Today I’m interviewing well-known author A.J. Llewellyn. Thanks A.J. for accepting my invitation to spend some time with us and I hope that this interview lives up to your own very high interviewing standards.:)
Thanks for the love Wave!
What can you tell us about AJ the writer and the person?
I am the author of the gay erotic romance series of books including ‘Phantom Love’, ‘Waikiki Vampire’, ‘Black Point’ and ‘Blood Eclipse’ – among others.
I divide my time between California and Hawaii, where I find endless inspiration for my books. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in my fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep me refueled. I love male/male erotica, have a passion for all animals and I believe that love is a song best sung out loud.
You’re Australian but you reside in the US. If I lived in Oz I wouldn’t want to move anywhere else because the country is so beautiful. I visited Australia 4 years ago and spent a month and didn’t want to leave. Why do you like living in the US? What is the one most important reason that keeps you there?
I moved to California in 1984 to attend school and went back and forth for a while. My dad was dating an American woman who lived in Campbell, CA and I loved it there. I have family in Half Moon Bay and Burlingame and these places are part of my soul. My mother died when I was six and so I really held onto these new family members. I still do. I also loved the whole concept of shopping when it was dark! Imagine that! Stores open past 5pm. In Australia everything closes at 5pm except for late night shopping on Thursdays and Saturday mornings. I loved shopping at big supermarkets. I grooved to buying Twinkies and M & Ms…man, the stores were even open all weekend! I also loved the toy supermarkets. I still do!
By the way, my uncle who owns a hardware store in Sydney, Australia, got jail time for opening his store on a Sunday. He did it more than once and got hauled to the pokey several times. Why the hell would I want to live anyplace where I can’t buy a hammer and nails on a weekend?
What is so fascinating about Hawaii other than the weather, the beaches, the men, and the beauty of the Island?:) Tell us something about Honolulu and especially the island of Oahu where you reside.
Well, Hawaii is very much like Australia – but with better shopping hours ! – and for my 84 year old dad, who chases the summer and spends the Aussie winter (June-September in Greece) it is much closer for him to visit me than Los Angeles when he is in Australia. I would be living in Hawaii all year instead of half, if I could find work there, or my books could sustain me full time. I got the opportunity to buy a house in Oahu with my best friend Tony. Readers of my ‘Phantom Lover’ and ‘Waikiki Vampire’ series will recognize it as the house in those books. I am damned lucky to own that place. It is ramshackle and has beautiful, ancient bamboo trails and lava forests half a mile up my back yard. It’s my sanctuary.
My nieces and nephews love it and we have big Greek family gatherings there. I was born in Oz but both my parents were born in Greece. My mother would love to see how amazing my brothers’ children are! I think she does though. I believe in spirit and family guardians and I know she is with me and my brothers. I miss her a lot…
I believe you have been writing a long time but have only been writing fiction for a few years. You are still with the same publisher, eXtasy, when most authors seem to be contracted with 4 or even 5 publishers (maybe more) on different projects. What keeps you with eXtasy?
No, I have been writing fiction for 30 years. I wrote my first book when I was 7. I was obsessed with horses and death at the time (having just lost my mum) and everyone died at the end of the book, even the horses. I was a grim little boy!! I had many stories published after that, and hundreds of articles as a journalist. I corresponded for years with Marion Zimmer Bradley, an icon of fantasy fiction. We discussed the nature of fantasy and myth and she really encouraged me. I was devastated when she died. She was prolific and so talented and deeply encouraging of young authors.
You can’t live on the promise of money or rejection letters for novels. I had a couple of screenplays optioned by a studio, now defunct, called Odyssey Films. The executive I dealt with suggested as I waited for my ship to come in (his words, not mine) that I should do a little script doctoring work, which I did, but I hated it. I would do extensive rewrites for peanuts and then those rewrites would be rewritten until the end result was nothing like the original, delightful script. I know writers in Hollywood who make a living doing this type of work, but I lucked out by doing screenplay coverage for studios. I was so lucky to fall into it at a time when movie studios believed in the craft of writing and I met some incredible writers.
