Jay Clark on Writing Juno for Dudes

We fell in love with Jay Clark’s first novel, The Edumacation of Jay Baker, when we read its tagline: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel awkward by association.” Hilarious, just like Edumacation‘s teenage protagonist, Jay Baker. Jay is battling a number of things his freshman year of high school: a nemesis in a race to be class president; a painfully awkward love triangle; and his parents, whose marriage is imploding. It’s not easy being Jay Baker, and it turns out it’s not so easy being Jay Clark either–keep reading to learn about his stint as a substitute teacher, or his failed tenure as class president. And then begin reading The Edumacation of Jay Baker for a limited time here on Figment.

Describe Edumacation in 5 words or fewer.

Juno for dudes minus baby.

We couldn’t help but notice that you share a name with your main character. What else do you two have in common?

Besides the fact that we both hate each other? Figment Exclusive: Jay Baker and I have been feuding ever since I started this blog tour. He’s jealous . . . much. Mostly that I’m getting all the attention when the book is really about him. But you know what? Jay Baker can stick a Skittle where the sun don’t shine and see if he can taste the rainbow that way, because I’ve been a slave to his problems for the past three years, and if I want to talk about myself in long, meandering paragraphs like this one, then so it shall be.

P.S. Our commonalities include: uncooperative and badly styled hair, knee-crippling IBS, awkwardness, preference for hanging out with family instead of friends, Mountain Dew breath, and so on. But neither one of us is sarcastic AT ALL.

Have you ever worked with real-life teens?

Oh, absolutely, I conduct a youth group at my house every week—do I look like I enjoy being made fun of (don’t answer that)? Actually, I was desperate enough to be a middle school substitute teacher for a short time after college. Suspecting I’d someday write a book for teenagers and not dedicate it to any of my students, I really used the opportunity to connect . . . to the Internet and ignore them entirely. “Are you done with that worksheet yet, Tracy? I didn’t think so.” Then I’d return to my favorite tennis blog and post something important in the comments section, like, “Vamos, Nadal!” No one got stabbed under my watch (I think?), so I must’ve been doing something right. We do the best we can-ish.

It sounds like you have a pretty close relationship with your family. Did you base Abby on your own sister? How about Jay’s parents?

My family means everything to me. My reluctance to party like it was 1999 as a teenager—wait, I was a teenager in 1999—was a blessing in dorky disguise, because it meant I got to spend extra time on the couch with my mom and dad (at their respective houses). That’s the thing about divorce—if the kids are neurotic, like me, then they always feel guilty about not being with the absent parent. If only I could find it in my heart to start blaming everyone but myself, then I’d surely find eternal happiness.

Oh, I’m avoiding the question? I didn’t even notice. I definitely borrow bits and pieces from certain people, but their real-life counterparts are a million times better. There’s no way I could do them justice in 250 pages (how long is my book again?).

Your protagonist is running for class president. What sorts of extracurriculars did you do in high school?

I’m embarrassed to say that I also ran for freshman class president. Worst yet, I won. Afterward, when I realized my position required doing stuff like helping build the Homecoming float and other crap I can’t remember, I was like, “$&#*!” I would’ve impeached myself if anyone had cared.

I was way more into tennis than Jay Baker. Still am. When I started taking group lessons at a club my freshman year, it was like I’d finally found my fellow aliens.

There are so many love triangles in YA literature with a girl at the apex, but your book features a male-centric isosceles. Was that a conscious decision, to shake up the love triangle?

Crap, I wish I could say it was a conscious decision, but I actually wrote the entire book in a food coma. Amazing, eh? Amazing in the way that that joke will never be funny. Now that I think of it, why should the ladies get the pimp spot in the love triangle all the time?

Is it important to you that your writing be funny?

Have I told you the one about the paranoid writer who doesn’t think his work is worth a flaming pile of poo unless it’s funny? I think we all have crutches that we cling to, desperately, to remind ourselves that we’re the second-best things since Cinnabons gave birth to Minibons. Or maybe my cheesiness stands alone, but I can’t help it. Sometimes simple is really is better, though. *Purses lips . . . then makes fart noise*

Any tips for writers trying to up their laugh factor?

Uh, don’t take yourself too seriously? I mean, I’ve never been the type to get hung up on whether or not I’m about to offend someone who needs a personality transplant anyway. Oops, I did it again. Life sucks and then you die/cryogenically freeze your head, so why not cackle obnoxiously at everyone’s misfortunes, including your own? Or we could all just stand around and be really unhappy all the time, that sounds like fun, too.

We heard you recently got engaged. Tell us about the proposal!

You know, I really prefer to keep my private life private–psych! I wrote a blog about How Not to Propose. Nothing’s worth doing in life if I can’t post about it on the internet so people can click their tongues and say, “This guy is a disaster . . . good luck with him, lady!”  I owe it to the world, and if the world’s saying, “No thanks, I’m good,” don’t tell me–I’d rather be the last to know. Ignorance is bliss, so it’s important to play dumb for as long as possible.

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