Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Guest Post with A.J. Hartley

Photo Credit: Wade Bruton

Author A.J. Hartley is the bestselling writer of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, all of which you can learn more about by friending him (odious word) on Facebook, by following his blog and by checking in on the What’s Going On blog page. He is represented by Stacey Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management for books, and by Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group for film and television. And check out A.J.’s Amazon author page.


Series: Steeplejack (Book 2)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (June 6, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765388138
ISBN-13: 978-0765388131

Praise for FIREBRAND

“Hartley creates a world so analogous to our ownit hardly seems like a fantasy....Anglet has blossomed in this sequel, releasing her previously restrained sharp tongue and expanding her emotional range. Even as she learnsto put on a neutral face to be a more effective spy, her empathy for those whoare suffering and her relentless search for the truth are her most laudable attributes. Readers who come for the tightly plotted mystery will stay for the heroine who does all she can to resist.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The well-crafted adventures of this feisty, diverse protagonist continue in thisworthy sequel to Steeplejack (2016), evoking Sherlock Holmes with its Victorian-esquesetting, and James Bond in its espionage-laced plot. Hartley has composed another electrifying fantasy that buzzeswith intrigue and timely political and social issues, making this a must-have additionto any collection.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Expertly written, never preaching or pointing fingers, but subtly applying pressure toexamine race issues, gender inequalities, microaggressions, and socio-economicproblems in our culture…. Teens will see themselves in the tough, realistic, and fierce yet vulnerable protagonist. The multicultural worldbuilding will draw in readers of many ages and backgrounds, while the well-crafted mystery and action will keep them wanting more….A delightful follow-up to the explosive first novel from an established author who clearly knows his craft.” ―VOYA

“Hartley's story succeeds in building a detailed world of bothfamiliar (charging hippos) and unfamiliar (a precious mineral, luxorite, usedby the rich) elements while also tackling a wide range of complicated social issues....Most impressive is the genre-blending; the author adeptlymerges a political thriller with action, adventure, and mystery. Will have strong appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those looking for complex novels that reflect a diverse world.” ―School Library Journal


“A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for." ―Cory DoctorowNew York Times-bestselling author

“A thought-provoking blend of action and intrigue, with a competent and ethical heroine in Ang and a fully imagined setting whose atmosphere and cultural cues also play important roles. The result is an unforgettable page-turner built on surprises and full of potential.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Skillful writing, masterful pacing, and a capable and quite likable female detective are just a few of the things to love about this fantasy-adventure....In addition to the detective angle, Hartley thoughtfully explores issues such as race relations, both inter- and intra-racial, as Anglet deals with the censure of her own community, and class issues, as she attempts to work outside the political system to solve the murder. This one won’t stay on the shelf for long.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“With its unique South African-inspired setting, richly-drawn and diverse cast of characters, and unstoppable plot, readers of any age won't be able to put Steeplejack down!” ―Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley introduces a dynamic, complex and likeable new heroine who combines wits, skill and courage to face deadly challenges in an exotic world. Teens and adults will love this book and want more, more, more!” ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and The Orphan Army.

“A.J. Hartley has created an exquisite, explosive, nail-biting, tear-rousing masterpiece, in a world so realistic it might be right around the corner.” ―Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author

“What a world Hartley has created! Enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning long into the night.” ―R.L. Stine

“A unique epic adventure set in a richly imagined world; lush, exotic and masterfully written. It's Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Indiana Jones rolled into one.” ―Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of Starters and Enders

“Smart and socially-aware, this fabulous debut adds to the growing library of multicultural fantasy and is a loudly resounding success.” ―Nisi Shawl, Tiptree Award-winning author of Everfair

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley creates a world as complex as its heroine, and a mystery that spans class, race and geography. You can feel the grit and glory of Bar-Selehm, a many-spired city teetering on the edge of the savannah, and the verge of war. The perfect setting for a street-smart young woman who is caught between three cultures, yet refuses to be trapped by them.” ―Sherri L. Smith, award-winning author of Flygirls and Orleans

