‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ author denies harassment claim, ousting from writers group

Author Jay Asher, here on the set of the Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why” based on his young adult novel of the same name.
Author Jay Asher, here on the set of the Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why” based on his young adult novel of the same name.

A representative for author Jay Asher says he was not ousted from the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators after allegations of sexual harassment arose online, as the group reported, but chose to step away from the group himself.

The representative also flatly denied the harassment claims, saying they were the result of consensual relationships with peers that have since soured.

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“The SCBWI’s recent statement about author Jay Asher is completely false,” spokeswoman Tamara Taylor wrote in an email to The Tribune. “There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment.”

Asher, who lives in San Luis Obispo, is the bestselling author of young adult novels like “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “The Future of Us.”

Society executive director Lin Oliver told the AP on Monday that Asher violated the society’s harassment code and was banned sometime last year.

According to the AP report, the news only recently emerged with the rise of the #MeToo movement, followed by comments on a January School Library Journal piece on harassment in the children’s publishing industry.

Taylor insisted this was not true, and stated that Asher is still an active member of the society.

She said Asher did voluntarily agree to no longer attend SCBWI conferences in April 2017.

“This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly,” she said.

There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment.

Tamara Taylor, spokeswoman for author Jay Asher

Asher previously told The Tribune that he had had multiple affairs with consenting adults that ended years ago.

“I am ashamed of myself and the pain our actions caused our families,” he said. “During the past decade of harassment related to these affairs, I have never once retaliated. I will continue to leave my accusers to their anonymity in order to save them and their families from further hurt.”

In her statement Thursday, Taylor added that the women involved were “not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him.”

Asher has retained legal counsel and is demanding that Oliver and the society retract their statements, Taylor said, noting they have resulted in “inaccurate and hurtful news coverage, which is threatening Mr. Asher’s livelihood.”

In a statement Tuesday, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which represented Asher, announced it was no longer working with him in light of the allegations.

“All of the agents at ABLA support the important national conversation that is happening about sexual harassment and bullying and we fully believe that all creators should have a safe space to work professionally,” read the note. “We have counseled Jay to take a step back from the industry and he’s doing so.”

Taylor confirmed that Asher is no longer working with the agency.

“He respects and understands their position, given the current climate,” she said.

Asher is well known for his young adult novels, especially “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which inspired a massively popular Netflix series of the same name last year.

The series follows the story of high school student Clay as he uncovers why his former classmate and crush, Hannah committed suicide. It will return in a new season with 13 episodes on an as-yet-unannounced date this year.

Netflix said in a statement Tuesday to the Associated Press that Asher was uninvolved in the new season. The streaming network added that the series would “not be impacted.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

Based on San Luis Obispo author Jay Asher’s best-selling novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” the Netflix series — which premiered March 31, 2017, — follows high school student Clay (“Goosebumps” star Dylan Minnette) as he uncovers why his former classm