Welcome back to Monday!
I think it's time for a break. What about you?
Yeah, I thought you'd be ready.
So here we go, another fantastic interview, this with AJ Super, a sci-fi author with, well, a whole universe at their fingertips.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
For me, right now, I think it’s gotta be Star Wars just because there’s such complicated bridge storytelling between all the shows, animes/animations, books, games, and movies. It takes great skill and creativity to create those interwoven stories within the amount of media that it tracks through. And I’ve seen most of what the Star Wars universe has produced. But I must say, just watched the first season of Strange New Worlds and loved how it was a super throw-back to a lot of the highjinks of the original Star Trek and TNG.
DCU or MCU?
So this is actually a hard question for me… Because my last name, Super, it means I’m obligated to be a DCU fan. I mean of ALL the Supers… Superman, Supergirl, Superwoman, Superdog. But MCU… (Controversial opinion ahead.) Thanos was right. And Captain Marvel is my hero!
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My work schedule depends on my mental health. This idea perpetuated by famous authors [cough] Steven King [cough] that to be a writer, you have to write every day is really quite elitist, ableist, and privileged. I know that at the core of the idea, getting words on the page, is important. But writers are actually ALWAYS writing. Doing dishes, thinking of how a sentence can be crafted. Watching TV, wondering how to incorporate a favorite trope into a piece. Gardening, pondering the next step in a plot. Hell, if I were to spend an hour staring at a wall, I’d be thinking, nay, worrying, about my current project in some whay shape or form. Writers write every day without even putting something on the page. And when I feel healthy and stable, I can easily write the page every day… but that’s not something that happens every day. I think a lot of writers and authors need to give themselves the grace not to be scribblers, writing on the page every day. We all need to recognize that productivity isn’t the measure of an author, but quality is. To achieve that quality, personally, I have to be cognizant of how I’m feeling. Productivity for productivity’s sake isn’t as important as quality work time where I can focus and be creative. If that’s while I’m gardening… so be it. So, to actually answer the question, I really don’t have a “work schedule” so much as get up, take care of myself, do some chores, and be creative if I can. If I can’t, I give myself the grace, and space, for self-care, other tasks that may be weighing, and just to be.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I’m a discovery writer—AKA a pantser. I take it to a whole different level. I discovery write from a blank page as I draft, never knowing what I’m going to write next, allowing the story to just come out of me. But I’m a next-level discovery writer. I pantsed a whole trilogy. And I absolutely don’t recommend it. I had to keep two books worth of information in my head as I wrote the third, and it was A LOT. I also tend to “discover” my edits for the first several rounds of editing. What that means is I read and edit and read and edit, with no plan. It isn’t until a piece has gone through at least three self-edits that I put it out for betas and CPs, then with those notes I plan. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE PROCESS.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. It was an illustrated ABC book. I still have it somewhere (or my mom or grandma does). A was for Apple. B was for Bee. C was for Cat. Because I was and am super basic like that! I think my favorite thing to draw was the H was for Horse and Z was for Zebra (otherwise known as a Striped Horse!).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
In the warm months, I love to garden. I have the prettiest little beds and pots. And my fingernails are torn to shreds and filled with dirt. I love it… the feeling of the cool soil in my hands when I plant something new. When I help to give life (and extra oxygen) to the world. In the cold months, I sew, play with makeup and hair, and do a lot of self-care. I live where there’s a lot of snow and getting out into the, er, outdoors is harder for me. I used to ski and do winter sports, but when I blew my knee and basically had it reconstructed, that was the end of really enjoying the snow for me. But… not only is it pretty and pristine where I am, I know that the snow is watering my lovely garden for the next Spring so I can play with my pretty flowers when it’s warm.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family is super supportive. My dad, he’s not an emoter. He’s not one that praises. The day I knew that my family absolutely and truly supported me and my work was the day he told me that he was proud of me doing something so scary and hard. My mom, she was always supportive, if a little skeptical about how my spouse and I would live on one income. They both read (or listen) to my books, and so far, have loved them. I also have a large (ver very very large) extended family who love my books too. One cousin INSISTS that I sign his book first, and number it… he and his sister fight over that. I know they are family, but the fanning out is real with them. I love them so much! I should also mention my spouse, he's always super supportive. When I decided to stop working and go all in on the writing, he was there for the ups and downs of the query trenches, the first contract, the editing, the submitting, the query trenches (and did I mention the query trenches?). I couldn’t ask for anything more from my family, really. Especially the spouse!