Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with A.J. Hartley, author of Steeplejack.
Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Read part three here.
Airship Ambassador: What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?
A.J. Hartley: I have several in mind that I just haven’t had time for yet. Too much on my plate. Hopefully. One is a middle grades novel rooted in Japanese folk tales and mythology. Another is an adult mystery about a summer holiday in Greece…
AA: I suppose that would require a visit to Greece? Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
AJH: Stay off social media. Seriously though, staying motivated is generally not a problem if I think people out there are reading what I produce. It was hardest when I had been writing for years and was no nearer to getting published. Then I just had a time consuming hobby that generated a lot of depression and anxiety. Those things haven’t left me completely, but they generally don’t stop me being creative.
AA: Ugh, social media – I agree, it’s a time killer. How is North Carolina for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
AJH: It’s too hot in the summer, which is tough because I really do like to walk when I have a plot point to work out or something. Other than that, it’s good, and I don’t need much anyway. Quiet and privacy is about all I have to have.
AA: I’m not a fan of hot weather either. The Pacific Northwest is pretty nice in the summer. Just sayin’. In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format? Do you have a preference?
AJH: I prefer print and I think most readers do too. E-books are convenient, but I feel oddly disconnected from them, and if I’m not reading an entire book in a few sittings I lose my sense of where I was. I like paper.
AA: Ebooks can be so convenient when traveling, but print has sensory appeal. Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work? Aside from the loss of a sale, how does this affect you/make you feel?
AJH: I have, but to what extent I don’t really know. From time to time I’ll stumble on free downloads of my books, and I’ll notify my publisher. It’s depressing and frustrating. I don’t understand what people think is happening there and I suspect it’s tied to the same impulse that makes people think that an e-book is worth a lot less than a physical book. I want to shake them and say “You know you’re not paying for the paper, right? That THAT’S not the bulk of the cost? You’re paying for my WORK: my ideas, my labor, my words and those of my editors!”
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
AJH: I’m the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. As such I publish academic writing as well as fiction and my school, which has been very supportive, recognizes the value of both to my position. It also means that as far as creative writing is concerned, my personal bar is set productively but impossibly high, since I deal with Shakespeare all the time. He was the master of telling sensational, popular stories (genre stories, not “literary fiction,” whatever that is) in ways that did not limit him in matters of thought, character and sentence-level writing. That’s something I aspire to do.
AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?
AJH: To name a few off the top of my head: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Spenser, Dickens, Conan Doyle, the Brontes, William Golding, John LeCarre, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Philip Larkin, Wordsworth, Aaron Sorkin, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Richard Curtis, Ursula LeGuin, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Stephen King, uncle Tom Cobbly and all… Oh, and Joss Whedon, Andy Partridge, and Mary Shelley.
AA: That’s a pretty good list! What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?
AJH: Going to live in Japan for two years. Both. Best and hardest thing I ever did.
AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite play by Shakespeare, theme park food, and wristwatch?
AJH: I could spend hours trying to answer the first one alone and it varies all the time. I’ll go with either Hamlet or Winter’s Tale because I tend to circle back round to them most. Theme park food? Tough to beat a good cheeseburger. Or pizza. And ice cream. (Insert Homer Simpson noises here). I wear my father’s wristwatch. He died two years ago.
AA: When you do interviews, what is something that you wish you were asked about but haven’t been?
AJH: Q: Why aren’t you making millions of dollars?
A: I really have no idea.
AA: Well, looks like I won’t get to ask that one now. Any final thoughts to share with our readers?
AJH: I really hope you like the book. If you do, please post reviews! They matter.
Thanks, A.J., for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
You can support A.J. and our community by getting your copy of Steeplejack here.