Interview with middle-grade writer AJ Kormon

cover for halloway hillsToday’s special guest author is A.J. Kormon to chat about her middle-grade Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries (Books 1-3).

You can check out her full virtual tour schedule with Wow! Women on Writing.

As a former accountant, AJ Kormon, started writing books about money to help explain the concept to her kids. As her kids got older, they showed signs of not wanting to read, so she enlisted their help creating a series for resistant readers. This is how the Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries were born. When AJ isn’t writing and cartooning, you’ll find her losing to her kids at Uno.

What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
With short stories, I feel I can get straight to the point. I can focus on the main conflict of the story without many subplots. While I love writing complicated, longer books too, short stories provide a nice break between the longer projects, because they take less time to write.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
My kids love reading about animals, so I wanted to write a story that featured fun animals that weren’t anthropomorphic. People who have pets know how well they communicate with us without speaking our language.

I’ve had some crazy cats as pets and would love to have one again some day, but we have three dogs. When I wrote the Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries, I wanted each book to have a quirky cat, and the cat to be involved in the mystery, if not the center of the mystery.

What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I love a good mystery that keeps readers turning the pages and guessing what’s coming next. These are the kinds of books I remember enjoying the most growing up and still enjoy today. Even if the main story in the book isn’t a mystery, I enjoy writing some intrigue as part of the story. I think this stems from my getting bored easily. If there’s a mystery somewhere in the book, I’m more likely to keep reading. I try to keep this in mind while I’m writing too.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Although it’s not a short story, I’m working on a novel about a seventh grader who, through a little magic, discovers it’s okay to not be perfect all the time.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Even though I write every day, I still have trouble considering myself a writer. As a child, I thought of authors as these magical beings, because their stories transported me to other times and places. I grew up in a small town and never had the opportunity meet any authors.

When I started selling my services as a freelance writer, it became easier to say I was a writer, because people paid me for my words, but it still doesn’t roll off my tongue. I guess that comes from all the years my English teachers told me I couldn’t write. It’s taken a lot of time to build the confidence to put my work out there.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for writers?
I am fortunate in that my sons who are 9 and 11 years old are part of my target reader group. We have always read together and when I find there’s a topic I want to share with them, but there aren’t many books on that topic, I start investigating why that is. Sometimes, it’s because the topic isn’t marketable. Even though many parents aren’t interested in teaching their kids about money when they are just starting school, I still write picture books about this because as a former accountant, this is an important topic to me.

For the Halloway Hills Middle School Mysteries, I wanted to write books that are accessible to kids who might have trouble reading at their grade level (like my children). I researched possible reasons for this, and some kids can’t decipher some fonts that are commonly used in middle grade books. It was important to me that the paperback versions of these books used a font like Century Gothic that is found to be easier for children with reading challenges.

So, while I discovered my books have a small target reader group, my reasons for writing the books were strong enough that I still wanted to get them out there.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write passages of the story as they come to me, even if they are out of order or from a different story entirely. When I’ve tried to ignore the out of order parts, I often remember them differently when I get to that part in the story, or those parts are completely gone from my memory. They never seem as good when I finally remember them so I started writing them as they come to me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
There were many things I wanted to be growing up. I laugh now, but for the longest time, I was completely serious about becoming an Olympic figure skater. I’m Canadian, so I was a huge Elizabeth Manley fan. I remember playing “coffee shop” or “restaurant” with my friend where we pretended we were restauranteurs. We created menus and everything.

As a teenager, I had many odd jobs in various customer service roles. Delivering flowers for the local flower shop was one of my favorite jobs when I first got my driver’s license. I even got certified as a floral designer when I was a young adult.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you for your support! I really appreciate it when readers reach out, letting me know what they thought of one of my books. Writing can be a lonely path, and it’s nice to know people are reading my words and encouraging me along the way.

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Blog Tour Calendar

October 4th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of the Halloway Middle School series. Read our interview with author AJ Kormon, and enter to win the giveaway too. One winner will receive all three copies of the books and a gift card. Three winners will receive one book from the series. Join us today!

October 8th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog
Join Madeline as she shares a guest post by AJ Kormon about things kids learn from entrepreneurial parents.

October 10th @ What is That Book About
Visit Michelle’s blog where she shares a guest post written by AJ Kormon that talks about the best books for kids who don’t like to read.

October 12th @ HERE!

October 14th @ Cover 2 Cover Blog
Join Stephanie as she shares her thoughts about the charming Halloway Hills Middle School mystery series.

October 16th @ Reading in the Wildwood
Join Megan as she shares a guest post by author AJ Kormon featuring must-have Halloween books to read with your kids.

October 20th @ Lisa’s Reading
Join Lisa as she reviews the Halloway Hills series on her blog today.

October 22nd @ Quill and Books
Visit Kathryn’s blog where she reviews Hiding Out on Halloween by AJ Kormon.

October 22nd @ The Frugalista Mom
Join Rozelyn as she features a guest post by author AJ Kormon about navigating first crushes. She’s also giving away a copy of the Halloway Hills Middle School series as an e-book to one lucky reader.

October 25th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole’s blog today as she reviews AJ Kormon’s Halloway Hills Middle School series books and gives away a copy of the books for one lucky reader.

October 28th @ Knotty Needle
Judy delights us today with her and her granddaughter’s review of AJ Kormon’s Halloway Hills Middle School series books.

October 31st @ Look to the Western Sky
Join Margo as she reads and reviews AJ Kormon’s delightful middle-grade book Hiding Out on Halloween part of the Halloway Hills Middle School series.

November 3rd @ Fiona Ingram’s Blog
Join Fiona as she shares AJ Kormon’s guest post about why your child should read to their pet.

November 4th @ CK Sorens
Visit CK Sorens’ blog today and read her review of AJ Kormon’s Halloway Hills Middle School series books.

November 5th @ Quill and Books
Join Kathryn again as she publishes a guest post by AJ Kormon about fun Christmas books to read with your kids.

November 5th @ Bookworm for Kids
Join Tonja as she reviews Creeping Up on Christmas over at her blog today. A perfect book for the holidays!

November 7th @ Jill Sheets’ Blog
Visit Jill’s blog today where she shares AJ Kormon’s guest post about how to help your child deal with a bully.

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