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Hahaha! This is a question! So, when I was a kiddo, I wanted to be an astronaut, a writer, and a nun. While I would still love to go to space, I’m no longer a religious person. So, instead, I often write about space and religions… SPACE RELIGIONS, if you will. I mean, Erebus Dawning is ALL about Artificial Inteligence Gods.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Calling themselves ASPIRING. That’s a big “shake my head” thing. If you write, you are a writer. If you finish a manuscript, you are an author. People who hang their success on others—like getting a publishing contract or an agent—set themselves up for disappointment. Personally, I can’t depend on others to meet my goals. I can only go onto the next thing while waiting for someone to decide if they can work with me in one aspect or another. My success lies in the quality of work I can produce. And ASPIRING to do anything means that I’m not actually doing it.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
When I went into the mindset of marketing my trilogy with Aethon, I did a fairly uncommon thing. I told myself that I had written the best books ever, and if anyone asks me, that’s what I say. Something I ran into a lot of when I first joined the Twitter Writing Community in 2014 was these cis white men who constantly over-hyped their mediocre work while the authors who I enjoyed (especially authors in the minority—women, queer, BIPOC, Muslim, you name it) were so humble, to the point of imposter syndrome. It led me to a very simple belief… every author deserves the big dick energy of a mediocre cis white man. As such, I (very uncomfortably… because introvert) try to flaunt that I’m a good writer. I love the books that I write. They may not be for everyone, but they’re the best in my mind. And if I’m going to hawk my books, I should at least believe that I’m worth reading so that the readers I’m selling my book to believe it as well.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Oy vey. There had to be THIS question. Like many discovery writers, editing is totally my Kryptonite. I have the hardest time self-editing, and I go “book blind” fairly quickly in the process. I start by… well, I edit as I draft because I can’t keep everything straight in my head that I need to fix if I wait until I finish drafting. So, I don’t truly zero draft. Then I’ll do a read through and edit, rewriting as I need and fleshing out scenes. Then I’ll do a second pass edit where I clean up any loose ends that I find, and I pass it off to my CPs or an editor. It’s not until I get comments back that I do another pass to incorporate input from readers. Then I do another read through and clean up everything, only to send it out to CPs or an editor again. Then there’s another pass, and finally a pass using the Read Aloud feature on Word to make sure that the pacing of each sentence is where I want it. Only then will I push to publish.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I was really really really clueless, honestly. I only have the editing process that I mentioned above because I have gotten to work with a small press and a wonderful editor. I was having a hard time selling my first published book Erebus Dawning, and when I finally got some interest, they told me that they wanted me to edit the first act of the book heavily. Some people balk at that thought, cutting 10,000 words and moving the inciting incident forward. But I really didn’t know how to structure my books and the advice to move the inciting incident forward was invaluable. After that, I now have an easier time understanding the structure of my books.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I don’t tend to spend money as a writer. I’ve bought some Facebook/Instagram ads. I’ve done a book tour thing. I’ve done several things that helped sell the book but it was only a little, and generally didn’t move the needle much in terms of sales. In terms of sales, what did work was a BookBub Featured Book ad. But even the foundation of the book, the editors, helped me to create a much more solid product. But both of those were paid by my publisher… but actually. There’s a lie in there. I did spend money on something tht helps me as a writer. My writing spaces. I have an outdoor cabana-like writing space that is beautiful in the warmer months. I also have an indoor writing space, dubbed the nerd room, for the colder months. We did spend quite a bit of money putting those two spaces together, and got a decent tax write-off for the spaces too since I work from home. I love my writing spaces, and it’s definitely worth spending the money on yourself so that you can be comfortable spending long hours in front of… er… whatever you write with.
Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?
