Each Friday one of the authors will share a bit of insight into their life of writing, reveal how their writing career began, and offer a glimpse at their current projects.
Today's guest is A.J. Llewellyn who lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to the islands, bags of Kona coffee in the fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep this writer refueled. A.J.'s most recent trip to the Islands was in January when she was the guest speaker at the Sisters in Crime/Hawaii monthly meeting. Her talk was captivating, spell-binding, and hypnotizing. A.J. has written more than 100 books. Her contribution to MYSTERY IN PARADISE 13 Tales of Suspense is entitled POI DOG: A Leilani Squires Honolulu Mystery.
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Thank you for sharing with readers your short story included within MYSTERY IN PARADISE 13 Tales of Suspense, A.J., and for taking time to visit with us today.
Q1. Can you please offer a brief insight into something humorous, poignant, or unusual in your life that led you to a career in writing?
A.J. Llewellyn: Thanks so much for having me here! I have to be honest and say I wrote my first book when I was eight. Reading and writing were my refuge in a tough childhood made very painful after the death of my mother when I was six. I was obsessed with horses and mysteries. I inhaled the Donna Parker Mysteries, Nancy Drew...anything I could get my hands on. And I adored this collection of British horse stories by the three Pullein-Thompson sisters. They were prolific authors and I gobbled up their pony stories like toast for breakfast!
My first book featured horses. And death. I was obsessed with that, too. Everybody died at the end of it - including the horses!
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Writers, by default, are independent contractors who sit alone at their computer/typewriter/journal, composing prose, poetry, lyrics, haiku, or limericks, for hours on end.
Q2. Why did you choose to collaborate with 13 authors to participate in a short story anthology?
A.J. Llewellyn: Hmmm…I am a professional author with multiple publishers and deadlines. I really don't have time to write poems or haiku. I am working all day long. I feel so blessed to be able to say that I write for a living. As to why I participated in an anthology - that's easy! I have participated in many. I believe the short story form is alive and kicking (in spite of dire predictions a few years ago) and it gives readers a "taste" of an author's style. If you like something an author writes in an anthology, it introduces you to somebody new, somebody to discover. And of course, mysteries are the best anthologies! I was excited to be a part of this!
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Each short story in the anthology offers a glimpse into the personality of the writer.Q3. In Poi Dog, what is one phrase or scene that reflects something about you as a writer?
A.J. Llewellyn: What a great question! Okay, here goes:
I was excited yet apprehensive about investigating my first solo case. I liked bouncing ideas off my boss, Mingo McCloud, or his husband, Francois, but they were on their honeymoon and it would be rude to bother them. Wouldn’t it?
Chewing my lip, I decided they’d welcome my interruption. When I called Mingo’s cell phone, however, he’d left an outgoing message just for me. “Leilani, if that’s you, we’ll be back on Monday. Don’t leave a message. We’re not checking. Byeee!”
Well! Of all the nerve. How dare he assume I’d call. I had no one to bounce ideas around with and I’m a bouncy kinda gal. I gazed at the business card. I had no choice but to call the tata-lovin’ Detective Chong.
I picked this scene because Leilani Squires, the protagonist in this story, is Mingo's sidekick in my very successful Mingo McCloud Honolulu Mystery Series. As one of my readers pointed out to me, the best female friend rarely gets her own story. I wanted to make sure Leilani, a very colorful character in her own right, got that chance. So thank you, Sisters in Crime!
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Every writer has a WIP (Work-In-Progress).
Q4. Can you tell us a bit about your current project?
A.J. Llewellyn: I am working on several books, actually. I always have at least three WiPs on the boil. I am working on book 7 in the Mingo McCloud series, entitled Hogtied, in which Mingo and his partner Francois finally marry, as well as dealing with a brand new Honolulu mystery.
I am also working on book five of my Honeybone, US Marshal mysteries. It's set in Paris and untitled as yet.
And finally I am also working on my third book in my new Rough Riders series with my partner in crime and frequent collaborator, D.J. Manly.
Also mulling over ideas for my second book in my Makaha Beach Detective series. Book 1, Back to Black, comes out next month at Silver Publishing. Having just returned from Honolulu last week, my head is spinning with ideas!
EXCERPT FROM POI DOG: A Leilani Squires Honolulu Mystery:
I cut through the International Marketplace. It, like my pride, had shrunk and I missed the wonderland of jewelry, music, and tasty food I remembered as a kid. The few stallholders left sold mostly junk and the pearl people pounced on everyone to try their luck fishing for oysters.
Sprinting past them, I thundered between crammed takeout booths and a stage that had seen better centuries, down the alley between two hotels to Kuhio Avenue. Rain sloshed into my shoes as I turned left and encountered Chong walking into the tiny Hula Dog shop. The smell of all those hot dogs was too much. My mouth began to water.
He leered. “Well, hello, kitty.” It took me a moment to realize he was referring to the umbrella. I closed it, aware of his lingering gaze on my chest. I joined him at the counter. He took his time ordering, but I’d picked out my dog before I’d even left my apartment. I wanted a bacon taro bun with a Polish sausage, coconut relish, and lilikoi mustard.
There wasn’t much room in the store but the lone outdoor table was empty so we grabbed it. I ignored the rain that hit my legs every now and then. For the most part, the roof covered me.
“What gives?” Chong did his cop thing letting his gaze swivel around him looking for trouble.
I bit into the dog, dazzled by the array of sweet and spicy flavors. I savored the taste and smell of the islands in my mouth.
“You said you got a missing friend, Lani.”
I couldn’t waste the man’s time, so I took a swan dive into troubled waters.
He frowned. “I can’t talk to you about her but we know she’s missing. That’s all I will say. We’ve kept it out of the media and I’d like it to stay that way. The investigation’s at a sensitive point. How d’you know her, anyway?”
“I teach her at Kapiolani Community College.”
He sighed, looked down at his hot dog and back up at me. “She filed a police report three days before she vanished.”
Readers can find A.J. Llewellyn at:
www.ajllewellyn.com (for info, books, access to free stories etc.)
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