Author Spotlight: A.J. Aalto

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "Touched" by A.J. Aalto.  I have been staying up to all sorts of odd hours getting into the rest of this series.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share.  Cheers!

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

AJ:  Harry (Lord Guy Harrick Dreppenstedt) is a blast to write.  I have 400+ years of history to march him through, a million obscure words and phrases to play with, little forgotten traditional quirks, and a mind that is entrenched in the old fashioned but flexible enough to make allowances to the modern where it suits him best. Don’t get me started on the fashion.  Harry is an absolute dandy and a true hedonist who devotes much of his time to visual and sensual pleasures.  Wherever you find Lord Dreppenstedt, you will find an excess of luxury.  Doing the kind of research that leads me to discover the softest silks or the most expensive cashmere on the planet is so much fun. Trying to fathom different pieces of wardrobe from four centuries of fashion is certainly eye-opening as well. This is all before the world-building involved in the history of immortals and revenants in particular, their culture and practices, the fictional science of their bodies.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

AJ: Nothing scares me more than real monsters, and I love being scared.  “I Have Lived in the Monster” by Robert K. Ressler is terrifying. But I’m also plugging my way through the “Diary of Samuel Pepys”, and I love every word of it. I’m going to re-read it a hundred times. I’m so nosy, and this is someone’s private diary. HELLO. Also, he’s a total perv, and kind of a jerk. I like jerks.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

AJ:  “The Winter King” by Bernard Cornwell, “The Stand” by Stephen King, “Furies of Calderon” by Jim Butcher.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?  Is anything inspired by real-life or do you typically let your imagination run wild?

AJ:  Oh, sadly most of Marnie’s antics aren’t too far removed from true events. I’ve had a few critics claim that a scientist like Marnie couldn’t possibly do the dumb stuff she does. Well, I’m living proof that’s not so. I have very smart friends with whom I do truly ridiculous shit, and we laugh about it, and then I write it down and throw in a monster or two. They’re a goldmine of material. My sister, in particular, is a disaster. Spoiler alert: ambushing a Big Bad with a paintball gun in the dark to expose him/her? That’s all her.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

AJ: I have a very comfortable home office where I’m surrounded by books and silence, and that’s great for the most part, but I get a lot of my best ideas when I’m driving, or in the shower, or eating breakfast in a coffee shop surrounded by noise.  I find that most of the writing gets done in my head long before I sit down in my office.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

AJ: Feedback is amazing, both positive and negative. Knowing that a reader felt something strongly enough to reach out to me and let me know is absolutely priceless.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

AJ: Habit is crucial. I’m not the first writer to advise this: write often, every day if possible. I don’t mean hours and hours. Few people can devote that kind of time, especially in the beginning. Give yourself the gift of a half hour in the morning. Make it sacred, precious. Guard it. Set your alarm, park your butt in your chair, and then focus on your characters for thirty minutes before you would have normally started your day. The more often you do it, the easier it will become. You’ll get hungry for more time, and you’ll carve it out. Writing an entire novel is only the first part of being an author of a completed work. Editing, networking, marketing, this all requires time. But first things first: form that habit. I get up at 4 A.M. every single day (unless I’m ill). I have a coffee maker right on my desk, my notes laid out the night before, the music ready, and I know I have three full hours to devote before my kids get up for school. Those three hours are precious to me, and I use them as often as I can because I’m never sure if life will intrude on and off for the rest of the day. I’ll say it again: habit. Habit, habit, habit.

MTG: I saw on your website you’ve recently taken the jump to being a full-time writer.  I’m sure that transition can be difficult.  Anything you love/hate about the new lifestyle? 

AJ: I didn’t expect it to be quite so lonely. I miss my coworkers and grownup chitchat. I miss having a reason to put on a bra. I am naturally inclined to be a hermit, but this is a bit more hermit-y (is that a word? It is now...) than I’d expected.

MTG: What’s the story behind “stalking your eye doctor” from your bio? 

AJ:  For the last five years or so, my eyesight has been changing rather more rapidly than it should be. I feel like my poor eye doctor is probably sick of seeing my car swing into the parking lot again and again. At least he smells like cinnamon Tic-Tacs when he gives me bad news every other week. I’m just going to move in with him. Maybe put a tent in his back yard, make a fire, roast some wienies. It’ll be fun times until the police take me away.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

AJ: My first paid job was cleaning a church and parish hall with my grandmother. While she shined the brass railings, I’d go over and mop the hall floors. It was a bright, warm, wide place to be, but it was terrifying in there. I always felt like I wasn’t alone, like I was being watched, like any second something was going to appear. There were no dark corners, no shadowy areas, but the feeling only left me when I dumped my dirty water and got out of that building. I’d tell my grandmother, and she’d tell me I was silly, and laugh; her laugh sounded like Winnie the Pooh and always made me feel better.

As for likes, I recently became a vegetarian for the sole reason that I wanted to be able to eat potatoes again without feeling guilty. I will eat potatoes in any way: mashed, boiled, fried, French fried, in soup, in salad, baked... I’ve never eaten a raw potato, but if I had to, I probably could. I also like anything French. I am a giant Francophile.

And to unwind, I play World of Warcraft. I like to go into battlegrounds and whomp people in PVP. I often get my ass handed to me because I can’t devote as much time as I’d like to gearing up my characters, but I’ve been playing long enough that my game-play knowledge can sometimes compensate for my lower stats. When life is stressing me out, I guess you could say I kill people. Heh heh.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

AJ: I’m currently halfway through writing the fourth full-length novel in the Marnie Baranuik Files, called “Wrath & Bones”. With Marnie taking her team abroad on an international mission, it’s been the most fun to write so far. 

Author Bio:

A.J. Aalto is the author of the paranormal mystery series The Marnie Baranuik Files. Aalto is an unrepentant liar and a writer of blathering nonsense offset by factual gore. When not working on her novels, you can find her singing Monty Python songs in the shower, eavesdropping on perfect strangers, stalking her eye doctor, or failing at one of her fruitless hobbies. Generally a fan of anyone with a passion for the ridiculous, she has a weak spot for smug pseudo-intellectuals and narcissistic jerks; readers will find her work littered with flawed monsters and oodles of snark.

AJ cannot say no to a Snickers bar and has been known to swallow her gum.


A big thanks AJ and Enchanted Book Promotions for making this possible!