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Jay Coles, Things We Couldn't Say
Credit: Victoria Ruth; Scholastic

Jay Coles relishes drama — in books, at least. As an acclaimed YA author, he understands the power of a good, multilayered story. In his debut novel Tyler Johnson Was Here, Coles explored the aftermath of a police shooting gone viral, and in his latest, Things We Couldn't Say, protagonist Gio grapples with his father's drinking problems, the return of his estranged mother, and finding his first love as a bi Black boy. Here, the author answers EW's burning book questions about his new release and how he gets it all done.

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What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?

I remember writing poems for my mom as a little kid. They would always make her cry, which for me just meant that my writing must've been pretty okay. Don't remember what the poems said, but I just remember writing them and her reading them.

What is the last book that made you cry?

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver! It absolutely RUINED me. I will not be okay for a long, long time. I absolutely adored Mason's brilliant, honest, and poignant sophomore novel.

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?

I am so pumped to read White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson. Another one that is at the top of my list that I have a little bit of a longer time to wait for is This Is Why They Hate Us by Aaron Aceves.

Where do you write?

This might sound sad, but I love locking myself in my office space, cutting all the lights out so that I'm sitting in the dark. I love isolation and darkness as I write, so busy coffee shops don't usually work for me.

Which book made you a forever reader?

Ooooh. I don't know if I can name a single one, because of course. I first fell in love with comic books, particularly all the X-Men ones. But also, books by Walter Dean Myers made me a forever reader for sure. 

What is a snack you couldn't write without?

Matcha latte and peanut butter M&Ms. YES!

If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?

Hmmm. I'd probably add more drama. I live for the drama that happens in a YA novel, and mine could always use more, in my opinion.

What is your favorite part of Things We Couldn't Say?

There are so many things that I love about my new book, Things We Couldn't Say. I love seeing a bi Black boy finding love (and being on the cover!). I also love that I got to include music playlists throughout the book.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write?

The hardest plot point to write was the ending. I wanted things to go so much differently than what ends up happening at the end, but the characters in the story insisted that I was wrong, so there we have it.

Write a movie poster tagline for the book:

Sometimes you must swim through the depths of grief to get to joy.

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