I roll it all.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Tell us how you do roll. Tell us a little bit about your great work.JA White:
Sure. So I figure I'll talk about my books, since that has enjoyed the the most success. And so night books, I just written four books of the Tickity. So I had about 2000 pages that I had written of this this fantasy world. So my very first thought was, I want to do something much smaller. I think you know, as an author, or probably in really any field, you always want to challenge yourself to do something a little different. The next project, so I said, you know, I wanted something much smaller, much more contained very, very few characters. That was what I had going in. And I also grew up you know, I love short stories. And that's, you know, short stories are a little bit tricky to get published. Because there's not a lot of places where you can, you can work with it. But I grew up reading a Ray Bradbury, and it was a big hero growing up. And so I wanted to come up with a way to do short stories and a very contained environment. So I ended up having just basically three people in an apartment, which in the long run ended up really helping me and I'm kind of rambling here but this is my style.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
No, you're not. I'm following you completely. Oh, sure.JA White:
When the when the pandemic happened, I think a lot of the reason that the film was actually made was it hops to the top of the list because it was so easy to film. People in the apartment, so they built everything. Yeah, so it was actually one of the first movies to be filmed during the really Yeah, yeah. HowDr. Amanda Crowell:
did that happen? Tell us the story of that because that that's the only time And that's happened for you, right that your one of your books has been turned into a movie, youJA White:
know, there was some talk with a Tickity. But it never never happened, which from what I hear is very, very normal. Like, there's always like, can be a lot of talk, but for it to actually happen is rare. You know, I just basically I got a starred review for a night books in School Library Journal, and a producer for Ghost House. Saw it, and, you know, that caused him to read the book, and then they were interested. And, you know, there were a few studios that were that were interested in it. But, you know, ghost house really appealed to me, because I liked the movies they've made, but also, Sam Raimi owns it was sort of like my childhood hero, and Evil Dead to like, 1000 times and just saw Dr. Strange to like,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
I haven't seen it yet. No spoilers.JA White:
Oh, no, it's great. It's great. I'm so excited. And it just to have him actually read my book. And it was huge. Yeah. So immediately, that's, that's where I wanted to go. And it was with Netflix. And so you know, for a while it was sort of, you know, are they going to make it? Or are they not going to make it because it was optioned, and everything looked good. But that is usually the point where things kind of fall apart a lot, you know, but no, you know, that they they made it. And like I said, I think because it was relatively easy to film in those conditions. That that's sort of what happened and had a bunch of really amazingly talented people working on it. So I lucked out, like my whole book, the film journey was was pretty great, actually,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
that that was great. And what was it? Did you write the script for it? Or Did somebody write this? No, no,JA White:
no, I honestly didn't have much to do with the actual making of the movie, outside of just a few conversations and offering my like, rah rah support, and they can be in a loop with things. But you know, if, under different circumstances, I would have been able to go on set and visit and everything you weren't able to set, so that wasn't going to pan out. Yeah, guys, thanks. But um, ya know, I didn't have much to do with the transition at all.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Wow. And how did you feel about it? Were you? Were you like disappointed that you didn't get to write the script and all that, and what didn't you like your baby was going out into the world and you couldn't,JA White:
you know, honestly, after those initial conversations, I had a lot of confidence. And I also think that, you know, I believe in letting people who are good at what they do, do their thing. And, you know, in my perspective, I wrote the book and the book was done. And now they are doing an adaptation, which is a different thing. Yeah, I'm not gonna claim to know more about screenwriting and professional screenwriters. Yeah, Billy, and I did a great job. So I just kind of, you know, of course, I have my fingers crossed, that it would be good. But it was. So that was, that was a relief. And, you know, I was I was really happy with it. Just especially everything from like the acting, but also, the set design in particular is really weird, because it was kind of like what was in my head? Really, the apartment? I mean, they really, they now that to an absurd degree.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Wow. That had to be an amazing feeling toJA White:
send me photos of of the sound like, whoa, that's so cool. And everything was, was built from scratch. Because it was just in as, as funny as his warehouse in Toronto that they filmed. And, you know, since I'm not involved in like, I'm gonna Google and see what this place looks like. So it was actually just across the street from a Home Depot. And it looks like any random warehouse. Oh, wow. Whoa, they were making my movie in there. Ah, that was really awesome.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. And what a feeling to know that they're making your movies anywhere.JA White:
