AJ Scudiere – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Vengeance asks the question ‘how far would you go?’ A young woman runs into a man just as she’s killing a Mafia hitman. She’s dedicated her life to getting back at the people who executed her parents when she was a girl. But it’s not your typical Assassin Adventure. It’s also a police Procedural – the story of Owen, the FBI agent who is tracking them. And it’s also a very unusual love story as the two assassins realize that there is someone who understands about the kind of anger and grief that drive those who have been greatly wronged.

Tell us something about yourself.

I have been a pastry chef, a lab researcher, a day care worker, a jewelry inspector, and a host of other things, but mostly a student and a teacher. I’m highly tactile, and believe there is always a better mousetrap. Anything on that list that isn’t in my writing yet, will be.

Like a lot of writers, I’ve been telling stories since I could make paragraphs. But I write with a couple of key goals: 1) Immerse the reader – make him feel like he’s there, like he can smell Florida and feel the weight of summer air in Dallas. 2) Weave the difficult into the story – my background as a teacher is useful here. The complex can’t read like a text, but the writing shouldn’t talk down to the reader either. 3) Take them on a ride! While the story needs a deeper meaning, and must be well crafted, it should also be an up and down journey in which you don’t necessarily see the turns coming.

What inspired you to write this book?

I saw a movie that I felt didn’t have the right characters in it. And I also thought that the ‘bad guy’ wasn’t actually bad, so I didn’t mesh with the idea that he was bad. Rather than writing a truly bad character, I decided to write a book where all the characters were good, even though they are on opposite sides of the issue. Your alliance as the reader should change every time you change point of view.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

This publisher is small but has the same vision I do. I didn’t want to get lost at a big house. And I love where Griffyn Ink is going with AudioMovies and moving into new realms of fiction!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I never ‘knew’ I wanted to be a writer, it just was. I did promise myself an end date to get published and I missed that one. But it prompted me to sit down and get really started.

In the past, I started a lot of books, but was bad at finishing. So I wrote the first book (not published, nor should it be!) just to tell a story – beginning to middle to end. Then, once I knew I could finish, I wrote another one just to write it well (I also did not pursue publishing on that one!) I made it more literary: the characters had more background and more depth, the wording was carefully crafted. It was my third full book that became my first published work: “Resonance”.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

I have found that the hardest part of writing keeps changing. In the beginning, it was sticking to the book I had started, when I had so many other good ideas in my head. Later, it was making sure the ending was satisfying and that I was writing to an audience, not just my own whims. Now, the hard part is juggling everything, my current book (God’s Eye) is in the editing process, the first (Resonance) is about to come out online with a game, and Vengeance just came out in AudioMovie format.

How do you do research for your books?

First, I make sure I know the towns or cities where they are set. So sometimes I travel. I like to do hands-on research, so with Vengeance I learned to shoot with two hands and use Vermont Technique. I designed all of Lee’s clothing and Sin’s clothing so they could carry weapons comfortably. Sometimes it’s a lot of library work (like for Resonance) and sometime’s it’s experience (I’m planning ride-alongs with firefighters for my fourth book, Phoenix)

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

In the research, I learned a lot about martial arts, and how to present myself as a writer in need of help. (Don’t just ask your questions! Tell them what you are writing and bring your book or a published article along with you! People will open right up.) During the writing phase, I learned a lot about crafting a likeable protagonist. When the book opens all three characters are at odds, yet none of them can be a ‘bad guy’, and I needed the reader to like all three of them equally.

What are you reading now?

I read books from all kinds of genres – pulp fiction to non-fiction, action to literary. I always need to be entertained by it, even the non-fiction. It has to be well written and keep me engaged, but I read all the time, and often finish multiple books in a week.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I have favorites from a lot of authors. But there really hasn’t been one author that I’ve read everything from. I loved Christine by Stephen King. The Andromeda Strain (Crichton) is one of my favorite books. Guns, Germs and Steel (Diamond) is geeky enough to keep me. And my favorite book of all times is Lolita (Nabokov) – he just had a way of painting a very vivid portrait of what was happening and why, without big words or endless sentences. He made the his main character likeable even thought you know he’s wrong the whole time you read the book.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m putting the finishing touches on my third book, and then I begin the research for my fourth book. Phoenix is the story of a firefighter who was adopted as a kid, and so goes in search of his missing brother. I want each book to take on a different facet of the thriller genre, and in Phoenix we see an extraordinary story set within the framework of an ordinary life. Jason goes to work, and hangs out with his friends, and once a month he visits his parents. But like so many of us, there’s something more that he wants, something that’s missing. With little steps, he makes big discoveries, and sets in motion life-altering events.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

First, you have to decide before you start who you are writing for. Are you writing the story you have to tell? Is it ‘your baby’ or are you writing to get published? If you want to get published, sort through several book ideas and pick the one that is one step beyond what is on your local bookshelves right now. If you have one great idea, then look at the bookstore and see how your story fits and how to market it.

Then, you have to stick to it. There are a lot of poorly written books out there, but often what got them published was perseverance. You’ll get rejected a lot (I have a 3-inch thick folder of reject letters!) but you go right back and try again. I think it is often about how much you want it.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I get out to a lot of Cons, where I have a table and am often on panels. It’s a great way to get out and meet fans and see what they want.

We are also currently launching an online ‘game’ with the first book ‘Resonance’. Fans can follow the polar shift online and get free downloads, screensavers and avatars. In the future, we will launch an online game for Vengeance, too.

Also, Vengeance just came out on AudioMovie – it’s an audiobook with full cast and soundtrack!
We’ll also be at Hypericon in June, DragonCon in September and The Southern Festival of Books in October. At each of those we’ll be offering special pre-sale items. And we always have Free FanPaks on Facebook.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Facebook – AJ Scudiere. Online at AJsAudioMovies.com. There’s also a podcast: SmartChickens on iTunes.

One really neat thing we have on the Website is the Phoenix page. It’s a blog following the fourth book from concept through to print and AudioMovie and beyond.