Interview with AJ Watson

When did you first start writing?
In Primary school we had an assignment in English class for creative writing. It was a one page story that was meant to test our grasp of the written word. I barely remember what I wrote but remember thinking it was complete rubbish.
Another creative assignment in Secondary school was only a little better, but I do remember the plot quite well. It was unpolished and had no speaking parts, mainly because I hated how I wrote conversations and felt it best to avoid the issue. But I liked the idea and it always stayed with me. I eventually re-purposed it, with major revisions, and its now safely tucked inside The Elemental Progeny in a form I can be proud of.
What started me on the path to actually thinking I could write a novel was role playing games like D&D. I was constantly running the games and concocting stories, but lots of plot threads went undeveloped because of in game character death or the players choosing to turn left instead of right. I felt the unplayed plot threads deserved life, and began formulating a plot for a novel. My notes for The Elemental Progeny were far different from the result and I only planned on it being a single novel. But as the story evolved it was clear it couldn't be contained in one book.
Everything else sprung from there. I now have the outlines for three individual series based in the Void War universe I created for the Gatekeeper trilogy and I don't intend to stop there.
What do you read for pleasure?
I generally stick with fantasy, sci fi, horror and thrillers. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Richard Laymon moulded my love for books as I consumed everything of theirs I could get my hands on.
Between finding a new book from these authors, I jumped into the likes of Tolkien, Raymond E Feist and David Eddings.
They only heightened my love of books as I expanded my preferred author list, selecting a new author almost at random from my mail order book club (it was difficult to fulfil the 5 books per month minimum with only 6 authors). I've added Kim Harrison, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks and HP Lovecraft to name a few.
I'm currently reading The Immortal Gene series by Jacinta Maree.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm never truly not writing. The writing process begins with an idea, and they are always churning.
I enjoy playing video games, but even while I'm tossing cars around the map or shooting aliens, I'm absorbing how the story is being told. If I'm having a pacing problem in my novel I can often solve it by seeing how other people have handled it in TV, movies, other books and games.
When I'm running D&D or another role playing game I can use the system to play test my stories. My friends will quickly find plot holes and exploit them. Even when I am playing a single character, I can get in their mindset and react to the situation as that character rather than as myself. This all helps to create believable characters in my writing.
When I'm studying or teaching martial arts, I am adding skills I can tap into for writing. Knowing how to defend an attack, either from a kick or a sword blow, I can figure out how a combat scene should play out in reality (or a version of it anyway).
Even when sleeping my mind pumps out ideas. Many a dream has been incorporated into a plot or two, and has often solved an issue of how to move a plot forward.
When painting miniatures I create a history for the model. It allows me to figure out how to paint it. I may never use the story but it exercises my creative skills.
I also enjoy my garden, and while I don't create histories for each plant, I do lose myself in thoughts about what scenes can play out if my row of flowers were as tall as oaks. Or how you would build a city into the side of the compost heap.
It sounds like I'm obsessed with writing, and maybe I am, but all of this simply serves to add inspiration from every source I can think of. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Describe your desk
Its a mess. Papers strewn about, unwanted CDs used as coasters, small figures to adorn my monitor stand. R2D2 sits proudly next to Batman, the TARDIS and a Halo warthog. A talking Stewie Griffin spouts off insults whenever I knock the desk.
A couple of photos of my wife watch transfixed as they house my pen collection. The desk juts up against a window overlooking my side garden, while posters and action figures adorn the walls. A whiteboard screwed into the wall within easy reach of the desk is adorned with notes about plot points, character thoughts and scene ideas I'd like to include.
There are plenty of things to procrastinate with, but they also serve as inspiration.
What is your writing process?
I don't really have one. Every time I sit down to write I do it differently. Because I have a full time job I am currently unable to spend all day writing (though I did have three months off work and did exactly that - good times). I simply figure plot details out during the week and jot down anything specific that comes to mind, about any story not just my current project.
This basically ensures that when Sunday comes around (my dedicated writing day), I always have something to write. If I can't think of anything for the primary story I am working on, I whip out a short story or synopsis I had shelved and pour my inspiration into that.
For my first novel, I created several plot points that I wanted to achieve to tell my tale. These were mainly scenes that progressed the overall plot. I then spent my time writing trying to figure out how to get from one to the next. Once those two immediate scenes where joined, I figured out how to move to the next one. It worked fairly well considering it took about three years to complete. Having the key plot points mapped helped keep the story together when I had large breaks (at this time I didn't have a dedicated day to write).

For book 2 in the Gatekeeper trilogy I started in a similar manner, but instead created a synopsis of sorts for every chapter. Once I got to the end I went back and fleshed everything out. I added things here and there, and modified future chapters based on new ideas but essentially had everything worked out before starting. It worked OK but I found it hard to get into writing it as I'd already written and thought about everything well in advance. This method won't be used by me again.

For the final book in the trilogy I added plot ideas as they came to me when writing books 1 and 2. The book served to tie up loose ends (and make a few of its own) so I needed to know what needed tying off and how I originally intended to do that. Things changed when writing but the points were covered. The plot was all over the place in no particular order. This was the book I spent two solid months writing when I was on 'holiday'. Each day I read the plot points that needed to be covered and decided if they were needed now or later in the story. I formulated the plot as I went, often not knowing where it would end up. It didn't matter as long as I enjoyed the characters and included the plot points I needed.

For my new series, The Inquisitor Qyr Chronicles, I have created a setting and started with creating characters to populate it. I have an overarching story for the entire series, and am inserting other plots as I go along. The main story won't be fully told until the series end (could be anywhere from 3 books to 7) but it tells the tale of the protagonists. I only know the key plot points for the overall story and am simply writing events as they come to me. This method has created some surprises for me, all of them good. For now this is how I am writing but I may change it in the future.

