Transcript: 3. A.J. Truman

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Full episode transcript

Lee: Welcome to episode number three of the Low Angst Library podcast. Today, we have an interview with A.J. Truman.

I’m your resident librarian Lee Blair. This library is your stop for all things light, fluffy, funny, sweet, spicy, and everything in between. I not only publish low angst queer romances, but I’m a voracious reader of them too.

I created this podcast because I wanted to talk to other authors who write romances with main characters on the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum so that I could learn what draws them to the lighter side of angst, more about their books, and their writing processes.

I’m excited to share my interview with A.J. Truman. In it we talked about A.J.’s path from screenwriting to MM romance, the character that he most relates to, and how he’s evolved his various series.

A.J. Truman writes books with humor, heart, and hot guys. What else does a story need? He lives in a very full house in Indiana with his husband, son, two cats, and a dog. He loves happily ever afters and sneaking off for an afternoon movie.

Before I share this great interview with him, I want to share a note about the timing. So this interview was recorded about five months ago and due to lots of tech support issues, the episode is super delayed. So when we start talking about A.J.’s upcoming projects in the interview, know that the timing is a bit off. So I’ve recorded a brief update at the end of the interview to share a bit about what’s going on with his books now, as of March 2023.

All right, time for the interview.

Hi A.J. Truman. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today in the Low Angst Library. I’m really excited that you’re here.

AJ: Thank you for having me. Excited. My second only podcast, so, psyched to be here.

Lee: I am psyched that you are here. This worked out perfect.

So I am just going to come out and say that I am obsessed with your books. I adore the blend that you have of humor, the romance and the connection between the characters. The friendships among your characters and the steam. And I really appreciate how you write low angst, and it’s in a way that I feel like keeps the reader’s attention without being angsty, but you find other ways to keep that attention and keep tension going.

So, you know, for me, it’s catnip. I just love your books, and selfishly, I’m really glad that you write them. And I would love to know just how you got into writing books in the first place. And then specifically what drew you to romance?

AJ: Sure. So I had weird path to it. I always loved to write, but I was never a reader in school. I hated reading because we had to read all these old classic novels, which I just had no attention span for. Obviously childhood television. My mom put me down in front of the TV when I was like a year old and I just never left that spot.

So I went to college. I wanted to be a screenwriter. I wanted to write for TV. Then after that, I kinda got into writing young adult ’cause that was pretty big. That was late 2000s when like the YA boom was starting to happen. So I started reading it and I really liked that young adult books were more fast-paced. It was like reading a screenplay. It was very dialogue focused. Action focused.

So I started writing those, but then I had an idea. I wanted to write something that was set in college, So I wanted to write something set in college with gaming characters. And at the time just was not really a thing, you know, you had Club by Brent Hartinger. You had Rainbow Boys, but there wasn’t really a lot there and especially not in college. Young adult was very focused on high school age kids. And I just kept thinking, well, I want to write, like I want, you know, gay Felicity like that WB show. There’s a show Greek on ABC Family on at the time.

It was like I wanted something like that, but with gay characters. I wanted something like Dawson’s Creek. These shows like I used to watch and love when I was a teenager. And then a friend recommended to me. I downloaded this book called Social skills by Sara Alva, I read it and it was incredible. It is a college nerd/jock romance, but it was just so beautifully written and it was like, this is everything I want. These are the type of books I want to write.

I think it was like NaNoWriMo. I started writing my first book, Out in the Open, and I put it up the following year. And it just had a really big response, bigger than I was expecting. So I just kept in that series. I was never a romance reader growing up. That’s not really what I gravitated to. I love like romcoms, romantic comedies. I love like that soapy prime-time TV, like when I was in college and I wanted to write for TV, the show in my head was Desperate Housewives, which had just gotten on the air and was a huge hit. And I was just obsessed with it. That and Grey’s Anatomy. I love those shows.

