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 art of the lumberjack photoshoot

Over the past couple of months, some truly wonderful things have begun happening for me. Acclimating to some of these things has been an interesting journey. I've taken a more critical look at some of the things that I do and don't do, and have been adjusting accordingly. That's vague, so here's a concrete example: I've just had some professional author photos taken. 

This is the photo that I've been using online for the past year or so:

Both my agent and my new editor were like, DudeReally? You've got to change it. They weren't even the first people to tell me so, either: my author friend MeiLin Miranda gave me a hard time about it as well. But I stuck with it for awhile, because it kind of does represent my personality. 

I get it, though. When you write books that are often accused of making folks cry, a whimsical author photo sends the wrong message. It says Oh, did I make you cry? Heh. Pardon me!

So my wife Felicia knitted me a new hat—which is the most amazing hat I've ever owned—and I made arrangements with my friend Rodrigo Moyses to take some Serious Author Photos. 

Here's what I expected: I would get in front of the camera, and I would laugh, and behave awkwardly, and feel very self-conscious in general about having to pose, or look thoughtful, or look serious. 

Here's what actually happened: I got in front of the camera and did all of those things. Which resulted in photos like...

But of course it wasn't all that bad. I really only have two settings: Stoic, or Awkward. Rodrigo gave good direction, like: "Okay, give me your eyes!" and "Let's GQ this one up." And despite myself (and the intermittent rain) we got some good ones, in which I appear to be a writerly type who might actually know what he's doing.

That, or a bit of a literary thug. 

(Also perhaps a lumberjack, as one of my readers suggested on Facebook.)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Each photo in this post—with the exception of my old profile photo, of course—is © Rodrigo Moyses, lumberjack fashion photographer extraordinaire. Photo shoots aren't necessarily inexpensive—and if you were to hire Rodrigo on your own, I'd expect him to charge you real paper money for his work—but this one cost me a single (very big) bottle of really good, hard-to-find whiskey, and that seems like a pretty good deal for both sides. 

Because I want to be of service to other nervous writers, I hereby offer my tips for taking effective author photos:

First, write a novel. This gives you a reason to take author photos in the first place. 

Second, ask a friend who likes whiskey to take your photographs. (Bonus points if he/she knows how to operate a camera.)

Third, ask your significant other to knit you the world's greatest hat, because the world's greatest hat will take an amazing photo even when you're the most awkward subject in history. 

Fourth, schedule the photo shoot on a day when the chance of precipitation is higher than 90%. 

And, finally, choose a location that's densely populated with strangers to maximize your nervousness/awkwardness. 

That's how you take a successful author photo. Just ask this guy: 


Yeah. Don't ask that guy. 

Editing Eleanor

Billions and—ehh, whatever