Friday, October 18, 2019

A. J. Hackwith Author Interview


Photo Credit: Amanda Hackwith

A. J. Hackwith is (almost) certainly not an ink witch in a hoodie. She’s a queer writer of fantasy and science fiction living in Seattle, and writes sci-fi romance as Ada Harper. She is a graduate of the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop and her work appears in Uncanny Magazine and assorted anthologies. Summon A.J. at your own peril with an arcane circle of fountain pens and classic RPGs, or you can find her on Twitter and other dark corners of the Internet.

        
  


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
My very first novel was written out of teenage love for drama, magic, and a poor understanding of how adults function. I was seventeen years old and just discovered this thing called ‘NaNoWriMo’. That particular novel ended up in the trunk, of course, but it seeded the knowledge that writing a complete book was a thing that I could do. 

(I’ll pause here for the deserved laughter every author has at the idea that writing a novel meant simply drafting it once.)

It took fifteen years of college and a subsequent tech career of not writing fiction to bring me back around. By then, I had a lot of feelings of lost time and regret. I had a head full of books I never wrote--which lead to the idea of The Library of the Unwritten.

Tell us your latest news.
I assume I have to start with the obvious: THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN, a novel about the library of books that never got wrote and its librarians in Hell, is out October 1st! You can grab your copy from your favorite local bookstore, or all the usual online booksellers. It’s also got an audiobook on the way, and a UK edition out next year.

The Library of the Unwritten is the first book in a trilogy. I just turned in the second book and started on the last book as we speak. So if you’re one of those readers who doesn’t trust series to finish promptly (I understand!) then you are in good hands.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Every book I read goes into the blender of influences and ideas that eventually puree into my writing. I owe my genre lineage to a whole generation of writers of fantasy and science fiction, especially writers like Anne McCaffrey, Lois Major McBujold, Tanya Huff, and more who broke the mold of the standard, able-bodied white guy hero protagonist. Neil Gaiman probably influenced my understanding of creating and sharing--but not showing all of--a world with its own mythos and magic.

But I also owe a debt to more recent contemporary writers. Writers like Seanan McGuire, V. E. Schwab, Max Gladstone, N. K. Jemisin and others. It's the authors that are just a little (or a lot) ahead of you, and those coming up with you, that keep you going.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The first time--heck, every time!--a reader reached out and told me how much they’d needed a book like mine, or how it got them through a hard time...that makes everything worth it. I am pretty sure if I ever reach the point of a reader cosplaying or creating fanart of characters, I’m going to cry like a baby.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want them to feel at home in the library. The Library of the Unwritten is a bit of a love letter to readers, and especially those with stories of their own in their head who are too afraid to call themselves writers. 

In your new book; THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it 
The Library of the Unwritten is my love letter to dusty library corners and reading itches you just can’t scratch. It’s my ode to scratched out sentences and fear of failure. It’s my promise to half-filled notebooks and that fear that you’re too old, that it’s too late--its not. 

From the publisher:
In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing– a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. 

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.

What part of Claire did you enjoy writing the most?
I really relished writing an older woman. If one does the math, Claire was in her mid-forties when she died and joined the Unwritten Wing, where she spends another thirty years as Librarian. She’s not young, she’s not bright eyed, she’s not new. In fact, she’s had several books worth of living done before the start of the first chapter. She’s got secrets, she’s got regrets. I think that makes her a more interesting character to grow and change over the course of the book and trilogy.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think Walter would enjoy meeting his counterparts from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Saying more than that will be spoilers.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
You are good enough. For that--whatever it is--for everything. You are worth it. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
My bag is full of fairly boring daily stuff. I carry around a notebook wrapped in leather. Its important to my writing, and also to my mental health. It is where I leave thoughts to marinate, stew, or pickle until they’re something that fits into a story (or, sometimes, into therapy). 

Like a lot of people, I got into bullet journalling a few years ago--I wrote about it on my blog--then ended up doing a lot of research about historical journals and commonplace books for the novel. Over time, my notebook has lost many of the hallmark bullet journal or commonplace characteristics and become some mutant creature of scribbles that works for my brain and probably very few others. 

What event in your life would make a good movie?
What a hard question! That’s the thing about life--its never a story when you’re living it. It certainly never feels cinematic while you’re muddling through. Stories are a framework for survival.

The other thing about stories is sometimes there’s one we don’t talk about. I have one. In college I had a--well, I called it a stalker back then, but today in the age of internet hate mobs and doxxing he might be downgraded to a harasser. It culminated in death threats on my voice mail and police getting involved. Luckily, since this was back before the days of anonymous social media and he was a known individual, they were able to arrest him and charges were filed. I transferred to a college in a different city. I still remember the day I got a phone call from the victim’s advocate, informing me that he had been released. I was sitting in a crowded university cafe and completely alone.

If it was a good movie, there would be some resolution. Something to make us feel safe besides the expanse of time between now and then. At the very least, there would be some emotional conclusion. But I had class in an hour, and worked late that night, and walked alone to my car and drove home and did it again the next day. A held breath routine that lasted a long time.

I don’t tell that story much, if ever. If I do, I make it a quirky weird joke--there was this weird guy in college! To tell it earnestly feels shameful, somehow. Its not how stories are supposed to go. But telling that story--the real one--has power, too.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
The Codex Gigas (featured in the novel) took the skins of forty goats to make.



TEN FAVORITE BOOKS READ THIS YEAR
● Empress of Forever - Max Gladstone
● The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie
● Jade City (and its sequel, Jade War) - Fonda Lee
● Binti: The Complete Trilogy - Nnedi Okorafor
● Wicked Saints - Emily A. Duncan
● Paper: Paging Through History - Mark Kurlansky
● The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison
● A Choir of Lies - Alexandra Rowland
● The Ruin of Kings - Jenn Lyons
● The Imaginary Corpse - Tyler Hayes


In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell ... and Earth.

You can purchase The Library of the Unwritten at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you A.J. HACKWITH for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1) by A.J. Hackwith.
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