An Interview with Author A.J. O’Connell

By Jason Harris

 

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A.J. O’Connell

 

Q: Your newest book The Eagle & The Arrow is a sequel to Beware the Hawk. What are they about?

A: Beware the Hawk followed a couple of spectacularly bad days in the life of a young woman who was a courier for a secret organization called The Resistance.

The Eagle & The Arrow takes place about six months afterward, and features the young woman’s boss, a bureaucrat named Helen, who is tasked with cleaning up the mess created in the first book while keeping her decaying agency a secret and keeping her own career afloat.

Q: Did you always envision Beware the Hawk to be part of a trilogy of novellas?

A: I didn’t. Originally, my publisher contacted me about Beware the Hawk, because Vagabondage Press was putting together a series of novellas, and my editor remembered Beware the Hawk from a writers’ group we were both members of in 2003. It was only after Beware the Hawk was released that we decided to go ahead and make the book into a trilogy.

Q: Is the third one planned out already?

A: Well, no. I have some notes and outlines put together, but I haven’t figured out every step of the story.

Q: When did you start the series?

BewareTheHawkCoverArt A: I wrote the first draft of Beware the Hawk 10 years ago, although I dreamed up the premise earlier. At the time I was a 25-year-old journalist, in my first writing group ever. When I didn’t have to cover a Tuesday night school board meeting for work, I went to writing group meetings in a local Barnes & Noble. Eventually, I needed some work to share with the group, so I started writing Beware the Hawk down.

Q: Will the series go beyond the three novellas?

A: I don’t know. Right now, the plan is to stick to a trilogy. I’d like the three books to form a neat little unit of storytelling. But you never know – I might revisit some of the characters with stories or books devoted to their character arcs later.

Q: What was the inspiration for the two books?

A: I started thinking up Beware the Hawk in 1999 and 2000. At the time, I was working in Boston and regularly visited friends who lived in New York and Connecticut at the time. I did a lot of traveling by public transit and I had a lot of time to think on those trips. It occurred to me that anyone on the bus could be carrying anything. This was before Sept. 11, and security wasn’t so tight, so I’d spend bus trips thinking about the sort of things a person could get away with.

The Eagle & The Arrow was inspired by recent events as much as by the original novella. I’m intrigued by the phenomenon of WikiLeaks as much as I am horrified by prison camps like Guantanamo Bay. I thought that, when the time came to write the second book, it would be appropriate to look at the first book in terms of terrorism, because although the word “terrorism” never occurred to me when I was writing Beware the Hawk, that’s what it’s about.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I’ve been writing since childhood. My mother tells a story about me as a toddler, playing with my toys and trying to explain what a plot was, but I don’t remember that. I do remember writing my EagleAndArrowFinalCoverRGB96dpifirst novel as a freshman in high school. It was awful, but the hours I spent on it were the happiest of my day, and I used to read chapters to my friends over the phone. The fact that they put up with this proves that they were true friends.

Q: Has your occupation as a journalist helped with writing your books or writing fiction in general?

A: Now that I don’t work at a daily, yes, I think my experience helped me. As a reporter you learn to economize your language, and that can only strengthen writing. When I was writing for work every day, however, journalism took away from my fiction. I was too exhausted at the end of a day of writing to write anything creative.

Q: What newspaper do you work at and what have you done there and what do you do there currently?

A: I haven’t worked for a paper for a while, although I freelance when I can and both write and edit for a website. I worked for the Hour Newspapers in Norwalk from 2001 to 2010. I was education reporter, mostly, covering schools in several communities, but I also covered municipal business in Stamford, and I worked for a year or so covering entertainment for the features section. That was fun.

Q: You’re a teacher? What do you teach, where and how long have you taught?

A: I’m an adjunct at Norwalk Community College. I’ve taught journalism there since 2008. I advise the student newspaper, and developed our digital journalism course, which I also teach.

Q: You are an editor at the online magazine, Geek Eccentric. When did you start there and what drew you to the magazine?

A: I started at Geek Eccentric this past spring, after being recruited by John Hattaway, our publisher. John went to grad school with me at the Fairfield University MFA program and knew that I was into science fiction, fantasy and comics, so he asked me to join.

I was drawn to the site because it was a chance to continue work I enjoyed. When I worked for the Hour’s features section, I loved writing about entertainment. Geek Eccentric offered me a chance to write news and opinion blog posts about entertainment that appeal to me, so naturally I jumped at it.

Q: Do you have a writing routine?

A: When I’m not teaching, I try to write at least 500 words a day in the morning. I set writing goals weekly with another writer so that we have some accountability. We send each other our goals for the next week on the weekend, and then check in at the end of the week to see if we’ve made progress. It helps.

Q: You belong to the New England Horror Writers (NEHW) and Sisters in Crime. Do you belong to any other writing organizations? What drew you to these organizations?

