All good things… A farewell to Magical Words.

A J HartleyA J Hartley

Well, I’m late posting, so this will be shorter than I had planned.

Several years ago I was at Con Carolinas in my home town of Charlotte. I had just released my first fantasy novel, Act of Will, and was dipping my toe into the convention scene for the very first time. It was all a bit strange and intimidating since I knew no one, wasn’t really up on the genre, and knew nothing of the social dynamics of conventions.

But I got lucky.

I met three people there, David Coe, Faith Hunter and Misty Massey. I don’t remember how. Maybe we were on a panel together. Maybe we were hawking books in the same hallway. Anyway, we got chatting and hit it off. A month or two later I did my first guest post for Magical Words. A few months after that, I did another, then I was […]

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Return from the North.

A J HartleyA J Hartley

Apologies for the late posting. I just got home after a mini book tour in Northern Michigan and have been playing various kinds of catch up. I’m also mired in grading and in working through line edits on Darwen III, but I wanted to tell you a little about the last few days because it was, well… just cool.

The multi-city book tour in which authors fly from place to place and are chauffeured from fancy hotel to book store and back just doesn’t make financial sense to most publishers. Sure, it’s a way to raise visibility, but unless you have the kind of profile which will guarantee hundreds (or thousands) of sales at each signing, it isn’t going to work, and I’ve heard countless tales of Huge Name Authors showing up at stores to find—for whatever reason—that no one has shown up.

So I was delighted and a little […]

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Anxious about the Hobbit.

A J HartleyA J Hartley

In a couple of weeks the new Hobbit movie will open worldwide, and I have to say, I’m anxious. It’s not the kind of thrilled anticipation I felt over the release of the first Lord of the Rings movie (the making of which I had monitored closely for months). That was sheer excitement, this is something closer to simple worry, with a little skeptical bafflement thrown in.

Let me begin with two disclaimers before the goblin hordes start pelting me with angry e-comments:

1. I loved the LOTR movies; I thought they were wonderful imaginings of the novel and remember emerging from the first one ready to line back up to watch it all over again. I was speechless, and felt the kind of deep satisfaction I rarely feel after movies, the kind that makes you want to immerse yourself in the world of the film and live in it. […]

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Release Day for Darwen II!

A J HartleyA J Hartley

First, thanks to Faith and Misty for switching their schedules with me so I can post on release day!

Today, the second in my middle grades series, Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck, hits shelves, and I thought I’d tell you something about the high wire act which is writing the second book of a series.

The original cover Darwen II art as it appeared on the ARC

To be clear, this is a second stand alone story in the Darwen universe. There are larger plot lines being developed from book to book, but each volume is its own story with a beginning, middle and end. They are probably richest read in order, but they don’t have to be.

Book 1, Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, introduced the core characters (Darwen, Rich and Alex) and established their world (Hillside Academy in Atlanta) and the key issue: there are […]

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The Noble Art of Hopscotch. Or how to get from one scene to another when you don’t know what comes between them.

A J HartleyA J Hartley

I have recently emerged from a massive structural edit of my third DARWEN ARKWRIGHT book, and I have to say that it was a tough one, maybe the hardest I’ve ever done. There were some substantial rethinkings of plot and character which I’d come to, thanks to my excellent editor at Razorbill, but which felt so immense that for a couple of weeks after getting the memo and coming to terms with its rightness, I felt utterly paralyzed.

In the end I think I rewrote about a third of the book entirely, throwing out (or rather cutting and pasting into a separate file) a good 25,000 words and replacing them with the same number of new ones plus another 10,000 for good measure. Even sections I didn’t significantly alter got moved around, sometimes dramatically, so that at times the process felt like being in a massive hedge maze, where turns […]

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When art imitates art.

A J HartleyA J Hartley

As many of you know, earlier this year I published a novel based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, co-authored with David Hewson. The story was originally released as an audiobook voiced by Alan Cumming and saw print in May. On Friday, November 2nd, David and I will be participating in an event at UNC Charlotte which will feature a staged reading of portions of the book followed by a conversation about collaboration and adaptation. It’s free and open to the public, so if you are in town, you should come by.

What this means is that I am currently taking portions of what was once a play but became a novel and turning it back into something like a play, only a very different one. I’m not sure of the format of the event itself yet, but a staged reading is a kind of halfway house, a hybrid of narrative and […]

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Writing Place

A J HartleyA J Hartley

I’m in Nashville today for the Southern Festival of Books, a city I’ve never visited before, a trip I’m taking alone. These last two factors are crucial because, since I know no one here, they force a species of crucial writerly research: where am I going to drink? Or, at very least, where am I going to have dinner?

You know when you are reading a story that’s well anchored in a location because the city (or village, or planet or whatever) feels real in its details, and those details are not wheeled out like an encyclopedia entry but scattered knowingly about like crumbs by the author with apparently careless abandon. It may be research, but it doesn’t feel like research. It feels like the author has lived there all his/her life or—depending on the narrative point of view—that the character has.

This is tough to fake, and it’s one […]

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