Well, yeah, of course. And, you know, and the way that I describe it to people who asked, and it's still it still feels this way. It's just surreal. The idea I mean, there was there was a billboard Times Square like that was there really? There was so so they had, yeah, right. And right in the center, they had like this digital billboard. And so all like Netflix's upcoming releases, so, you know, every like, you know, five minutes or so they're very excited. You took a special trip into city and took a photo. Good, good, good, good. Yes. Very, very, very surreal. And I'm kind of just honored and flattered that it happened and it took a lot of hard work and luck, and everything. All the dominoes fall into exactly the right place. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
yeah, so let's talk about some of the dominoes that came before. Oh, yeah. Oh, well, that. Let's just talk about the Pickety for a minute because that is a lot of words. The many books they were thick if I recall. Yeah. I always read them on the Kindle because I I can't carry books around that I'm always losing them. So I've become a Kindle devotee. But Abby, my daughter had the first one that she bought at, I don't know, maybe she got it when you were doing a reading at the school. She brought it home. And then she got scared, and she wouldn't read it. So I read it. So that one I read, and then I read the rest of them in a fevered frenzy bent on the Kindle. So tell me what it was like for you. Was that your first book? Were those your first book you had ever written difficulty?JA White:
So I mean, if you want me to go wayDr. Amanda Crowell:
back, I want to go in the Wayback Machine. Tell me God, I'llJA White:
tell you my sad first novel stories. Yeah,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
tell me, we all need to know that it's possible to have a Netflix adaptation of your book, even if you already failed first novel. SoJA White:
failed. First two novels. I'll be right here at my very first novel I wrote, I forget it was a long time ago. So my 20s So it's like ancient 2223. And it was the young adult novel that I wrote. feel, I feel so stupid telling us now. I wrote it. I saved it on a floppy disk. Okay, got a race? No, yeah, the whole thing. Like I was about 70% done. And so this is where I came up with one of my main themes in my writing career, which is there's no such thing as wasted writing. And you always kind of learn from it. And I know that novel was not good enough to get published. So it was one of those things that you just kind of have to do it. Yeah. And get out of your system. But you know, at the time, of course, it was tragic. Yes. Looking back at it. Now, I'm probably like, you know, it's probably best. There's no copy of that out there. Because I've been somewhat embarrassed by it. So the next thing I worked on, was a book called Queens nightmares. And it's about this, this boy who lives on this island in the middle of nowhere. We don't know what's out there in the world. And you're gonna hear it as some of these aspects of this novel. I felt like Tickity later. Oh, no, wasted, right. And like, that's right. And so there's all these like monsters out there in the world. And they are all buried on this one island. And this is the boy who digs the graves. Ah, that is so creepy. Yeah, it was it was really, really fun about this boy who lives in the graveyard until Neil Gaiman released a graveyard book.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. Just thinking about the Graveyard Book. I wasn't gonna say anything.JA White:
And, and then and I don't want to Newbery awards. That was cool. So cool. Do anything with it. So I kind of put that one away. Then I took a little break for a while. And my friend and I ended up we made all these like short films together. He rented them. I wrote them and we won. We won. Like some prizes. Like we won an Amazon competition for $50,000. Nice. A few other things. And we kept putting the money back into equipment. And then we ended up making a book trailers. Oh, cool. Yeah. So we, we, and we won a contest for a Dean Koontz book. And we ended up making webisodes for one of his so we, we had all these neat things going on. And then eventually, I went back and I worked on the thick of it, which was then called Path. It wasn't called difficulty until later. So I kind of used my connections. And I got it to an editor who have a an editor who I'd worked with on a book and they pass it along. So it took about seven months. And I'm not making this up. But I did get the call from an editor at HarperCollins. Who was at Disney World. No, the happiest place on earth was the happiest place on earth. And I was on the line at it's a small world.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
No, so you were there for a while? Yes, yes.JA White:
But so yeah, so my first full fledge conversation about my writing career was it was in a hotel lobby at Disney World later that day. Wow. The book in the first question was, Is this middle grade? Or is it young adult? Because as you know, my books are a little darkish. And a little, the character Kara was 13 at the time and they're like, well, 13 you can be you can be 14, right? And, and so because most of my books deal with more family relationships and sort of like romantic relationships. I decided to go with middle grade. Okay, plus, and that's the age I teach at the age. I know a little bit better. So yeah, I went there. So yeah, so then I wrote the 300,000 words so that they could eat that world for a long, long time. Finally brings us back to where I started babbling a long time ago, but night books. So I wanted to write something different. And I wanted to write something with with short stories. And I always love the Arabian Nights and I always love Hansel and Gretel. So a lot of my writing is, I like this. I like this. I like this, but I'm all together. Yeah, different way and play around with it. See what happens. The other thing that is about my writing is I don't outline and I don't know what's going to happen.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
