Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

The year of books and other books and more books

When the year began, I was not a very optimistic guy. I was paying the bills designing book covers, I was writing short stories, and I was busy having my novel rejected by agents. I wasn't particularly feeling it, you know? The short stories were good, I think — readers were enjoying them, and some of them are still my highest-rated works on Amazon — so that kept me going. That and, of course, my wife's persistent belief that the doldrums were temporary. She was right, as she pretty much always is; the year turned around in a big way. 

Some of the good things that happened this year:

  • I gave my first honest-to-goodness reading.
  • I appeared (poof!) at three conventions (one national, two regional), where I was a guest on panels, read from my work, and signed books. 
  • I published seven new short stories, among them The Dark Age, which might just be my favorite of anything I've ever written (and the one thing I can probably never manage to read publicly).
  • I published one collection of short fiction (Deep Breath Hold Tight) and one novel (Eleanor). I also produced a bonus ebook for Eleanor readers who pre-ordered the book, The Eleanor Sketches, and gave away several hundred copies. (That book is now forever unavailable.)
  • Two of my books became Amazon bestsellers (Greatfall, which peaked at #59 on Amazon; and Eleanor, which leapfrogged that to #25).
  • I hit several nice sales milestones: 25,000 books sold, then 30,000, then 40,000. After that I gave up trying to count anymore. (Counting is a distraction from writing, you see.) Although I did keep an eye on Eleanor, which managed to sell more than 10,000 copies in its first three months — the strongest performance of any of my books.
  • Greatfall became the bestselling book of all time in Amazon's Kindle Worlds. (Though I suspect it's now lost that title, probably to one of the hugely-selling romance titles that took Kindle Worlds by storm late this year.) 
  • I had short stories appear in four anthologies: Jerome 3.0, a brand-new short, appeared in John Joseph Adams's HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!; another new short story, The Winter Lands, was published in David Gatewood's From the Indie Side; and two reprints, The Caretaker and The Dark Age, appeared in Gatewood's anthologies The Robot Chronicles and Synchronic, respectively.
  • I sold a short story to John Joseph Adams for publication in Lightspeed Magazine in the spring of 2015. It's called Quiet Town, and has never appeared anywhere else. 
  • The gracious and amazing folks at Powell's Books not only stocked my self-published novels in their stores, but invited me to join a wonderful and huge author book-signing event in November (Sci-Fi AuthorFest).
  • I started writing a short story about my childhood, which evolved into a horror story, which blew up into a horror fantasy, which opened the door to an enormous world that deserves at least a novel to tell its tale... so that's probably my next project, once editing is completed for the publisher's edition of Eleanor. (It's tentatively titled Limbs, too.) 
  • And, of course, after thirteen years, I finally self-published Eleanor, then signed with an agent (Seth Fishman at The Gernert Co.), who then sold the novel to Crown Publishing (to my new editor, Zachary Wagman), and whose co-agents (Rebecca Gardner and Will Roberts) then sold it to HarperCollins in the UK, and Editora Rocco in Brazil. I also now have film representation (Jon Cassir at CAA), and that's led to some interesting conversations about Eleanor and producers and such. (My brain still basically stalls out when I think about all this stuff happening, and what it will mean for the novel.) 
  • And finally, I'm still editing Eleanor, but this time with the wizardlike Mr. Wagman, who is turning this book into something even sharper than the book that he bought. (Without, of course, sacrificing the soul of the novel, which is very much intact and perhaps even more powerful than before.) 

That's just the book-related stuff, though. I also landed a really wonderful job with really wonderful people, doing really wonderful (and challenging and fun) work; this is probably the happiest I've been anywhere in years. And Felicia and I celebrated our fourth anniversary in the spring, followed by my mother-in-law coming to live with us (which, contrary to societal expectations, has been awesome), and of course followed by Squish celebrating her third birthday. 

It's been a better year than I expected it to be, all in all. And even though it's almost over, it's about to get even nicer, because there's a couch calling my name, where Felicia's knitting some socks, and a spooky novel demands to be read aloud. (That's my job.) In the year we first met and began dating, Felicia and I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife aloud to each other, which of course is just about the most romantic thing a couple of book nerds can do together. But since then we've only read to each other at night, as one or the other is drifting off to sleep. So this year, one of my Christmas gifts to Felicia was a stack of horror novels (she's an aficionado, and I am, too, but only of a certain kind of horror novel), with the promise that I would read them to her while she knits lovely things for our family and friends. (Which is one of my favorite things about our home: it's stuffed to the gills with yarn and her projects.) The books in question, by the way, are Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist and Graham Joyce's The Silent Land and The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit. I've never read these authors before, but all three books caught my eye. 

Oh! That's the other wonderful thing about 2014: After spending almost all of my spare time writing or designing book covers, I retired from book cover design altogether, which freed up a lot more time for writing — and, perhaps more importantly, even more time for reading. So I've binged this year. I even celebrated the sale of Eleanor to my publisher by going to Powell's and emerging with sacks full of new books to be read. (I'm reading Wolf in White Van presently, and just recently finished Ann Patchett's This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Diane Cook's Man vs. Nature, Margaret Atwood's Stone Mattress, and Audrey Niffenegger's Raven Girl.)

See? Not a terrible year, not by any stretch. 

Also contributing to my general good spirits: I recently learned that Ms. Niffenegger is writing a sequel to The Time Traveler's Wife, which means Felicia and I have something wonderful to look forward to in 2015, or 2016, or whenever it comes to fruition. (It's about Alba! I'm very excited.)

A new year in just a few days. It's beginning on such a nice note. I hope it's the same for you!

Sans comics

The long slow climb