Ever wondered where the idea for ’13 Reasons Why’ originally came from?! The real-life situation that inspired it is heartbreaking

Jay has finally revealed the inspiration behind ’13 Reasons Why’

Trigger warning: Please be aware that the following article contains written and visual material that may be triggering to people who have or are sensitive to topics such as depression, suicide, anxiety and grief.

Some books are soooo good it makes you wonder where the author first got his or her idea from. Was it a case of popping to Asda for a tin of Baked Beans and BAM a stroke of genius hit? Or are their novels a little more thought out than that? Well, fret not, ladies and gents because we FINALLY have an answer… sorta.

Everyone’s heard of Jay Asher’s brilliant book, ’13 Reasons Why’. It’s a modern classic and thousands of YA-addicts consider it one of their favourite reads to delve into. In fact, even if you haven’t read it, you probably already know the premise behind the book thanks to the equally amazing Netflix on-screen adaption. It’s incredible, and we here at MP! consider it one of the most powerful storylines ever written.

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Jay recently revealed where the idea for ’13 Reasons Why’ first came from and, quite honestly, we were pretty surprised.

“The idea for the format came before the subject matter. I once took a self-guided audio tour at a museum where I was given a Walkman and a cassette tape,” he said. “Standing in front of each display, you pressed ‘play’ and the narrator described what you were looking at. Then you hit ‘stop’ and moved on, all at your own pace. There was an eeriness in hearing a disembodied female voice. I knew then that I wanted to use the audio tour format in a book.”

As for the subject matter, Jay also said that he decided to write about suicide and depression due to a close relative attempting it. Jay’s relative was the same age as Hannah, which is heartbreaking to hear.

“Thankfully she survived,” Jay said. “Over the years, we discussed the events and emotions that led her to make that decision. She could never talk about one specific circumstance without telling me what preceded it or what followed. That idea that “everything affects everything” as Hannah says in the book intrigued me.”

As for the finer points in the story. Jay turned to the multiple females in his life when it came to choosing Hannah’s reasons for her suicide. He spoke to his wife, as well as his female writing partners, about what high school and college was like for them.

“We spoke about experiences that, at the time, they didn’t think they’d ever get over – as well as some they never have gotten over. But I also had my own teen years to draw from,” he said. “Most of the real-life scenarios (either mine or those of friends and relatives) are unrecognisable in the book because I was primarily inspired by the emotions of those scenes rather than the details.”

Well, there it is, guys and girls. That’s how you write a best-selling novel. Of course, huge amounts of hard work also goes into creating a story as powerful as ’13 Reasons Why’ – you only have to read parts of the original manuscript and the various changes the book went through to see that.

But it does show that stories can be found anywhere and everywhere. So keep your eyes peeled when you’re next in a museum or speaking to a family friend. If you want to be an author or pursue a career in writing, you never know where inspiration might hit.

To find out more about ’13 Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher, click here to buy a copy. Equally, if you’re affected by any of the issues raised in ’13 Reasons Why’, please visit for a list of UK-based support organisations that can help.

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Written by Emma Matthews

Emma is a freelance journalist at MP.

When she’s not writing articles for Maximum Pop!, you’ll find her attending gigs, geeking out over the latest beauty products and reading feminist literature. Hermione is her favourite Harry Potter character - obviously.

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