Lisa: We’re so pleased to welcome author AJ Llewellyn to The Novel Approach today, on the tour for A Wizard in Waikiki. Thanks so much for being here with us, AJ.
Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about the book and its characters?
AJ: Hi Lisa, thanks so much for having me here! A Wizard in Waikiki is a series I created after stumbling across a small enclosure on Waikiki Beach a few years ago, containing four massive boulders. I had no idea what they were and asked a police officer. He said, “Oh, those are wizard stones. They have a lot of history.” I remember running back to the place I was staying and Googled them. There wasn’t much on line then but I did learn that three hundred years ago four Tahitian wizards went to the Hawaiian Islands with the intention of healing the islanders. After several months, they had to return home but infused their power into the stones so the locals would always have them. The stones were abandoned for a long time and recently, a kahuna raised a stink and had them put into the enclosure. It got me thinking…what if one of those ancient wizards returned to modern Waikiki? What would he make of it? How would we treat him?
Lisa: You’ve set quite a few of your books in Hawai’i. What makes it such a great setting?
AJ: There is so much about the islands that is mystical and magical and also so utterly romantic. I just got back yesterday from a 9-day trip there and came up with even more places I’d never been to before that inspired fresh ideas. I love the fact that Hawaiians believe in the unseen, and they are all about love – aloha is a word that is just pure love.
Lisa: Hawai’i is made up of such a diverse social structure and a culture that’s rich in customs. Have you ever received feedback from Hawaiian readers on how you’ve handled a setting or particular storyline? If so, what was it? What’s the best reaction you’ve received?
AJ: I get a lot of feedback on my books and I feel very blessed to receive so many wonderful emails and messages. I have had Hawaiian readers tell me they are surprised by details in my books. I know things about the islands that even they don’t! The best reaction I had was from the book reviewer Elisa Rolle who reviewed some of my books and commented that reading my books is like reading a living guide book to a certain place. She said it made her feel as though she was really there. She compared me to author Betty Neals, a Harlequin romance novelist who sets all her stories in Amsterdam. She did the same thing…and you know what? As a kid growing up in Australia I read Harlequin romances obsessively. Betty Neals was a huge influence for me. I guess you could say I write the kinds of stories I want to read.
Lisa: Looking back on when your writing career began, who or what would you say was your biggest influence? Was it a favorite author or book(s) that made you think, “I can do that?”
AJ: I had a lot of influences. I mentioned Betty Neals already, but I read a lot of mysteries and I was lucky to grow up in a country filled with amazing authors. Australia has a rich literary heritage. My favorite authors are Louis Becke, an Australian explorer whose books about traveling and work through the South Seas really influenced my imagination. Henry Lawson’s local stories taught me to write about where I live, highlighting the unexpected things in everyday life.
Lisa: Have you ever finished a book that left you so awed and inspired that you wish you’d written it? If so, what book was it, and why was it so impactful?
AJ: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Also, Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath. Everything on a Waffle really meant a lot to me because I lost my mother when I was six. Just like the little girl in this book, I didn’t accept her death. I always thought she was alive somewhere, and that she would come back and find me. She never did of course, but in the book, the parents came back and it was a satisfying read for me. It really helped me to know other people who experience devastating early loss feel the same way I did. The Lonely Bones meant a lot to me too, because Alice Sebold’s interpretation of Heaven and what happens to the people and animals in our lives rang true. I recommend the book to anyone experience the loss of a loved one, but I urge everyone to avoid the awful movie. It has nothing to do with the book.
Lisa: What would you say are the best and the worst parts of the writing process for you?
AJ: I love writing. I’ve been doing it since I was seven years old. The hardest part is the lonely aspect of it. I’ve spent a lot of time alone and I love it, but sometimes gets hard. I have developed a network of writer friends and it’s really helped.
Lisa: As an author, what would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about the craft?
AJ: Don’t solicit opinions unless you want the truth. Don’t solicit opinions on paragraphs or sample chapters. It can mess with the muse. Write your book. Take your time. It’s not a race. Write the best book you can, then seek opinions of published authors you admire or other professionals you respect. Giving it to your grandma or best friend may not give you authentic feedback. Learn to know what is useful criticism and what is somebody’s opinion and not necessarily accurate for you. Keep in mind your work is not written in stone and will need edits. You cannot fall apart when you get criticism.
Lisa: What would you say are some of the greatest changes you’ve seen in your own writing since you first started out?
AJ: Oh my God. Yes! I’ve improved so much. I look at my earlier work and cringe. Filled with adverbs and other stuff that is just not good. I’ve been very lucky to work with some great editors and an amazing co-author in D.J. Manly. They have made me a better author by pointing out my sloppy ways. Every author has them. For example, I overused ellipses – you know those three little dots … and I used to use a lot hyphens. I have pet words too. One editor pointed it out and to my shame I noticed it over and over in my work. It’s good to know your strengths and weaknesses.
Lisa: Would you like to share a little bit of information on some of your current WIPs and upcoming projects with readers?
AJ: I have a lot of books coming out soon. Please check out my website for details. I am finishing up book 3 in A Wizard in Waikiki. It’s called Luau Feet, which is, by the way a sad affliction some hula dancers develop because they are barefoot a lot. I am also working on a new book with D.J. Manly and finishing up Hogtied, Book 7 in the Mingo McCloud series.
Lisa: Thanks again for stopping by today, AJ. It’s been a pleasure. Would you like to tell everyone where we can find you on the internet?
AJ: Thanks for having me here Lisa. You asked some really unusual and awesome questions. Social links are below, including my Newsletter sign-up — each month I give away a free ebook! And I’m an app! Download my FREE A.J. Llewellyn App for Android.
About the Book
TITLE: A Wizard in Waikiki
AUTHOR: A.J. Llewellyn
PUBLISHER: Ai Press
COVER ARTIST: Sid Love
LENGTH: 62 Pages
RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2016
BLURB: Summoned from the past, Konu rises naked from the sea to reclaim his power for the freedom to live—and love. If the forces of evil don’t get to him first!
On a hot day in Waikiki, beachgoers are stunned when a tall, handsome man rises from the ocean. Striding naked to a small, ringed enclosure containing four huge stones most tourists never even notice, he becomes visibly upset. These are Wizard Stones, positioned between the beach and the foot traffic on Kalakaua Avenue. Konu, the naked man, is agitated by a young Asian girl draping her beach towel over the stones. He’s come a long way, from Tahiti, and is one of the ancient wizards whose power was infused into these sacred stones four hundred years ago.
With the invisible battle between good and evil raging, Konu has been dispatched to help balance the power. Landing in modern-day Waikiki, he’s stunned by the changes – and to find he is alone. A cop tries to arrest him for indecent exposure but the young girl’s grandfather – who thinks Konu’s a homeless lunatic offers him refuge. Will the ancient forces of evil beat this wizard in Waikiki? Or can Konu find his power again, and perhaps…even love?
Publisher’s note: This book was previously published. It has been edited and re-released with Ai Press.
About the Author
A.J. Llewellyn is an author of M/M romantic fiction who was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.
Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.
A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.
Follow the Tour
April 25: Diverse Reader
April 26: My Fiction Nook
April 27: Rainbow Book Reviews
April 28: MM Good Book Reviews :: BFD Book Blog
April 29: The Novel Approach
May 2: Rick R. Reed
May 3: Love Bytes Reviews
May 4: Elisa – My reviews and Ramblings
May 5: Prism Book Alliance
May 6: Loving Without Limits
May 9: Queer Sci-Fi
May 11: Divine Magazine
May 12: Drops of Ink
May 13: Bayou Book Junkie :: TTC Books and More