336 pages Publication date: December 13, 2013 by Fire Mountain books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Hawthorne Saga #1
Act of Will: a (slightly snarky) young adult fantasy adventure set in a world not entirely unlike Elizabethan England…
Will Hawthorne is in trouble. He had been looking forward to his 18th birthday because that meant he’d finally be a professional actor, but Will has a knack for screwing things up royally. He winds up on the run from the authorities and into the arms of a party of principled adventurers who represent everything Will doesn’t believe in—principle, self-sacrifice, maybe even magic—but they seem to be his best chance of staying alive and free for a few more days.
But when his new “friends” take a job investigating a band of ruthless and mysterious horsemen who have been devastating a land far from all Will has known, he encounters an altogether different level of danger. Soon it is not clear which is more likely to get him killed, the party’s nobility, the enemy’s merciless efficiency, or his own special talent for fiasco. Can Will get used to this world of vanishing adversaries and magic swords? He will have to if he’s going to survive it. And to wind up rich and in the good graces of the beautiful Renthrette, he’s going to have to do rather more than that.
1. Describe Act of Will in a Tweet. (140 characters or less).
A teen aged actor joins a gang of adventurers and finds himself quickly out of his depth in a world of magic swords and vanishing horsemen.
2. How is it different writing about a male lead in Young Adult?
Tricky. As a guy, I think my natural instinct is to write males, though my first (adult) books all had female leads. So the issue is less about capturing the character’s masculinity and more about writing a man in ways female readers will find compelling. In the case of Will Hawthorne, my (anti) hero, that impulse manifests itself in his complete failure to be the sword-swinging warrior type in a world (and a genre) that tends to expect that of him 🙂
3. What is the hardest part of writing for you? What is the easiest?
The hardest thing about writing for me is sifting the ideas which excite ME from those that might excite other people! And then finding the time to execute what I’ve come up with. The easiest part of the first draft is writing dialogue (which I LOVE) and the easiest part of editing is reading aloud what I have and listening for things to tweak. Fun stuff 🙂
4. Which of your characters do you relate to the most?
Well, I like Will because he’s ordinary and funny (hopefully) and clever and skeptical and rather more self-interested than most high fantasy heroes. I like to read characters who better than I am, more courageous, for instance, but I also like people who feel real, especially when they are living in a world of swords and sorcery. Will is one of the latter, and I think he’s easy to relate to, even if he’s also sometimes easy to criticize.
5. What are your favorite kinds of books to read?
I read (and write) widely and across genres. Anything with a compelling story and characters I can believe in works for me, whether it’s fantasy, thriller, YA or what have you. And I like variety within genre, so I can go from Tolkien to Scott Lynch to J.K. Rowling without missing a beat.
6. What kind of research did you have to do for Act of Will?
I’m a Shakespeare professor by trade, so I already knew a lot about the theatrical world Will inhabits, though he quickly leaves that behind. Much of the rest is dependent less on traditional research (geography and history, say) because the world is made up, so that it’s more informed by what I’ve learned about writing for YA and fantasy readers. Ive also gleaned a lot over the years about castles and weapons, some of which I had to double check, but a lot of the research for this kind of fantasy is more about making sure the world makes sense and obeys its own rules. I’ve also travelled a lot all over the world, and elements from those trips always find their way into my writing.
7. If we had an author talent show, what would your talent be?
Electric guitar, I think, though I’m not especially impressive on it. Over the years my hobbies have faded into teh background as my writing took more and more of my “free” time 🙂
A.J. Hartley is the bestselling author of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.
He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg. You can see his current academic c.v. here.
He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, all of which you can learn more about by friending him (odious word) on Facebook, by following his blog and by checking in on the What’s Going On page. He is represented by Stacey Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management for books, and by Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group for film and television. And check out A.J’s Amazon author page.