Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, A.J..
AJ: I’m looking forward to answering your questions. I love your site!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
AJ: I’m Brazilian. I live in São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil. Besides writing fiction, I work as a freelance translator. I translate books from English and French into Portuguese. All kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. I’m also doing a Master’s degree in English language and translation.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
AJ: I published two poetry books along with two friends many years ago, but I think I’d rather talk about my first gay romance, Clippings. When I finished translating Clippings into English, in March 2008, I submitted it to an American publisher (a “paper” publisher, not an e-publisher). After about four months, I received a thoughtful rejection letter saying that they had liked my book, but that, in a time when the economy truly is a major concern, most readers wouldn’t want to read a prison story; they would want something lighter, to escape their problems and worries. Because I’m also studying for my Master’s degree, I knew I wasn’t going to have much time to devote to my book in the last months of 2009, so I decided to self-publish it immediately, instead of submitting it to any other publisher. So I ended up publishing Clippings about seven months after I finished writing it.
When did you start writing gay fiction? What about this genre interested you the most?
AJ: I started writing slash fanfiction about seven years ago. Writing original gay fiction was a natural development. I like writing gay romance because it allows me to explore gender roles more freely. I dislike the woman passive/man active stereotype, for instance. Of course you can write hetero romances with non-stereotyped gender roles and dynamics, too, and I’m trying to do that right now, but it’s more difficult, because many of those stereotypes are deeply ingrained in society.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
AJ: I self-published my first novel seven months after I finished translating it into English. I’ve just finished writing a second novel, in Portuguese. It’s a mystery and fantasy novel. I haven’t decided if I’m going to translate it into English yet.
Do you write full time?
AJ: No. I translate books, do academic research and have a personal life, too!
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
AJ: I believe the profession chose me. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old! Seriously.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
AJ: Oh, it depends. I write whenever I feel inspired. When I’m not inspired, I research or edit what I have already written.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
AJ: I write very fast, and I stop at about every 10,000 words to revise. But sometimes, when I find some plot problem or feel that I have to change something, I stop and revise everything from the beginning.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
AJ: I make a plan before I start writing. But it’s not a very detailed plan, otherwise writing wouldn’t be much fun. I like to surprise myself sometimes!
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
AJ: Oh, I do tons of research all the time. I research every detail. I’m obsessed. And I love researching. Before I started writing Clippings, I did thorough research on Brazilian prisons. I read more than 15 books on prisons.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
AJ: My characters are mainly based on myself and the people I know, but none of my characters is exactly like me, or like someone I know. When I start writing a character, s/he tends to be a bit stereotypical, but as the story develops, the protagonists become more individualized, sometimes to such a point that they refuse to do what I had planned for them!
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
AJ: It depends on the book. I revise as I go along. I only allow other people to read anything I’ve written when I consider it finished, in that I don’t know what else to do to improve it. Then I know it’s time to ask other people’s opinion.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
AJ: I have never experienced writer’s block. When I don’t feel like writing, I don’t write. I don’t think this is a problem. I only write when I feel like it.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
AJ: Oh, I hope they feel curious and interested, and then surprised. If I don’t surprise my readers, or if I don’t give them food for thought, I believe I’ve failed completely.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
AJ: 1) The story you want to tell is more important than writing rules. Break the rules, if you feel that this is necessary. (AMEN to number one!!!)
2) Every reader has different tastes and seeks different things from books. You can’t please everyone.
3) Promoting your book is part of the process. And it takes a lot of time!
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
AJ: I’m not good with titles. It tends to be the last thing that I decide, after the book is written.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
AJ: I laugh all the time, about the silliest things. But when it comes to books and movies, I like irony, sarcasm and nonsense humor. For instance, I love Monty Python’s kind of humor.
What is the most frequently asked A.J. question?
AJ: After I published Clippings, many people asked me if Brazilian prisons were really like the one I depicted. (Unfortunately, I had to answer that they are even worse, and that most of the problems I described happen in many other countries, too.)
What are you working on now?
AJ: I’ve finished writing a mystery and fantasy story, and now I’m editing it.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
AJ: That I should pay attention to the environment, to where the characters are, and what they are doing. The easiest way to do it is by visualizing every scene.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
AJ: As I self-published my first romance, I had to do all the promotion by myself. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned not to be shy… I’ve sent my book to many review sites, and I’ve joined many social networking sites.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
AJ: I read a lot, and research a lot. I have new ideas all the time, and I’m always taking notes.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
AJ: It’s a fascinating process. It’s clear now that e-publishing is the future. The pros: e-books are instantly available, and you can take them everywhere. The cons: piracy is a problem that the book industry will have to solve. And if you’re like me, you’ll miss paper books. There’s nothing like the feel, the smell, the texture of a book.
What kind of books do you like to read?
AJ: I’m an eclectic reader. I like the classics, mystery, fantasy, history, philosophy, biographies… I’m omnivorous!
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
AJ: A translator. But you may think I’m cheating, because a translator is a writer, too. If I weren’t a translator, I’d be a researcher.
I recently read your novel Clippings. Where did you get the idea for that story?
AJ: I enjoy stories where a forced relationship gradually evolves into something more complex and consensual. As I didn’t feel like writing a fantasy story, I had to use real-life circumstances that forced my characters to be together. A prison story was the natural choice.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
AJ: I love the cover of Clippings. It’s a delicate, evocative work. My friend Korekan created the amazing art, and my friend Morgan D. designed a beautiful cover to go with it.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
AJ: I like reading books, doing academic research and watching movies.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
AJ: When I finish editing my mystery story, I’ll try to publish it in Brazil. Depending on the responses I get, I’ll decide whether I’m going to translate it into English or not.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
AJ: Write what you feel like writing. No one can write your story except you!
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?