My Interview with Author A.J. Flowers
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My book “Fallen to Grace” originated with the idea that not all righteous things are as righteous as they seem. In “Fallen to Grace” it turns out the worst villains are angels who are so blinded by the pursuit of purity, that they’ve become oppressive and superior.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always heavily read in the fantasy genre. My favorite authors when I first started writing were C.S. Friedman and Mercedes Lackey. Now I read any comp title I can get my hands on. My favorite for “Fallen to Grace” are Unearthly, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Angelfall, although I’ve yet to find a true comp title that’s high fantasy like mine. The closest would be Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I highly recommend!
What kind of research did you do for this book?
The best research for a fantasy title is reading other great fantasy titles. This is the kind of research I like doing! I read at least one book a week. (Don’t be too impressed. I cheat with audiobooks.)
Can you tell me about your Series?
My first trilogy is titled “Celestial Downfall” and it follows the journey of Azrael, an angel born without wings. She’s the fix to this world where morality has gone wrong. Angels kill and enslave others in the name of righteousness, and demons lash out in the only way they know how. She bridges the gap of extremity and fights to knit a world back together that has split into two. It’ll take sacrifice and pain, but if anyone can do it, it’s Azrael.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
The entire series has had its ups and downs. The first book was a tough learning experience, given that it was literally the first book I’d ever written. It’s been torn apart down to its bones and put back together again. That was hard. The second book was so much easier and much faster. The third, however, is another learning experience on its own. I have a large plot to tie up into a tidy conclusion, so I have my work cut out for me. So given all that, the second book: Rise to Hope, has been my favorite. Not just because it was the easiest to write, but because I had the freedom to explore some of my favorite characters and just enjoy where the story took me, even if I left some loose ends (okay a lot of loose ends) to tie up in book three!
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
I’ve always loved the angel niche of fantasy. I never could find a book that told the story that I was looking for, so I wrote it myself.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Absolutely not! When I first wrote this book, it was 300k words long and absolutely terrible. It took ten years to learn how to do it right. I broke the book into thirds and started over. I’ve rewritten all books in their entirety. My first version of this trilogy looked very different than it does today.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I am an engineer in my daily life, so like most writers, I have to write part-time. I make sure I get down at least 1k words a day. I can grab them in the morning before work or when I get home if I sacrifice a little sleep. Weekends are a great time to work on my mailing list and website, chat with other authors, and then indulge in a long writing session. I typically get 10k words down on a good weekend.
While it sounds like I don’t have a problem getting a good word-count out on a daily basis, I do have to keep myself on a schedule. I track my word-count goals on a daily spreadsheet and indicate what book I need to be working on. I typically work on three different pieces at a time. One full-length novel, a novella, and a short story. That way I can regularly keep publishing work for my ravenous readers. If I don’t keep track, I can easily find myself working on more than three pieces at a time and then I’ll never get anything finished.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
While I am finishing up the trilogy with my third book, I want to talk about a book that comes next. There’s a standalone called “Manor Saffron” that I decided to write when I saw one of my favorite cover designers had the perfect book cover up for sale. If you know the series, then you know why this cover is perfect. If you’re new to Celestial Downfall, well, I won’t spoil it for you!
A stand-alone novel isn’t the best marketing strategy to reach new readers, but I wrote this series because I loved it. It would have been much easier to give up on the Celestial Downfall Trilogy and write it off as a learning experience. It would have been much faster to work on something new after I’d learned writing craft and technique. But I love this series. It feels good to write this stand-alone novel and I’m super excited about it. It’ll be published after the trilogy is complete, so likely in summer of this year.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
At first I used typical angel names, but now I kind of regret that. The story I wrote is just a story I made up in my head, so I shouldn’t have used their names. (Sorry, Gabriel!)
Where do your ideas come from?
I’m one of those writers who just sit down and write. I think Ernest Hemmingway said it best. “Just sit at the typewriter and bleed.” (Fun fact: I grew up 30 minutes from Ernest Hemmingway’s house!)
