7 Questions With Author A.J. Stiles | Esther Rabbit
A.J. Stiles is a writer from near London, UK. His debut novel “The Dancing Turtle”, was published in November 2019 and is set during one sultry summer in Brazil. In his spare time he loves to travel, study languages, photography and is currently writing his second novel. He is passionate about the environment and lives on a farm with several animals, including a horse called Patriot.
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Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Funnily enough, my book talks about that very issue. The main character Marcus, is writing his own book during the events of the story. He knows his beginning and his ending but, is searching for the middle. That mirrors my own experience of writing. I often have key points of a story in mind but, I need to get to know how the characters think and behave, learn their backstory and motivations. Sometimes, ideas come to me when I’m asleep, or even when I’m daydreaming.
Whilst at college, I’ve studied ‘Six Characters In Search of an Author’ by Luigi Pirandello. I loved the concept as the characters live independently of their creator. Also that you need to wait to hear from them, for them to speak to you, to see how their lives must progress. With my characters, I have often been surprised that they have ended up at different points from my intentions.
Is there anything you learned from reader reviews?
I have learned that, they are hard to come by and anyone who takes the time out of their busy day, to put their thoughts down on paper, is so much appreciated. Indie authors rely on reviews to spread the word of their books, without the traditional publishing marketing.
I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received to “The Dancing Turtle”. I have also been quite struck by how people perceived the book and what it has meant to them. Sometimes, they will see something in my book that I haven’t seen myself. That’s what I love about books. We can all draw our own meaning and our own conclusions, it’s highly subjective.
What’s the best advice/feedback on writing you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve had, is to enjoy the art of writing, the process and the journey, not just the end product. In many ways, it’s been a self-less project writing “The Dancing Turtle”. Yes, there have been moments where writing can become all consuming, other times when you hit a wall.
But I found the process of writing to be my own healing, like that of my main character. It was quite therapeutic, and at a time when I was working on other non-writing projects, which weren’t so inspiring, it allowed me a creative outlet.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
The next novel will be quite different in tone. It will be darker, more claustrophobic, and this time set in farthest reaches of Norway, a world away from the white beaches of Brazil.
There will be similarities though, I love writing about other cultures, and the Innuit culture is something that has fascinated me for a long time. The book will also have plenty of mystery and twists and again, will deal with the main character’s inner anguish.
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes
“The Dancing Turtle”, took weeks of research, both from a historical point of view and depicting an authentic portrayal of Brazil. I took much from my own travels, but I also spoke to Brazilian friends, about their childhoods, about the small things, the idioms, the snacks, the pass-times that you would only know if you grew up there. My favorite expression from the book is “Nascer de bunda para a lua” ,to be born with your ass facing the moon, which translates as to be lucky.
I have also researched World War 2 heavily, as part of the book is set in the English Channel Islands, which were the only part of the UK to be occupied. I read some incredible stories, too many of which could be incorporated into this book. But, a lot of my writing comes from observation, whilst traveling or, just out walking home.
I find the ocean gives me space to think, which is why, I always jot new ideas down on my phone when they come to me. I hope to write a sequel to “The Dancing Turtle”, which will delve further into these character’s lives from the war, I think they have more to say.
Does the genre you normally read have a direct influence on your writing?
Yes, and when I am stuck for ideas when writing, even though I want to press on with the book, I find that I need to sit back and read. I also find the environment that I am in, has a big impact on my writing. Large parts of “The Dancing Turtle” were written in Spain, by the poolside, during one of the most scorching summers. It helped to feel what I was writing about.
How do you imagine your target reader?
I have tried to make my book as universal as possible and for that reason, The Dancing Turtle crosses many genres of writing, from historical to romance, from travelogue to mystery. I have been so supported by many of the LGBTQ community for the romance that blossoms in the book. But I think the book will appeal to anyone who likes to read a book that will make them think and reflect on the world afterwards, and their role within it
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