I never got to meet my icon John Cassavetes but I met many actors, writers and directors and learned a lot about how not to write and I enjoyed the work. I am frequently commissioned to read screenplays for contests and now I am out of a full time job, I freelance. The art of screenplay coverage has been relegated to interns and I always say you get what you pay for. Hence all the crap that gets released and the endless remakes. It’s very lazy film-making.
So, I tried for years to sell my own books. I gave up on screenplays once I started doing coverage because I saw what happens to your screenplay. I believe I have covered the decimation of an author’s work pretty accurately in the Black Point series with D.J. Manly. All the Hollywood scenes of Matt and Thomas pitching to clueless executives and script meetings are all true. Only the names have been changed to protect the truly idiotic.
I couldn’t sell my work in spite of good feedback until I turned to gay erotic romance and sold my first book, ‘Phantom Lover’ to eXtasy Books two and a half years ago. What has kept me loyal to eXtasy was that Tina Haveman gave me a chance and plus, with two books coming out a month there, I have little time to do more.
However, I was recently invited to submit to Amber Quill Press and I am proud to now be a part of their prestigious family. I love my publisher and cover artist, Trace Edward Zaber and I have the amazingly talented and generous author Rick R. Reed to thank for the introduction.My first book for Amber Allure (the company’s GLBT imprint) is Deeper Blue, a contemporary M/M story set in the Greek Islands. It comes out October 25. It is a gay twist on the timeless love story, “Jane Eyre.” I had to work extra long days to write that but I am now with AQP and will be writing more for them, as well as for eX. I have been asked to contribute to other pubs but I truly have been busy. LOL
Is writing still fun? What’s the most fun part?
I LOVE writing. The fun part is the actual writing. eXtasy is open to everything I do. I have no shortage of ideas and I write all day long, when I don’t have to do the day job thing. I am constantly pushed for time but I am grateful, believe me. I love my characters and my stories. I love delving into the worlds I create. The other fun part is the astonishing reception I get from readers. I get emails every day about how much they love my books. It makes up for the horrendous internet theft I experience…it makes it all worthwhile. I get letters that thrill me and break my heart. I have a reader who read Phantom Lover on her Kindle in the hospital as she was getting chemotherapy. I told her she would get a free book from me as soon as she was done – and she got it. Cathy still emails me and reads my books!
You are a very popular author and your books reach “best seller” status almost as soon as they are released. What do you think is the reason other than you write about love and romance? Why are your fans obsessed with Kimo and Lopaka? Is it because the series is all about love?
Thanks Wave!! Wow, what a nice thing to say. I think people know I write from the heart. Kimo and Lopaka may be blessed with paranormal abilities but they will never cheat on each other, they still have blazing hot sex despite being married and the fathers of three children. They also deal with stuff people can relate to, such as child rearing issues, interfering in-laws, etc. I think Kimo and Lopaka have the kind of relationship we all want to have. I have no idea where Kimo came from but he is my muse and he tells me what to do. I think also, to be honest, my readers like the blend of take-me-away fantasy and humor that I hope is my trademark. I hope I turn them on and make them laugh, too. The secondary characters such as Lopaka’s Tutu (grandma) have admirers too.
You partnered with author D.J. Manly on the Black Point series. How did this collaboration come about and whose idea was it?
Oh, that hot man sent me an email out of the blue asking if I wanted to collaborate. I fell over in shock and pleasure and then emailed back a big fat yes. Then we wrote the first Black Point book and then I seduced him. If you ask him though, he’ll say he seduced me by suggesting the collaboration. I won’t disagree with that!
Blood Eclipse 2: Rapture, has recently been released. Can you tell us a bit more about the backstory to this vampire series that you also co-author with DJ? Is there a trend here and are you planning more series together?
This series was D.J’s idea and he is totally into vampires. I loved his concept when he sent it to me and as usual, we both brought a lot to the party. I covered both boxing and UFC fights as a writer and lost a dear friend in the ring. My rage against his death is a big part of the series, a subplot. There are many threads in the series. I love it. And yes, we have other collaborations in the works!
Let’s talk about your Phantom Lover series – I believe that the Cannibal King’s Husband is book No. 12 in the series? How many more books are there in the story arc?
Cannibal was Number 13. Na Hiku was out after that and the final book in the series, Paden is number 15 and comes out February 15. I am grief stricken this series is coming to an end. It feels like I am losing my family. The characters, especially the children are very real and very dear to me.
What can you tell us about Jimmy Thunder?
Jimmy Thunder? LOL…well he is a favorite of mine. My publisher suggested about 18 months ago that I should write a M/M vampire series and I struggled with the idea because I love vamps but I worried that I could not write something that was true to the genre. Then I met a woman who was dating a famous gay-for-pay porn star. I met him and discovered he was sweet and yet conflicted. I thought about it more and more and Jimmy Thunder, A Vampire in Waikiki was born. I love that man and there are now five books in that series. The final book in that series is Devil Night and it comes out October 15 at eXtasy Books. Another goodbye!!
I was not thrilled you picked A Vampire Christmas as the worst cover of the year and you can tell your readers who questioned its marketability that it remains one of my strongest selling books. HA! (AJ I didn’t pick the cover, I swear; the readers voted.*g*)
Of all your books, which is your favourite? Why?
I love them all. They are my children. I would have to say Phantom Lover though because it started it all.
What do you think is your greatest achievement as a writer?
My greatest achievement was receiving an email from a woman whose husband came back severely wounded from serving our country in Iraq. He lost his legs to infection. His personality and enthusiasm for life were destroyed. He was suicidal, she was in despair. She started reading my books and she said that she showed him a scene I wrote and it gave him the urge to…er…merge. She said I gave her back her husband. Nothing tops that. NOTHING!
How does being a Buddhist help your writing?
Being a Buddhist is about honoring yourself, focusing on your goals and dreams and chanting for peace within you and for those around you. The ripple effect is to bring peace and blessings to others. In wishing the best outwardly from within, I am free to write and dream…not to run around and hurt people. I can do that in books and get away with it!!
My friend was recently hospitalized and a bunch of us went and chanted for him and I witnessed the affect it had on the nurses and other patients. Babies stopped crying, the nurses smiled. It was beautiful.
Whenever I am on your website it seems that you’re really influenced by music. Do you write to music?
Yes. I love music and I play it all day long. I have an extensive record collection and prefer to listen to vinyl than anything else. Interestingly, I’ve discussed this with musicians and they agree that there is nothing like it. Something to do with the recording range. It’s missing in CDs but apparently, electronic downloads are very close in sound to vinyl.
I like the great singers, the great songs. I have specific music I play for different characters. For example I play Taj Mahal when I am writing the Waikiki Vampire books and Keali’i Riechel and Keola Beamer for Kimo and Lopaka. I play Greek gypsy music for many of my other books and I have a friend who recorded two nomadic musicians of the Tuareg who had never been recorded before. He traveled deep into the African desert with them and recorded a stunning CD of their guitar music he sells out of his art gallery in Ojai. I play that one a lot. I am haunted by this CD because these musicians are simply the best I have ever heard and he had to beg them to let him record them. I have bought this CD as gifts for my family and friends. The two musicians have blue skin thanks to the dye of their turbans and have quite an aura to them. I would love to see them play live.
I believe you recently signed a deal to film your new novel LAID which was released through eXtasy Books on September 15. How excited are you about this film project? What can you tell us about the book and the movie deal?
My friend John Bruno directs gay porn for Falcon Films and has his own company, Massive Studio through Falcon. He read Phantom Lover and was shocked at how hot it was…lol. Not sure why he was so surprised. He is a director who loves story – rare in porn – so he brought the ideas to me. He gave me four concepts and wanted to do four movie/book tie-ins.
They will be shot in webisode format, a first collaboration of its type for a gay erotic romance novel and a porn company. He will then release the webisodes on DVD. Laid comes out September 15 and the sequel is Bad Cops and comes out November 15. D.J Manly and I are collaborating on a sci-fi one for the series in the new year.
You are probably one of the most, if not THE most prolific author in recent history. How many books have you released since you signed with eXtasy and how many have been released within the past year? I counted no less than 10 covers on your website of books that had been released within the last 6 months. How is it possible to write so many books in such a short period of time without suffering from burnout? Do you have any down time when you’re not writing? If so, what do you do with the time?
I’ve had 32 books published with eX and six short stories for eX – which by the way we authors contribute for free to the company’s anthologies to pay for promo etc. and I have two books out a month as I said before. I do feel burnout sometimes because I miss out on a lot of things…I am taking back more time though. I don’t know how it happened but I struggled for so long to get published that I agreed to certain scheduling. I am amazed I pulled it off this year and I am realizing I have months where there are three books coming out – for example on March 1 I had two books pubbed. “Diura”, a Phantom Lover book and Molokai Man, a mainstream M/M book for Devine Destinies which is eXtasy’s mainstream imprint.
In October I will have three books out – Tall, Mean and Darkly on Oct 1, Devil Night on Oct 15 and Deeper Blue on Oct 25.
Apart from my books, my different series with D.J and now the Massive Studio series, I have books with Stephani Hecht AND I am being published by AQP.
I saw the post on your blog about our little competition on this website where one of your covers took home the grand prize as Ugliest Cover.:) I’m so pleased you didn’t mind that we poked fun at many book covers, including yours. Your cover for The Forbidden Island was a nominee in the Ugliest Cover No.2 competition but unfortunately you didn’t win. It was up against some stiff competition.*g* Since covers are so important from a marketing perspective with respect to book sales, how much input do you have, if any, in your book covers?
I have very little input. You must know that, surely. My publisher is also the cover artist so you have to tread carefully when you criticize a cover, lol. I minded that particular cover being chosen because it’s a hell of a lot better than many out there, that’s for sure!!
Covers aren’t always going to help or hurt a book unless they are really awful. I have learned that people go by the blurb and the logline. My long years in the movie business have helped shape my loglines and blurbs, I think.
I also feel I should have gotten a bun or something for winning your contest, but that’s by the by. The bigger problem in ebook publishing is that the same stock cover models are cropping up everywhere.
John Bruno introduced me to his Falcon videographer, Adam Killian who was just emerging as a major gay porn star and we did a photo shoot. It was the most brilliant day of my life.
Killian is the smartest, sweetest guy ever. He channeled Kimo and Lopaka that day and we shot three Phantom Lover covers. I wanted a cover nobody else has and a hot new cover model. I got ‘em! He’s read my books and says I am a dirty boy and is keen to do more covers with me. I love Killian madly because he was enthusiastic and he was awesome. Betcha none of his covers wind up on your hit list, Wave!!
Tell us about some of your other series including the Waikiki Vampire series.
I think I covered a lot already – I am doing a new series next year for eXtasy called Honeybone – set in Australia. It’s a paranormal cop series.
What do you have coming up within the next 3 months in terms of new releases?
September 15, Laid
October 1, Tall Mean and Darkly with Stephani Hecht
October 15, Devil Night (a Waikiki Vampire book – final in the series)
October 25, Deeper Blue at Amber Quill press
November 1 Blood Eclipse 3 (with D.J.Manly)
November 15, Bad Cops a Massive Studios series book
December One Black Point Christmas (with D.J. Manly)
December 15, First Foot – Christmas book set in Scotland
January 1, Wanted
This website is accessed by bloggers/readers from all over the globe and some of these countries I had never even heard of before. What would you like to say to your fans in other countries who are reading this interview?
I love you all!
A.J. LLEWELLYN UNPLUGGED
As I’m sure you know, if you ever check out any of my interviews, I like to have fun, especially with the interviewees, and I try to find out their innermost dark thoughts and fears. Are you comfortable? The guys who take care of our hot tub sometimes forget they have a job to do and the tub gets too hot. Is the temperature OK for you? You’re not getting too pink are you? If so, I could suggest a few homemade remedies that I could apply to any burns.:)
Here goes –
What one sexual exploit have you done in the past that’s still a deep dark secret?
None. My big romance with my father’s best friend, his straight married friend, was the basis for my book Beyond the Reef. That was as naughty as I ever got…
Why are you in the hot tub with FOUR guys? Aren’t two enough, you greedy man?
Nope…two are never enough…neither is one. You can’t stop ‘til you get enough…
What kind of man turns AJ on in bed? What’s the kinkiest thing you have ever done, in and out of bed?
I like men who are romantic and funny and like to be in bed. I dated a cop once, then a surfer and then a boxer and they were all as boring as bat poop because they never wanted to lie and bed and linger. They were always running off to the gym…or to arrest people.
Thank God I don’t have a man like that now. As for kink…well, I like food in bed…see below…
Are you going to have a walk-on part in your new movie? If so, are you going to be naked?
No baby. Not me. I have no acting ambitions at all. When I was a little boy in Australia I was rejected for the on-camera guest kiddie part on ‘The Humphrey B. Bear Show’ and never got over the humiliation.
What’s this thing you have for cupcakes, especially with sprinkles?
Are you kidding? The idea is to get your lover naked and accidentally bump into him with an iced cupcake and lick the sprinkles off. Mmmmm…icing and sprinkles rock!
I read in one of your interviews that the things you would like to take on a desert island with you are your boyfriend and a bunch of twinkies. Does your boyfriend let you play around with other guys?
Ha ha, that was Twinkies as in the industrial-grade cakes. No he doesn’t let me fool around but we do have a freebie list. His is topped by John Barrowman, mine is topped by Daniel Craig. The sad fact is that neither of us are in danger of being hunted down by either of these hotties, which is why we are so generous in allowing each other these fantasies. However, should fantasy become reality, books will ensue!
You were once held up at gunpoint where you worked. Tell us the truth – did you pee your pants? :DDD
No, no…I’m so macho, don’t you know? Well, okay…maybe a little…
Are you and D.J. a couple? You seem to read each other’s minds in your books, so does this synergy extend to other areas in RL? :)
Yes we are. All I will say on that.
I have your statuette ready for winning Ugliest Cover for A Vampire Christmas but I was thinking we should have a proper ceremony rather than just sending it to you. What do you think? Would you show up to receive your prize?
I will come to receive my prize if cupcakes are involved. I think it’s only fair. Cupcakes and a good, strong cup of tea.
I heard that there’s a picture of you with Adam Killian, the star of LAID – your new movie, and that neither of you has any clothes on. I’m sure you’ll say that this picture is just publicity for the movie and that there is no funny business going on with you and Adam even though the clothes are off. Can I have a copy of this picture to insert with your book covers that will accompany this interview?
Well, I would happily pose naked with Adam except I am dead skinny and he likes muscular men. I met his boyfriend so I know what I am talking about.
There are photos of me and Adam who is NOT in Laid, by the way. Hopefully he will do one of the other movies in the Massive Studio series. I have no nekked photos of me and Adam or any sexy memories, although he did hug me a lot on our shoot and there was chemistry – honest!
We are sitting very close in the pics. I attach them here for your enjoyment. He smells yummy by the way. I tried to think of the smell the whole time and realized it was soap. He is a clean porn star, folks!!
How hot are you on a scale of 1 – 10?
I am a nine if you scrunch up your eyes and try hard not to laugh.
Thanks for playing with us AJ and also for the interview.
Thank you, Wave!
AJ was most kind to grant me this interview and I’m most appreciative, especially reading about his incredible schedule. Does the man ever rest?:) AJ we’re sending you cupcakes WITH sprinkles along with your statuette for winning Best cover.*g* Oh, by the way the guys in the hot tub asked me to return your bathing suit – it seems that for some reason you weren’t wearing it!!!
AJ wll be giving away a book from one of his two popular series Phantom Lover OR AVampire in Waikiki to a lucky blogger who leaves a comment on either his interview or the book giveaway post.