Today we have the wonderful, A.J. Llewellyn with us. Help me welcome him to XtraOrdinary Romance.
Thanks for being here today, A.J.!
At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Hi Lynn, thanks so much for having me here. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old. That was when I wrote my first book. Yes, I did! I wrote it in an exercise book by hand. It was called “Ararat” and I thought it was a masterpiece. It was about a little boy who finds out he is dying of cancer and he loves horses. Everybody died at the end, even his horses. My father encouraged me to get away from writing after he found the book. He suggested I take up soccer instead!
What has been your biggest influence on becoming a writer?
My mother’s death when I was six has influenced my whole life I think. I have always filled every second, particularly since she died at the age of 36 (colon cancer). I honestly thought I would be dead by 36 and so I wanted to make sure I lived a full and productive life. Surviving my 36th birthday in good health was a milestone. A sad one however. Had colonoscopies been available when she was alive, my doctor who routinely checks me and my brothers, told me she would probably still be alive. I started writing very young as a way of communicating with her.
How did you feel when you got your first publishing contract?
I was very excited. I ghost wrote a celebrity memoir and I didn’t mind my name not being on the cover. I minded working with the celebrity (who shall remain nameless) who was a complete head case, but I got a book out of it – Beyond the Reef, published by eXtasy Books in August 2008 was based on my experiences. So I am grateful. I worked on a movie with this guy who, like a lot of A list actors has it in his contract that extras and crew members can’t look them in the eye. I’d never heard about it before but it’s very common. Do you have any idea how hard it is to talk to someone and not be able to make eye contact? LOL…
How many novellas/novels have you published to date? When did you have your first sale?
I have 36 novels and novellas, several short stories and many more in the editor’s queue with a few publishers. eXtasy Books is my predominant publisher, but I have books coming out elsewhere too. My first sale to eXtasy in 2007 but the actor’s memoir came before that, plus I was a published journalist long before this.
Tell me about your latest release. Please include if it is part of a series or a stand alone book.
I actually have release dates every two weeks, but my current release as of November 15 will be Bad Cops, the second of a series of movie/webisode tie-ins with Massive Studios, a division of Falcon Films.
What was your inspiration for this book?
Director John Bruno who is a very good friend of mine was staggered by my output and also the heat of my sex scenes. He read my book Phantom Lover and he was excited at the prospect of it possibly becoming a movie. He directs gay porn but is very big on story, which porn is not exactly known for…so he brought four ideas to me, the first of which was Laid (published September 15) and I am excited about Bad Cops because the webisodes are available at the time of the book’s release. It’s the first joint venture of its kind for an erotic fiction novel and a studio. Eventually the webisodes will all make it to DVD – early next year I believe.
How do you categorize yourself: pantser or plotter?
A mix of both. I allow the story to wander if it feels like it. My characters are kinda bossy, you know lol…
How do you handle the editing/revision process?
Edits are vital obviously so you don’t look like a dumb-ass when your book comes out but I don’t require many revisions. I am a storyteller and I just power through the drafts. My problem is stuff like commas and the odd typo because I work so fast.
You’re received some fantastic reviews...how do you feel about them and why?
I love my reviews, honestly but they don’t ensure sales, so I keep them in perspective. I prefer the reviews where you can tell the reviewer has actually read the book. When they use the wrong names for your characters and depict a storyline that has nothing to do with your book, that’s a big give-away!
Did anything odd happen while you were researching this story?
Yes, I went to the set of Bad Cops and I probably shouldn’t say this – but my readers know I am a stickler for details and research, so I insisted that I needed to see the warehouse depicted in my book, but I got all excited and went down to the set and the actor on call that day blew off the shoot! He never returned calls or text messages and said later on that he was busy and unable to call her text. It’s hard to lie about these things when you are an avid Twitter (and so am I) and I see that during the time we were waiting for you that you were tweeting every five seconds from the set of another movie!!
Porn is like this though. I’ve discovered that flakiness is second nature and that all that hot sex requires a lot of nurturing from the director and the videographer.
Now, if you had a choice of taking the place of any character in any book you have ever read, who would it be and why?
