by Katie Stepp

With genres spanning from middle grade adventure fantasy to young adult mysteries to adult science fiction, it’s no wonder that bestselling author A.J. Hartley has been called a literary shapeshifter. The English department and the College of Arts and Humanities recently welcomed the internationally known writer back to the University of West Georgia.

A.J. HartleyHartley is a former UWG professor and current New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. During his visit, Hartley read the first chapter of his novel Steeplejack, answered questions, conversed with the audience, gave advice, as well as signed books.

Hartley was born in the industrial area of northern England and has lived many places around the world. He attended Manchester University as an English major. Before being published, he taught Shakespeare at UWG.

Hartley currently works as the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and has published more than 15 novels. Some of his well-known books include Steeplejack, Sekret Machines, Darwen Arkwright and The Peregrine Pact.

Writing his novel, Steeplejack, from the perspective of a young girl was interesting for Hartley.

“The pitfall to avoid is any sort of stereotype—any kind of clumsy way of looking at people from the outside and assuming who they are—and the only way to avoid that is by sharing your work with people who are closer to that position,” Hartley explained. “I have always written people who were not exactly like me because I don’t think I am particularly interesting.”

Hartley emphasized the importance of empathizing with the characters’ situations and thinking on their level in order to side with them.

A lot of research goes into his stories, especially Steeplejack.

“I didn’t always know what I was researching. To go to Africa and just be there and tour historical sites and talk to people was really valuable for my research” he shared. “I have to make sure the story is dominant and the characters are dominant, but bring the research in naturally.”

When asked for advice by a current student, Hartley suggested, “Read a lot. Write a lot. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Get it down and move on. You can always come back to it. There are so many potentially good writers out there who can't finish. Take people seriously and listen to what they have to say.”

For more information on A.J. Hartley, visit his website:

Posted on October 11, 2017