Thursday, October 30, 2008

Interview (and giveaway!) with AJ Menden, author of PHENOMENAL GIRL 5

The Mostly Debut Author interview series is back! Today's guest is AJ Menden, whose exciting debut novel, Phenomenal Girl 5, came out this Tuesday from Dorchester's innovative new Shomi line. AJ has generously agreed to give away one signed copy of her new book to one lucky commenter!

ParaNormal Romance reviews called PG5 "A phenomenal superhero romance, a brilliant debut!" and Romantic Times gave it 4.5 stars (which in RT-speak, is the best rating, because they don't do 5-star reviews anymore, for some obscure reason) and said, "This action romance gives readers an independent and very witty heroine who's sure to please -- not to mention one unique love triangle."

Read an excerpt here.

Q: I won't ask which superpower you'd most like to have (though feel free to tell us). What I want to know is: which superpower do you *already* possess? For instance, one of my friends has Parking Karma--she always finds a great parking space quickly wherever she goes. I have--well, it doesn't have a name yet, but it's the ability to judge the weight of supermarket produce without using the scale (>90% of the time). So what's your amazing secret superpower?

AJ: I would want the powers I gave Lainey - flight and strength. What superpower do I already have? The ability to stress about practically everything. LOL.

I read in your interview with Saundra Mitchell that you both share my belief that clowns are "completely evil." Have you personally had a traumatic clown experience, or is it more of a visceral/philosophical abstract truth (kind of like we don't need to actually experience nuclear war to know it's a bad thing)? Would you consider writing some cathartic clown snuff fiction? Maybe with me?

Apparently my clown fear started at a young age. My mom remembers me freaking out at the sight of a mime. So they've always terrified me.

Of course I have to ask about the playlist for PG5 on your website. Which songs, in your mind, correspond to which characters? If PG5 were a movie, which tune would play over the closing credits?

"Heroes" by David Bowie would play over the closing credits. And I think a good song for Lainey is "Be Careful" by Patty Griffin and Robert is "Doesn't Remind Me" by Audioslave.

You're a reporter by day, but be honest: are you really mild-mannered?

I have a temper as much as the next person, but I'd say I drive people crazy by stressing out all the time.

What's been the biggest surprise and biggest thrill about being a debut author?

I think the biggest surprise has been learning about the process of how books are published and the many steps there are between acceptance and when the book hits the shelves. The biggest thrill was definitely holding the first copy of my book in my hands!

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

Probably Lainey, Phenomenal Girl 5. Even though she's got big problems, like an apocalypse, to deal with, she's got the superpowers I'd want.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (as a friend or a little bit more ;-)?

Any of my guy characters, LOL. I give them all different aspects that I'm attracted to. (;

Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?

If I could be any character, I'd be Buffy, because she has cool superpowers, kicks ass, and isn't scared of anything. And if I could bring any character to life in our world, I'd bring Spike to life so he could be my boyfriend. I hope my husband would understand. (; He's on my list! LOL.

Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?

Joss Whedon, definitely. I'm such a big fan of his. He writes great female characters and has a quirky sense of humor and can go from straight-out comedy to a tearjerker in an instant. Another one is going to sound strange, but Grace Livingston Hill. She wrote romance books back in the early 1900s through the 1940s, and my great-grandmother passed down her books to my grandma, my mom, and then me. I have to read her book "Marcia Schuyler" at least once a year.

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

I get to mostly make stuff up, so I don't know! The sections in Italian, maybe?

What's your earliest memory?

My earliest memory has to do with me reading a book. I started reading at a young age. I grew up in a house full of books and my mom and grandma own a bookstore. Books are my life.

Do you have any phobias?

I hate clowns and zombies. A real phobia is crowds, which I'm trying to overcome.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

In television, I like Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen with Chef Gordon Ramsey. Don't ask me why I'm attracted to swearing British men, LOL. And my favorite cult movie is Xanadu. I absurdly fell in love with it as a kid and have never stopped. A movie that I love that no one's heard of is "Happy Accidents" with Vincent D'Onofrio and Marisa Tomei. It is a time-travel romance.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Probably hang out with my husband and kids. My most enjoyable times have been vacations with them.

If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?

Joss, did Buffy really mean it when she told Spike she loved him, or was she just saying it because he was going to die?

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

I have some ideas for a contemporary romance, and also for a YA series. I would love to play with either one!

What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?

Tekgrrl comes out in June 2009. I'm hoping to get to explore with some more of the Elite Hands of Justice team members in the future.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about PHENOMENAL GIRL 5 (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

It has a very strange love triangle. (;

Thanks Jeri!!!


Leave a comment or question for AJ, or tell us which superpower you either already possess or would like to have, down there in the comments. One name will be drawn at random at 11:59pm eastern time on Wednesday, November 5 and announced here on Thursday. US entries only, please.

