Brian Jay Jones

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Brian Jay Jones

Goodreads Author


Born
Kansas City, KS, The United States
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Twitter

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Influences
Robert Caro, Alan Moore, David Halberstam, Harvey Kurtzman, David McCu ...more

Member Since
July 2008

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Brian Jay Jones is the award-winning, bestselling biographer of some of the world's most iconic creative geniuses, from American writer Washington Irving and Muppet master Jim Henson, to Star Wars creator George Lucas and children's writer/artist Dr. Seuss.

Brian's biography of Jim Henson won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Biography of 2013, an honor he still appreciates every day.

A note from Brian: "I've taken a somewhat different tact with this site, starting with a 'day one' approach where l've added books as I purchased and read them, rather than trying to recreate my entire library (apart from a few favorite biographies that I can't resist sticking on the shelf)."

Subnote: I'm also really bad about updating my books. Sorry about t
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Brian Jay Jones It can vary. Sometimes, your topic finds YOU. I sort of "backed into" Washington Irving -- I was reading about the origins of Christmas traditions, wh…moreIt can vary. Sometimes, your topic finds YOU. I sort of "backed into" Washington Irving -- I was reading about the origins of Christmas traditions, where I learned that Irving had pretty much made most of them up, but swore with a straight face that they were all real. That was news to me, so I read all of Irving's Christmas stories -- and then everything else he had written -- and was amazed by his voice and attitude. I loved his stuff so much that I wanted to know more about him . . . and discovered there hadn't been a biography of him in more than eight decades. So, he became my subject.

With Jim Henson, that was another one that was sort of a happy accident. I had somehow ended up on his wikipedia page and went down to the very bottom of the article to see what books were being cited in the article. What I found was that while there were plenty of books about his work, there was no real biography. That was surprising to me -- I'm a Sesame Street/Muppet Show/Jim Henson kid, and couldn't believe there wasn't a biography even twenty years after his death. That was the start of a two year conversation with the Henson family about writing Jim's story, with access to their private archives.

Finally, with George Lucas, there was a moment when I was working on the Jim Henson biography and got to the section on Labyrinth -- a project Lucas produced for Henson. There was a photo I used in the book of the two of them together, and I thought -- for just a moment -- "Wow, Lucas would be a GREAT project to do next!" then got back to the book at hand. But the moment the Jim Henson biography was published (in late 2013), I was already working a proposal for a George Lucas biography (which I was saving on my computer under a file called PROJECT NEW HOPE).(less)
Brian Jay Jones Writer's block for a biographer is probably a bit different than it is for those who write fiction. We have to work with what really happened,so we're…moreWriter's block for a biographer is probably a bit different than it is for those who write fiction. We have to work with what really happened,so we're not usually stuck for plot points, or trying to figure out what to do to get our main character into our out of a particular jam. There are places where you might think, "Man, it would be really cool if there was a gun battle here," or "Wouldn't it be great if George Washington turned out to be a vampire? -- but unless that really happened, we as biographers can't do it. That restriction alone, I know, makes some of my fiction writing friends INSANE. But writing biography or non-fiction means you always generally sort of know what happens next -- so the place where you can get stuck is: how do I get from A to B? How do you use your various sources to tell your story?

Me, I look at it sort of like putting together a puzzle. I'm a pretty strict outliner -- I outline each particular chapter on a giant whiteboard in my office, so I know all the points I need to hit in a particular chapter. I generally know, then, what the picture looks like, but some of the puzzle pieces are mixed around, turned over, or haven't had the border pieces sorted out yet. When I'm blocked, I tend to read back through all the quotes I have from my sources, all my tidbits and notes, and look for a progression or theme -- bundling together everything that looks like the sky or a wall, turning over pieces again and again to see what they look like, and finding border pieces to hold it all together. There's usually a pattern in there somewhere that'll help you fit the pieces together, no matter how weird looking they might be. What looked like it was a bit of tree might turn out to really be someone's eye. Eventually, things become clearer and start to fit together.(less)
Average rating: 4.01 · 18,209 ratings · 2,208 reviews · 4 distinct worksSimilar authors
Jim Henson: The Biography

3.96 avg rating — 14,007 ratings — published 2013 — 19 editions
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George Lucas: A Life

4.16 avg rating — 2,848 ratings — published 2016 — 39 editions
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Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor...

4.17 avg rating — 1,249 ratings — published 2019
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Washington Irving: An Ameri...

4.11 avg rating — 111 ratings — published 2007
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* Note: these are all the books on Goodreads for this author. To add more, click here.

Talking Muppets with the Great Gonzo

Well, not quite; I actually had the privilege of appearing with legendary Muppet performer Dave Goelz as we talked on San Francisco NPR with Heidi Rabben, curator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which is hosting the Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited touring exhibit. Stick around for the entire conversation, and you’ll hear Dave Goelz absolutely make a young Muppet fan’s year.

You can hear ou

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Brian’s Recent Updates

Brian Jay Jones wrote a new blog post

Talking Muppets with the Great Gonzo



Well, not quite; I actually had the privilege of appearing with legendary Muppet performer Dave Goelz as we talked on San Francisco NPR with Heidi Ra Read more of this blog post »
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Quotes by Brian Jay Jones  (?)
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“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it.' - Jim”
Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography

“When I was young," wrote Jim, "my ambition was to be one of the people who makes a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave this world a little bit better for my being here."

And he did.”
Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography

“When Jim left the planet so suddenly, all of us who loved him, worked with him, were inspired by him, gathered in New York City. We were like dandelion seeds clinging to the stem and to each other. And on May 16th, [the day Jim died] the wind began to blow. There’s no stem any more. We’re all floating on the breeze. And it’s scary and exhilarating, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But gradually, we’ll all drift to the ground and plant ourselves. And no matter what we grow into, it’ll be influenced by Jim. We’re Jim’s seeds. And it’s not only those of us who knew him. Everyone who was touched by his work is a Jim-seed.”
Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography

Topics Mentioning This Author

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in traveling in a stage coach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position and be bruised in a new place.”
Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveller

“No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read."

(The Course of Human Events, NEH Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities 2003)”
David McCullough

“My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky.”
Alan Moore




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