Award-Winning Author Comes to Adams: Jeff Zentner


Emily Clark, Reporter

Jeff Zentner, an award-winning author, came to Adams High School on September 29th to talk about his journey as an author, along with offering advice on how aspiring writers can get their own start. He is most notable for his young adult novels, such as The Serpent King and In the Wild Light

Zentner began his journey as an author through music, but it never took off. However, surviving one unsuccessful career made him brave enough to try something else he was passionate about, so he took on becoming an author. As Zentner says, “Dreams are like energy, they can change form, but they can never die.” So he started his first book, along with every other book he has published, on his bus ride to work. Zentner would go through a routine of typing up a story before work on his phone, going to work as a prosecutor, and then continuing his story on the way home. 

To future writers, Jeff Zentner’s advice would be to:

  1. Finish what you start.
  2. Take the right amount of criticism without letting it get to you.
  3. Have a story to tell– and everyone has their own story just from living.


An Open Q&A with Jeff Zentner:

Q:  Did you ever suffer writer’s block when writing your stories?

A: “For sure. My solution to writer’s block and all blocks of creativity is to be bored. In this day and age, it’s really difficult to be bored with having phones. But, it’s good to be bored because when you get bored, your mind starts to get hungry. And if you let your brain get hungry, it’ll start to make its own food: ideas, inspiration, solutions to a story problem, and ways to get around a writer’s block.”


Q: Has a character in your books ever been someone you know?

A: “None of my characters are a 1:1 version of any real human being. They’re all modified with little twists and rips, but I definitely draw from people I love, people who fascinate me, people who have a weird trait that I can put into a character, and then add a little spin of imagination. I’ll even take a little piece of myself and put it in that character. The joy of creating characters is making new people who don’t exist yet. “


Q: Have people ever found out that you’ve based characters on them?

A: “No, although there are people that if they did find out, they’d probably be mad– they just haven’t found out yet. When I was in junior high, I got bullied a ton. But about a year ago, the kid who bullied me the most found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. So I’m like, ‘Hey! Funny story… you appear in like three of my books as a bully. Just thought you’d like to know!’ So after I got that out of my system, he was very nice and apologized, and everything was cool.”


Q: How long does it take to finish a book’s first draft?

A: “It’s a funny answer because it keeps changing, but each book takes a little longer. My first book came to me really easily because I had all these things that I’d been waiting to say and put out into the world. The first book took me about 4-5 months, the second book took me about 9 months, but my third book took me like 11 months, and then my fourth book took me like a year and a half. My 5th book was co-written with a friend, so that only took us 6-7 months. The process of getting that published is a whole other beast. That takes about two years. “


Q: Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?

A: “My favorite author is probably Stephen King. The book It was really huge for me. He writes so well about friendship, and I love writing about friendship, so that was huge for me too. It’s funny because I don’t write horror at all and probably never will. But my favorite book is not a Stephen King book. It’s a Cormac McCarthy book called ‘The Road.’ I love that book so much.”