So, with writing romance, it allowed me to activate the soapy things that I love. But also allow me to be funny, you know, and all these things and really show off my writing style. And I was able to write about gay characters and it wasn’t a quote unquote gay issue book that I had to write. It wasn’t a book about like, oh, look at me, I’m a gay person, but I still have thoughts and feelings just like you.

I didn’t have to do those books. It was just these characters that are gay and now let’s get into the story. It was so freeing. I really felt like I’d found my niche. And so I kept writing. I’d taken some breaks throughout the years after writing a few books in the Browerton series. I dabbled in some other things, but then I kept coming back to it because I just, I love, I think the best parts of my writing are the humor. I love like really funny dialogue. I love like a fast pace. I love that soapy steaminess. It all just kind of culminating with, um, with writing romance and continuing to get into it. So it’s been a great time. I’m very grateful that we live in this time when it can be a big genre. When there’s so many authors publishing it. When readers can read it so easily. Kindle was just such a game changer for that.

Lee: Yes, absolutely. Oh, I love that journey. What a way to get here. And you’re right, like, it’s so accessible now. There’s so many different books, and there is a little something for everyone. And I love that we can kind of carve those niches for ourselves and you are currently writing in a low angst niche with your stories. So your college age stories, those have a little bit more angst than your more recent series, right?

AJ: Yeah, so a little bit angstier, because what 19 year old isn’t angsty? Um, Let’s be real. But it still has the hallmarks of my books today that there’s still, there’s still humor in them. Still steamy, still soapy. And so I just kind of carried that into these new books. I dropped the angst, you know, because I think for me with everything going on around the world, like I just need these books to be more of an escape for me. I just did not need drama. We have enough drama in the outside world. I just, it was my safe space to just escape all of that. So I’m just really happy I can create this world where it is low angst where things get wrapped up nicely. Where there’s no one that is like that cruel or that horrible.

Lee: I agree with you completely. That’s what draws me to it too is just that escape. That kind of old saying of write what you want to read. That’s that’s me with low angst too. If I’m going to live in the world while reading a book, but I’m going to live in it way longer while writing it, I want those warm and fuzzy feelings.

AJ: Yeah. And I think just growing up since I was such an avid TV watcher. You know what I love about TV. TV, I think, in essence, is like a low angst medium because at the end of the hour or the end of the half hour things get restored. Especially on like comedy series, you know, or even on like medical or doctor shows or lawyer shows. For the most part, things get resolved at the end of the show. The characters never changed that much. They never get that harmed or that affected. By being such a TV watcher growing up, I think that was just ingrained in me as well. Like I love the thoughts of like, characters. Nothing’s ever too traumatic or too painful that the characters can’t get past them.

Lee: That makes a lot of sense. And I’m curious. So one thing that I’ve discovered as kind of going through and getting this podcast started is much like steam levels there is subjectivity to what low angst means. So I would love to know for you, what does low angst mean?

AJ: That is such a good question. I had a feeling you were going to ask it. And I was like, okay, A.J. come up with an answer beforehand so you’re not just um’ing and ah’ing on mic. Of course I did not do that. But I think for me, low angst just means that things never get too dramatic. In my mind, I have a Hallmark Christmas movie. Oh God, what’s that word? A Hallmark Christmas movie sniff test for lack of a better word. Would this plot fit in a Hallmark Christmas movie? Would it tonally align with that? And if it’s too dramatic, it won’t. That kinda helps me. So I think what low angst means is that yes, there is conflict, but it’s nothing too dramatic or traumatic or too painful. It’s light, it’s fun. It’s something where you just know at the end that there will be happy happily ever after.

I think a big thing, too, is I see readers who say, I want a really hard fought HEA. For low angst, it’s not a hard fought HEA. You know, there’s some obstacles, of course. But, it isn’t like these characters not being put through the ringer. If you want books that make you cry, these are not my books. I don’t think of low angst that way. You know, but there are people who like, they want all the feelings. They want to be put through the ringer. I think in those cases that’s high angst or just regular angst.

