Friday, August 23, 2013

Know Your Hunt to Read Authors: A.J. Abbiati

It's Friday, which means it's time for another installment of "Know Your Hunt to Read Authors." This week's willing victim? None other than A.J. Abbiati, who currently has two books on HTR--be sure to check them out and rate their presentations:

The NORTAV Method For Writers: The Secret to Constructing Prose Like the Pros

Fell's Hollow

We caught up with A.J. to discuss his tech-y day job, his teaching aspirations, and why Fell's Hollow sounds like such an awesome TV series. Enjoy!


First of all, A.J., thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us! I know that your day job requires you to do...well...a lot of tech stuff, I imagine! Just what exactly does an "XML Data Modeler" do, exactly?

Ah. Well, imagine you have a group of ten strangers who all need to communicate with each other, yet each person speaks a different language. Instead of having each person learn nine new languages (so that everyone can talk to everyone else), it’s far more efficient if each person learns (and then uses) one common “neutral” language. This same concept holds true with computer systems. I’m one of a few lucky guys at my company who gets to create and manage a common “neutral” computer language (for you geeks out there, it’s based on web services written in NIEM/XML) so that all our computer systems can efficiently communicate with each other.

And yet, you have degrees in English and an MFA in creative writing! How does someone with that background get into the tech world?

I’ve always dabbled in the arts (drawing, playing guitar, singing, writing, etc.), but I knew early on that I had to take a different path if I wanted a stable income to raise a family. So in my late 20s I went to night school and earned a BS in computer science while laboring in a submarine shipyard during the day. After that, I transferred into the shipyard’s engineering department and eventually moved onward and upward. About ten years ago, sick of the IT grind, I decided to revisit my love for the arts. I wanted to (finally) learn how to write at a professional level, so I went back to school, this time to earn a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing. I’m hoping to transition out of IT in the near future. I’d like to either write fiction for a living or perhaps teach writing at a college or university. Or both, if possible.

Speaking of your degrees, what was the MFA program like? What did they teach you in it? What did they not teach you that you wish they would have?

Though I definitely learned a boatload in both my English and my MFA program, I was stunned to discover that no university, no workshop, and no how-to book teaches writers how to actually write. Crazy, huh? They teach everything else a writer might want to know about the craft (plot, character, setting, theme, point of view, grammar, etc.), but no one teaches a logical, step-by-step process for learning how to construct professional quality prose. As such, I was forced to figure out the process for myself, and I wrote The NORTAV Method for Writers so that I could teach the process to others. That took eight long years, but it was worth the effort. Not only can I now produce professional quality prose (if you’ll allow me to say that), The NORTAV Method for Writers recently hit Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller List for Writing Reference Ebooks, so apparently some other folks have gotten a bit of use out of my discovery as well.  And I’m thrilled to be able to it pay it forward.

Absolutely I'll allow you to say that! Fell's Hollow has a very cool-looking cover that I was immediately drawn to; tell us a little bit about the book, along with where that cover came from!

Thanks! I designed the cover. I hired Jerry Dorris at to finalize the design and build the Photoshop files. It’s a composite of pieces, some of which date back to the 1600s. I’m quite happy with the result, as I think it accurately reflects the tone and topic of the book.

Fell’s Hollow
is part fantasy and part horror. Over the course of ten episodes I follow the struggles of sellswords and sorcerers, soldiers and assassins, fetches and thieves as they fight to survive in a city smothered in crime, threatened by war, and haunted by an ancient, blood-thirsty predator. Each episode is a story in and of itself, yet together they intertwine and coalesce into a harrowing, unexpected conclusion that ties them all together as a novel.

If you were going to make a movie out of Fell's Hollow, who would be your first choices to star? Where would you film it and why?

Wow, great question! First, as an episodic novel I think Fell’s would make a far better mini-series than a movie. I could envision Anne Hathaway and Viggo Mortensen playing a couple of roles, the jilted sorceress and the grizzled Watch Commander. I could see Hugh Jackman in there as well, perhaps as Viggo’s tragic second in command. There’re quite a few characters in the novel, make-believe casting could go on and on: Amanda Seyfried, Lena Headey, Johnny Depp, Tim Roth, Gary Oldman. Definitely Jason Momoa. He’s such a huge presence on screen. He makes a hell of a sellsword.

Fell’s Hollow is a fog-filled port city crammed in a hidden cove. Imagine a miniature medieval London with a sprinkle of Elizabethan flavor added for good measure. I’m sure there’s a place in Scotland or Europe where a mini-series version could be filmed, though I’d guess much of it would have to be shot on set. If you recall the Bree scene from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring as the hobbits head from the village gate to the Prancing Pony… that’s sort of a good idea what the bowels of Fell’s Hollow might look like.

Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?
J. R. R. Tolkien for his world-building. George R. R. Martin for his prose styling. Shakespeare for his insight into the human condition. Robert E. Howard for his sense of adventure. Stephen King for his characters and his creativity. J. K. Rowling for all of the above.

Lightning Round! Mac or PC?

PC! Though I do admit to having Mac-envy.

Place you've never visited that you want to most?

Cake or pie?


Cats or dogs? And why, if you don't mind my asking?

Hmmm….I guess I’d rather have a cat, provided it’s a lap cat. Though yellow labs come in a close second. I’m not a big fan of moody, independent cats or small, yappy dogs. My girlfriend and I recently rescued a big, white, fluffy cat with one blue eye and one green eye. We named him Ozzy. Cool cat, but he refuses to sit on my lap.  :-(

Favorite fantasy novel/story?

Difficult question! If I had to choose just one, it would have to be The Lord of the Rings.

Thanks A.J.! Be sure to check out (and rate) his books, The Nortav Method For Writers and Fell's Hollow, both on Hunt to Read. Happy Hunting!

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at

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