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Once I finish up the Celestial Downfall books, I have a choice of two other subgenres of fantasy to play with. I wrote an epic fantasy that’s less YA and more of the realm of “Robin Hobb” and I’d love to get into that sandbox and finish it. I released a novelette to experiment it with my readership and it was very well received. But on the other hand, I’ve also written an urban fantasy that’s like the more trendy YA fantasies with a girl at school, she finds out she has powers, and oh here comes a boy who also has magic and he’s cute. It’s so trendy and maybe kind of nauseating, but I would love to work on that series too just because it’s fun. I’ll have to decide which way I’m going to go. But even though I’m struggling with which subgenre of fantasy I’m writing in, it’ll always stay fantasy. I have too much on my plate to consider genre-hopping and it wouldn’t be good for my readership either. So I will definitely be sticking with fantasy and the various subgenres.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting out the first draft. I have so many ideas that the story has a hundred different ways it could go. It’s challenging to rein in my muse and say no! We go this way! Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. But when it’s time to edit or format or market? I love all of that. It’s just getting the foundation down that’s a little painful for me. I love polishing and perfecting, though.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I think they’re great. I haven’t gotten into them yet, but I have started making my covers animated GIFs. I’d like to consider a book trailer down the line, but I haven’t yet.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
My first book won second place for the 2017 eFestival of Words, which is a “by nomination only” contest from a publisher. One of their editors must have nominated me because I sold them some short stories and I’m guessing they liked my work. Making that kind of achievement and connection felt so good. I’ve won other awards, but that one was exciting because I didn’t even know about it until my book was a finalist.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Being able to reach out to readers in ways you didn’t even realize was possible. I recently received a comment on my blog of this woman who said the most touching things. She told me that she was in a lot of pain and my books helped her to escape it. To know that I made a difference in someone’s life is just amazing, and life changing for me, too.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself as a much more grounded author in ten years. I’m learning new things every day that completely change how I write and what I know about this field. I’m making new friends and building stronger bonds with those I met in critique groups and now in author boxed sets. I imagine I’ll be very settled in and understand my brand to its core come ten years and I can’t wait to feel what that’s like!
Have you always liked to write?
Absolutely! I’ve written ever since I can remember.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Aspiring authors need to jump in with both feet. Grab any writing book you can get your hands on and learn about the craft. Join a critique group and open your work up for critical view. Don’t argue against those trying to help you improve. Stiffen your lower lip and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to take all advice, but until you know what to pick and choose, listen to it all. Just make sure that you’re around people who know the field. This isn’t something where the blind can lead the blind. Don’t show your book to family and revel in their praise. Give it to someone who does this for a living and prepare to work hard. This is a tough industry, in part because writers are opening up their hearts to the world. It takes a tough skin to do that, but the rewards are bountiful come that incredible moment you realize that you touched a reader’s heart with words that came from your own.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Yes I read them, and no I never respond to them, although I had one exception. The only review I ever responded to was when one of my close ARC readers asked if more work was coming out for that book, to which I gave her a timeline since it was a Goodreads review and it lets you do that. The reviews are generally for readers, so if the author responds to them, it’s kind of weird in most cases. As for negative reviews, just take a gander at your favorite author. They have some bad ones. It’s just the nature of the beast. You can’t please everyone. But I do have a technique to deal with those bad apples. I lean very close to my screen and whisper a profanity, then move on.
What are you working on now?
The conclusion of the Celestial Downfall trilogy, of which I’m halfway through the draft. It’s a hot mess right now but I’ll fight through it and get it cleaned up. I’m also working on some side projects. I am hosting an “Angels & Magic” boxed set with 15 other authors and the set is scheduled to be released this summer. I have a few other things going on as well behind the scenes. I’m certainly not bored!
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Speaking to the conclusion of my trilogy, it’s already taken some surprising twists and turns. To those reading my series, you’ll be excited to hear that we actually get to learn what the heck happened to Gabriel that changed the color of his eyes. Gabriel has a lot of mystery and I take my time revealing all of his mesmerizing secrets in book three!
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
So many! My answer to this fluctuates, but lately my favorites would be the Fitz and the Fool series from Robin Hobb and Angelfall from Susan Ee.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It’s absolutely exhausting. But you know what they say; work hard, play harder!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Netflix! Especially if there’s a new episode of Vampire Diaries …
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I think I tend to be “too” original! My reviews are usually happily surprised but keep using the same keywords like “very original” and “I’ve never seen this before.” While that’s great, I do think it makes it more difficult to find new readers. That’s why I’m tempted by the trendy YA genre for my next project.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have many, but my closest friends are Carly Marino and Michelle Kenney. Carly and I’ve been friends for years and Mich I have gotten to know recently and they’re both awesome! My author friends encourage me, inspire me, and share the ups and downs. They’re amazing and help me think outside the box. When I started getting outside of my own head and met some other like-minded authors who quickly became friends, it changed everything for me. I love having someone to share exciting news with, because ONLY my author friends will squeal with me when I say “I got a full from an agent!” My family will probably blink at me and ask, “What’s an agent? Like a sleeper agent? What’s full? Did you buy someone dinner?” So yeah, for that and many other reasons, author friends are wonderful!
Where can your fans find you and follow??
I offer my first book for free to those who join my newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/AJNewsletterSignup
Otherwise I keep my website updated with the latest new releases and giveaways: aj-flowers.com
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
Thanks for having me!