First Shift (The Wolves of Rock Falls Book 1)
AJ Skelly is a wife, Stay-at-Home Mom, homeschooler, former teacher, and slightly crazed, eternally tired creative. Her debut YA release, First Shift, has already made Amazon Best Seller lists, and the I Smell Books subscription box has featured it as their YA title for March! Flickerwix candles has even created an exclusive Wolves of Rock Falls candle collection!
What drives you to write?
Honestly, I write because I love it. I’ve always loved writing, making up stories, and solid character-driven books. I also love YA books, romance, and fantasy. I got annoyed when I couldn’t find a book that ticked all my boxes just the right way, so I wrote it. And I’m still writing, because it’s fun! It’s refreshing and restorative in my otherwise hectic life.
What is this week’s featured book about? Tell us a little about it!
First Shift is my debut YA novel. I’m a former high school English teacher, and my first year teaching was during the height of the Twilight craze. I had a marvelous group of kids (I seriously adore them), who started a rumor that I was a werewolf. This rumor persisted into the next school year when I had freshmen come up to me and ask me in all seriousness, “Are you really a werewolf?” First Shift is a combination of a lot of those experiences, and wanting to read a book I couldn’t quite find. I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of the lycanthropic rumors...
What drives/motivates/inspires your life, and how does that flow into your writing?
For me, writing is largely an escape from real life. That’s why I love fantasy. It’s a blend of the things I love about life, and the escape from it all rolled into one. :)
"I had a marvelous group of kids who started a rumor that I was a werewolf. "
What’s your writing process?
I’m still refining my process, but right now, what’s working is to write consistently every night. I set a writing goal of 1,000 words, because I know that’s attainable for me. Usually I can plug a few more words than that, but if I hit that goal, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Most of my writing takes place after my sweet babes are asleep. I write like a mad woman until I get that first draft done, then I try to let it sit a bit, then I start the editing process. I read through a manuscript many, many times, looking for a different thing each time—one time might be grammar, one time might be flow, etc.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have loved everything I’ve ever read by Shari L. Tapscott. Her brand of fantasy is right up my alley.
My favorite series in the entire world is Karen Hancock’s Legends of the Guardian King. So. Good. Like, I can’t even tell you how good.
I think the Red Winter Trilogy [by Annette Marie] has caused me one of the biggest book hangovers of my life (the last book is PG-13, though very tasteful!).
What characters are the hardest for you to write/identify with, and why?
It’s hard for me to write overly emotional characters. I’m not an overly emotional gal, so really digging in and trying to figure out how a character might be feeling or reacting is sometimes hard for me.
What are some personal boundaries in storylines that you’ll never-or-almost-never cross when it comes to writing?
I don’t do R rated romance. I love a good romance, but I’m happy in the PG-13 camp.
"The Wolves of Rock Falls is [my dream project]. These characters have been tumbling around inside my head for the better part of ten years."
What are your all-time favorite tropes? What are your least favorite ones?
I like almost all tropes, so long as they’re well done. The only one I’m not wild about are love triangles. Every so often, I’ll come across one that’s just super well done, but as a general rule, they’re not my favorite. ;)
What’s the book that made you “a reader”? And what’s the book that made you want to become a writer?
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [by C. S. Lewis] made me a reader. My mom read it to me for the first time when I was three. We read it repeatedly at my request. I’d wait the whole book for her to read the one line where Giant Wimbleweather accidentally picks up Lucy and said, “Oh my goodness, I’ve picked up the little girl instead of the handkerchief!” (or something very close to that).
I think I’ve really wanted to be a writer almost as long as I’ve enjoyed reading stories. I don’t know that there’s one book that set me off on the writing path. Perhaps all of them collectively. <3
As an author, which thing do you tend to prioritize or feel more confident about: storytelling or prose?
I really feel like I can build a world that’s total fantasy, but totally relatable. As an author, while I struggle with many areas, I feel like that’s one area I can do relatively well.
If you can share, what is the project you’re most looking forward to writing on day, even if you don’t currently have plans for it?
In all honesty, The Wolves of Rock Falls is it. These characters have been tumbling around inside my head for the better part of ten years. At the moment, the plan is for it to be a series of four books. Because Cade needed his own story (you’ll see what I mean when you read First Shift), otherwise it would have been a trilogy.
I’ve got plenty of other stories left in me though. ;) I have no intention of stopping writing.
How do you choose names for your characters?
This is such a great question. 90% of the time, my characters have names with specific meanings. Now that I’ve said that, Sam and Megan (my main characters in First Shift) do not. LOL But it’s not uncommon for me to name a character a certain name because that name has a specific meaning. Check out the last names of all the werewolves in First Shift...see if you notice anything. ;)
If you could have your work exist in any other form, what form would it take?
A movie. I love movies. I like TV, but I’m a movie person. Sit me down with a giant cup of tea, a snack or twelve, and immerse me in another world for a few hours.
To you, what is the value of imagination?
Imagination is everything. Life is hard. Imagination is relief from the hard.
AJ Skelly recently signed with an agent for a brand new series. The first of book, The Rat King, is a YA retelling of The Nutcracker—so you'll definitely want to keep her on your radar! Learn more about First Shift and how to connect with AJ below :)
ABOUT FIRST SHIFT
Sam Wolfe has been in love with Megan Carmichael for years.
Too bad she's off limits. She's human. He's not. When an accidental slip of his teeth endangers Megan and his entire werewolf pack, it's up to Sam to find a solution. Unbeknownst to them, Sam's bite has thrust Megan into the crosshairs of a killer. Sam and Megan must work together to find the threat, protect the pack, and maybe fall in love. But they better do it before the next full moon.
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