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Jesse Andrews had quite a year: Not only did the film version of his best-selling YA novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, open to critical acclaim at Sundance, but Andrews also wrote the screenplay. Next up for the writer? Two new novels, the first of which, The Haters, will be published by Amulet Books in April 2016, EW announces exclusively.
The book follows a trio of pals who have escaped from jazz camp to head out on the road, as all up-and-coming bands must. “It’s a road book about love and friendship and three musicians’ quest to escape the law long enough to play one completely perfect show,” Andrews says. The book is also grounded in something deeply familiar: Andrews’ own experience in a road-traveling band. (Though he wasn’t necessarily on the run from the law, like Wes, Corey, and Ash of& The Haters.)
EW spoke with Andrews about how his past influenced the book, and how his foray into screenwriting will affect his future novels.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is our trio escaping the law? What did they do?
JESSE ANDREWS: At first they’re just on the run from jazz camp and their parents. They drive away in the middle of the night, tell no one where they’re going, and make themselves untraceable by leaving their cell phones behind. But pretty soon they start piling up minor and then-not-so-minor legal infractions as well. Their leader and frontwoman, Ash, does not like to let petty little things like jazz camp rules or state laws get between her and her dream of having a killer band and playing epic shows.
How much of your actual experience features into the new book? Is one of the characters based on you?
The Haters has some of the generalities of band experiences that I’ve had—the camaraderie, the grubbiness, the outsized collective ambitions and frequent painful collisions with reality—but very few of the specifics. I guess it was a way for me to take some of my experiences to their logical crazy extremes. None of the characters is really based on me, but the closest would be Wes, the bassist and narrator. Bass was/is my instrument too, and he and I share preoccupations that I think a lot of bass players have—how to reconcile strong personalities and give the band a foundation that brings everyone together. Also the tendency to get made fun of.
What was the hardest thing about being on the road?
The hardest thing was wanting to be great and amazing and perfect, and not coming remotely close. The second hardest thing was how everyone smelled basically all the time. We were a band on a budget and mostly we were crashing on people’s couches and not being super on the ball about brushing our teeth.
What was the best thing?
The best thing was the friendships. If you’re in a band for long enough, you see your bandmates at their best and their worst, and if you can stick together through that, you’re basically family to each other. The second best thing would have been the groupies if there had been any. Even one would have been nice.
How long have you been working on the book?
I was kicking around the idea for a while but started serious work on it around December of 2013. So it took about a year and a half to write. In the prewriting of it, there were a few false starts—beginnings of books about other kinds of bands, like one where a student jazz band tours Europe and it goes awry. Actually I might still write that one. It’s much kinder to jazz than The Haters.
How did your recent experience with screenwriting influence your writing style when you returned to the world of novels?
I think screenwriting gave me more of an affinity for plot—my first novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, doesn’t have a very sophisticated roadmap. But screenwriting required me to learn a higher level of plottiness, and I tried to bring that to The Haters. Screenwriting also made me appreciate a new the ways in which you can stretch out in a book—scripts can only be 100 pages or so, in a big-fonted white-space-intensive format, and after writing a few of them, you start wanting to write something with more words.