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Adam Interviews...AJ Shirley!

Updated: Mar 26

How is this the last Monday in March already?

It seems like there should be at least two more, doesn't it?

Ah, well. Time, as always, marches forward - and that means it's time for your first author interview of the day, AJ Shirley!

A.J. grew up voraciously reading her grandmother’s Harlequin romance novels alongside Madeline L’Engle and R.L. Stine. She has remained an avid reader, whose book choices are as eclectic as her personality. As an anxious, Black, chaotic bisexual, A.J. Shirley writes steamy fantasy romance that is unapologetically inclusive. For the women like A.J. who were fans of the Twilight books in their early twenties (but wished for way more sex) and grew up to love shows and books like Supernatural for the lore and monsters, Game of Thrones for the world-building and intrigue, and The Witcher for atmosphere and attractive protagonists, her stories offer another fantasy world to get lost in. The Aegis Saga begins with A Saga of Shields and Shadows, released in February 2024.

Find her at

@ajshirleyauthor on IG/FB/Threads

@aj_shirley_author on TikTok

DCU or MCU? I only know the movies and 90s cartoons (never read the comics). However, as much as I love Batman’s rogues gallery, DC’s movie record is disastrous. I gotta go MCU.

Firefly – gone too soon or overrated? Gone too soon! I fell in love with those characters and the whole western in space vibe. Plus it had a racially diverse cast at a time when scifi/fantasy especially was still so white.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I was always making up stories when I was a kid. In elementary school I started writing stories featuring kids in my class and they’d get passed around from kid to kid all day, then I’d write more at night. I wrote poems and sold them to boys to give to girls. I guess that’s when I realized I liked an audience and I could make money from writing. It took me another 30 years to actually start writing with the intent to publish.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Four and a quarter, but I’ve only published one, A Saga of Shields and Shadows. It’s my favorite for now. But it’s the first in a series, and I think the third is going to be my favorite. Of course, it’s only about a quarter done so I could be wrong.

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Read. Read a lot and read widely. Read works by authors who don’t share your background or identities.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? I wanted to be a writer and a teacher. Mission accomplished.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? It definitely energizes me. I have to write. It’s my self-care. A few years ago, when the world felt upside down and out of control, I started a story that I didn’t realize was going to be something much bigger. I was writing to cope, to create a world where people who looked and loved like me could be free, safe, seen, and whole. A world where we all could. That story became my novel, A Saga of Shields and Shadows.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I actually do write under a pseudonym. My pen name is inspired by the grandmothers who nurtured my creativity as a child.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? My debut novel is the first book in a planned trilogy, but I suspect there will be even more stories in this world. Right now, I don’t have any ideas for books that are unconnected to the rest of the Aegis Saga, though some might be written as standalones that can be read independently despite being in the same world. I didn’t know I was going to write these or any of my old, discarded manuscripts either until the idea struck, though, so I’m not saying I’ll for sure stay in this world forever.

Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Han, of course, and that’s why we love him. He’s one of the original morally grey fantasy boyfriends!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? I know it sounds like a cliché, but don’t give up. There are going to be so many hurdles, but it’s worth it. Someone needs your story.

What does literary success look like to you? Literary success looks like me sitting on a throne constructed from the bones of those who doubted me. Just kidding. Success looks like me sitting in my recliner, with a cat on my lap, making up stories for many years to come. If I manage to become a fulltime writer—to be able to maintain my lifestyle off of the income from my writing—that’s just icing on the proverbial cake. Right now, success really looks like a message from a reader telling me how much they love my book, or how they saw themselves in the characters, or to hurry up and release book two.

What’s the best way to market your books? Ugh, you tell me. Marketing is exhausting. The social media scene can be so fun and is truly how I’ve made any headway on marketing, but it can also be super stressful. You can spend a lot of time and energy and see limited results. It has taken me almost a year to build my tiny social media following and then I see someone who joined in December post about how they’re so excited to have reached 10K followers. It makes no sense. But then I get a message from a reader in my DMs telling me how much they loved my book and I just feel so grateful that I have this tool for connecting with readers. It’s such a mixed bag.

What do you have coming next? The second book in the Aegis Saga, my fantasy romance series, comes out in October 2024. I’m working on revisions now and am super excited to get A Saga of Sovereigns and Secrets out into the world!

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