I’m delighted to welcome author A.J. Banner to Colloquium for the first time.
A.J. is the author of three best-selling and well-received thrillers: The Good Neighbor, The Twilight Wife, and After Nightfall.
Her new thriller, The Poison Garden, is the story of of a woman who appears to “have it all” — a blissful marriage, gorgeous Victorian home, and ideal job running her late mother’s herbal boutique. But a shocking discovery turns her life upside down. What she learns casts doubt on everything she thought she knew about her marriage, friends . . . and herself. Is her future at stake? Is paranoia getting the best of her? Or is she right to fear for her life?
The Poison Garden is receiving rave early reviews. Cristina Alger, author of Girls Like Us and The Banker’s Wife calls it “a taut, absorbing, richly atmospheric thriller,” declaring A.J. “a master of smart psychological suspense.” Catherine McKenzie, author of I’ll Never Tell and The Good Liar, says it’s a “fast-paced ride that leaves you guessing until the last page. . . . I read it in one sitting.”
A.J. shares how she found the solace she needs in order to write.
Everything Old is New Again
— or —
Why I Write on a Vintage Typewriter in a Vintage Travel Trailer
I love working from home. I choose my own hours, no worries about traffic or a long commute in gridlock. But distractions and interruptions punctuate my workday, disrupting my concentration. Telephone calls, texts, the special needs of our rescued cats, home maintenance, administrative tasks, and appointments. Not to mention the pile of mail waiting to be opened, laundry that needs folding, the rug that needs to be vacuumed. The list is endless. Much as I love my husband, our cats, and our busy lives with family and friends, I need to schedule solid stretches of time to write my books. Writing is my profession. I must be self-motivated, set daily goals. There’s no boss breathing over my shoulder. The creative work is all up to me, and over time, I’ve found it more and more difficult to find uninterrupted writing time at home.
I tried renting an office space away from home, but I found I wasn’t commuting often enough to make the cost of the rental worthwhile. It was so much easier to commute from the kitchen to the living room in my pajamas, coffee mug in hand, even though the distractions kept coming. So, a few months ago, after much research, I bought a tiny, completely refurbished vintage travel trailer, a 1963 Field and Stream. Six feet wide and eleven feet long, the tiny trailer became my new satellite home office under the trees on our wooded property, a thirty-second walk from the front door of our house.
When I’m in the travel trailer, all worries fall away. The air smells fresh and clean, a gentle forest breeze wafts in, and towhees and chickadees twitter in the underbrush. I decorated the interior walls with my book covers on metal prints, and I keep a small pencil sharpener, in the shape of a travel trailer, on a shelf by one of the five original windows (only the large front window is new). The trailer is full of light, and the raised ceiling, tiny kitchenette, and new eucalyptus flooring make the retreat inviting and cozy. I’m able to focus and push away all the distractions that crowd my mind in the main house.
After a few sessions in my new sanctuary, I started to dream of ways to write without staring at a computer screen for long periods of time. I felt the need to return to the tactile sensation of producing new writing as I did when I was a child, when I first felt the passion and joy of typing stories on a typewriter. There’s something immensely satisfying about hearing the clack of the keys, seeing the ink imprinted instantly onto paper. And while typing, I can’t second-guess my work. Don’t get me wrong. I love new technology, and I love using my laptop computer, but I revise endlessly when it’s too easy to delete, add or move chunks of text with a simple click of the mouse.
But where would I find a typewriter? I Googled “typewriters for sale” and discovered a local office machine repair professional, Paul Lundy, who owns Bremerton Office Machine Company, where he also sells refurbished typewriters of all kinds. Next door to him was a typewriter shop, Typewriter Fever (which recently moved to a new location). I became obsessed with trying out the machines in Paul’s shop, and eventually, he sold me a refurbished 1956 Hermes Rocket and an Olivetti lettera 32. Both typewriters are portables, and both smell of ink and metal and years gone by. When I type first drafts of scenes on the typewriters, my heart sings. I fly through the story without second guessing what I’ve written. I’m not staring at the computer screen, and I’m not checking the internet. Then I scan the printed pages into a PDF file using the Adobe Scan app. It’s easy to convert the PDF into a Microsoft Word file for revision in my laptop computer.
The separate, comfortable work space and the typewriter allow me to unclutter my mind and focus on my creative work. Also, by investing in these tools of the trade, I’ve given my writing tangible value as a profession. Think about what you would like to do to honor your creative work. What prevents you from fulfilling your goals? What would help you overcome these obstacles? Maybe you don’t need a vintage travel trailer, but what concrete, innovative steps could you take to move forward? Let me know. I would love to hear from you.
A.J. was born in India and raised in North America. She graduated from a southern California high school before earning degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She tried law school and working in a veterinary clinic. But as a child she had loved reading everything from Nancy Drew to Tolkien to the spy novels she hid beneath her pillow after pilfering them from her parents. She penned her first thriller, Mystery at Crane Corner, when she was just 11, creating her own cover art and binding the pages with staples. Thus, a commitment to writing was inevitable.
Her debut novel, The Good Neighbor, was a #1 Kindle bestseller. Her second effort, The Twilight Wife, was a USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller. Publishers Weekly aptly called 2018’s After Nightfall a “gripping psychological thriller.” A.J.’s story lines are epitomized by unexpected twists and turns.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats.