Monday, April 10, 2017

A.J. Sky on Firestorm

A.J., welcome to Homeschool Authors! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me!
I'm a contemporary Christian fantasy author with a passion for page turners full of mystery, adventure, fantasy, faith, friendship, courage, and light that shines in even the darkest places. I'm also a horse-loving Northwoods girl with a weakness for coffee, a graduate from a 30+ year veteran homeschooling family, and the fifth of six kids.

Everyone’s homeschooling experience is different. What do you think made yours unique?
The biggest thing that made my experience different from the other homeschoolers I know was being raised by a single mom, which meant facing a lot of extra challenges. Everyone had to pitch in to take care of each other and make ends meet. We went without a lot of things and went through some tough times, but it made us closer as a family and taught us invaluable life lessons like hard work, perseverance, creativity, teamwork, thankfulness for even the smallest things, and compassion and generosity toward others in need. It's also taught us to find humor and fun in seemingly dreary circumstances, such as when we couldn't afford heat. It got so cold we could see our breath inside, but everyone just laughed and joked about getting toughened up to the cold like our Viking ancestors. So hard times can make you strong and adaptable! The secret to getting along in all circumstances is simple: We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

For a lot of years it felt like we were alone in our situation. Then my family participated in the Homeschool Legal Defense Association's single parent survey (January/February 2011 cover story of HSLDA Magazine, Single, Not Alone). That's when we discovered there are actually about 20,000 single parent homeschool families going through similar struggles across the country.

I wouldn't wish being fatherless (or being a single parent) on anyone, but God is the best Father in the universe, and He can work all things together for good.

How did being homeschooled prepare you to write?
It allowed my education to be adjusted to my personal learning style. It nurtured curiosity and a love for learning. It gave me freedom to jump ahead in areas where I excelled while lingering on things I struggled with until I got the hang of them. I am very much a learn-by-doing girl, and homeschooling gave me the kind of educational environment I flourished in. I'm so thankful that my strong and selfless mom chose to keep homeschooling us despite the mountainous hardships of being a single parent.

I also got a lot of hands-on and unique life experiences, which is fantastic food for a writer's mind! I've worked a wide variety of jobs, lived in a wide variety of places, and interacted with all different age groups. Many of those experiences have seeped into my stories and the lives of my characters.

What caused you to start writing?
Some things are just part of who we are. The passion for stories was always one of those things for me. I guess books are in my blood, because for as long as I can remember aloud reading and listening to audiobooks has been a favorite way to spend family evenings. Growing up, even when everyone was quietly doing their own thing while listening, it was a bonding time as we were all together and engrossed in the same world of the story. I can't remember a night when we didn't all beg for 'just one more chapter' when it was time for bed.

I remember looking through books when I was little and dreaming up my own tales to go with my favorite illustrations. Sometimes after watching a movie or studying a certain historic event, I'd make up a retelling in my head and tell it to my siblings. I scribbled bits and pieces of stories and poetry while practicing penmanship, which usually led to me getting caught up in my imagination and forgetting all about making my handwriting pretty. . .or readable for that matter. Then when I got older, I found myself choosing names for my future characters while other girls were picking out names for their future kids. When other girls wanted to go shopping for clothes I groaned, but no one could drag me out of a bookstore!

The older I got, the more I started to realize how my favorite books and movies, both fictional and true stories, had a profound impact on my own character and the shaping of my dreams. They were some of my greatest role models. Even Jesus himself, our ultimate role model and hero of the greatest book ever written, used stories to illustrate his teachings. Stories are powerful. They can literally shape people's character and even entire cultures.

Personally, great books have given me a lot of the same things that great friends bring to life. Inspiration, comfort, laughter, hope, encouragement, perspective, an escape, good memories, something to look forward to after a long day, etc. So in a way, being a storyteller allows you to be a friend and light in the lives of people you will never get to meet another way. And best of all, stories can outlive their authors and go on to touch future generations. A story told today can be treasured by a heart that starts beating a hundred years from now.

That's what really drew me to writing.

What inspired Firestorm?
A variety of things, including current issues such as human trafficking in the USA. The dragons themselves were inspired by a number of different things. I've always been fascinated with dragons, dinosaurs, mysterious beasts, etc. So when I started studying the King James Bible and discovered several mentions of dragons that newer translations had changed to things like 'crocodile' (which I found far less epic), it really excited my imagination. I love studying creation and the bizarre 'superpowers' found in many animals and decided to incorporate some of those things into my dragons. So although they are fantasy creatures, the inspiration for them came from a mashup of real-life animals.

Would you give us a synopsis?
Dragons were once considered mere legend. . .
but some legends live and breathe.

Growing up as a friendless kid constantly bullied for his disfiguring facial birthmark, Caiden Blade always dreamed of becoming a heroic defender of mankind. So when he gets an exciting job that promises to protect a small mountain city from the impending spread of a dangerous, newly discovered species once thought to be mythical, he couldn't be more thrilled. But the illusive mountain creatures he is sent to help capture are far from what he expects. . .

The small city of Paikka had been struggling in the aftermath of a terrorist attack when Doctor Maverick Blackwood discovered and captured dragons in the nearby mountains. That discovery transformed Paikka into a booming tourist hotspot. Everything from dragon claw jewelry to dragon fight video games are all the rage as dragon fighting becomes one of the nation's top televised sports.

But there is more to Doctor Blackwood than the droves of tourists and busy souvenir shop owners know. Something more than brutal battles between the dragons in his arena is going on inside the walls of Blackwood Tower, but no one in the now flourishing town wants to know what it is. . .except for Caiden Blade.

Who will enjoy Firestorm?
Anyone who likes a clean, fast-paced contemporary fantasy or action adventure read could enjoy it. The characters range in age from early teens to sixties, so even the grandparents will have a hero to root for!

Do you plan to write more books?
Absolutely! A StormBreathers companion book, The Dragon Diary, will be published shortly. Icestorm, the sequel to Firestorm, is already underway.

Where can people connect with you online?

My website:

Firestorm is currently available on:
Barnes and Noble:

Do you have any final thoughts?
A family snuggled up in the living room, listening intently as their mom reads a well worn and loved book that she cherished growing up and is now one of her children's favorite stories. A book that was passed on from generation to generation. A book that outlived its author and was a light in the lives of those who read it. . . That is my ultimate writerly dream.

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