SP: Hi AJ! We’re so excited to have you here on the Spinning Pen! Tell us all a little bit about you and your writing journey.
AJ: Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I think I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I’ve always dabbled in writing stories, and I tend to be a voracious reader as time allows. As I got older, I majored in English and became a high school teacher and didn’t have a lot of time or energy to write, but still wrote in my spare time.
SP: Ok now for the bookish part we’ve been waiting for…tell us about your first book FIRST SHIFT? Werewolves…I’ve heard there’s a history to you writing werewolves? And a rumor about you?? Care to share?
AJ: I have always loved fantasy and a lot of urban fantasy/paranormal sorts of books. However. It’s sometimes hard to find books in the paranormal genre that don’t have toxic relationships, questionable relationships with parental figures, and main characters that aren’t whiny and who make good choices. As a former high school English teacher, I wanted my students to have good bookish role models. I got really annoyed by what I was reading, and a lack of options for my students, so I decided to write my own story the way I wanted it.
But before I go any deeper into that…I suppose I should tell you that my first year teaching, a group of students started a wide-spread rumor that I was a werewolf. And the rumor stuck.
I can neither confirm nor deny said rumors of lycanthropy.
But it was loads of fun. We even did creative writing prompts with it at one point. All of that to say, when I sat down to write a book I wanted to read, those rumors and students were at the forefront of my mind. So, while I wrote First Shift as a story I wanted to read, I also wrote it in part for those first and second year students. A lot of the side characters in The Wolves of Rock Falls Series share names with some of those students.
From the back cover of First Shift: Sam Wolfe has been in love with Megan Carmichael for years. Too bad she’s off limits. She’s human. He’s not. When an accidental slip of his teeth endangers Megan and his entire werewolf pack, it’s up to Sam to find a solution. Unbeknownst to them, Sam’s bite has thrust Megan into the crosshairs of a killer. Sam and Megan must work together to find the threat, protect the pack, and maybe fall in love. But they better do it before the next full moon.
SP: After First Shift, comes Rogue Shift, what was different about writing the second in the series?
AJ: I actually wrote parts of the first three books, First Shift, Rogue Shift, and Sworn Shift concurrently. I didn’t set out to write a book with the intention of publication, I just wanted to write it because I enjoyed it. The Wolves of Rock Falls Series has a decent-sized cast of characters. While the over-arching story plot continues from book to book, each book has a change of narrators. They’re all written in dual POV between the hero and the heroine. First Shift is from Sam and Megan’s perspectives, while Rogue Shift picks up right where First Shift ends, but it’s narrated by Kyp and Rachel, and so forth. It was a lot of fun writing the three of them at the same time, as it was easier to keep the whole larger plot solidified. I also write out of chronological order (sorry for those of you who just twitched), so if I have an idea for a scene, I write it. It was helpful to have the freedom to do all three stories together in that way.
SP: You’re currently getting ready to release book 3, SWORN SHIFT, in the series, right? How long have you been working on it? When is it set to release? What’s been the hardest part? Most fun?
AJ: First Shift took me nearly ten years to write. I started writing it for the fun of it, but then my husband and I started our family while I was still teaching full time, and there just wasn’t energy to devote to writing regularly. I barely had two brain cells to string together. As I said though, I was writing parts of Rogue Shift and Sworn Shift during that ten-year stint. By the time First Shift was accepted for publication, Rogue Shift was already written, and Sworn Shift was nearly finished as well. The fourth installment, Pack Shift (and if I’d realized I was going to have more than the three initial books I thought I was writing, I would have gone with something different…so many shifts…) was actually written in about six weeks in the middle of launching First Shift. Not sure I’d recommend. That was a lot of insanity, but it sure was a wild ride! But insanity aside, Sworn Shift releases officially May 2, and I couldn’t be more excited!
SP: What’s one or two craft techniques or marketing tips you would recommend to other writers?
AJ: All the magic happens in the edits. First drafts should be dreadfully horrendous and messy (mine certainly are!). I can’t remember who said it, but to echo what’s already been said, you can’t edit what hasn’t been written. As for marketing, people can’t read what they don’t know exists. Getting your book in front of target readers is key.
SP: You do much more than write books–you run the Bookish Bash and Quill and Flame Book Tours—not to mention you’re a mom of littles with special needs! WOW! Tell us more! Can we join the Bookish Bash? What is Quill and Flame?
AJ: It’s true! I do all the bookish things, and I LOVE it! The Bookish Bash is a reoccurring online party where all the bookish people are welcome to come to meet new bookish friends, win awesome bookish prizes, and connect with other authors, readers, publishers, and bookish vendors. Everyone is welcome! The next Bookish Bash is the last week of March, but there will likely be another one this fall. It’s primarily run from Facebook, but all social media platforms are welcome to join in. Things will be posted via Instagram as well.
Quill & Flame Book Tours is a book tour group that features primarily YA fiction with a PG-13 rating or cleaner and is connected to Quill & Flame Publishing House (we officially open for submissions April 4th!!!). The book tours are all completely free and voluntary, both for participants and authors. Q&F does cover reveals, new releases, ARC reads, and will consider other special requests if you’ve got one! If you’re interested in joining, feel free to fill out the form: (https://forms.gle/JxrsqQyaWBkSmSxSA). If you’re an author and are interested in using Q&F Book Tours, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Slots are limited, so things are largely first come, first serve. Book Tour participants are also eligible for discounts and other happy perks. Most tours have merch associated with them that can be found at Books and Whimsy on Etsy. (https://www.etsy.com/shop/BooksandWhimsy?ref=seller-platform-mcnav)
My days are spent homeschooling my kiddos and my nights are filled with all the bookish deliciousness. It’s a good life.
SP: Time for the lightning round! Early bird or night owl?
AJ: I’d much rather see the backside of 4:00 am than the front side. Night Owl all the way. I enjoy being up early in the morning, it’s the getting up that causes problems.
SP: Most obscure hobby?
AJ: I think all of my hobbies kind of revolve around books…I make jewelry (mostly for book box subscription companies), design bookish shirts, write books, talk about books, read books…
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question.
AJ: Spell check was invented for people like me. I’ll just leave that there…LOL
SP: Alright, time’s up! We’re so sad to see you go! BUT…there’s way more where this came from. Where can we go to read more from you?
AJ: Thank you so much for having me! I’d be delighted to make new friends! On Facebook, you can join The Bookish Bash for periodic giveaways, join the Readers of AJ Skelly group, or find me on Instagram at @a.j.skelly If you want more info on Quill & Flame Book Tours, you can find that on Instagram @quill.and.flame.publishers or check out more details at www.quillandflame.com. If you want to sign up for occasional free stories and updates, you can sign up for my (very infrequent) newsletter at www.ajskelly.com.