Last week, I shared my review on the urban/paranormal fantasy First Shift. This week, I have the privilege of speaking with the wonderful author AJ Skelly! Skelly is a mid-westerner, born and bred, and she currently resides in Ohio with her family. She spends most of her free time writing, but she also enjoys reading, watching movies, and shopping. When asked about a fun fact about herself, Skelly replied, “Um…my fight response is generally stronger than my flight response. It is not wise to jump out from a dark room or behind a door at me…LOL.” Read more of our interview below to learn more!
Q) How long have you been writing?
A) I’ve always loved the idea of writing stories, and I think I’ve always kind of played at concocting them. I got a little more serious about writing in college, but I only really buckled down and decided I was going to write in earnest in 2019.
Q) Why do you write?
A) I love it. And it’s still fun, so I’m still doing it. 🙂
Q) What are your top three favorite books and why?
A) Gracious…top three…Among my top three are Karen Hancock’s Legends of the Guardian King series, Shari L. Tapscott’s Pippa of Lauramore, and Joan Bauer’s Squashed. <3
Q) Describe yourself in three words.
A) Driven. Steadfast. SlightlyInsane. That’s like three words, right? 😉
Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?
A) Right now, there are two songs that resonate most with me that sum up my adult life pretty well. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs, sadness and loss, and ongoing difficulties with health concerns for our son, but two songs really define a lot of what I believe and what keeps me functioning: Rebecca St. James’ “In the Middle of the Fire” and Skillet’s “Stars.” <3
Q) Who is someone that inspires you?
A) I’ve been very blessed to have lots of good, healthy roll models throughout my life that have offered wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration along the journey. My parents are probably one of my biggest sources of inspiration. They do their best to practice what they preach. And that’s kind of rare.
Q) What inspired First Shift?
A) There are quite a few factors that went into the inspiration of First Shift, as I wrote it over the course of nearly a decade. LOL. My first two years teaching were at the height of the Twilight craze (now that I’m dating myself). A handful of students started a rumor that I was a werewolf. And it stuck. It became a “thing” and was just something hilariously special that came out of those early years teaching–you can check the dedication page of First Shift. 😉 Additionally, I love YA paranormal romance. But there’s a lot of crap out there. A lot of those sorts of books (especially at the time I was reading, about ten years ago), had these glorified toxic relationships, and a disregard for any kind of wisdom or responsibility. And it set my teeth on edge. I wanted to write something that presented “healthy” characters and relationships. Not that my characters are perfect or untouchable, but I wanted something that wasn’t what I was reading.
Q) I really liked your take on werewolves. What reading and/or lore helped you create your world?
A) I’m so glad you enjoyed my world of wolves! I’ve always loved wolves–they’re such fascinating, beautiful, dangerous creatures. Spinning off of that, I’ve always been a little fascinated with werewolves and their legends, too. I had a few really wild werewolf dreams while I was pregnant with my son (anyone who has had pregnancy dreams knows how crazy vivid those can be!), that sparked the characters of Sam and Megan. I’m a character-driven writer. Once I got to know them, they just kind of told me their story. 😀
Q) Megan’s grandfather is so wise – the theme that love is a choice really resonated with me as a reader. Was this a theme you wanted to include in your book or did it develop as the story did?
A) When I started dabbling with writing Sam and Megan’s story, I knew I wanted that voice of wisdom, and that healthy relationship aspect. Grandpa and the situation that Sam and Megan found themselves in presented the perfect opportunity. And I believe it. Love is a choice. 🙂 The grass gets green where it’s watered. 😉
Q) Can you give readers a hint to what they can expect in Rogue Shift, book 2 in the Wolves of Rock Falls series?
A) Ooooh…I’m SO excited for Rogue Shift‘s release this October!!! If you’ve read First Shift, you know that Sam and Megan’s story comes to a conclusion, but not the threat against the pack. Rogue Shift picks up the story right where First Shift leaves off, but from Rachel and Kyp’s perspectives.
Q) I know you are working with I Smell Books Book Box regarding Rogue Shift – can you tell readers more about the special edition book box?
A) I am literally frothing in excitement about this I Smell Books Box! I Smell Books is officially one year old in October, and for their anniversary book box, they chose Rogue Shift (they carried First Shift in March). I’ve had just a tiny sneak peek at some of the stuff going into this box…it’s going to be AMAZING. Snatch one up while they’re available! There will be exclusive goodies! (Link to I Smell Books Anniversary Box.)
Q) Can you tell readers about your current WIP (Writing in Progress)? I’ve seen you post about The Troll Queen and I am intrigued to learn more!
A) I’m so delighted you’re intrigued! 😀 So, The Troll Queen is the book I just finished writing. It’s actually book two in the Tales of Sugar and Spice trilogy. The first book, The Rat King, is with my agent now. It’s a loose YA retelling of The Nutcracker. Honestly, it might be the best thing I’ve ever written so far. LOL. I’m really, really excited to someday share the magical world of the Land of Sweets (and the Land of Spices!) with readers. <3
Q) What goals do you have for your writing?
A) Gosh, goals? I mean, I think every writer secretly or not-so-secretly wants to hit the major best seller lists. LOL. I wouldn’t say no to that, but as for general goals, I want to write stories that offer a different perspective. Something good, something right, something healthy. Something at least mildly entertaining. 🙂 I want my stories to resonate in some way with my readers.
Q) You are an indie published author. Will you tell us a little about your experience?
A) First Shift (and all consequent The Wolves of Rock Falls books) is published with The Wild Rose Press. I’ve had a fantastic experience with them. They move freakishly fast according to publishing industry standards, and really put a nice emphasis on open communication. They’ve been a wonderful introduction into the publishing world. I’ve heard from quite a few other authors that haven’t had nearly as nice an experience as I have. I feel very blessed and grateful that things have gone so smoothly, and that my publisher has been so gracious.
Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?
A) Keep writing. It’s okay if your first draft is a pile of dragon dung. First drafts are always messy. 😉 All the magic happens in the edits.
Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?
A) I love to hear from readers! Like, seriously, it makes my day. 😉 My email is email@example.com. I respond to every email. 🙂 Additionally, if you want a signed copy of First Shift, I have a few left! Those and other delightful bookish merch can be found on my website (www.ajskelly.com) or in my Etsy shop, BooksandWhimsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/BooksandWhimsy?ref=seller-platform-mcnav). If you want to sign up for my (very infrequent) newsletter, I’ll be sending out a free Rock Falls cookbook with recipes that Megan and Rachel make in the books near the release of Rogue Shift. 😉
Also, remember to leave a review for First Shift once you read it – those reviews really help authors out! <3