My writing style is evolving and each book is its own beast. Sticking to a single process is too rigid and may actually hinder creativity. I enjoy changing my system for what works to develop the current novel.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Whatever device I have at the time. I currently use my Lenovo Yoga Book with either the Kindle app or Aldiko. I also use this to jot down ideas and scrawl out picture ideas for covers, or lay out a scene with stick figures.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
This is hard to pin down. I really enjoy watching my wife read my latest concoction. When she laughs, or cries, or gets excited I know I have her hooked. I do begin to annoy her however when asking what part she is up to so I know where I have done right. My advice for other authors doing it this way: wait until they stop reading and then discuss the book. If your chosen test reader can't put the book down to talk about it, great. Don't interrupt their flow.
Another thoroughly enjoyable aspect is when I tackle the second draft. Taking the advice of Stephen King, after I've finished the first draft I don't look at it for at least six weeks. It gives my mind time to forget specific details. When I go through the draft I am constantly surprised at what my mind came up with. Often I read a section and think I need to add something extra, only to find that something a paragraph or a page later. I may need to change the position to intensify suspense, or make a scene more succinct, but it feels great to know I've already covered the angles and can get down to ensuring the read is enjoyable.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't specifically recall the first story I read, but my parents encouraged me to read as much as possible from an early age. My primary school library had a large collection of Asterix books and I scrambled with my friends to read the entire collection first. The first book I owned was a Robin Hood story received as a gift. That was soon followed by a heavily condensed collection of horror stories such as Frankenstein and Dracula, though I didn't realise the heavy edit at the time. That book contained five stories and was shorter than the original Dracula. The story told though was closer to a detailed summary.
I got hooked on Doctor Who (the Tom Baker years) but since it aired the same time as the nightly news I often missed episodes. To combat that I delved into the novels from the local library. They were less than 150 pages but that was plenty for my young mind. When I started high school I remember thinking I wanted to start reading "proper" books and found The Hobbit. I read the first two chapters and returned it to the library thinking it wasn't very good. For the next few years I didn't read much more than Doctor Who but picked up Tolkien again towards the end of high school thanks to the urging of a friend. It sucked me in far easier than it had before. My tastes had evolved and I found myself enjoying stories I thought stupid before. I discovered the full version of Dracula and it started my love affair with the horror genre. That brought me towards Stephen King's Skeleton Crew.
A birthday gift from a friend of Raymond E Feist's Prince of the Blood got me into fantasy. Some of the people and events were confusing since I hadn't read the previous books. I solved that problem quickly and eventually re-read Prince of the Blood in the correct order making it far more enjoyable.
Every time I delved into a new genre or author my thinking changed. I really enjoy horror, thriller, Sci-fi, adventure and fantasy and their influence is added into my own stories. Trying a new genre or author felt like a gamble to my teenage mind, considering the library didn't have all the books I wanted necessitating a purchase. A new Stephen King was a known good read, but Dragon Tears by this Koontz guy on the shelf next to him was unknown. If friends didn't initially open my mind to taking the gamble, I would have missed out on some awesome stories.
So while my first story wasn't memorable, the first story in a new genre or by a new author fuelled my passion and shaped how I thought a good story develops.
How do you approach cover design?
Most of the time I have an idea about the major theme of the story and think of a scene to illustrate that. They are usually conceptual and don't actually appear in the book. If there are unusual creatures important to the tale I will aim to have them on the cover to give the reader an idea of their looks.
Other times I think of how the movie poster would look and think of a concept to match.
From there I give my details to my illustrator Arthur Strickland, who also happens to be a great friend. He moulds the concept into something feasible. Everytime he has created something different from my idea, but still fit the overall concept. His adjustments have always worked for the better.
Published 2017-12-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Overweight to Fighting Weight
Price: $4.26 USD. Words: 31,140. Language: English. Published: December 6, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Dieting, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
Looking to lose weight but everything has failed? Discover the physical and mental aspects of becoming much healthier, written by someone that dropped 80kg! This book teaches you how to: understand weight issues; set goals; improve motivation; boost willpower; structure exercise; decode nutrition labels; and become your best. Benefit from AJ's struggle out of poor health and grab your copy today.
Void War: The Keeper of Sin
Series: The Gatekeeper Trilogy. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 93,140. Language: English. Published: October 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Ral, struggling to maintain undivided loyalty to S.I.N, must forge new alliances to gain victory in the Void War. Winning support from the Keepers, a group tapped into a power more potent than the Elements, means sacrificing much he holds dear. Their abilities could hold the key to victory, however his quest threatens to reveal a secret the Selig would do anything to keep hidden.
Void War: The Shroud of the Gods
Series: The Gatekeeper Trilogy, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 84,180. Language: English. Published: March 25, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Yana, driven to vengeance after extended pursuit ends in anguish, propels headlong after her obscured foes into a civil war. Her reliance on strength and disdain for elementalists strain new alliances, pushing her to breaking. Meanwhile Mason seeks answers regarding his tattered memories, a path at odds with Yana that culminates in a struggle for supremacy that could alter the Void War's course.
Void War: The Elemental Progeny
Series: The Gatekeeper Trilogy, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,570. Language: English. Published: September 27, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Velus, an abused slave, escapes captivity when a hostile force attacks his master's estate. Propelled into a world beyond his reckoning, Velus is saved from his naivety by a trio hunting a relic thief. The pursuit takes them into a world beyond their imagining, where they must confront their destiny and prevent a catastrophe that threatens all life in the universe.