Today I’d like to introduce you to my guest, fellow author, A.J. Cosmo. A.J. teaches imagination and heart to children. As the author and illustrator of over forty kid’s books, he aims to teach valuable lessons in humorous and entertaining ways. A.J. has a new release coming out this month that I am very excited to share with all of you.
Poop – Poor Liam Anderson-Jones. On the very first day of fifth grade, in a strange new town, and a large new school, he interrupted everyone to bolt out and into the girl’s bathroom. There, down in the far stall, in pain from a horrible stomach condition, he meets a new friend: Poop. The cheery little guy says he’s there to help Liam through a tough time in his life. But what does Liam need help with? And who, in their right mind, would want Poop for a friend?
I enjoy the behind the scenes look into the lives of fellow authors. Each of us have such a unique backstory, how we got here, why we do what we do. So today, I would like to share a conversation that A.J. and I recently had.
When did you decide to become a writer, and why?
I never decided to become a writer, like drawing, it was just something I always did. The true decision came whenever I chose to write and illustrate professionally. What’s interesting is that it was entirely a choice I had to make. For the majority of my life, I waited for someone to ordain me as an artist, as a creative, and of course, that day never came. Life isn’t American Idol, we have to choose who and what we are and have the courage to follow through with it.
How long does it usually take you to complete a book?
The average used to be around two weeks (3.5k words with six illustrations). However, I have since slowed down as I’m concentrating on creating deeper content. The average is now between one to three months. I always have at least three projects going concurrently- each with varying timeframes, and cycle periods of rest between sets.
What is your editing process like? Do you have help from anyone?
Editing is one of the few things I outsource, and that’s something I think everyone should do. Our brains tend to self-correct things that we create (since we always know what we were trying to say.) I have two editors; one for short work and one for long. I am also careful to clarify whether I need content editing or copy editing, something that I think other writers get caught up in. On another note, I think authors need to be careful with feedback, particularly group feedback, as it has a way to kill enthusiasm. Remember that if you are uncertain about your work, it probably means that you still don’t know what you’re trying to do with the piece.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I believe that I work best in the morning though if a project is in full gear, the entire day can be consumed by it. I do not have a set schedule as most writers do. Instead, I run like a hamster on a wheel until the project is done and I pass out. Those “three projects” cycles I mentioned above usually climax in a week of zombie brain recovery. Each creative has their method by the way- the trick is to find what works for you.
How do you think you’ve evolved in your writing?
I’m more confident; that’s for certain. My prose has gone from sparse to detailed and now is somehow minimalistic and expansive. I used to concentrate heavily on plot points, than on character, but now I mostly try to connect and portray emotion; which, incidentally, is the intersection of character and plot. I don’t think people ever perfect writing; there just comes the point when you no longer care about what others think of the writing and instead only care about whether or not they like the story. After all, we read for story, not prose,
Do you use a pen name? If so why? How did you choose your name?
Yes, A.J. Is my pen name. It came about for a few reasons, but the one that I want to highlight is the fear of writing. I was so scared of being rejected by people that I released a slew of material under different pen names. It was the only way for me to overcome the fear of rejection. The other stuff was targeted to adults and was thankfully rejected by readers for various reasons. A.J. Was the one that people embraced. I now respond to the name in public and introduce myself as such. It’s not even a fake personality; it just tells my brain that I’m in kid mode. 🙂
I write predominantly for boys in the second grade. There is push on either end along with gender flexibility (I love creating strong female characters.) The high end of my reading level is fourth grade with my two novels, and the low end is kindergarten with my picture books. As there are too many to list here, I recommend checking out my website under “books” for an up to date list:www.ajcosmo.com
Is there anything you are working on right now you would like to share with us?
I would love for everyone to check out my second middle-grade novel “Poop.” As the back copy says, “it’s not what you think.” Instead of being gross, it’s a story about turning your weaknesses into your strengths. It’s for children and adults who suffer from stomach issues like food allergies or celiac diseases and tells them that they’re not alone in their struggle. It’s a story about being let down by your parents and still loving them, of going from teased to praised, of forgiveness and first loves. It’s my best work yet, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Stop reading advice, going to critique groups, commenting on blog posts, or arguing about literally anything. You are wasting your time. The only thing that will further your career or your craft is to write and produce. Put stuff out there. See what people have to say. If you want an agent, start querying right now. See what they say. If they say nothing, make your stuff better. Otherwise, they will tell you what you need to work on. If you self-publish, listen to what people say. Is it selling? No? Then you need to work on making better content. Everything is available to you, but nothing will be handed to you. People only pay for what they value and for what serves their needs, so is your writing valuable? Would you buy it yourself if it was on a shelf?
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?
Liam is a ten-year-old boy that at first believes the world and everyone in it are against him. He thinks he is being punished and treated unfairly because he can’t eat normal food or use the bathroom like everyone else. What’s remarkable about him is that he learns over the course of the story that he is in control of his life and how he reacts to everything that happens. Once he embraces this, things change quickly, and his life falls in line. This is maturity, and it’s a lesson contrasted by his father who, though he has twenty years on him, still hasn’t grown up.
Before you go, what is your favorite cuisine?
Bibimbap (search it out, it’s amazing!)
Thank you so much A.J. for joining us today, I really enjoyed our talk. I hope everyone reading this also equally enjoyed hearing about you, and your process. I also want to thank my readers for coming back this week. I truly appreciate your following my weekly blog and staying tuned in. Please leave your comments below, and we’ll be sure to respond. If you would like more information about A.J, or his works, you can visit him at the following sites.