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Wednesday 22 July 2015

ℚ Soaked - A.J. Cosmo

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Soaked (, Thought Bubble Publishing, 132 pages), a middle-grade fiction book.

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

A big welcome to A.J. Cosmo, thank you for joining us on BookChatter.

What was the inspiration for Soaked?

"Soaked was inspired by an idea I had about a group of children taking a water gun war way too seriously.  As the story developed, I pushed it towards a tale about bullying and the war mentality of our culture.

I knew that this book would be for an older audience than I was used to writing for (4th grade, as opposed to 3rd) so I needed to up the action and the "hooks" in the story.  What developed was a sort of action movie for kids.  In fact the final product has more in common with Die Hard and Cool Hand Luke than it does Shiloh or Bridge to Terebithia.

I wanted to create a modern middle-grade novel that both reflected the time and could compete with attention grabbers like video games and cell phones.  The chapters are short and the hooks are deep, and I'm proud of that."
How much of yourself is reflected in Soaked, and how?
"I tend to slice myself into little sections to create my characters, so there's a little bit of me in all of them.  Prose writing has a feeling of being inside of the writer's mind and you simply cannot create a piece that is not representative of yourself.  Even when you try to distance yourself from your work, you still end up sneaking in.

The cover for the book is of Aiden, the hero of the story, and the image is compiled from seven different reference photos I cobbled together.  When I finalized the cover and sent it off, one of my fans asked if I had used a picture of my young self as the model.  I was overweight at that age, but had I been skinny that's what I would have looked like.  It's funny, when you take a portrait class you can always tell when students stop using their model; it's the point when their subject starts to look like them.  You literally can't create anything without it reflecting you."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Soaked - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
An earlier and a later version of the cover.
"I hand drew the cover, created the logo, and composed it all together.

The cover took three months to finalize and this was the sixth unique version.  The subject is Aiden, the hero of the story, and his hair is wet from just getting doused.  His pupils are hyper contracted and were copied from an Iraq war veteran who had just witnessed an I.E.D. explosion.  They are the eyes of shell shock.

What Aiden goes through in the book is war, traumatic conflict.  It may be silly kid bullying, but to Aiden and his friends, they suffer quite a bit.  The final cover is confrontational as we see what all of this is doing to Aiden.  His face reads stoic, resolved, and painful, and it's so direct that people have called it scary.  The other interesting thing is that the camera's perspective is that of Jacob, the bully.  In other words, you the viewer are the bully.

Does the cover work?  I don't know.  I'm not totally sold on the water drip background (it doesn't clearly read) and having a simple portrait doesn't say a lot about what actually happens in the book.  I'd love to hear from readers what they think."
The final (?) cover as of 19 July
[In fact, since this interview took place A.J.  did decide to change the cover - twice - the version used in our spotlight feature and pictured here on the right should be the 8th and final version I think... ]

Why should we read Soaked and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?

"Fourth grade on for boys is considered the dead zone for children's literature.  It's the age where boys are expected to give up reading for video games and movies while girls continue to enjoy the medium.

Soaked is different in that it challenges the notion that boys stop reading.  You can't say that chocolate cakes are unpopular if you refuse to bake chocolate cakes.

Soaked is a book for boys that don't read.  It's a fast, easy, and satisfying book that has many stopping points along the way.  You can read a chapter, send a text, read a bit more, and play a video game, and that's exactly how it was designed.

I don't believe that boys stopped reading; I believe that we've stopped writing for them.  Soaked is an attempt to change that. "
Can you tell us something quirky about Soaked, its story and characters?
"Sure.  The characters are named after last year's most common baby names.  I wanted them to have realistic names for at least a generation, and I didn't want to do any subtext naming such as having a coward named "Ronnie Ostrich."

Besides the character names, the neighborhood itself is based off of my childhood neighborhood.  The locations and layout are all similar and half of the street names are the same.  Aiden's street address is the same as the house I grew up in.  Unbelievably, that street is named Nevermind."
Who would you recommend Soaked to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I recommend the book to parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents of boys between the ages of eight and eleven.  It's funny doing a blog tour for a book whose target audience won't be reading it.  However, you are all the gatekeepers of the children in your life. I hope you take a chance and send them a copy of Soaked.  Heck, some of the biggest fans of the book have been adults!

I can safely say that no one under seven should read the book.  I'm known for a lot younger material, but first and second graders will not understand some of the subtext in the book and they will not enjoy some of the more intense scenes."
What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I like to write about the everyday meeting the extraordinary.  Soaked is unusual in that it's the first book I've produced that didn't have some magical element to it.  Yet, the situation itself is extraordinary, especially in its resolution.

I love monsters that show our humanity, dinosaurs that reveal friendships, and imaginary friends that are more real than our problems.  It's both what I like to write and what I like to read.  My favorite stories, such as A Wrinkle in Time, make us see reality in a whole different way. "
What is your writing process?
"Each story is different and requires a different approach to create. Soaked had a heavily outlined birth and heavy improvisation over its structure. Other books have been written in the blind, illustrated first, written backwards, or written out of order. You have to respect the process and adapt accordingly; otherwise it will feel forced.

The current book I'm working on asked to be handwritten for the first draft. I trusted it and so far it's working. ☺"
What is in store next?
"Soaked is the first middle grade novel that I have released and this fall I hope to release my follow up "Poop." I'm keeping the story close for the time being, but the name should tell you enough. It's a story of immaturity turning into maturity, and I wanted a title that called out the most immature feelings inside of us and brought them forward.   I'm also working on finishing up the Monsters A to Z series, which is a collaboration between myself and 25 other writers.  It should be finished by October.  I also have three iOS books in the works that have some interactive and animated elements."
Click on the picture below to download an exclusive A.J. Cosmo FREE book!
Many thanks again for chatting to us A.J.  We wish you all the best with the rest of the tour and your upcoming projects.

Soaked - available NOW!

UK: purchase from US: purchase from find on Goodreads


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Victoria Alexander said...

Thanks for sharing the great interview! I really enjoyed reading it :)

A. J. Cosmo said...

My goodness, you are thorough! Thank you for going the extra mile and adding in all these details! You are amazing! This is one of the best guest spots I've ever had!

Stormy Vixen said...

Enjoyed the interview, thanks for sharing, sounds like a fun book.