***I recommend against putting your e-mail in the comments, since that brings on spam (not from me, from the Bad Guys). HOWEVER, if you don't leave a way for me to find you, you must stay subscribed to the comments or come back to the blog to see if you won.***

Good luck!

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Jeri, this is likely going to be a controversial question, but here goes...

I'm halfway through the book, and The Reincarnist is IMO very much like The Doctor (Doctor Who, the longrunning BBC series that is a cult favorite in the US). I was wondering if AJ was familiar with Dr Who or if this was a coincidence?

Otherwise I'm finding the book a very entertaining read, and I'm wondering if "superheroes are the new vampires" in Urban Fantasy/SF&F/romance hybrids.

Posted by: Blogger Liz at 10/30/2008 10:55 AM

I'd like to have the superpower to know what to say in every situation because ohmygod, I've got the worst case of open-mouth-insert-food, it's not even funny! heh, well maybe a little. :)

I'm totally with you on the crowd phonia, that thinking about it makes me twitchy.

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 10/30/2008 11:22 AM

And oh! Congrats on your coming release! I'm a big fan of the Shomi line and can't wait to read PG5. :)

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 10/30/2008 11:23 AM

Enjoyed the interview today and if I had a superpower, I'd like to be able to teleport. Just think how cool it would be to travel to any time or place. Congrats on your release!

Posted by: Blogger tetewa at 10/30/2008 4:26 PM

Hi everyone!

Liz, I like Doctor Who, and while the Doctor's regenerations and The Reincarnist's reincarnation power has similarities, I kept that in mind while writing the book so I could accentuate the differences. The Reincarnist is a seemingly immortal magician and ages like a normal human, and then when he dies, becomes a new man at the age of 20 who has a lot of memory problems, especially when it comes to personal stuff, and currently trains superheroes for the team he lead in a former life. While the Doctor is a 900-some year old alien who travels in time and space in a police box and can regenerate as a way of cheating death 13 times (the regenerations are usually men in their 40s and 50s for some reason) and he remembers his past friends and adventures.

I've blogged about this other places, but my idea for the Reincarnist actually came from my interest in immortal characters, the ones who lived forever and never aged and had to watch their friends and loved ones die. I wondered how they dealt with that, if they would become hardened or withdrawl completely from the world. I wanted to give my character an "out," a way to live a normal life with someone, aging and dying, and then beginning again anew. And I gave him an emotional clean slate with each new life so he could move on easier. I chose the age of 20 because I never wanted to make anyone re-live their teenage years. And then if he dies before his time, I could show the havoc his memory problems could cause on the people he left behind.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 10/30/2008 5:26 PM

AJ, thanks for the great interview! Your book is going on my TBR list. :-)

I would love to have the power of invisiblity. There are so many times that I would love to be able to sneak in places, but more importantly, be able to sneak out! :-D

Thanks again!

Posted by: Blogger Katie at 10/30/2008 7:56 PM

AJ, thanks for a great interview. I just love books on superheroes. I have always wanted the power to shapeshift into animals. Probably why I love werewolves so much.

angelleslament @

Posted by: Blogger Chesh at 10/30/2008 8:17 PM

This book sounds terrific! I'm wondering, AJ, whether you read a lot of comic books growing up, and if so, which were your favorites?
I have two super powers. One is keeping track of the books other people have read; it's not particularly useful, but boy do people ask me to use it a lot! The other is that I have amazing Pictionary ESP, but only with certain partners. I can draw a squiggle and two dots, and the person knows just what it is!

Posted by: Blogger Kimberly B. at 10/31/2008 2:19 PM

My only question is how do you do it?!!! How do you go about writing such awesome books! I think people truely have their own special gifts!
My superpower would be to heal through touch...think how much healthier the world would be!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Posted by: Blogger darbyscloset at 11/01/2008 5:53 PM

Great interview. Congrats on your first book AJ.

I have the power to attract dogs. It's weird. I don't do anything but they find me and want to crawl in my lap.

Posted by: Blogger ArkieRN at 11/01/2008 6:24 PM

Your debut sounds amazing, AJ! I'm looking forward to reading it.

I'd like to have a cloak of invisibility so I could find out lots of secrets. Including what my friends are saying about me. LOL

Posted by: Blogger Cari Quinn at 11/01/2008 9:02 PM

Kimberly B,

I started reading comics around the age of 13 and have enjoyed them ever since! I mostly read Marvel, though there's been a few DC and Image comics along the way.

I'm really behind on my reading now, but some of my recent favorites have been Marvel's Runaways, about the children of villains who are now doing their own thing; Image's Walking Dead, which is a zombie survival book, but really deals more with the survival part; and DC/Vertigo's Fables, which puts a new twist on classic fairy tales.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 11/03/2008 12:51 PM

Here's a question: Why didn't Barnes and Noble email me that my pre-order was ready for pick-up?! *GRR*

Congrats on the release, AJ! Good luck! :)

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 11/03/2008 3:33 PM

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