A: This might sound odd, but my mother, who used to be a librarian (and who loves her a mystery) is the reason I joined Sisters in Crime. She picked up a pamphlet at an event and then made sure I couldn’t miss it. And of course a conversation I had with you and Stacey [Longo] are the reason I joined the NEHW.

Q: What has been one of the best experiences/conversations since becoming a published author?

A: Running into people who have read my book. On the street. While I was lugging groceries from the car to the house. That was pretty amazing; I felt like a celebrity. Also, hearing from people I don’t know on the Internet that they loved my book.

Q: Any advice for writers who are about to be published? Or just advice to writers in general?

A: Yes, and this is advice I have to take myself sometimes: Make the time to sit down and write. Don’t worry about what you’ll write or if it will be any good or not, just sit down and write as often as you can.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, Virgina Woolf, Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene are some of my favorite literary authors, but I also love Terry Pratchett, George R.R. Martin, Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien. Despite his elvish poetry, I’ve loved Tolkien since I read The Hobbit in the fourth grade.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?

A: Oh, this could turn into a Top 50 list. Let me see if I can pick out a few. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a favorite of mine. So is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is another favorite. So is the original Dune, and Silence of the Lambs, both of which I’ve read over and over. Right now, however, I am most excited about A Song of Ice and Fire. I read all the books this spring, and George R.R. Martin cannot get The Winds of Winter published quickly enough. There’s an author who knows how to build suspense.

Thanks to A.J. for taking the time to do this interview for Jason Harris Promotions. You can find out more about her on her website here. You can purchase signed copies of her books at Books and Boos or through its website here.

A Relaxing Saturday Afternoon with Joe Hill

By Timothy P. Flynn

Tim BDay 2013 002Last Saturday, on May 25, my daughter and I made the trip up to the Barnes and Noble in Nashua, New Hampshire for the special event where horror/speculative fiction writer Joe Hill was appearing. He is presently doing appearances in various areas to promote his newest novel, NOS4A2. He was to do a brief reading from his new book, a Q and A session with the audience, and then start the signing of his books.

My nickname should really start to become “Tardy Tim” because I am late for everything recently. We got to the event around 2:30 (half an hour late) and missed the reading part of the event. There was a huge crowd all encompassing the magazine section of the store. My daughter and I snuck in the back, right beside fellow Necon camper Gardner Goldsmith (SHOUTOUT).

Joe has a terrific personality answering the questions before him making the audience cackle with laughs at all the right moments. When the subject of his famous father came up, Joe retorted with the statement, “You all may have heard my Dad writes here and there. He may have a future in this business, but who knows.” Joe made a point to refresh the audience that ALL of his family members are fantastic writers. This included his mom, Tabitha, his brother, Owen with a new novel out at present, and Owen’s wife is also a novelist. The King household at get-togethers and around the dinner table has always been the place for literary conversation.

Gardner’s question was a very good one. He asked Mr. Hill about his productive output, as in a daily word count and also any certain moments in his career that were pivotal in his direction. Joe answered with a daily 1200 words before anything: emails, phone calls, etc. The pivotal moment was his choice to pursue the horror/speculative fiction genre after some literary attempts – simply because he loved the genre was the answer, and the choice of the pseudonym, which was to not rely on name alone for his writing merits. Joe Hill made it as a successful writer on his own terms before it leaked who his identity was. The speed round Q and A was hilarious with short “yes” or “no” answers to multiple questions.

Tim BDay 2013 005The signing line was quite long, but well worth the wait. Joe was great by answering questions, signing multiple books, and even posing for a few pictures. One could easily say it was a successful event and a great time was had by everyone who attended. This was the second time I met Joe Hill, but it was my 10-year-old daughter’s first time. She braved through some of the boring parts for a child with her dad trying to best to keep a smile on her face. Her name is now even personalized in two of Mr. Hill’s books and resides now in our home on my bookcase.

About the author:

Flynn is an author and member of the New England Horror Writers. You can find out more about him on his website by clicking here.

Authors’ Gift Wrapping at Barnes and Noble

Authors’ Gift Wrapping at Barnes and Noble

By Jason Harris

This past Sunday members of the New England Horror Writers steeled their will power to help gift wrap at the Barnes and Noble in Manchester, Connecticut. Some members’ will power failed and they ended the eight-hour day carrying a few B&N bags to their cars.

Authors Stacey Longo (Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend), Jan Kozlowski (Die, You Bastard! Die!), and Kristi Petersen Schoonover (Bad Apple) spent the day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. wrapping gifts for B&N costumers and earning donations for the NEHW.

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Authors Stacey Longo, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, and Jan Kozlowski. All Photos by Jason Harris.

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Author Stacey Longo.

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Author Jan Kozlowski.

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Jan Kozlowski will be reading and signing her novel, Die, You Bastard! Die!, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Books and Boos this Saturday, Dec. 15.