I would be one of the characters in the Chronicles of Narnia, because those are the most magical books ever. I think I would want to be Peter – or Lucy even though she is a girl. I love those stories and re-read them often. I would love to meet Aslan and have all those adventures that take years and years in fantasy but only minutes in real time!
If you could time travel, where would you go?
I would go back to 1896 and to the city of Honolulu during the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. This was the United States’ first foreign invasion and its first overthrow of a sovereign rule. I would give anything to have been there helping Queen Lili’uokalani protect her throne. I wish I had come to know her. She must have been a wonderful woman. Hawaii during this time would have been both incredibly beautiful and dangerous, with the islands still undeveloped, but also with so many different cultures meeting at a climactic moment in time. Great change brought with it disease and destruction. I would like to have been witness to all of it.
If you could spend the day with anyone in the world who is famous, who would it be? Why did you choose them and what would you do?
Without question, it would be the Dalai Lama. I have so many questions for him and would like the chance to meet him and to ask his thoughts on so many things. I have read many of his teachings but I am curious about ordinary things as much as his view on the state of the world, the environment and I also want to know if he has any guilty pleasures such as cupcakes. If not, I would take him out for tea and ask him a billion questions and send him home with some Hawaiian music, one of my books and some coconut cupcakes!
What is your typical writing routine? Do you count words, pages or time?
I write every day and I count words. I write 3-5,000 words minimum. Any less and I get agitated because I have so many deadlines. I am always writing one book. Editing another and researching more. I read a lot too and get lots of ideas for books from everything including conversations I overhear, travel magazines and…well, everything! I write as soon as I have made my first cup of coffee. I work for a couple of hours and walk my dog. If I am not rushing off to work, I tackle the business end of things, emails, blogs, twitter, that sort of thing. I write every chance I get, even when I am walking my dog, I carry a notebook and pen with me.
Who and what are you reading now?
I read constantly. You can’t be a writer and not read. It’s one of the many things I have learned and I read as much as possible. Right now, I am reading a wonderful book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I work in a library and this is the book everybody I work with has been reading and they passed it on to me. The last book that got us all worked up was Beethoven’s Hair. Three Cups of Tea is a remarkable, true story about a man who built fifty-five schools for girls in the most strictly-controlled Muslim sections of Pakistan. I strongly recommend it.
What authors and books have influenced your writing over the years?
I love memoirs such as Isabella Bird’s Six Months in the Sandwich Islands and Armine Von Tempski’s memoirs of growing up in the islands. I also read all her Hawaiian novels. I devoured Victoria Nelson’s book My Time in Hawaii and loved it. She also wrote a fabulous book on writer’s block. I think the definitive, go-to guide for writers however has to be Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t believe in writer’s block, by the way. I believe if you’re stuck, move on to something else. That was one of the first lessons I learned from William Goldman. If you get stuck, it’s because your story has gone off the rails. Leaving it alone and coming back, you’ll find where your train train off track and you can fix it!
I learn from non fiction writers…I love travel journals and love the sort of writing that makes you feel like you are there. I hope my books read that way. I love when my readers tell me they feel like they just visited Hawaii by reading one of my books!
Did someone every give you a great piece of advice along the way? What was it?
Yes! I just spent and evening with actress/author Harley Jane Kozak who passed on some great advice, which was about research. She said she learned that when she’s researching an unfamiliar topic for a book she doesn’t go out and buy the fanciest, newest adult, or even YA book on a subject. She gets children’s books because the facts are distilled to their most basic level. I loved that advice!
A.J.’s Bio: A. J. Llewellyn lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in his fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep this writer refueled. A. J. loves male/male erotica, has a passion for all animals (especially the dog, the cat and the turtle). A. J. believes that love is a song best sung out loud.
Find A.J. here:
Thanks for having me here, Lynn!
You are so welcome! I really enjoyed this A.J.! It was interesting to hear you enjoyed Three Cups of Tea as much as I did...it was very inspirational...as you well know.
Thanks for taking part in my 2 for Thursday promotion.
Also, for those of you just dying to know...A.J. will give one lucky winner their choice of books. I post these winners late Wednesday night and all you have to do be entered is to leave A.J. a comment.
Good luck everyone! Thanks for dropping by!