This is the first Word Slinger I’ve done in a very long time and A.J. has been wonderfully patient in my delays. I discovered A.J. when I downloaded her novel Unintentional Virgin and I loved her characters and couldn’t wait to read more of her novels. She blew me away when I found her writing to be incredibly varied and her next two novels to be worlds different; showing her ability to write with an incredible amount of depth and understanding about the human condition. You may find yourself with whiplash moving between her first novel to her second and third books, but the ability for an author to be so versatile is amazing, whether or not it’s your taste. Please, come and meet this Indie Word Slinger! May I introduce, Ms. A.J. Bennett.
A.J. Bennett on A.J. Bennett:
Ah these things are always so hard for me to write. I’m not a fan of talking about myself. Add into the mix that A.J. Bennett is a pseudonym, and it becomes even more difficult. I could spin a tale about how exciting I am in real life–a thrill seeker, perhaps? In reality, I’m pretty laid back and enjoy being in nature, writing, reading and drinking coffee or tea. You can also catch me drenched in sweat at hot yoga or trying to clear out the house, so I can meditate in quiet. I also write young adult books under a different name, but because of the sexual nature of A.J. Bennett’s New Adult books, I’ve chosen to keep the two separate. I love the New Adult genre because the lines are blurred. You can write about emotional issues most people have gone through and spice it up with steamy sex scenes that are frowned upon in the YA genre. We all make mistakes and hopefully can learn from them. People are flawed; it’s a fact of life. I like to explore those flaws and hopefully find a happy ending. So far under A.J. Bennett I’ve only written contemporary novels, but I’m about to dig into a new adult Paranormal about witches in college. I love anything paranormal. Add in a bit of magick, and anything is possible!
A Little More About A.J.:
What does it mean to you to be an Indie Author? Are you an Indie Author by choice or do you wish to be picked up by a larger more established publisher?
I went indie by choice. Would I like to be picked by a big publisher? Sure, I’d love to see my books in the bookstore. That’s the only downfall to being indie, chances of getting your book in BN are slim to none. Even with that said. I LOVE being indie. I have so much control over my books.
What is the hardest part in the creative, development, or marketing process for you in getting your novel finished and out there for readers to buy since you are doing it as an Independent Author?
I think marketing is the hardest part. It’s hard for new authors to get noticed.
What got you to write and publish your first book?
A.J. is a pen name. I’m also published as a YA author. I love the idea of the NA craze, but I didn’t want my YA name to be associated with it. I have too many young readers. Writing NA is so much fun because there really aren’t any boundaries.
In Unintentional Virgin your heroine, Karma, goes to a bar in search of a guy to unburden her of her pesky V-card. Instead she meets an honorable guy who wants to show her that not only is her first time special–so is she. Karma’s character and story is so drastically different than the Alexander sisters in Now or Never and Truth or Dare, who are both viciously self destructive and pitifully lost. The stories feel like they were written by two different authors; can you explain the polarization in your writing?
That’s a great question. I wondered if people would think that. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love how raw the twins stories were, but I wanted to write something fun and sweet with Unintentional Virgin. My taste is all over. My next serial is going to be NA Paranormal Romance. I guess I’m just experimenting in the NA genre.
In all three of your stories is an underlying theme of supernatural, occult, new age, mythology or psychic phenomena–I list all of that not because they all apply but because I’m sure one of those words could apply to what is in there. Do you write each story within a specific theme?
Hmm, yeah I think that comes across because of my own personal beliefs. I think we all have intuition, otherwise known as psychic abilities. I don’t want to get too out there, but I think the Universe brings people together. I believe that everyone we cross paths with is for a reason. I truly believe in soul mates. I’m not sure I can write without those themes entering one way or another.
In Truth or Dare there is a very interesting throwaway conversation about mythology between Hunter and Luna regarding soulmates toward the end of the novella. I found it very interesting considering I had been wondering about the significance of the names of the two characters throughout the book. Luna = Artemis who is goddess of the hunt = Hunter being the hero. Artemis is a twin–an older twin, although not to a sister, but to the god of war, Apollo. Apollo was often considered to be a prophet… which Grayson’s ability to sense tragedy could be considered a bit of as well. Leto, like Luna and Gray’s own mother was separated from Artemis and Apollo’s sperm donor–Zeus. Leto later becomes the figure of the mother goddess to many cults throughout history. (I was a Classical Studies and Western Civ major) Were you consciously lining these mythological figures up with your characters or was this an uncanny happy coincidence?
Can I just say, I love you! I have to admit I did not think as deeply as you did into the mythology. But it was definitely the basis of where I was coming from. I’m so impressed that you linked all of that together.
When creating a love story what do you feel is the most important elements for it’s foundation? Do you feel that there is (are) a historical model(s) or example(s) that modern romances are based upon?
I’m loving your questions. For me, the most important element is flaws. People in general are screwed up. Perfect lives don’t exist. We all had moments in our lives that have defined who we are today. Some of them good some horrible. But what I do think it is possible is finding someone that you fit with. Someone that loves you despite your flaws.
I’m not really sure what I think on the last question. Romance really hasn’t changed much over the years. We change the characters names and settings but at the end of the day, it’s a tragedy or a fairytale.
In each of the three novels you have written there is a bit of a lightning bolt moment between the two main characters when they first set eyes on one another–instant chemistry. Is this something that you use as a plot point because you wish love worked like this or something you believe in?
I believe that souls recognize each other instantly. Haven’t you ever met someone and your heart dropped? Or meet a friend and clicked right away? I certainly believe in chemistry.