I am traditionally published. If you’ve read the questions above, I’m sure you’ll have figured that out by now. Aethon Books is the publisher of my first trilogy, and I hope to find a new home for my next duology.
What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
The ASCII code for an asterisk is the answer—in other words, the number 42. (Something I learned from my tech-savvy spouse.) But seriously. The answer to life is persistence. Everything sucks at some point, life is hard. The publishing industry is harder, and getting worse by the day. The only way you get through the difficult stuff is to be persistent. I may not be getting the things I want now, and I may never, but adjusting expectations is what life is all about. In order to do that, I have to keep going to see what’s around the corner. I’m not prescient, and I can’t see the future… until I actually get there… And I want to get there. The future holds hope because we can’t see what’s coming. And being persisitent and pushing forward, one baby step at a time, is all I need to do.
What does literary success look like to you?
Being able to continue writing. I know this looks sooooo different to different people. But I really enjoy writing, and even if I have to set a book aside for a bit because I either wasn’t able to find an agent for it, or able to find a publisher for it, I love going on to the next project. Continuing to write, despite all the things that stop me in this industry and in life, is what success is to me.
What do you have coming next?
I always have a project on, but in terms of publishing, I’ve got Queen of the Black, the final book in my Seven Stars Saga trilogy, coming some time at the end of the year or beginning of next from Aethon Books. I’m also searching for a home for my inverse alien invasion morality story inspired by my spouse’s obsession with the Metroid universe; but we’ll see if anyone loves it as much as I do. Beyond that, I’ll just continue to write more.
Excerpt from Queen of the Black
Nyx strode down the corridor towards the command deck of the Kokou II. Shadows bounced on the walls, and boots pounded all around her. The inevitable overload due to the fire in the passage made the lights flash, and everything smelled of ozone. If someone was paying attention to the flame engulfed decks, she would never have guessed it. The fire licked the sides of the hall, smoke pouring from the seamless panels as they bubbled and melted away. Panels from the ceiling fell, and cables came loose, sparking blue above her.
She would kill the murderer Jaymes Boucher if it was the last thing she did. And the only way to do that was to confront the ex-Queensman on the bridge of the ship Boucher and her cohorts had absconded with.
Nyx slapped the door pad. It glowed red. Locked.
She grimaced, a sense of déjà vu passing over her. This could have been the start of her journey with Erebus; she had physically rewired the locked panel on the Thanatos many months ago during her search for the Star of Erebus. She couldn’t believe how short a time ago it was when she had thought the Star would be world-killing tech instead of an all-pervasive AI. Ever since Erebus had allowed herself to be infected by Nyx’s blood, then taken over so many ships with the power to absorb and control technology, it had been so easy to bypass the physical rewiring of any doors for Nyx.
Erebus herself had activated the AI in Nyx’s blood during an accident on the Thanatos, which had been commandeered from Matthews. That was after Malcam had taken the opening to stage a fake mutiny against Nyx’s father on the Medusa.Kai, her ex-fiancé, had commanded the Thanatos for a very brief time after her father’s ship was lost. And once her father had died, Nyx had never looked back. She took the path of strength—turning herself into the central idol of a cult, liberating prisoners from an asteroid mine, and raising an army.
But she hated some of the choices she had made. To upload Yoon’s consciousness. To have to take over Erebus’ emerald code whirling through the Kokou II’s technology and tech all over the universe. Whenever Nyx manipulated her sibling Star’s code, she inhabited Erebus. It meant taking over a part of her sister—the only one of her seven siblings who showed her any support. But Nyx would do it if she must. She had to reach Boucher on the command deck.
The rogue Queensman’s recent attempts at a coup, attacking Navy supply lines, was a nuisance. She made it easy for Nyx to find her through Erebus’ code, easy to plan the ambush that would capture the Kokou II—that would capture Boucher. It was enough that the ex-Queensman had already tried to displace Phoebe as Queen of the Protectorate in an early coup d’état with the African Continental Governance and the North American Union. Boucher wouldn’t get a chance to usurp Nyx as well—especially after she had murdered the man Nyx loved.