You're a pantser.JA White:
I'm a pantser. Yeah. You know, it's funny, I wasn't familiar with that term, until until relatively recently until somebody said, Oh, you're a pantser. Just like that. I'm like, Well, whatDr. Amanda Crowell:
are you like you were? I'm gonna get you a t shirt that says,JA White:
yeah, absolutely. I tried to do outlines every time. And I don't know why. Because I never use them as a waste of time. Yet I persist. This time, it's gonna be different.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
What is it about the outline? That doesn't work for you?JA White:
I think because I learned about the story. As I write it, I learned the characters. It's like, talking about somebody you haven't met yet? Yeah. And so I truly don't know. Sometimes I may have little signposts that I want to get to or like I want to write this scene is just to connect A to B, for example. I won't spoil it. But the first end of the first book and a thicket, he has this massive plot twist. I didn't know what's going to happen. Really? Well. Yeah. But the interesting thing is one I always trust, if the characters or something in me is intrinsically trying to point one direction. I always do it. Like if there's a reason and because I think that that's just me as a reader go and oh, this would be really interesting if this happened, so I did. But the thing that I found more than once is, when I go back in a story, I'm like, Alright, and now I'm gonna fix all these things. So it fits. I already did it, it already fit. It already fit always stuns me. So there's part of me inside, that's a much more organized writer than I am in reality. Because it always every time that isDr. Amanda Crowell:
so fascinating, have you? Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's book? Big Magic? No. Okay. So I'm just, I'm gonna blow your mind. And you're be like, Who is this one that I'm talking to you. But there's something so compelling about it. And I feel like you just expressed an exact like support of it, which is that the book actually exists. And you are, like the, the fossil excavator with your little, right. So it's not that you were organized, that you're a faithful revealer of a coherent story that the universe or whatever God, whoever, like has placed in the world and has entrusted you with the uncovering ofJA White:
that's, I love that. And I've always believed that. I don't come up with good ideas. I'm not good at coming up with good ideas, but I'm good at recognizing is good or bad. So I have a ton of ideas, and most of them are just terrible. I know that feels faculty, because I've read so much because I love stories to be able to distinguish. Yeah, that's a good path, or that's a bad. I love the idea that the story already exists. I'm just very good at finding it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, I love that too. Yeah. So interesting. So what is it? Like? Can you tell? I don't know if you can do this? It's kind of a hard question. But can you think about that moment where for example, you were like just merely walking down the path headed towards the end of the pickety, which you knew was coming? And like, what does it feel like when you're being redirected? And like, what was it like for you to be surprised by your own book?JA White:
Oh, my gosh. So it's always kind of a combination of delight? Yeah, I find when you know, things don't work out the way you expect them to, but also terror, and the amount of work that I know. That's come in, and the terror has decreased slightly, because now, after so many books, I'm like, I'm gonna eventually I'm going to work it out. Uh, huh. And more faith, a little bit more faith. What I don't have is a concept of how long it's going to take. So a lot of times my wife asked, you know, so when do we get you back again? When I'm writing a book, and I said, I wish I had an answer for you. Yeah. But it's not like I can say I'm gonna write three pages and three pages and three, I don't know. So that that's sort of the downside of my pantser lifestyle. But ya know, when you whenever you get near the end of a book, I feel so for me, at least the first drafts are always by far the worst part. Like, I can't wait for them to be over.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Why? What is it like, tellJA White:
us what it's like? So it's like just not knowing? Not. It's exact. I can't even explain it. That's how baffling it is. It's the idea of not having a real firm grip on the story or what's going to happen. So it's just almost being lost. Oh, Ha, and trying to find your way through it. And then once I have that down, yes, I'll probably change a ton. But it's okay. I have my map. I know in general, what's happening. I've met the people, I know them. And so revision for me is just pure fun. Yeah, another way I've sometimes use the analogy of a sculptor where you're, you know, you do the very general rough shape. But then once you put in all the details, and there's an app or spot, I'm no expert sculptor, but I would imagine that would be like very gratifying. Yeah, but but the actual generating of the story, because I know, so little going in. And at any point, I may go, oh, that didn't work, I have to throw these 50 pages out. I don't know if everything I write is actually going to remain in there. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