Derrick and Hunter are the strong, no-poop, alpha, military men. Because the two novellas are so short there isn’t a lot of time to really fill them out and a great deal of time is spent on the inner hell and declining mental state of Gray and Luna. Would Now or Never and Truth or Dare have worked better as full novels? Or do you feel that having the men be a little mysterious works for the romance as it is?
Hmm, I think it could have gone either way. I do think the shorter lengths leave people wondering and wanting more. Which can be good or bad. Sometimes a shorter read is just want someone wants. I really try to avoid the fluff and stay with the meat of the story.
Unintentional Virgin has a lot of action packed into it’s pages. Jax and Karma spend all their time doing things and the novel is very fast paced. Now or Never is similar for another reason–it’s not that Gray and Derrick are always doing something, but because Gray is a maelstrom of chaos. Truth or Dare felt very different to me. Luna should have had the same upbeat and speedy flowing story as Gray but it felt tentative. It actually took me longer to read. What would you say was different about Truth or Dare as opposed to the other two novellas?
When I started Luna, I was thinking it would be fun to write about her wild personality. But as soon as I started the story, I knew there was an underlying reason for her reckless ways. I wanted to show that people often put on a facade to make it through the day. I know people expected a different story from her. So did I…
The Alexander sister stories are more gritty, ugly and realistic than many other NA novels out there. I know that many of the situations in the novels will put many readers off because they aren’t flowers, chocolates, rainbows and unicorn poop. Do you feel that these relationships are ultimate HEAs? Do you think these could be healthy relationships?
It’s really hit or miss with the sisters. People love or hate them. I think Derrick and Grayson had their work cut out for them. Their relationship did not start in a good place for either of them. And it really could have gone either way. I really think the only thing that saved their relationship was Derrick’s near death. It was a wake up call. The way they were treating each other was toxic. Because they were able to step back and say we’re screwed up. We either have to really try or walk away. Neither one of them was a bad person they just had their priorities jacked up and their armor on trying to avoid getting hurt.
I don’t think Luna and Hunter were quite as messed up and their story seemed realistic to me. Trusting is hard. Allowing someone the ability to rip your soul out is scary. It’s not all flowers and glitter.
If you were to review each of your books what would you have to say about them? Tell me what you feel are the strong and the weak parts about your novel? In hindsight is there anything that you might have changed?
I’m a really bad reviewer. My hat goes off to all the bloggers and reviewers that have that ability to condense the story down and put into words what they loved and disliked in stories.
I try not to sit back and analyze the story after it’s been released. Or I’d drive myself crazy. At first I was concerned because a lot of people were having issues with Grayson’s lifestyle. What I found interesting was that they were okay with Luna being worse than her (because she was a free spirit). But at the same time I was getting countless emails from readers saying they loved Grayson’s story. They loved how raw and gritty it was. As a reader myself I know not everyone is going to love the same book. It’s reality.
As far as changes? I’d probably make them longer, but keep the grittiness intact.
Do you have a favorite Indie Author? Could you recommend a book(s) by this author?
I love Ella James. There are so many indies out there that are amazing I feel bad just saying one. There’s also Lizzy Ford, Cambria Herbert and many more.
Thanks for being a Word Slinger!
A.J. Bennett Web Tracks:
A.J. Bennett Books:
Unintentional Virgin Synopsis:
Karma Points is cursed. Cursed with a stupid name and the inability to lose her virginity. She’s on a mission to lose her virginity before she turns twenty if it’s the last thing she does.
One night, her good friend Eva brings her to an underground club where Karma meets a tattooed bouncer. He’s far from the clean-cut type she normally falls for, which makes her think this finally might be the night she crosses the threshold of womanhood.
Excited, she goes home with the bouncer named Jax and as always, her dreams crash down once again. Jax cannot believe she is willing to give away her virginity to a stranger she met at a club. As the only son with five sisters and a widowed mom, he can’t morally go through with it, even though he’s never been more tempted in his life.
Unwilling to let her walk away he strikes a deal. Karma has to spend three weeks dating him and then decide if she wants to have sex or walk away.
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Truth or Dare Synopsis: Luna Alexander has always been a ‘free spirit’ and lived by her own rules, consequences be damned. With the approach of an anniversary she’d rather forget, Luna starts to wonder if there’s more to life than partying and hooking up with hot guys. A chance meeting with a dark knight knocks her off kilter and has her emotions spinning out of control. Will she finally overcome her past for a chance at happiness, or will she hide behind the walls she’s built around her?
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Now or Never Synopsis: Twenty-one year old Grayson Alexander finally breaks away from an abusive relationship and finds herself free for the first time in three years. Determined to enjoy her new-found freedom, Grayson is intent on sticking with ‘no strings attached’ relationships—one-night stands, and steamy sex. But she didn’t plan on Derrick. Her attraction to the sexy man in uniform quickly turns into an unhealthy relationship. They both try to resist the pull, but neither can stay away. When tragedy strikes, Grayson realizes it’s now or never—walk away or make it work.
Purchase Now or Never:
Hired Gun Synopsis: Hired Gun is a serial novel. Approximately 15k words. *18+ due to sex scenes and language.
Tall, dark, and sexy as hell, Thorne Hollow knows the power he holds over the opposite sex and how to use it.
Cast out by the gods thousands of years ago, he roams the earth working as an assassin for The Sicarii, a secret society who protects humans from all of the things that go bump in the night.
Long ago, Thorne made the mistake of falling in love with a human, and her death stripped him bare. Now he is destined to live a life of solitude. One night stands are his way of life … until he meets a mysterious woman whose intriguing power compels him to uncover more about her and the strange magic she wields.
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