This month I had the opportunity to interview USA Today Bestselling author AJ Flowers. AJ has written a dozen books and counting, including the Valkyrie Allegiance Trilogy, The Celestial Downfall Trilogy, The Dweller Series, and her most recent work, Crown Princess Academy. Wow! That's quite an impressive body of work.
SJ: What gave you the inspiration to write your latest novel, Crown Princess Academy?
AJ: You're going to laugh at me, but it was the cover! I am addicted to pretty covers. I even run a Facebook Group for published authors with the same affliction called "Cover Addicts Unite!" When FrostAlexis, one of my favorite designers, posted this cover for sale, a story immediately came to mind that was one of those "passion" stories. That's why I love a good cover. It inspires a whole fantastic world to play in and that's just an amazing feeling.
SJ: Who is your favorite character from that book and why?
AJ: I want to say Prince Lucas, because who doesn't love a sexy fae prince, but I think actually my favorite character turned out to be Zizi, the Malice pixie that has been with Penne all her life. She has a large part to play in the sequels and I like to think of her as inspired by the Twilight Princess from the Zelda games.
SJ: Why did you choose this specific genre?
AJ: I write in a lot of genres, but the story that sprouted for Crown Princess Academy was best suited for the YA/NA audience. This is due to the character's age, as well as the content.
SJ: What is your favorite part of the creative writing process?
AJ: Probably the daydreaming part, which involves plenty of time ogling a new cover while I write the blurb before I do anything else. I write blurbs professionally through Fiverr under AJFlowers because I am a weirdo who enjoys them. I like coming up with the broad concept, then I narrow it down from there. That first daydreaming/blossoming phase is my favorite.
SJ: Who has influenced you the most as a writer?
AJ: Early on I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey and R.A. Salvatore, both authors who influenced me greatly, perhaps to my detriment because the current market does better with newer authors. I started reading indies a few years ago who've had a great impact on me, including Lexi C. Foss and Leia Stone. Fabulous writers. Lexi even dedicated her latest Cinderella retelling NA book "Ella" to me! She's awesome.
SJ: What have you found to be your biggest hurdle?
AJ: Finding the time to write is always the biggest hurdle, especially now that I have a 4-month-old baby in the house! It's really about how badly you want it, though. A baby will nap and the husband can do that load of dishes, you know? It's all about compromises and making the time to do it.
SJ: You’ve written a dozen books which is such a huge accomplishment! Any advice for aspiring authors?
AJ: Everyone will have a different path, but my advice is find what motivates you. For me, I was motivated when I knew I was reaching enough readers, which meant that I had to change how I approached my stories. I stopped writing what I wanted to write and I started writing what readers wanted to read. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy what I write, but I find what fits the market by reading successful indie authors and then putting my own spin on popular tropes. For example, Academy is a big one right now, but there aren't any about pretty princesses with a secret life from an assassin's guild! I had a ton of fun writing it and it has not only been very well received, but it's sold more copies than any of my other books as well. That makes me feel good not just because it pays for my expenses, because publishing books is EXPENSIVE, but also because it means lots of people are enjoying Penne's story and I love that.
SJ: What are your writing goals for 2020?
AJ: I am launching a new pen name "Aurora Weiss" for 2020 and getting into the LitRPG genre. Remember what I said about being marketable? I studied the genre before I picked a cover and wrote a blurb, and then shortly after I put the first book up for pre-order I got up in the bestseller ranks and received a Tantor contract to produce the audiobooks for a new series I haven't even written yet on that brand new name, so I'm crazy excited about it! I will be hitting LitRPG hard, as well as putting out some more books on my AJ name. My AJ books are really books I'm more passionate about than others, and don't always hit the market perfectly, but we need to have a little fun with our writing, right?
A.J. Flowers is a USA Today Bestselling fantasy author as well as an automotive engineer who resides in Detroit. She loves her writing, her work, and above all, her faith and family. When not writing, narrating, or designing, you can find her saving the world from annihilation on her favorite video games side-by-side with her Dutch husband and princess Blue Russian kitty named Mina. To follow AJ's blog, visit aj-flowers.com.