Q&A With A.J. Hartley

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Q&A With A.J. Hartley 

A.J. Hartley is the Award Winning & New York Times Bestselling author of over twenty five novels in different genres which are historical fiction, young adult fiction, & fantasy. Some of A.J.’s  many novels are Burning Shakespeare, The Woman In Our House, Hideki Smith, Demon Queller co-written with Hisako Osako and Kuma Hartley, & Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact. 

Q: A.J. I love reading historical fiction, fantasy, mystery & some young adults. What fascinates you about writing in those genres?

A: I like the way those stories can take you out of everyday reality, so that we can explore the issues, problems, and joys of the world through a slightly distorting lens which makes everything a little more vivid. I read widely, so I write widely, adjusting my sense of the genre or target age group according to what I think is central to the story I am developing. I usually know from the start whether this is a kids’ book or an adult book, a mystery or a fantasy. Those kinds of concerns are hard wired into the premise of the story and my sense of how it will be told.

Q: When did you know that writing was what you were called to do in life?

A: I was always a storyteller and someone who delighted in words. I read voraciously as a young teen and explored writing short stories and poetry. I wrote my first novel when I was 19. It wasn’t very good, but I wrote it, and that’s a key step.

Q: How do you create characters and fictional worlds for your mystery & fantasy novels, do you use bits and pieces of real people and places?

A: Always. I’m generally not very interested in fantasy and sci fi which goes so far from our own reality that I can’t connect it to the world I live in. And, of course, all writing with even one foot in reality takes a lot of research. Some of that is just about living through stuff and paying attention, some of it requires reading, interviewing people, visiting places, and then more reading. You have to get the real stuff right or your reader won’t believe it when you start making things up.

Q: How does it feel that your books are on the New York Times Bestsellers List?

A: It’s great, of course, but the system is pretty well rigged in favor of books printed in large quantities by big publishers, so it’s not something I particularly value. It’s a mark of sales numbers, not of quality.

Q: Do you currently have any upcoming releases & are you writing new material now?

A: Always. My next book (out in June of this year) is a scifi novel set in 1962 called TRINITY. It’s part of my partnership with Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and revolves around the crash of an alien ship. I have other things in the works too, but am not allowed to talk about them yet, I’m afraid.

Q: You co-wrote Hideki Smith Demon Queller with Hisako Osako and Kuma Hartley. What is your advice to anyone wanting to co-write a novel with someone else? What was that experience writing a book with Hisako & Kuma like?

A: They are my wife and son so we know each other pretty well 😊 Their contributions were mostly made through years of conversation about growing up Asian in America, and then in a series of editorial passes in which they provided feedback on my first draft. I was the primary writer on that project and they were my research and editorial team. I have a similar relationship with Tom DeLonge, who also provides direction at the start. By contrast, my work on the adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth with British mystery writer David Hewson was quite different: a fifty fifty split of writing responsibility and then editing each other to establish a consistent voice.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? Whether they do or not, who would be your dream cast to play the characters you created?

A: Some of my books are in development for film and TV, yes, though that is a long, slow process and I try not to count my chickens. It’s such an unpredictable business that I deliberately don’t think about things like casting so that I’m not disappointed, and because I know books shift a lot when they move to the screen. 

Q: In your bio it said you were born in Northern England & have traveled to many different places, Japan being one of them. Which places were your favorites to see, especially in England & Japan? 

A: I’m from Preston, in Lancashire, and I go back often. I always like to get out on the hills in the countryside in the Ribble Valley and the Lake District to walk, but I also enjoy being in London and (because I’m a Shakespeare professor) Stratford-upon-Avon where I used to take students. I lived in Yamanashi in Japan and we try to get back there every couple of years too. I especially love Kyoto, and anywhere I can wander around old shrines and temples in the mountains.

Q: I know since you’ve been to Japan, have you seen the show Shogun based on the book by James Clavell & the show Tokyo Vice which is loosely based on Jake Adelstein’s memoir about investigating yakuza & other crimes in Japan? If you haven’t, I recommend both shows. 

A: Not yet, no. Thanks for the recommendation.