right, which probably is one of those things that's very excruciating. The first few times it happens, and then by the time you're on your fifth book, or whatever, you're like, Okay, fine. I understand what's happening. I can let this go. That's so interesting. The other really interesting writing slash sculpting analogy that I've heard is that I really like and I wonder your perspective on it is that I don't know, whoever sculpted Michelangelo helped me who is that? Oh, Michelangelo is the is the sculptor. And David is the is the statue. Okay, now, now I can continue with my analogy. So somebody somewhere says that they asked Michelangelo, how did you sculpt David? And he said, I got this block of marble. And I removed everything that wasn't David. Oh. My Right, right. It's like, whoa,JA White:
well, that's yeah, that's definitely an analogy that works for writing as well. Because a lot of writing is just figuring out what you what should you not tell, especially with the type of books that I write, which are a lot of I mean, I think of them as almost mystery novels, because it's usually characters that don't know what's going on those types of plots, it's how do you give information at just the right amounts? There? Everyone knows what's going on, but you're dangling things. So a lot of it is I don't want to include that. And I don't want to include that. And that would be bad. And so stuck. Usually, when I revise. i The book gets shorter. Not long. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's very interesting.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, I like that. So you've mentioned a little bit about, I mean, what must inevitably be part of the struggle of this, which is it takes you away from your family probably takes your brain away from your family even more than it takes your body away from them. Sure, like in your own head thinking things through?JA White:
They call me out on it, too. Yeah.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
But tell us what's the hard part of this, because great work is is always a struggle of love, you know, like, not ever not going to have the struggle. So what are the what are the hardest parts of writing these books for you?JA White:
Okay, so I talked about first drafts,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
right, that's excruciating. Yeah.JA White:
The first drafts are baffling. And also, I would say that, because I'm a full time, teacher and writer the time Yeah, yeah. And then I know, you know, I'm pretty good about going to all like the important things, but just certain, you know, like, not being able to play board games on a weekend, because I'm working. So you should, my weekends are all full of work and things like that. And knowing that it pulls me away from my family, I would say, is really, really hard. There's a lot of solitude to write in, by myself a lot. Just kind of pondering and things like that. And for me, you know, the classic self doubt, you know, is this working out? Is it not working out? You know, I usually just kind of write through that until I know for sure if it's working out or not. So almost all those those fun things, loneliness and self doubt, yeah, children yay,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
lets you be a children's author. It's like a commercial. So let's let's go into that moment of self doubt you're writing it in maybe you haven't yet realized that you have to take those 50 pages out or like you're in the thick of it. Maybe you have or you haven't realized that actually is the best 50 pages of the book, right? So what slow that way down and just talk to us about like, was like for you to experience that? How do you write through it? Like what what do you say to yourself? How do you like what else do you do in your life to make it possible to stay in it? And when it feels like that? What's that like for you?JA White:
So yeah, there's a few things now sometimes it's just necessary. Take a break. Yeah. And I found that even if I know I'm writing on a deadline or something like that, there are there are times when it's very much a craft that you do need to sit down for a few hours and work on it and know whether you're feeling abuse or not, or other times where working on it is actually self defeating. I'm just gonna sit there and run around in circles. And so I've gotten pretty good at sensing, when I'm wasting my time. Yeah, and when I am wasting my time, it usually means my batteries need to be recharged. And that sometimes means playing a board game with my family or going for lots and lots of long walks. I'm a big believer in walks as a gent helping to generate ideas and things like that. Sometimes what I'll do is I'll retrace my steps and look at what I've written. Sometimes I'll skip ahead. And I'm like, Okay, I know this is going to happen. So I have those little, little techniques in mind. But, you know, sometimes you just had to write through it, too. So it's all a matter of just kind of practice and knowing when you have to do what, or sometimes I'll try something on like, I'm trying to write through it. It's not working. But that's all experience. You know, my first novel, my first few novels, I wasn't nearly as good. And always I would just try to like, right through it until I figured it out. And now I've gotten a better foothold on on what to do and when.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, right. So there's something to be said. I mean, there's a lot to be said for. Obviously, there's a lot to be said, for experience. But I feel like we don't talk enough in the world of personal development for sort of where I live, about how we have to have really great self expertise. Because what other people tell you to do, like, you know, there's the there's the group of people who say, sit down and write no matter what right through it, like, don't let the page run your life. And then there's the group of people who are like, you know, they do wait for the muse. And then they sit down like, I think Stephen King sort of calls himself out as that sort of person or he's like, will write feverishly for four months and then like, not do anything for four months. Yeah, never.JA White:
No one can base themselves on Stephen King. Right, like a differentDr. Amanda Crowell:
otherwise works. Those are wise words. Yeah. So anyone thinking about Stephen King, and you mentioned Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman? Are those the people that you've drawn the most inspiration from? Are there other writers that you feel like have really informed your writing style?JA White:
Oh, well, yeah, definitely. Stephen King growing up. Yeah, sure. I think I think almost anyone who writes genre fiction, who is my age has been influenced by Stephen King. And escapable. Um, you know, who else I read growing up? It's not the name Robert McCammon that I read a lot of. He's interesting. Ray Bradbury, of course, a lot of mystery novels. You know, really, my favorite novels that I'm reading right now are British mystery novel. So like, my son and I are Sharon Agatha Christie novels. Okay. Elizabeth Rendell, and an Irish writer named John Connolly. Who does rate Charlie Parker series. So, you know, everyone asks women or genres and expects it to be either horror or fantasy, but it's actually mystery that tends to genre gravitate the most towardsDr. Amanda Crowell:
I think that's why your books are so interesting to read, because they're not traditionally only there is this mysterious aspect to it, you do a great job of sort of, like you said, like dangling and you're like, but I have to go to bed. But I actually now need to read the whole second book instead. Yeah. Comes fromJA White:
mysteries probably naturally, right, the type of book they want to read. And so that's and my thing going into children's books where, you know, I started reading Stephen King probably like fourth grade, which was no,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
no, Alex. Alex, Dad had never sleep again.JA White:
Yeah, well, you know, we, we had this bar in my basement. We grew up at Staten Island. So there was a bar in our basement, but it didn't have any alcohol. It just had like mass market paperbacks that my dad would read. So I used to, like sneak behind there and read.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So your rebellion was sneaking away to read? MassmartJA White:
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I was pretty wild. Yeah, sounds like so but but a lot of that the reason I hopped into adult novels early on is because I liked all these dark stories. But children's books were kinda like, not dark enough for me. So I kind of wanted to push. Push it a little bit. You know, making more was scary because kids can take it public.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, yeah. Well, yes. Or they won't tell you about it. But so tell me what how have How has the reception been for these creepy books for kids? Good. I mean, obviously people love them. But does anybody say have you gotten any like Christian Science Monitor like angry letters? Like,JA White:
oh my gosh, awesome. My typical share of like Goodreads or Amazon reviews, like there'll be some irate parents in there most mostly, I've been very lucky if reviews but you know, and listen, if that's not if my books aren't the type of books that you want your kid to read. That's okay. There's like a billion other great books out there. So I don't ever hold it against anyone. I do. I do. Sometimes parents look at me a little oddly. And they'll come up to me at an event and say, you know, my child read your book and they were terrified and had to sleep in our bed for like a month. And I go, thank you. It's so cool that my book was that effective. They looked at me a little odd, but I thought it was a compliment. So,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
right, I love, I love that, that sort of description of you as a person who's like knows exactly what he's doing. You can love it or not, you're not like sort of jerked around by public opinion. And that probably makes you a better writer too, I would guess. Because if you were always in the head of the critic, that would getJA White:
oh, yeah, no, that's not in my head at all. I tend to, if anything, I'm writing for like a specific type of, you know, young reader, which is usually you know, a little bit quirky, you know, a little bit smart and are kind of like, gonna kind of get what I'm doing. So,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
yeah, and those kids definitely need books that are written especially for them. So as a parent, I thank you for that.JA White:
You're welcome. I'll do I'll keep on doing as long as I can keep publishing books. SoDr. Amanda Crowell:
that's a great segue. Tell us what's next for you. What What book is coming. So you're in the middle of another three parter? Is that true? No.JA White:
Oh, goodness gracious now. Don't Don't scare me. Unless I forgot. Notice. The next thing that's come in is a sequel. Tonight books called great books. Oh, yeah. ADr. Amanda Crowell:
Richmond C is actually like theJA White:
dawn. Shadow school shadow school. That's really, one thing I didn't understand before I got into publishing is how far in advance. I am working on a book that comes out in 2023. But the book that is coming out in August is great books, which is okay. Okay, folks, and then shadow school is all done. But great books has been done. Maybe for like eight months now. Wow. So a lot of behind the scenes stuff plus a build time in there in case you know, I screw up and round the wagons and get the book into shape. But yeah, so that one's all done.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Wow, grave bucks. And how great would it be if that was also made into Netflix? Well just tell the universe make it happen.JA White:
