Good morning, folks! It’s time to open the kitchen doors and invite in another Starving Review alumnus, A. J. York, to have a sit-down about her writing style, her books, and all the rest! You can check our her last appearance here with the review of Delilah Dusticle. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
Hej! This is hi in Swedish. My name is Jen. I am the author of a middle grade fantasy series under the name of A.J. York. I grew up in the UK with my English dad and my Swedish mum. I now live in Sweden with my amazing partner, who happens to be the illustrator of my books.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
I have a Master’s in Arts Admin and Cultural policy and I have trained as a high school drama teacher. I currently work at an international school with kids from all over the world. Most of the students speak fantastic English, but new arrivals sometimes struggle at first. I am now undertaking a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course online. I really enjoy creating imaginative lessons and seeing students get inspired. Outside of work I love to hang out in cafes. Gothenburg is full of them and there are still some I have not yet explored. I am big yoga fan and have being going to classes for nearly eight years now.
What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
I have just finished a short story called A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story. The illustrations are underway and the story will be released 1st December. Here is the description.
Upstairs in the Anderson’s attic there is chatter coming from the Christmas, Easter and Halloween boxes. Someone new has arrived. Tallulah the Christmas fairy wakes to find herself attached to the top of a tree. She soon makes friends and has a magical first Christmas. Once the festivities are over she finds herself in the attic and is introduced to the others from Easter and Halloween. Together they watch the seasons change and wait excitedly for their turn to go downstairs. Until one day new boxes appear and then the unthinkable happens. A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story is a magical and uplifting tale for the whole family.
I also have the third book in The Delilah Dusticle Adventures series ready for illustrations. I hope to release Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest in the New Year. I am now writing the fourth book.
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
I know many authors say they that they had always wanted to be a writer, but this is not the case for me. The thought of writing used to fill me with fear. It was much more fun to jump around on a stage. A few years ago, I was looking for a new creative project when I came up with the character Delilah Dusticle. I wasn’t working in theatre at the time, so I had to find another way of telling the story. I ended up writing it down and really enjoying the process. After I had finished, I wondered what I was going to do with it and that is when I started to look into publishing. I knew straight away that the traditional publishing route was not for me. I had just finished my Masters in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy and was pleased that I could use all that I had learnt to run and publish the project myself. It just goes to show you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Or in my case open my mind to the things I thought I couldn’t do.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
I write middle grade fantasy. I did write a chapter of an adult mystery novel once. I did not feel the same enjoyment, so I stopped. I think writing for the younger audience is keeping me young. It is a bit like hot chocolate, where I can add marshmallows, chocolate flakes and whipped cream. The adult novel resembled herbal tea. Nice, but not as exciting. So, I passed.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
I had a university professor who said that it was his job to get across meaning to students in a way that we would understand. He said he could be pompous and use long words, he said he could sneer at our current level of understanding or he could just ignore us. Instead he chose to use all his facilities to communicate to us, so then we could make our own meaning of it all. This has always stayed with me. I try not to overcomplicate my stories, I try to write simply.
Even the best of us find inspiration in the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
I loved Astrid Lindgren as a child, Pippi Longstocking was a favourite of mine. I never managed to find an adult book with a heroine quite like Pippi.
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
I tend to write from a narrators point of view. I should try writing something in first person. It seems all the rage at the moment.
Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
Saucy adjectives of course! To my creamy, velvety hot chocolate there would be lashings of smooth, sumptuous chocolate sauce. I feel the need to go to a café for a hot chocolate.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
I recently read The Hunger Games. I would like to design a lesson based on how the government used fear and control to keep order in society. This is very complex conflict with lots of layers. However, I know this could be fantastic discussion for young people to get their teeth into.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
I am always looking for balance in my recipes. I would have to say plot and Characterisation are equally as important. Who is interested in well-rounded characters with a rambling plot? As a reader I hope for both equal parts to sweep me away into bookland.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
Honestly, I still think in drama terms and spend time setting the scene. It is tricky, as some readers desire a detailed where they are and who are these people approach. Whereas some readers want to dive right into the action. Reviewers will soon let you know if your beginning is slow or weak in any way. I have made edits before based on reader comments.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
CAKE! I can no longer write. I now must take a trip to a café for hot chocolate and cake.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
Right, I am back. I tend to shy away from this question. I still feel like such a novice and would never call myself an expert. If you find yourself saying “I have always wanted to…” Then make the time and do it. As long as it is legal.