Ask the Author: Jay Coles

What would you like readers to know about you?

I’m an author, composer, and missionary residing in Muncie, Indiana. I hope readers also know that I’m a die-hard Paramore fan and would get their lyrics tattooed on my face. Okay. That’s a bit much. But I’d at least consider getting a tattoo of some of their lyrics… but not on my face. Also, I hope that all readers are able to connect with at least one of my characters in some deeper way. 

What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?

Tyler Johnson Was Here is about twins, police brutality, standing up against injustice, fighting for your voice, grief, and the irreplaceable power of brotherhood. It’s a story drawn from actual events in my life where I lost my cousin to police violence. Think The Hate U Give meets The Outsiders. 

What has been your inspiration for writing your book?

My inspiration to write this book stems all the way back to when I was in high school and saw national headlines of Trayvon Martin and others who had unjustly lost their lives to police violence/gun violence, seeing how people sided with the cop or killer. Filled with so much anger and disgust at the world, I remembered back to my cousin and the life he tried to live and how it was wrongfully taken from him when I was a little kid. Thinking about all the things I think he wanted to do in his life and all the things kids like Trayvon and others can no longer do, I grew increasingly frustrated. I was also trying to remind myself of all the other black boys and girls and how much they need some sort of hope for the future. I started drafting Tyler Johnson Was Here and then finished it a couple years later, riding on the motivation that came from knowing I was not only sharing the story of my cousin or kids like Trayvon, but I was also honoring their lives with my book, too. That felt dope. 

What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?

HAHAHA. Love this question. My favorite scene is actually a spoiler, so I’ll share my second favorite scene. It’s the very last chapter. Also a spoiler, but I’ll just say that it touches my heart and gives me peace but also leaves me in tears every time I go back to re-read it. 

What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?

James Baldwin, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Langston Hughes, Jason Reynolds, Octavia Butler, Zora Neale Hurston, etc. I could honestly keep going on and on about writers who inspired me to write. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?

This might be cliche, but I share this advice all the time when I get asked this question: JUST! START! For real. We are our own worst-critics and we can talk ourselves out of anything, including writing a book when we know we are capable of doing it. Trust me I know that first hand. Your story matters, whatever it is and deserves to exist. Remind yourself of this truth every day, every time you try to sit down and write. You’ll see some beauty and words come out of it. Again, trust me. 

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