I asked you, dear reader, to send me your questions, whether for me or for characters in my books, and one lucky commenter would win an advanced copy of my upcoming release, Reaping Havoc, before anyone else could buy it. You came through for me, so now it’s my turn. As promised, here are the answers you’re all dying to know.
The blurb for this says Mitch didn’t want to be a reaper. What would he have wanted instead? Why would someone WANT to be a reaper?
AJ: Mitch would have made a great teacher. He has a natural curiosity about the world and is pretty eager to be a part of it. Also, because he’s a reaper, he has to keep to himself or risk people finding out about him because of odd behavioral quirks. This lends to him feeling starved for human contact, so though he is a solitary soul, if he didn’t have to be, I think he’d have quite a lot of friends and would be good with mentoring people.
I know this is not a fair question, but I’m going to ask it anyway because I’m evil that way 🙂
If you had to pick one of your characters as the one who most resembles you, or you poured most of yourself into, who would it be?
AJ: There are elements of my experiences in all my characters. It’s difficult to write a book without something personal leaking into their personalities. I try to keep this to a minimum to avoid all my characters sounding the same, but my sense of humor lurks in them, my hot temper, my sense of justice and right and wrong. There’s not one character who is me, or most resembles me because I specifically avoid letting that happen. If I had to pick one it would be Gavin. I identify with his fairness and sense of duty the most.
I was wondering…. how do you choose the covers for your books?
AJ: I like dramatic covers that don’t tend to be busy, that quickly focus the eye to one element, and the rest of the cover serves to highlight that element. With the Power Exchange series, it was the rope. For Queers, it was the piano. My last three titles, I’ve hired a fabulous graphic designer named Elizabeth Mackey, whose work is breathtaking (I’m not speaking only about the work she’s done for me, but also for Kate Aaron, Kade Boehme, George Weir, Russell Blake, BG Kring, Suzie O’Connell, Nick Russell, Holly Spaulding and so many more). She’s incredibly easy to work with, and even when I don’t have a concept, she manages to find a vein of visual inspiration in what the book is about and runs with it. When she has a few mockups to look at, I choose the one that speaks to me the most, and then we tweak the wording, placement of title/author, fonts and such. It’s a process, but in the end, it has to stand out in a page full of cover thumbnails.
El @ Just Love:
I recently re-read “Power Exchange”, so I hope it’s okay to ask about that. Did you draw inspiration from people you know in real life for any of the characters, especially Cole, Myah, and the rest of Gavin’s family? I realized in re-reading it that as much as I love Gavin and Ben’s relationship, I also love all of the characters who support Gavin!
AJ: Of course it’s okay to ask about Power Exchange. I tend to have an idea of what each character’s major traits will be like in my head as I’m plotting, like if they’re a wallflower, if they’re kind of loud and brash, if they’re good humored and laid back. Once I know that, I troll through celebrity photographs looking for visual inspiration for some of the characters, picking people who not only resemble what I see in my head for the characters’ physical traits, but who also carry themselves in a manner consistent with the personality I’m going for in a specific character. Once I have that in place, the character comes to life in my head, and even if it takes me a couple chapters to get fully in their heads, once that initial visual inspiration is made, they get a voice and a face and that’s when my imagination goes into overdrive.
I understand why it would be difficult for Gavin and Ben to resume their relationship as it was before the attack. They were gradually introducing new elements but does Ben ever want to get back to what they had in the beginning and how would Gavin feel about that? And will we see them again? Please?
Ben: Every relationship goes through its evolution organically, and those experiences shape not only the people involved as individuals, but who they are as a couple. Gavin and I would not feel how we do about each other without the past we’ve had together. Going back to how things were at the beginning wouldn’t fit who we are today, warts and all. Would I wish Gavin hadn’t suffered as he did at the hands of the Breath Play Killer, or being targeted by Alex Dennan? Absolutely. I’d save him all the pain I could. But I cannot deny we are closer because of those experiences. When you hurt and learn you can rely on a loved one, that love deepens despite the pain. Or even because of it. So no, I like who we are now. Our marriage has been hard won, and we earned every drop of sweat we’ve put into it. I believe Gavin feels the same.
AJ: Ben and Gavin are always going to be very dear to me. They were my first foray into the world of m/m (for a novel), and as such, will always be old friends. I have, however, decided to leave them alone. They may have a cameo, or extremely secondary role in any book I might write from that world. If we see them again, it’ll be in a minimal amount. I have ideas about two other characters from the third book, Consent, in that series, however. It’s in the writing queue.
We know Gavin’s family but next to nothing about Ben’s family or his past. Where was Ben born and what is a favorite childhood memory? One more if I may … have Ben and Gavin thought about having children?
Ben: I was born in Seattle and lived there until I left for college. My father was a neurosurgeon and my mother was a sculptor. She worked with police departments in the Pacific Northwest on facial reconstruction cases, as well as the statues and pottery she made for a landscaping company. They had resigned themselves to being childless after years of fertility treatments, so by the time I was born—and yes, I was a surprise to them—they were both older. My father spent years working on neurological treatments for patients with mental disorders, but when I was in high school, he retired. The last years I was home, they were a constant presence, and when I left for Washington University in St. Louis, they sold their home and moved here. While I was in graduate school, they spent time traveling all over the world. On one of these trips, their plane crashed. It was a mechanical malfunction resulting from negligence, and the families of the passengers each received a hefty settlement. My parents were well off to begin with, and I have no other relatives, so the lawsuit basically set me up for a few lifetimes. I knew my father had hopes for me getting a PhD, so the first thing I did was move into their home to care for it myself, and finish school. In a way, I feel it’s my legacy to them, becoming a doctor—albeit of a different kind—and in a way, carrying on my father’s work, while also working with the police as a consultant in honor of my mother.
They taught me about compassion and finding what moves you in life, and while I wish like hell I had more time with them, they did right by me. I can only hope I’m doing right by them, now.
A favorite memory. Hmmm. My mother tried to teach me to throw a pot. Just a bowl or something for a small flower, I don’t remember. I ended up actually launching this blob of clay off the wheel and smacking a tree plantar she had just finished but had yet to fire. She loved the starburst pattern on the side of her plantar so much she carved it out and ended up carving the rest of the plantar with a stellar pattern, painted and fired it, and planted an ornamental tree in it. It was my tree and we named it Sonny.
As for children, maybe in a few years Gavin and I will want them, but right now, he’s happy teaching criminology and playing with his nieces. We have an idea for a project that keeps getting more airtime in our conversations, and it has to do with kids, but not how you might be thinking. We’ll see if it pans out.
Which character, of all you’ve written, scared you the most either during conception or through the writing process, and why?
AJ: That’s tough to answer because none of them really scared me. Surprised me, inspired me, made me laugh out loud, absolutely. But the worst one of them could do is go off the script and push me to write the story the way they wanted to go with it, and I find those moments to be the best part of writing. Pure creation. Sure, it might wreak havoc on my plot, but I find there are always better details from listening to the characters than trying to shoehorn them into my idea of where to go. Ben was notorious for throwing in a wrench now and then, but I generally fell in love with him more when he did it.
Hi Ben and Gavin, do you keep in touch with McKnight, I’d love to see him again.
Gavin: We do keep in touch with him. There are some plans afoot…
And the winner of the advanced copy of Reaping Havoc is… *dramatic music* Andrea M. Andrea, I will email you for your format of choice. Thank you all so much for participating!