As you may have seen, I’ve read/listened to and reviewed both Resonance and Vengeance by A.J. Scudiere. I recently received an ARC of her upcoming book, God’s Eye and am looking forward to reading it. In the mean time, here is a short interview with A.J. about her previous titles, and her upcoming book. I hope you enjoy it.
Your thriller books have captivated readers from your debut as an author in 2008 with Resonance – where do you find the inspiration for the incredibly vivid details your share?
A.J.: I find inspiration all kinds of places. Mostly, I tuck away details for years, waiting for the right character to use them with. My friends are really familiar with me asking “Can I put that in a book someday?” For Resonance, the last piece was an article I read from two Harvard geologists proposing this hot spot theory. As I read their idea and the evidence they had, all the characters and the story of Resonance just gelled. I almost immediately put down the article and started writing the opening scene.
You are on the cutting edge of Audio Books, releasing not just words being read from the story you’ve written but an actual Audio Movie (www.AJsAudioMovies.com) with actors and sounds to accompany the book. Tell us a little about those.
A.J.: AudioMovie credit goes almost entirely to Stefan Rudnicki and SkyBoat Road Productions. Stefan is a master at audiobooks and has so many awards. I remember talking to him and complaining about the number of audiobooks I’d listened to in which readers had barked like a dog or tried to imitate the sound of a shotgun being cocked. Stefan had been wanting to do an audiobook with multiple readers, but it takes an author who uses point of view the way that I do in order to make that kind of narrative. Ultimately, the AudioMovie format is the only unabridged version of full cast reading with soundtrack and score. Stefan did such an amazing job making the background subtle, but really adding to the texture of the story. It’s like being in a movie theater with your eyes closed: you hear everything!
Has being a female affected your career as a thriller writer? How so?
A.J.: At this point, I don’t know that it does affect things. But initially, I was shocked by how many agents called me and were surprised to find out I was female.
You’re a scientist. Is the science behind your novels true?
A.J.: Obviously, what I write is fiction, but I do my research very carefully. I hate when writers get details wrong – anyone who knows the material better than the author can have the story shake loose on them when they see something they know isn’t true or doesn’t work. For Resonance, I read tons of articles and applied everything I know from my masters degree in physiology. So, yes, the science there is real. Much of what happens at the beginning of the book that starts the polar reversal is actually happening in the world around us right now. And a lot of people predict that the earth’s magnetic poles will trade places soon, given the speed at which they are moving.
For Vengeance, I did much the same. Only this time I spent my time working with my black-belt friends and out at the gun range. I worked up to where I can shoot pretty accurately two handed. I’m sure if I practiced with Lee’s dedication, it would be more than possible to do what he does. As for the crimes Lee and Sin commit, I have to admit my family got a bit tired of me breaking into our house. So, everything there is plausible. I don’t recommend it! But it can be done.
What makes a good thriller in your opinion? Any favorite authors you follow?
A.J.: A good Thriller has to have that can’t-put-it-down quality. You have to believe that if you turn the page you’ll get an answer to a burning question or a serious stand-off will be resolved. The best thriller writers do this by not dragging out the scenes, but by answering your questions. Only – as the reader starts to feel relief that the question has been answered – he realizes that he can’t put the book down because there’s another question, or something else has happened.
Thrillers also follow the laws of other books. 1] The writing itself should be high quality. The turn of phrase should be easy to read and well crafted. 2] The plot should be solid: no gaping holes, no unmotivated actions that drive the plot forward. 3] And if you’re really good, your work can be read on multiple levels – it can be a breezy beach read that you enjoy, or you can take it into a literature class and dissect it, looking at the deeper questions the book raises.
I have a few authors that I love, but few hold up over time. I hate recycled plots, and books (or even movies) that bring back beloved characters only because they are beloved. They need a good story behind them! Some favorites are: Nabokov, Tim O’Brien, and Orson Scott Card.
How do you express yourself outside of writing?
A.J.: Aside from being really talkative? I’m a teacher, and I think both writing and teaching are similar. In both cases it’s my job to convey a story with clarity so the listener can understand. Whether that’s a story I made up or content about where each electron is most likely to be found in the subshells of an atom, it’s still something that has to be conveyed well.
Your newest novel, God’s Eye (www.GodsEyeTheBook.com), releases October 2011. What’s it about?
A.J.: God’s Eye is the story of what happens when your world gets shaken and everything thing you think you knew is no longer true. Katharine has lived a golden life, she inherits her mother’s trust fund and has a guaranteed job at her father’s investment firm. Though she can’t say everything is right with her life, she believes nothing is wrong with it. But because of her malleability and willingness to accept things at face value, Katharine becomes the prize in a tug-of-war between an angel and a demon. Both appear to her as human and ask her to change her world; she’s in a situation where she’s forced to choose one side or the other. The problem is she can’t tell which man is the angel and which is the demon.
These are the bigger questions Katharine and all of us face: what is evil? Would you recognize it if you saw it? And how responsible are you for the ramifications of your actions, even the unintended ones?
If you could be any of the characters in any of your books, who would you be and why?
A.J.: That’s tough. There’s no ‘good’ guy in any of my books. Everyone, even the supernatural creatures aren’t purely one way or the other. And just like people, even the greats have flaws. I love Jillian’s ability to learn, even when it’s hard for her. I wish I had Jordan’s innate vision into people, and Carter’s irreverence and Becky’s peace. But each of them has things they struggle with, too. I’d love to kick butt like Lee or Sin, but wouldn’t want to shoulder their burdens. I try to ‘do the right thing’ like Owen, but wouldn’t want to face his difficult decisions.
I think in the end, I’ll stick with being me. Besides, as me, I get to be each of them for a while!
And please keep an eye out for my forthcoming review of God’s Eye.