Lee: Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I really like that we’ve got this language and classification available to us to help readers find what they want. So we have sort of this universally acknowledged and accepted low angst terminology or high angst. We’ve got words for it so readers who wouldn’t be happy with our stuff can find other things and the readers who want that Hallmark vibe, which a Hallmark sniff test? I am internalizing the hell out of that because I love Hallmark movies. I just, I just love that. It’s kind of like this litmus test of okay, would this fit into a Hallmark movie? Perfect. Yes.

AJ: Yeah.

Lee: Absolutely. So I would love to know about your writing process. Whatever you’d like to share about how you start drafting an idea, where you fall maybe on the pantser-plotter-discovery writer spectrum. Anything.

AJ: I find myself changing or adapting my process with each book I write. But in general, I’ll come up with either a trope I want to cover or a concept that just, or an idea that just sparks to me. I’m more of a plot-driven writer, so I’ll think of a cool plot or something and I’ll think about, okay, well, what characters would exist in this plot?

With like my book The Falcon and the Foe I was like, well, I love the idea like two warring, single dads who have to team up. What would this look like? know, in what circumstance would they have to team up and be stuck together? That book- I just thought about these really intense sports parents for like little league and stuff who get so into it. And at first I was, I wanted it to be like two rival little league coaches. But logistically I couldn’t really make that work in terms of the adhesion part. I started thinking of what other activities they could do. I’m like, well, what if their sons are both in a scouting trip and they have to work together.

So, I think of the concept first, and then I’ll write an outline. I’ll think of the main plot points in the book. And again, TV mind. I’ll think about like, what are the big act breaks? If this is like, you know, a network drama, there’s usually five commercial breaks. So what are the big act breaks I want to to build up to? And so I’ll track my outline that way.

Then I’ll write the first draft. And I consider myself a plantster. So I’ll have an outline, but I can go way off outline if I need to. I consider the outline is like the interstate when you’re on a road trip. You go on the interstate, but sometimes you want to take a detour and take the scenic route for a few miles. But, you know you can always get back onto the interstate whenever you need to. I will take detours because the first draft, like these characters, I’m meeting them too. Like you’re meeting them when you read them, I’m meeting them when I write them. So it’s just about me getting to know them and a lot of times they can surprise me.

You know, like, oh, I thought this characters was going to be like this. Oh no, no, actually they’re like that. So there’s a lot of discovery for me. Then the second draft is when, like the real, like roll up your sleeves work happens. That’s like a heavy edit. I go chapter-by-chapter. I see, okay, what’s working, what’s not. And even as I’m writing my first draft because I’m a big proponent in finishing what you write, even if it’s not going well, if it’s kind of a hot mess. Finish it because you can revise something that’s finished.

If you keep trying to change things while you’re writing it, and least for me, everyone’s process is different. It just draws it out and just becomes a lot more difficult. I like to finish things. And even I’m writing, I’m like, okay, I know what I’m writing will have to be changed or if this plot line is not working.

And then you have the second draft, which is when I go through make those changes. And then the third draft is cleaning up things like here or there, like little grammatical things. Then I send off to beta readers, get feedback, and then copy editors. And away we go.

Yeah, it is fun. I always think, will I want to write another book? Will I get excited about another book? But I think once I come up with a good concept and interesting characters, I love thinking of like situations for them to get into. You know, especially my favorite part is like the buildup to them hooking up. That’s always the most fun to write.

Lee: That is so fun and I love the increasing challenge as you write more books and you’re like, okay, I need it to be different from what I’ve written before. So it just makes it more complicated. I love it.

So with your background in screenwriting, do you find that that helps you with your pacing and kind of planning and outlining a novel?

AJ: Oh, yeah, it’s been very helpful. You know, I just, because when I took screenwriting classes in college, and it just drilled into outlining and plot structure is a huge part of it. That’s been very helpful. So just understanding three-act structure, but then also what’s in those different acts. I kind in like a five-act structure where I kind of break it into smaller pieces. And then I think about like those separate pieces as like as mini plays in themselves. Each part of it has to build up to a climactic moment. Whether it’s like their first kiss or their first time that they have sex. Or when maybe there’s breakup or maybe when they start to realize like, oh, we’re not just hooking up, we’re actually in love. So I try to build up of those and just having that background in screenwriting, because it’s helped me figure out structure and like, you’re right, and pacing. And just knowing, you know, how, at what point things should happen. At the 30% point this should happen. At the 60% point, this should happen, et cetera.

Lee: Oh, that’s great. I that that experience has translated for you. Good.

So, where do you get some of your ideas and inspiration for your stories?

AJ: That’s a good question. It can come from, from all sorts of things. Sometimes I’ll just start with like a trope and then build out from there. Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie or TV show or I’ll read a book and it’ll spark an idea in me like, oh, that could be interesting. How would that translate into romance?

I was listening to podcast. I love movie podcasts. And I listened to one about this movie from the nineties about this guy who steals someone’s identity and moves to the small town. I was like, huh, that’s interesting. What would that be like in a romance book, if like you’re dating someone and a sudden, you know, you find out that like they fake that identity or something like that. I can get it from a lot of random places.

Sometimes if it’s like a new trope that I’m working with. Like that’s always exciting, figuring out, okay, how can I play in this sandbox? And then I think also I love writing enemies to lovers. It’s my favorite trope. My favorite to read, my favorite to write. Just thinking about like, okay, if you have a character, what is the exact opposite of that character? Who would he hate the most? And then just going from there.

It can come from, from all sorts of places. Everyone is different. And sometimes it’s just questions I’m having in my own life and exploring them in book form. With the Single Dads Club, I got that idea because my husband and I, we’d been trying to have a baby for about a few years. It took us about four years. So it was a very long, lengthy process with a lot of bumps in the road. And just me thinking I can’t wait to be a dad. I hope I get to be one. It’d be fun to like hang out with other dads. And then I got this idea for, you know, oh, what if It’s a group of gay single dads? And what would that look like?

Lee: Oh, I love that the inspiration for that series came from real life. That’s amazing. I love that so much.

And I feel like my next question is one of the hardest. I mean, I, since we’re on the topic of dads picking your favorite child. So what’s been your favorite book or characters to write so far?

AJ: Recently it’s The Falcon and the Foe. I just loved writing Cal. He is very much me. Cal is just like a lovable, hot mess. And Russ, the love interest, is this perfect Type-A dad. And I just love that contrast. They were just so fun to write. Cal’s just a piece of my heart because I kind of thought of him as a gay Bridget Jones and Russ is like the uptight Mr. Darcy. And I am such a Bridget Jones. I’m just such a hot mess. It was just so much fun to write and he was just so funny. Like, I think he really just helped me like refine my mojo with writing because it’s like, oh, I like being funny. The book that I wrote before that was like, definitely it was the last one of my college series. It was on the angstier side, and it had trouble coming together. But this one was like, oh, I forgot it’s fun to write fun books. It’s fun to have like fun jokes and like fun, witty banter. Um, so it was just so much fun to write.

And then aside from that, the book I’m currently writing, the main character, he is a theater teacher. He’s very into theater and like being very theatrical. And I love I can draw on my love of theater and pop culture with this character. Because, again, who would be the last person in the world that he’d want to be stuck with? A big jock. You know, a big football coach who’s just like thinks the Fast and the Furious movies are high art and who thinks Shakespeare’s Richard III is the sequel to Richard II. Um, so, that’s been a lot of fun to write right now. Just, I love that combination of the uptight one and like the kind of slob, hot mess one.

Lee: I am so excited for that you’re writing. The way you set it up in Ancient History. Oh, my god, I cannot wait. So, on behalf of your readers, please write faster. I’m begging.

AJ: We’re working through it. Fortunately, my son is now up to like taking pretty long naps in the afternoon. So I’m like, oh good. All right. Good boy.

Lee: But you’re right. Like the contrast I can see, like thinking back on your books, I can definitely see that in the Falcon and the Foe. Oh my gosh, those two. I think it works so well because it gives you that. It helps sell the ‘why they’re good for each other’. And it comes through so clearly. I love that so much.

And so you’ve talked about enemies to lovers being a favorite trope for you to read and write. What are some of your other favorite tropes to read and write?

AJ: I love small town romance. I love the quirkiness of a small town. Bonus points if it’s in New England in the snow or in the fall. What other tropes are fun and I enjoy? I’m looking on my bookshelf right now. Oh, I love age gap. Age gap and even size gap. The Barkeep and the Bro, I love the size difference. You had Mitch, who was like this 40-something, big bear of a guy and Charlie who was this like short king. You know, short, but had a big mouth on him. And I just love that difference. I thought that was really hot to write. I love found family. I love creating that friend group. And nerd/jock is always a great one. I guess that’s kind with enemies to lovers too.

And then virgin romance. I feel like I’m just a perpetual virgin at heart. I can be very naive at times and like, very, just like, whoa with everything. With new things that I see. Even though I’m nearing 40, like sometimes I have this 18, 19 year old mindset, where I still come off as like, this very like innocent. Just yeah. Virgin at heart. So. I definitely identify with those characters and they’re fun to write.

I have another virgin romance that’s coming up. And also too, like, I think it’s fun, especially in M/M romance because, you know, there’s just. not just like the, the virgin part, it’s like the whole. A lot of them is a lot of times it’s them just like, kind of getting used to being gay and then being out. And I enjoy that as well. I haven’t really written a lot of coming out books recently because I think, part of me, it’s like the low angst too. Well, like I just want everyone to be out and be cool with it. And someone isn’t out, they come out and it’s no big deal. So I think it’s part of my safe space and my escape with doing it.

Lee: That makes a lot of sense. I like that about low angst too. There’s that built-in acceptance of that you come out and that’s great. And we move on. And then there’s other conflict. And I think there’s space for all kinds of books, but that’s, for me personally, as a reader, that’s something that draws me toward the low angst side is that’s often not the point of tension. I I like that.

AJ: And I think too, what I love about low angst, especially in these new books, in my Single Dad series and the South Rock High series, there’s no homophobia. That was a decided point that I wanted in these books where it’s like, there’s enough of that crap in the real world. Yes, it is inherent and there’s authors who write wonderful books who tackle homophobia. I just did not want to be one of those people. I dealt with in my own life. I just didn’t want to deal with it here. And I think as part of that low angst definition, it’s- I just want to create this fake world where people are out. It’s no big deal. People are over it and everyone just can go on living their lives.

Lee: Absolutely. That’s something that drew me to Schitt’s Creek as well. With Dan Levy talking about that was one of his goals for creating that town is yeah, there was a lot of shit wrong with that town, but homophobia is not one of those things. Which I love. Yeah, for sure.

So I would love to know more about your reading habits. Do you read while you write?

AJ: Yes. I’m a slow reader. Um, So I don’t, I’m definitely not as voracious as the readers in the genre. Um, but yeah, I do like to read. I do like to stay up current on authors that other people are reading, especially authors in our genre and our subgenre. I just love to see what they’re doing, you know, what that voice sounds like. But I definitely, I have varied reading because I’ll go back and forth. I’ll read some romance. Then I’ll need to take a break and read you know, some other type of general fiction, but then I’ll come back to it.

Books I’ve liked recently. Isla Olsen’s P.S. I Loathe You _is fantastic. I just got such _Boyfriend Material vibes from it. It is so fun. Even just the plotting is wonderful. I’m loving that book so much. And then I love Sarina Bowen. Her book Roommate last year was my favorite read. Just that perfect small town vibe and just the characters are just so vibrant and just so fun. And I just love spending time with them.

Lee: Oh, that’s great. I loved PS. I Loathe You as well. Isla’s books is another one. She’s so skilled at creating communities and groups and series with interconnected people that just feel alive. Like you feel like you know, those people and the banter and the chemistry.

So that’s a low angst book recommendation. _P.S. I Loathe You _is low angst. Do you have any other low angst book recommendations?

AJ: Oh, god, what have I read recently that I’ve liked. So R.M. Neill just came out with a new book. Twice in a Lifetime and her books are just really sweet, really wonderful. Just great characters. This is I think the end of her series. I think she just started writing about a year or so ago, but she has just a lot of great books out.

Casey Cox, his Vet Shop Boys series is wonderful. If you read my books and you enjoy them, you will love Casey’s books. It is found family. It is humor, heart. There’s steam, like definitely there’s steam in there. Um, so it’s just great. It’s about a group of friends who work at a veterinary office. It’s wonderful.

May Archer’s books are fantastic. The Pick Me. I forget what the sequel’s called. I haven’t read it yet. Her books are wonderful. And then you have, you know, your K.M. Neuhold, your Lucy Lennox. They’re also fantastic as well.

Lee: Yes, so many good ones. I agree with all those. Great, great, great books.

So since we’ve been talking about other people’s books for a bit, let’s get back to yours. Your first series, the Browerton University series is college set. Then we’ve got the Single Dads Club with guys kind of in and around middle age, early middle age, like.

AJ: Forties.

Lee: Yeah.

AJ: Early forties.

Lee: I just turned 40 and so I’m like, oh my gosh is that technically middle-aged? Holy shit. Okay. You’ve got your latest series, South Rock High, which is, you know, focused on the high school teachers. So late twenties, early thirties. So your series have kind of spanned several age groups. And I’m curious when you go to write a series, are you picking an age group specifically with that series in mind? Or is this more of like an overall plan for you to kind of touch on various age groups?

AJ: Uh, so it was not part of a plan. I actually had an idea for teachers. So Amos, the first protagonist of Ancient History, he was the best friend character in the last Single Dads Club. There, you met his friends and that’s just kind of how this new series came about. So I didn’t really do much thinking about like, oh, I was writing 40-somethings, now I want to write 20-somethings. So I have been kind of all over the place. I think it just depends about the story and the series.

I think after this, I would love to write more 40-something characters . That’s closer to my age. I think just when you’re in your forties, it’s different, it’s a different time. You’re more sure of yourself. You’re more confident in who you are with different things. You’re able to look back in the rearview mirror more. But you still have so much of your life ahead of you. So I’d definitely love to get back to characters of that age set. But I think for me, it’s all about what characters are speaking to me right now, and then I get to know them and then they tell me their age. So.

Lee: I love that.

AJ: That’s how it works. Yeah.

Lee: That’s a great way to do it. And you do reference this. So how your South Rock High series Amos and his friends are in the Single Dads Club in the last book of that series. And so that’s kind of a connected series in a connected universe. What made you decide to do that? And are you thinking of going even further and having other series or- What are your thoughts with that?

AJ: So when I started writing the South Rock or the Single Dads series, I wanted to keep it at a trilogy because my last series just went on and on and there was no plan in place with it. I love those books, but there was no thought out through line for the characters there. So I wanted to do something different and have more thought out storylines in the Single Dads Club. So when you read that book, even though each book can be read as a standalone, you’ll see that there are storylines that progress in each book subtly.

You know, like in one book, someone’s daughter’s dating this guy. And then in the next book she gets engaged, and the third book, it’s her wedding. All the characters have, you see them, you see them progress. And even with like Cal and Russ, you get to see the relationship continue to develop in future books. I love that and I love this world that I created. So instead of me creating just another fake small town that would have been just as similar to Sourwood, well, why don’t we just keep it all together? And I have found that readers do love staying in the same world. They love seeing characters from previous books check-in in new series. That’s something I really wanted to do.

So in the South Park High series, there’ll be characters from the Single Dads Club that will cameo in these books. So just the way everyone together. I love the world of Sourwood that I created. It’s quirky, it’s fun. The stores have fun, cool names. So I wanted to keep all that. I didn’t want to change anything. You know, since it is a town, there’s so much you can do with it. There’s so many different types of people that you can explore. It’s like my own personal Springfield.

Lee: Yes. Oh, I love that so much. I really enjoy that as a reader too. It makes me think of also like how Isla Olsen has the Kelly family series, and then there’s off shoots that you meet characters in that one and then off shoots with the different series. And I just really love when authors do that, because it feels, as a reader, like a richer experience. Those cameos and Easter eggs are just like a little giddy moment when you’re reading and you don’t necessarily expect it. And it just adds to that fun vibe while reading a book. I just love it.

AJ: Yeah, it’s kinda like, you know that GIF online or that meme of like Leonardo DiCaprio and once Upon a Time in Hollywood pointing at the tv. And I like, that’s what it is when you see like a fun Easter egg or you see a character reference. So I love planting those and because I love reading those or I love like seeing those when I’m watching something like, oh hey, I get that reference. So it’s funny, you know, people love being in on something.

Lee: Yes. Oh, absolutely. And so with your- We talked a bit about your new series, South Rock High, and so that’s set in a high school among teachers. And do you have experience teaching in high school or kind of, how are you getting that setting that contextual info? Reading it, it felt really vivid. I loved it.

AJ: I just kept thinking of like my high school experience, even though it was many years ago. I just kept thinking of that, like it, isn’t it funny, I can’t remember what I ate yesterday or where I was a week ago, but I can remember the exact layout of my high school, which I’ve not set foot in in 20 years. I can still remember it. I can still remember like the people walking in the halls. I can still remember the teachers. It is just like visually imprinted on my brain. Yeah, so like I just, I just use that as a basis. I still remember all these like random stories and quirky things that I try to plant in these books as well.

I wasn’t planning to write a book set in high school, but I had this idea for like a fun title. It just kind of came to me one day when I was driving thinking like, oh, a second chance romance about a history teacher who’s obsessed with the past. And then I was like, oh, he teaches history, like ancient history. And then I just had this idea of like, oh, what are other fun subjects I can do that with? Oh, drama could be a fun one. Advanced chemistry could be a fun one. So that’s how that came about.

Also like I um, watched these episodes of this show called Abbott Elementary, and I was like, oh, like that’s a really fun show that also takes place in a school. And I just, ’cause I just remember hearing all these random stories. You know, when you’re in high school or junior high, you hear all these random stories about your teachers that make you realize, oh, they’re actual real people with lives? I remember senior year, our English teacher, she was telling this story about how like she went to meet some friends one night and then like she thought her car got stolen.

So then she called the insurance company and like her car was stolen. She filed a police report and she wound up getting a new car and then like, two months later, she was walking around and she found her car, like in the parking, in this, on the side street where she parked it two months ago and forgotten. And we all laughed and then like afterwards I felt like, oh, you mean my teacher was so effing drunk that she forgot where she parked? That’s what you mean.

Lee: Oh my god. That is hilarious.

AJ: Teachers, they’re just like us.

Lee: And that really comes through in the first book in Ancient History because there’s those moments where the teachers are texting each other and it feels like simultaneously telling their students to stop texting in class, but then sort of like doing it themselves too. Oh, I love it.

So in terms of upcoming projects, what can readers get excited about that you’re willing to share?

AJ: There’s gonna be the next South Rock High book is called Drama. It’s an enemies to lovers between a theater teacher and a football coach who are mortal enemies, but then they have to pretend to be fake boyfriends for a wedding. So that will be coming out in November, and then in 2023 there’s gonna be two more South Rock High books in the series.

And then after that I’m still toying with what my next series will be. So I don’t wanna say anything just yet. But it’ll definitely probably be in the same universe. Low angst, so I’m still figuring that out. So I don’t wanna say anything and print it on the podcast. I don’t wanna be held to it. But just, you know, expect more of the same.

Like I said, I love writing these books. I love being able to be funny and sexy in books. Um, so it’s just, it’s super freeing and I’m excited to, like- Chances are it will probably be set in Sourwood or connected to these books. But I’m still figuring that out.

Lee: Ah, so much exciting stuff to look forward to. Yay!

So how would you sum up what people can expect from an AJ Truman story?

AJ: Um, I like to say it’s about, it’s where LOL meets DTF. Um, DTF means down to f–k. So it’s humor, it’s heart, and it’s hot guys. I definitely really try to emphasize the humor. ‘Cause I hate when I read books, but I feel like, oh, like it book is so funny. And like, I did not laugh once.

Lee: Yes.

AJ: So my books, I really aim to just put a smile on your face. I love when like, people say to me, oh my god. I was like hysterically laughing during your book or like, your book made me like crack up. Like that is what I want, you know? On the low angst conversation, like I said, there’s people who read books and like, oh my god, I love that you just like ripped on my heart and like stomped on it. I will not be doing that. I’m here to just make you laugh also make you fall in love with these characters. Um, so yeah, I mean, and I guess just, yeah, humor, heart and hot guys are like the three elements.

Lee: Oh, that’s perfect. That’s so good.

So what are the best ways for readers to learn more about you, your stories, and get in touch?

AJ: Yeah, so you can go to Um, you can get a free short story that’s set in the South Rock universe by signing up for my newsletter. I send it out once or twice a month. And then whenever there’s a bunch of other free short stories from my other series that you can read as well for newsletter subscribers.

You can go on Facebook. I have a Facebook group called The Outsiders. So there I’ll share teasers. We’ll have some fun conversations there. I’ll give heads up on what’s going on with future books. And then if you just wanna get alerts about when the next book is coming out, you can follow me on Bookbub or follow me on Amazon, and then they’ll send you an automated alert when my next book comes out.

Lee: Perfect, and I’ll add those links to the show notes.

AJ: And then you can always just email me directly. I always respond to email, so just and yeah, let’s chat.

Lee: Awesome. Great. Thank you so much for talking with me. This has been an absolute delight. I’m so excited to get to talk to you.

AJ: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. This has been so much fun.

Lee: I had so much fun talking with A.J. As I mentioned earlier, this interview was recorded a while ago. And since we’ve talked, he’s released Drama!, which we talked about in the interview. But also the next in his South Rock High series is available for pre-order. Romance Languages is Julian’s story and is a friends-to-lovers virgin romance, and it shows a release date of June 30. A.J. also released a funny paranormal romance in December called Only One Coffin. It’s a grumpy sunshine, forced proximity romance. There’s a link to A.J.’s Amazon page in the show notes.

Thanks so much for joining me in the Low Angst Library. I hope you enjoyed this interview with A.J.

Is there an author of low angst queer romance that you’d like me to interview? Well, there’s a link in the show notes and on with a guest suggestion form. If you’re an author writing low angst queer romance, there’s a self-suggestion form in the show notes and on the website as well.

A major goal of mine with this podcast is to have guests writing main characters in romance novels that represent all identities under the queer umbrella. So your suggestions will help me with that.

If you’d like to financially support the podcast, offset the cost of hosting, editing software and episode transcription for accessibility, you can buy me a coffee. The link is in the show notes. Other ways you can support the podcast are by sharing episodes with your reader friends and leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or another podcatcher that you found the show on. The show is also on social media @LowAngstLibrary.

Until next time, keep reading.

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