Act of Will
Will Hawthorne is in trouble. He had been looking forward to his 18th birthday because that meant he’d finally be a professional actor, but Will has a knack for screwing things up royally. He winds up on the run from the authorities and into the arms of a party of principled adventurers who represent everything Will doesn’t believe in—principle, self-sacrifice, maybe even magic—but they seem to be his best chance of staying alive and free for a few more days…
But when his new “friends” take a job investigating a band of ruthless and mysterious horsemen who have been devastating a land far from all Will has known, he encounters an altogether different level of danger. Soon it is not clear which is more likely to get him killed, the party’s nobility, the enemy’s merciless efficiency, or his own special talent for fiasco. Can Will get used to this world of vanishing adversaries and magic swords? He will have to if he’s going to survive it. And to wind up rich and in the good graces of the beautiful Renthrette, he’s going to have to do rather more than that…
“Hartley’s prose is so graceful, his narrative so taut and his battle-scenes so exciting and well-described… This is especially true of the compulsively readable second half which unfolds with remarkable grace and power.” Booklist
A “clever page-turner” Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
“Fast paced and beautifully written” R.A. Salvatore
“I was amazed by these vividly knowledgeable adventures of a youth living by his wits in a world much like Elizabethan England.” David Drake
“Adventure meets a hero who just won’t shut up in this fast-talking charmer of a novel” Kate Elliott
JUV037000 JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic
JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / General
A.J. Hartley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of books in a variety of genres.
His thrillers include The Mask of Atreus, On The Fifth Day, What Time Devours and Tears of the Jaguar. These contemporary adventures rooted in history and archaeology have been translated into almost thirty languages worldwide.
His fantasy adventure series (Act of Will and Will Power), centering on eighteen year old actor, Will Hawthorne, was first published to critical acclaim by Tor.
With David Hewson he is the co-author of Macbeth, a Novel, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play written specially for audio and voiced by celebrated Scottish actor, Alan Cumming. It was nominated for a 2012 Audie in the Best Original Work category and published as a conventional book in spring 2012, immediately becoming a Kindle international bestseller. Hartley and Hewson are currently working on a novel based on Hamlet.
The first of a new middle grades fantasy adventure series, Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, was published by Penguin/Razorbill in Fall 2011, followed by Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck in 2012 and Darwen Arkwright and the School of Shadows in 2013. The first book in the series won the Southern Independent Booksellers’ award for best young adult novel of 2012, and has been nominated for the North Carolina School Media and Library award for middle grades book of the year and for the Grand Canyon Reader award in Arizona.
AJ’s stories are driven by mystery and danger but also reflect his abiding interest in archaeology, history, and foreign travel. As an English major at Manchester University he took extra classes in Egyptology and got a job working on a Bronze Age site just outside Jerusalem. Since then, life has taken him to many places around the world, and though he always leaned more towards the literary than to the strictly historical, his fascination with the past continues unabated.
He has an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University, and he is the Russell Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and works as a scholar, screenwriter, dramaturg and theatre director. He is the author of The Shakespearean Dramaturg (Palgrave/Macmillan 2005), an upcoming performance history of Julius Caesar (Manchester UP), Shakespeare and Political Theatre (Palgrave 2013), and Shakespeare on the College and University Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2014), as well as numerous articles and book chapters in his field. He was the editor of the performance journal Shakespeare Bulletin, published by Johns Hopkins UP from 2003-2013 and a regular contributor to the writers’ blog www.magicalwords.net.
He has more hobbies than is good for anyone and treats ordinary things like sport and food and beer with a reverence which borders on mania. He is married with a son and lives in Charlotte. You can visit his website at www.ajhartley.net.
1) When you write, do you plan the storyline or just go with the flow and see where it takes you? Plotter or Panster?I used to be a pantser but I tended to produce books that rambled and didn’t have a clear sense of what they were or where they were going. That’s okay if you are a really clear-sighted editor, but it takes me a long time to get the kind of distance I need from a book to be able to see what’s wrong with it. Months, even years. So now I use a rough outline, on the understanding that I can always deviate from it, but that if I do I also have to modify the outline so I don’t get lost or stuck and so that the story retains its shape.
2) Where do you do most of your writing? Do you have a special spot?
I have an office in my house and a standing desk where I can face the wall and be completely undistracted. I know that sounds crazy, but I need to keep everything that doesn’t grow out of the book out of my head. No music. No coffee shop background noise. No friends and family members stopping by to see how much I’ve done…
3) Are any of your characters based on people you know?
My lawyer says to say no J
4) Who was your favourite author as a child? Who is it now?
C.S. Lewis, maybe? Ursula Le Guin? Tolkien? I still like them all, though now I’d add Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and Shakespeare.
5) Did you always want to be an author? If not what was your ambition?
Actually yes, though it took me a long time for that to come true and along the way I became a college professor. I did seriously consider becoming an archaeologist when I was at university.
6) A lot of authors have playlists for their books. Do you like to listen to music whilst you write and if so can you give us any recommendations?
Nope. See #2 J
7) Can you tell us a bit more about your book and how it came about?
I grew up a true nerdling, not just in terms of being immersed in books, but I also played Dungeons and Dragons and the like. I loved high fantasy but as I got older I found it harder to connect to characters who were either handsome, noble and brave or ugly and evil. I remember reading classic YA like The Catcher in the Rye and wanting to see that kind of realism in fantasy. So I wrote Act of Will, which centers on a teenaged actor who doesn’t really believe in anything (certainly not magic) and doesn’t see the point of honor and self-sacrifice. In other words, I took a very modern kind of character and dropped him into a swords-and-sorcery world to see what would happen. And to make it more fun, I made it a first person narrative so that everything in the book was mediated by Will’s no-nonsense personality. Then I pushed all his buttons to see how he would react J
8) What made you want to write for the YA market?
I think there’s a freedom to YA that doesn’t always survive into adult fiction. There’s also something exciting about writing stories about characters for whom everything is new and each moment is shaping the adults they will be. It’s invigorating.
9) Do you ever get writers block and if you do, how do you beat it?
I don’t normally get blocked during a story because I try to think it out in advance, but I will struggle with exactly how something is going to work, or whether a story needs rethinking. If I’m really stuck, I’ll walk the (colossal) dog around the neighborhood, talking till I either figure it out or the neighbors call the cops. If that doesn’t do it, I’ll move on to something else, sleep on the problem, and hope an idea emerges. If it doesn’t, I’ll try to focus on what the precise nature of the problem really is so I can identify the kind of solution I need. Sometimes that does it.
10) If you could take only 3 things with you onto a desert island what would they be and why?
Can one of them be a boat? J Or a TARDIS (told you I was a nerd)? The latter would be cool because even if it couldn’t fly me off the island it’s bigger-on-the-inside technology would allow me lots to explore including—of course—a library.
Oh, and the island should have an unlimited supply of non-melting chocolate truffles which (for reasons I don’t have time to explain) supplied all my body’s nutritional needs with no ill effects of any kind.