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.

Where I write now

At long last, my new writing space is complete. Tonight my darling wife assembled the desk that I ordered—which is not slave labor, I swear; she enjoys these kinds of things, is quite good at them, and knows I would only somehow construct the most structurally-unsound desk imaginable. 

After the past two years of writing mostly in libraries and coffee shops, it's an immense relief to have a room of my own, where I can leave my achingly heavy, red-lined manuscript. Toting that thing around is just ridiculous. 

So: photos!

This is the new desk. It's nothing particularly noteworthy. It's an IKEA desk called Arkelstorp. No kidding. If I ever write a high fantasy novel (fat chance), my hero will be a bumbling, well-intentioned but utterly incompetent king called Arkelstorp. That's Eleanor you see there on the desk; I'm in the middle of a full re-read and line edit. The stack of 200 pages on the left are done (note the fan of Post-Its protruding from the top of that stack; each Post-It indicates that there are edits on that page), and the stack of 343 pages on the right are, of course, not. 

A clarification: This particular edit I'm doing now comes after the major edits I've been working on since November. So it's not like I've been chipping away since November and am only two hundred pages deep. I'm efficient! I swear. 

Also pictured here: the orange Hydro Flask that Felicia gave me for Christmas, among other knitted wonderful goods (particularly hats). I've been a compulsive soda drinker for years and years. At the beginning of December I quit cold-turkey, and have managed to maintain; I've been instead chugging water from this glorious insulated bottle, which keeps ice water iced for, like, months on end. Water has never tasted so amazing.

This is my reading/thinking corner. The bright orange chair is a bit of a tribute to a couch that I once had in the tiniest apartment ever, back in Morro Bay, California, a town I dearly miss. The chair isn't quite comfortable yet; I'm still breaking it in. 

Also pictured here: my stunning wife, Felicia, in a photo taken on our wedding day, just before we were married on the garden patio of a friend's wine bar in Arroyo Grande, California, not terribly far from Morro Bay. 

That's also a signed first edition of Contact, my favorite novel, and one that directly inspired Eleanor in a number of ways—the most obvious of which is my heroine's name. Eleanor is named for Dr. Eleanor Arroway, Carl Sagan's heroine in Contact

The tower of books. I've been on a book-buying binge recently that has only just begun to ease up. There are so many books I want to read! And there is so little time that I'm not already spending on my own novel. Some notable titles here: The Time Traveler's Wife, which Felicia and I read to each other in the early days of our relationship, back in 2007; Summerland, a signed first edition of Michael Chabon's young adult novel (which I've still yet to read); The Well's End, my agent Seth Fishman's first novel, which hopefully will soon be joined by its sequel, The Dark WaterShovel Ready, The Expats, The Book of Strange New Things, The Girl in the Road, If I Fall, If I Die, all novels edited by my own editor, Zachary Wagman, at Crown Publishing. Conspicuously absent from this shelf: my signed first edition of Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which has somehow gone missing in our house, and which we are still searching for. (I half-expect to find it tucked beneath Squish's mattress, to discover she has been reading it by the light of glow-in-the-dark stars each night.) 

On the bottom shelves are some on-hand stock of my own titles—ten or fifteen copies of Eleanor, which in March will become unavailable as Crown prepares the new edition for release in January 2016. (Once that happens, it will be impossible to buy a new copy of the indie version of Eleanor, so if you enjoy collecting that sort of thing, make sure you pick one up before too long.) The horizontal copy of Eleanor that you see is one that arrived with a printing error last year (note the white stripe on the lower edge of the cover) and as a consequence became my reading copy of the book. I take it with me to events, I have certain passages marked for readings, and on the inside cover I've logged each of the book's milestones, from events I've done (not too terribly many) to the amazing happenings since October, when Crown bought the book's North American publishing rights. 

The bottom shelf is filled with artwork that my daughter and wife made for me on previous Father's Days and birthdays. The only thing missing from my office is a photo of Squish. I can't remember the last time I had to convert a digital photo to a printed artifact. But I'm going to have to figure out the best way to do so. Being here in the office, working on the book, means I'm not home with her, and I sorely miss her. A photograph is only a Band-Aid on my guilt complex, but it's something. 

While I edit or write, I usually have Spotify streaming to a Bluetooth speaker. I can't really focus if I'm listening to anything with lyrics, so I often rely on film scores or very atmospheric, instrumental albums. The Assassination of Jesse James is one of my favorite scores, along with The FountainUnfaithfulSnow Falling on Cedars, etc. 

Well, that's the new writing space. It's sort of my gift to myself to celebrate the book deal: practical, essential, and hopefully a place where I will write many, many more novels. Or at least the next one, whatever it may be. 

My favorite podcasts

The home stretch