Ya know, fingers crossed. We'll see it doesn't you know, there's no plans right now. Makes it open. Never see what happens. So.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So, um, I don't think I mentioned this at the very beginning, but you're actually a teacher at my children's school. That's how we got connected, just so the listeners know this. And it was such a great, I was just happy having not read night books. Apologies. But I was just very, very happy when we had that watch party for you. Were all the kids in the school all the kids who couldn't handle it in the school, like watched it on the same night? And I don't know if we're responsible for it. But you were actually in the top 10 or something of Netflix where you're not?JA White:
Yes. No, it did. It did really, really well. People responded to it in a really positive way. Which was, which is kind of neat. I like the face they call it a gateway harbor. Yeah. Thank you so much. Exactly. I mean, I'm really hoping that somebody you know, who, who either becomes a horror author or our director, you know, years and years, and I was like, Yeah, I remember I was little I watched this movie called Knight books. Oh, scared me. I just love the idea that because for like, The Evil Dead, that that kind of, I remember seeing that Sam Raimi his movie when my older sister was having a sleepover. And I kind of annoying little brother that I was, you know, snuck in and watched part of the movie, and I was terrified, but loved it. So Oh, wow.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
That's so great. So bringing those two parts of your life together the the teaching part, and loving kids and, and you're a fifth grade teacher, but you have also been the librarian at the school I've done I've taughtJA White:
every grade at that school. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and I've been a librarian, so I don't at all,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
love it. And then writing these books tell us it's like the question that sort of coming through. And this is like, what you love about doing this? And it sounds like at least part of it is sort of inspiring these young people, but talk a little bit about that.JA White:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's awesome to be able to work with young writers and you know, I have really good street cred so they take me seriously. And you know, it's it's really it's really flattering. How excited everyone got over the movie and everything and I thought that was really neat and then to come in the next day and they were all you know, talking about it and yeah, so that was really awesome. But yeah, I've always you know, the two main things in my life have always been books and kits. Those are my two like kind of like great loves. You know, as will come as no surprise as anyone who see me teaching I probably get along better with children and adults. There's just something there that I love kids. They're really, really fun. So to be able to, to work with them on trying to foster creativity, and things like that is it really is a pleasure. I wish there were more hours in the day. That just seems to be the general problem.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Right? Right. Yeah. Great. Well, so great books comes out in August. Did you say September? August? Yeah.JA White:
August 16.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
August 16. Mark your calendars get the pre orders in. So make a huge difference. And then the book that you're working on now is said you're writing something also.JA White:
Yeah. So the book I'm working on now I remember how I told you sometimes that first draft isDr. Amanda Crowell:
a little hard for me. Yeah. Oh, you're in the middle of that right now. So I'm in the middle ofJA White:
it. No, but so it was interesting to know, because the point I'm at now, is I've written I've written a lot that I probably won't use i Well, it's somewhere between 300 to 400 pages. Don't use. Oh, that you won't useDr. Amanda Crowell:
the not David part is three or 400 pages. Yeah.JA White:
And, and so I know, I think I have the core concept that I want to use. And it may have been a way I'm going to interpret it. To keep myself sane is I had to write all those pages to get this one great idea that I'm now going to riff on and makeDr. Amanda Crowell:
the actual novel. Love it. No wasted writing. Right,JA White:
exactly. That is my motto. And I'm going to stick to it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
That's right, especially right now in the middle of university.JA White:
I have to write now I don't have a choice.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Wow. Well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your excruciating first draft creation process. Can you tell these listeners who right now I'm sure are already Googling and Amazon having difficulty and light books and all of these, how can they learn more about you? How can they follow you? How can they book you if you speak like what what do you want us to know?JA White:
Sure, if you go to my my website, which is j a white books.com. There's a whole bunch of information there and you know, you can you can contact me if you'd like to set up an engagement and other information and then on Twitter. It's also Jay white books. I do tweet. I am also on Instagram for just about a week. I did Tik Tok really, for just the amusement of my students. I made silly little videos. And then I realized that I'm 48 and my days are behind me.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So when I realized thatJA White:
but yeah, sure, Twitter, Instagram. It's all Jay white books, and I'm pretty easy to find.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Nice. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. This has been fascinating. I've loved every minute of it. I know you're busy. Thank you so much for your time.