“Hartley has created a world so gritty and real I could taste the soot.” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy

“Steeplejack combines a lively and intelligent plot with an intriguing and well-drawn world, and caps all this goodness with a determined and indefatigable heroine.” ―Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

“A rich, atmospheric tale of adventure, morality and consequence, Steeplejack will linger with you long after you read the last page.” ―Kady Cross, author of the Steampunk Chronicles and Sisters of Blood and Spirit series

“Elegant prose, a cracking good mystery, lots of action, and characters to fall in love with and root for. I read it cover to cover in no time at all. In fact, I did so twice! And I was on the edge of my seat both times.” ―D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series

“I was completely hooked from page one. Ang is a hero to cheer for heart and soul. A thrilling, clever, meaningful read.” ―Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files

“An exquisitely built mystery set in a lush, vibrant world. I was loath to leave Ang and Bar-Selehm behind at the end of it. Definitely a book to be revisited again and again.” ―Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me

When I was in graduate school in Boston, where I was doing my Ph.D. in literature, I remember chatting to a guy in the creative writing program who had also been a very successful TV writer. He had given me some feedback on a short story I had written and we had some other shared interests since he was also working on Shakespeare. One day he gave me this very simple little gem: “Make sure you spend as much time on your creative writing as you do on your other work.”

For me at that time, “other work” meant classwork and writing my dissertation, and spending as much time writing stories as I was on my dissertation simply wasn’t an option at the time, but the advice stuck with me and I didn’t realize the truth of it till much later. They detail here is that though Firebrand is my 15th published novel, I wrote for 20 years and 8 complete books BEFORE getting published. In other words, it took me a long time to make it, and I think part of that reason was that I didn’t follow the advice I’d been given. I dabbled. I wrote “on the side.” When it came to fiction writing, I was a hobbyist. I could afford to be because I had tenure at a university that covered my costs. But I wanted to be the novelist I had always dreamed of being.

When my son was born (in pretty traumatic circumstances) I realized in a hurry that I either got very serious about writing or I just wasn’t going to be able to justify the time I spent doing it. I had other responsibilities, and if the novels didn’t start paying their way (literally and figuratively), they were going to get pushed onto a back burner I would never really get back to.

So. Whenever I wasn’t doing something I absolutely had to do, I wrote, I studied the craft more aggressively than ever, and I studied the marketplace, the business of writing.

In that first year I wrote 3 novels. The first got me the agent I’ve been with ever since, and the 3rd was my first sale to Penguin books. I tend to regret very little in life because to wish my past was different is to wish that I was a different person, which I’m not prepared to do. But I do wish I had taken a more professional attitude to my creative writing earlier, and while I’m generally resistant to reducing artistic production to mere labor I do believe that you can’t expect other people to take your art seriously if you don’t. That means working at it constantly. It means getting better and it means actually writing, not just thinking about it. Lots of people tell me they want to be writers. Most of them mean they want to have written. That’s something you have to get control of. Make all the excuses/explanations you want, but writers write. Period.

I travel a lot and have lived in a lot of different places. Location is central to my writing and I love to visit different spots with a view to borrowing them for use in my fiction, either as they really are or—as in the case of FIREBRAND which is set in a made up, vaguely Victorian, quasi South African city—tweaked to suit my story. [I can supply pictures of these if you like]

Still one of my favorite places on earth, this site in the mountains of mainland Greece was the ancient home of one of the most famous religious sites, the oracle of Apollo. It’s a glorious place, impressive, but tranquil, wild but marked with the pale elegance of temple columns and ancient state treasuries.

My home town. It’s familiar and the way I learned to define ordinary, normal. It’s roots are very old and has both Roman and Viking remains, and a solid place in Medieval history because of its guilds. Much of the town I grew up in was still marked by its status as a powerhouse of the Victorian industrial revolution, though those ‘glories,’ such as they were, were long gone when I was a kid. I recently wrote a ghost story set there in the years of my childhood, so I got to explore it as it was before I left.

