First I would like to post a brief bio of author A.J. Scudiere
It’s A.J.’s world. A strange place where patterns jump out and catch the eye, little is missed, and most of it can be recalled with a deep breath; it’s different from the world the rest of us inhabit. But the rest of us can experience it—when we read. In this world, the smell of Florida takes three weeks to fully leave the senses and the air in Dallas is so thick that the planes “sink” to the runways rather than actually landing.
For A.J., texture reigns supreme. Whether it’s air or blood or virus, it can be felt and smelled. Reality is always a little bit off from the norm and something usually lurks right under the surface. As a storyteller, A.J. loves irony, the unexpected, and a puzzle where all the pieces fit and make sense. Originally a scientist and a teacher, the writer says research is always a key player in the stories. AJ’s motto is “It could happen. It wouldn’t. But it could.”
A.J. has lived in Florida and Los Angeles among a handful of other places. Recent whims have brought the dark writer to Tennessee, where home is a deceptively normal-looking neighborhood just outside Nashville.
Now on to the interview, thank you so much for your willingness to take the time to do this interview.
Author Interview Questions
I’ve read Resonance, God’s Eye and Vengeance and they were all different than this book. This book resonates with the increased awareness of firefighters since 9/11.
1.) How does this book differ from Resonance, God’s Eye and Vengeance?
This book is—of the four I’ve written—the most grounded in reality. If any of them were true stories, this would be it.
I also used a classic tale as the basis for PHOENIX: Jason and the Argonauts. Readers who are familiar with that story will see the parallels, but I made sure to write it so you wouldn’t be missing anything if you didn’t know that story.
2.) How do you develop your plots? (organically or is it a gestalt before you begin or?)
I always have about ten stories in my head, any of which is fleshed out enough to be the next one written. Once I have the ending generally decided, I start writing. I’m a writer who starts with the words ‘chapter one’ and I write everything in order. Things definitely change organically as I go. I learn more about the characters as they are put into more situations, and more plot points arise as I get close enough to see them.
So there’s definitely an element of both. I always have the gestalt, the framework, in place before I start, but the details happen as I write.
3.) Does the success of your previous books make it harder or easier to write a new one?
I actually find each next book easier to sit down and write. Knowing that the critics and the readers like what I’ve been doing keeps me from questioning my voice and my choices while I’m actually writing the first draft.
But it’s now much harder to keep my nerves down when the books release. I get really worried, ‘What if this one isn’t better than the last one?’ ‘What if my most rabid fans hate this one?’
4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
I love Jason. Jason is clueless to some of the world around him—women in particular. He doesn’t understand how to connect to his girlfriends or why they keep leaving him. But he’s very good at his job; he puts all his effort into being the best and doing his best there. When he makes a mistake, he feels it deeply.
I didn’t want him to be this demigod—a firefighter who rescues children and puppies, treats his girlfriend like a goddess and writes poetry in his spare time. That’s for a romance novel. Jason is ‘real’ and like real people (even your friends) he’ll make some decisions you don’t understand or agree with. But he’s a good guy trying to make sense of the mess around him.
5.) What do you like the most about writing?
I like so many parts of it. I love sitting at my desk and thinking “oh, yeah, that’s a twist they didn’t see coming!” I love realizing some random piece of texture that I added earlier—something that just made the writing better at the time—will wind up playing an important role in the plot later. And I love doing the research.
I had no real interest in firefighters or firefighting before working on this book. (I watched “Rescue Me” but I knew it wasn’t all that realistic!) When I started talking to real firefighters, I became engrossed in it. The fact is that many people have fascinating lives, and firefighters are this wonderful, crazy, unique breed of people.
I just started writing my fifth book, INERTIA (a sci-fi meets ‘The Firm’ sort of story) and I had to research plantation restoration. Previously, I hated history classes and couldn’t care less. But suddenly I’m knee-deep in what turns out to be a rich topic!
6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
They come from so many varied places for me. One is from a detailed dream I had in the tenth grade. I still remember it so clearly. On another entirely different track, fans are always asking for a sequel. I’ve never written one before because I didn’t feel there was another story there that was as good as the first. (RESONANCE has an apocalypse in it and I’m just not sure what the sequel to the apocalypse could even be!) But lately I stumbled across a great idea that will become the sequel to my second book VENGEANCE. Hopefully RETRIBUTION will be out sometime late next year!
7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
When I was in college, my humanities professor gave a short writing assignment one day. After that, he pulled me aside and told me I was a writer and basically forced me to take his prose poetry class. I always wanted to write novels, so I wasn’t interested in a poetry class at all. He said, take it anyway.
It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. I now recommend that other aspiring writers take writing classes in a genre they have no interest in writing. It has so many benefits.
It’s easier to take and USE criticism that isn’t about something near and dear to your heart (which your preferred writing genre will be!) It will make your writing more unique if you aren’t trained the same way every other writer in your genre is. And any improvement in writing is an improvement.
8.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I have three that I list:
Nabokov – for Lolita. He made an unlikeable man into a protagonist, and he showed that things aren’t what you think they are. Even the mundane.
Orson Scott Card – for Enchantment. He wove so many story lines together, incorporating legends and fairy tales in a way that made them all surprisingly complex and made every plot point valid and logical.
Tim O’Brien – for The Things They Carried. He wrote about how telling the truth is different than telling the true facts.
9.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
I think there are two very overlooked aspects to writing.
1-practice. I don’t know why people think they can write the Great American Novel the first time they sit down. Yes, writing is a talent, but it’s also a skill. I wrote two novels just for practice before I even sent Resonance to agents. Remember, anything you put out there will bear your name. You want to be GOOD before you start posting things.
2-persistence. Almost every writer I know has a stack of reject letters. The publishing industry is about finding an agent who loves your work. Not likes, LOVES. And that agent has to find a publisher who feels the same. Publishing is NOT the end game, there are a thousand more steps to success after that. So stay the course. Keep querying agents. Keep writing!