Our most prolific member began publishing fiction in the 1980s. A lot has changed in the world, in the publishing industry, and for A.J. herself since then.
How did you get started as a writer?
AJ Llewellyn is my pen name. I was a journalist for many years, and I had my first book published in Australia in 1988 under my real name. It was a fantastic experience because I got to go on a book tour, which 99 percent of authors don’t get to do these days.
I learned so much about publishing, but that’s all pretty useless now because the industry has changed so much. For example, in 1988 I had a publicist and a marketing person. They flew around the country with me when I did TV, radio, and print interviews. It was exhilarating but also exhausting.
I was surprised by how many of the people who interviewed me hadn’t even bothered reading a single page of my book. The few who did, particularly radio personalities, were wonderful to talk to.
But I was sort of verbally abused on a couple of big TV talk shows by people who knew nothing about me or my work. It was a bit traumatic for me. I was out of my depth dealing with these situations. I also found I was repeating myself in interviews and had to stop myself a couple of times thinking I’d already told the interviewer a certain story when I hadn’t. I have no idea how celebrities handle the constant barrage of interviews and seriously stupid questions year after year.
Did you begin with an agent or publisher, or publish independently?
I was so lucky. I was at a dinner party when I went home to Australia for a visit. I regaled other guests about my experiences living and working in Hollywood. The next day one of the women called me. I had no idea she was a publisher and she offered me a contract. The book sold okay, and a very long friendship was born. That was more important to me.
Tell us about your books.
I have published about 300 romance novels in many genres. Mystery, paranormal, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, you name it. I even have co-written a western series with author D.J. Manly: Orgasmic Texas Dawn is a 13-part series about US Marshals in Texas. We had so much fun writing those books. I would love to go back and revisit those characters. This was a huge series for us. I am just sorry the original publisher went under and ripped us off, owing us a lot of money. It’s since been re-released, but reruns never do as well as they do the first time around.
My first erotic romance novel was Phantom Lover, published by Extasy Books in 2007. Back then, I was one of a handful of authors writing gay romance…things have changed!! This is a paranormal tale set in Hawaii. This book did so well, it became a 16-book series (so far) and spawned a spinoff, Children of the Rainbow. There are two books in this series so far.
The rights for all these titles have reverted to me, and I have been revising, re-releasing them with new covers and self-publishing them through Amazon.
I am grateful to all the publishers I’ve had—the ones who’ve paid me—and I still have three of them. I’m what people call a hybrid author. I have publishers, and I also self-publish.
What are you working on now?
One of my favorite series is A Vampire in Waikiki, which includes six books so far. Book 5 is coming out on September 15. The last book (so far) has a Halloween theme, so once that comes out at the end of October, I will write a seventh one in that series.
The audio version of A Vampire in Waikiki is out now. It’s narrated by Michael Dean, who also narrated the audio books in my Mingo McCloud Honolulu mysteries. The audio version of Book 3, Bonded, is coming out in audio soon, and I will release book 8 in the Mingo series in January.
Audio books are 40 percent of the marketplace these days, so I urge other authors to hire the best narrator they can afford and get those books out there!
What’s next for you?
I’m midway through writing a book called Poundcake Hill set in Los Angeles in 1910. Loving this one. Love the cover Lex Valentine did for me and I loved researching this. It’s a murder mystery/romance, which many of my books are these days. My favorite hybrid!
How do you think your writing and your books have changed since you started?
I would hope I have improved a lot in all those years. Funny you should ask this; as I started seeking the reversion of rights to my older romance novels, I winced reading them. I know I’m a much better writer now. I also have a damned good editor. I pay her well to make me look good! I am shocked at the lousy editing of my early books—and these were professional publishing houses that published them.
I think it’s one of the biggest problems with publishing today, especially romance novels. People pump them out. So many people who offer editing services have no clue about the process. I really try to present the best book I can.
What impacts, if any, has the pandemic had on your writing?
It stopped me in my tracks, frankly. I had thyroid surgery in January 2020, just before the pandemic, and lost my voice. The surgeon had told me that wouldn’t happen, and it took almost four months for my voice to return.
When we went into lockdown in California on March 17, 2020, I felt very alone and frightened. I couldn’t call to order food. Couldn’t talk…it was horrible. The writing dried up. Couldn’t write a shopping list!
A friend said to me, “Of course you can’t write! You can’t speak and your writing is an extension of your voice.” It made so much sense to me and helped me get back on track.
What are some things about others’ books that you love?
I love books by authors who do good research. I love good world building. I love being inside a book in a world that’s new to me.
What are some things about others’ books that you detest?
Poor research. Horrible editing. Bad grammar. In romance writing, I am not a huge fan of BDSM, though I have written some books in that sub-genre.
I don’t like some of the new sub-genres, which frankly leave me dismayed. I read threads on Facebook where some readers clamor for ADBL books—Adult Diaper Baby Love. Seriously. I don’t find men in diapers appealing at all. I dislike incest, rape, fisting, peeing, pooping…ugh. My characters love each other. They don’t wee on one another!
What advice do you have for new or aspiring authors today?
Write the kind of story you want to read. Write the story that really moves you. Don’t write something you think is a hot genre and for no other reason. Have fun with your work. And never, ever, surrender if you get rejected. It happens to us all!
lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in the fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep this writer refueled.
A.J’s passion for the islands led to writing a play about the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani’s kingdom.
A.J. never lacks inspiration for writing erotic romances but has many other passions: collecting books on Hawaiiana, surfing and spending time with family, friends and animal companions.
A.J. Llewellyn believes that love is a song best sung out loud.