I lived in Japan for a couple of years and have returned several times since, and have dipped into it for a couple of different novels. When I lived there I carried my camera everywhere (this was long before cell phone cameras!) because I knew every day would present what you might call a photo opportunity: something my English self found strange and beautiful. I still love visiting Japanese shrines and temples for their dignified calm and the way they exist between ordinary life and something ancient and otherworldly. I especially like the fox shrines with the tall red and orange torii gates.

Bar-Selehm, the city at the heart of the Steeplejack series, is an invented place modeled loosely on Durban in South Africa. I love its blend of the urban and sophisticated with a sense of the wildness on its edges, the hippos in the rivers and the baboons in the trees. Less attractive, but fascinating for a story teller ultimately interested in people is its painful racial history, a key element of the Steeplejack books. As a visitor who is fascinated by animals, of course, I especially loved going on game rides with local guides, and the chance to see lions, elephants, leopard, zebra and the rest in the wild. Breathtaking.

I spent some time in India long ago and travelled over land to Kathmandu from Varanasi. It wasn’t always fun, but I’ll never forget the intensity of being there—the colors, the smells, the sensory overload of the place, the way it challenged my sense of being immune to culture shock. I’ve learned to be suspicious of the word ‘exotic’ because it implies a normal (white, Western) baseline, but I’ve never been anywhere where I felt more clearly foreign and very much a tourist. That can be unsettling, but it is also glorious because it frames every experience as new to you.

I visit London most years but I’ve never lived there, and that makes me wary of writing about it, since it’s easy to make mistakes, but it has that combination of a thriving modern and diverse city with deep, layered history that I love. It’s such an iconic place, its skyline and landscapes so well known to TV and film viewers that you can evoke a strong impression in a reader with a few brushstrokes. Each district has its own character and feel so you can choose different places to suit the mood of the scene you are writing.

I wrote a couple of scenes set here into one of my earlier Thrillers, What Time Devours. It’s one of my favorite places to take students because it’s in striking distance of Stratford-upon-Avon and is one of those castles which was constructed in radically different architectural styles over a long period and has ties to both Shakespeare and Chaucer. It’s mostly ruined now, but that gives it a romantically incomplete air which is very evocative.

I love forests of all kinds. I’ve always been a bit of bird watcher and grew up wishing I was a hobbit, exploring the woodlands of the Shire with one eye open for black riders. They feel ancient and primitive. I love the smell of trees, the way the canopy filters the light. They give me a sense of privacy and mystery away from civilization.

Close to my home town is a wild and windswept hill called Pendle which, in the early seventeenth century, was the center of Britain’s most notorious witch trials. The place fascinated me as a kid and I’ve written about in Tears of the Jaguar. The tales of the ‘witches’ themselves is ultimately, of course, more sad and infuriating than it is spooky, but the rugged barrenness of the place is a suitably bleak and sinister environment for the story. I love to go walking there whenever I go back to the UK.

This is one of those places I’ve always been intrigued to write about but haven’t got to it yet, though I visited several years ago. It’s a fascinating site in Turkey with some extraordinary Roman remains, but it’s also fascinating in terms of religious history being the site of both a once magnificent temple of Artemis (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world) and one of the first Christian churches and traditional place where Mary, mother of Jesus lived in later life. I’m fascinated by the way both religions share interests in a central virgin female, and think there’s a great book to be written hat draws on both.

New York Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in another adrenaline-pounding adventure

Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and she soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

You can purchase Firebrand at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you A.J. HARTLEY AND TOR for making this giveaway possible.
2 Winners will receive a Set Copy of the Alternative Detective Series, 
Steeplejack and Firebrand by A.J. Hartley..
JUNE 26th MONDAY The Forest of Words and Pages REVIEW & MUSIC PLAYLIST
NESDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
JUNE 29th 
JUNE 30th FRIDAY Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT

DNESDAY Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW
AY The Literati Press REVIEW
jbnpastinterviews, jbnvlogs


  1. I never get tired of watching While You Were Sleeping or Shrek.

  2. "What movie do you never get tired of watching?" "And Then There Were None."