Author to Share Her ‘Apple’ at Grand Opening

Author and New England Horror Writer member Kristi Petersen Schoonover will be part of the grand opening festivities at the new bookstore, Books and Boos, in Colchester, Connecticut on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Schoonover will be reading and signing her newest novel, Bad Apple, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. For every copy sold, she will be giving $3 to the American Association of Caregiving Youth and 50 percent of the books royalties will be donated to the AACY as well.badapple

According to the AACY’s website, “Caregiving youth are children and adolescents who look after someone in their family who has an illness, a disability, frailty from aging, a mental health problem or a substance misuse problem. They take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that normally would be the role of an adult … In addition, many caregiving youth also have responsibilities for younger brothers and sisters and all or most of the household chores.”

There will be coffee, tea, treats, and more at the store, which will be opened from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plus, anyone who spends $5 or more will get a FREE new copy of The Priest of Blood by Douglas Clegg, another NEHW member, while supplies last!”

Schoonover will also be gift wrapping with two other authors and members of the NEHW, Stacey Longo and Jan Kozlowski, at Barnes and Noble in Manchester, Connecticut from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9.

Marketing and E-Publishing Advice from the NEHW Co-Chair

If you don’t know how to publish your story or novel as an e-book on Barnes and Noble, NEHW Co-Chair Tracy L. Carbone has written a blog entry on her website explaining how she did it. You can read it here. At the moment, this is the first entry on her site so it is at the top of the page.

She also has another entry, “How to Waste Money on Marketing,” which you will have to scroll down the page to find. It’s worth the time to search for it. It will save you money.

Author Forecasts a Warm, Dark Future in New Story

This article originally appeared in the Monday edition of the Journal Inquirer, a newspaper out of Manchester, Connecticut.

JI editor forecasts a warm, dark future in ‘The End of Ordinary Life’

By Julie Ruth

The year is 2028. An Alaskan bush pilot is flying an electric plane. The Arctic Ocean is ice-free because of global warming. The U.S. has been in an economic slump ever since the banks collapsed in 2008, and things are coming to a head. That’s the backdrop for Journal Inquirer Associate Editor Daniel Hatch’s latest science fiction story, “The End of Ordinary Life,” which appears in the May issue of Analog: Science Fiction and Factmagazine.Hatch, who’s published more than 20 works of science fiction in Analog, Absolute Magnitude, and other publications, opens his latest science fiction story in southeast Alaska, where his lead character, Tom O’Reilly, discovers that each of his four girlfriends has disappeared. When he later finds himself uprooted against his will as well, O’Reilly realizes that what he has known as “ordinary life” is now over.

“I have been living in the shadow of the economic collapse, and the bill is finally coming due,” O’Reilly says.

The story explores the consequences of global warming and a longterm economic slump following the 2008 banking crisis.

“It’s a pessimistic projection that we don’t fix the things that are wrong with the economy, and they get worse,” he explained. “All kinds of solutions out there are easily attainable but nobody wants to touch them because they will interfere with the profit stream of the big corporate players.”

Hatch is a longtime contributor to Analog, which has been around since the 1930s, the Golden Age of science fiction, when there were dozens of fiction magazines.

Analog is known as the “hard science fiction” magazine, where stories are driven by science rather than characters, said Hatch.

He got the idea for the story after reading a report prepared for the U.S. Navy that predicts that the Arctic Ocean will have no ice during the summer within the next 20 years.

“It said we’re going to have an extra ocean to deal with, and we should start making plans now.” The report included things the Navy should watch out for, like terrorists and arms smugglers coming through Canada.

Hatch said he discovered science fiction in first grade, when he found “Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine” in the library, a novel about a teenager who discovers a device that can make small clouds and miniature rainstorms.

Like many teenage boys in the ’60s, he was reading science fiction novels voraciously.

He wrote his first saleable science fiction story during a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard in Cape May, N.J., after finding a book in the library. Written in 1929 by John Gallishaw, who taught at Harvard, it was called “20 Problems of the Fiction Writer.”

“I still have it; I never took it back,” he said. Which is just as well, since the book is no longer in print.

At the University of Connecticut Hatch prepared for his writing career.

“I studied all the things science fiction writers should study: Shakespeare, history, journalism,” he said. “Because you’re writing grand narratives about the meaning of life in the universe, man’s place in the universe.”

After graduating in 1980, he worked for the Connecticut State News Bureau and The New York Times before joining the Journal Inquirer in 1988.

Hatch said the story is also an excuse to write about flying, one of his passions, though he learned flying through the Microsoft Flight Simulator program, rather than by spending actual time in the air.

After Hatch submitted the story, his longtime Analog editor, Stanley Schmidt, sent him an email: “I don’t remember your ever saying anything about being a pilot, or living or traveling in southeastern Alaska, but if you haven’t done those things, you sure know how to research a story. I’ve done both, and this feels real!”

The May issue of Analog magazine featuring Hatch’s story will be available at Barnes & Noble stores.

The issue is also available on Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle.