With her debut book just published I wanted to introduce you to up and coming author A.M. Justice. I enjoyed reading A Wizard’s Forge and you can read my review here. I am truly looking forward to reading more of the Woern Saga series!
A Conversation with A.M. Justice
Q. Tell us a little about yourself?
I scuba dive and dance tango recreationally, though family life has tripped up the latter habit, and the cold, turbulent oceans of the East coast limit the former to an annual trip to warmer seas. My Brooklyn apartment holds the record for longest duration of residence: 12 years and counting. Before moving here, I’d lived in sixteen different homes in four states. I’m married, have one child, currently one cat, and watch too much TV.
Q. What started you on the path to writing for a living?
Growing up, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a marine biologist or an actress. I made two discoveries in college: I wasn’t a very good actress, but I was a good writer. Because I had a strong affinity for science, I spent half my time in the biology department and the other half in the English department. Writing was a way to merge the two disciplines, and after working as an editor for scientific and medical publishers. I began writing professionally in the medical communications field, and I still make my primary living as a medical writer.
In terms of fiction, in high school I started writing adventure stories for myself based on the work of classic scifi and fantasy writers like Ursula LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, and JRR Tolkien.
Q. Your newest release, A Wizard’s Forge, what sort of research did you have to do to make this story come alive?
That book has been gestating a very long time and it really came out of my head based on a lifetime of experience and wide ranging tastes in literature, music, and movies. My training in biology and medicine has informed a lot of the mechanisms behind the mental powers shown by Knownearth’s residents. There is a biological rather than a mystical basis for Vic’s powers, although readers won’t discover what that is until they read the second book in the series, A Wizard’s Sacrifice, which should be released in 2018.
Q. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
A Wizard’s Forge is actually a reboot of my debut novel, Blade of Amber. That book didn’t do as well as I hoped, and it also never quite met my own quality standards. Since I’m an indie author, I had the luxury of taking a mulligan and starting over, after getting some very good advice on how to restructure the story from a writer friend. The hardest part was being totally ruthless with the rewrite to reshape the narrative into tightly paced prose that sang. The other challenge was Ashel, who wasn’t really a compelling character or a worthy partner for Vic. I rewrote nearly all his scenes to expose his vulnerabilities and his strengths.
Q. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I love it when characters do the unexpected—that’s what makes writing fun—and for that reason I’m a “pantser” and never outline first drafts. Some of my most brilliant plot turns have come out of curve balls thrown by my subconscious. I will outline second drafts, however, especially ones with complex plots. A Wizard’s Sacrifice (Book 2 of the Woern Saga) has several parallel plotlines involving a larger cast of point of view characters than A Wizard’s Forge, so an outline became essential to keep track of the action. The third book in the Saga, A Wizard’s Legacy, is half-written and trending way too long, so I will be outlining it to wrestle it into shape.
Q. If your novel were being made into a movie, whom would you pick to play the lead roles?
I love this question because “cast the novel” is my favorite lie-in-the-bathtub-and-dream pastime. I’d love to see Kate Mara as Vic, Ricky Whittle as Ashel, and Michael Fassbender as Lornk. Mara is so very good at playing vulnerable bad asses, and she’s not classically beautiful, which makes her a perfect choice for Vic. On The 100, Whittle showed he’s not only a gorgeous hunk but has the acting chops for Ashel. I don’t know if he can sing, but he wouldn’t be the first actor to have his songs dubbed. And Fassbender is a natural for Lornk. Zoe Saldana looks exactly how I imagine Bethniel, although Saldana is herself closer to Elekia’s age than Beth’s. Another potential Bethniel is Being Human’s Leonora Crichlow—as Annie, Crichlow perfectly captured the girly girl with an iron core that defines Latha’s crown princess. Meanwhile, I have Jada Pinkett Smith pegged for Elekia, and Max Thieriot (of Bates Motel) would be dreamy as Earnk. I’d ask Nick Cannon and John Boyega to both come in and read for Geram, because I can’t decide between them!
Q. Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?
Seek out constructive criticism and never be afraid to rewrite. In particular, find a beta reader you can trust to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. My beta partner and I brutalize each other’s drafts, but even though I usually disagree with my partner’s suggestions for fixing problems, I depend on her to highlight those deficiencies so I can fix them my own way. The vision remains mine, but she helps me bring it into focus for the reader, who cannot see all the details I carry in my head.