Friday, October 10, 2014

A.J. Cosmo: Where Monsters Lurk #interview #author #kidlit

I want you to stop for a moment. Really stop. Now think back to when you were a child; a curious, wide-eyed little adventurer. Did you ever wonder.....

You have? Well, then you are going to love my guest today because he had the same questions! Please help me welcome the creative genius behind the wildly popular monster series, A.J. Cosmo. I couldn't wait to ask him some questions and grill him about his experiences as an author and illustrator. My own seven-year old self can't wait to hear his answers, so let's get started!

With an impressive 13 books listed on your website, can you please tell my readers how long you've been publishing and what inspired you to become an author? 

Firstly, thank you for checking out my website, I'm always honored whenever anyone has a look! To answer your question, I've been self-publishing exclusively on the Amazon Kindle platform for three years now. In that time, I've created a little over forty books, however not all of them are currently available. 

About three years ago I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I was thirty at the time and was having a sort of pre-mid-mid-life crisis (astrology folks call it the Saturn return.) I looked at who I was and what I had dreamed of being as a child and realized that they weren't lining up. I also happened to be unemployed at the time (something a lot of my generation has in common with me) and was incredibly frustrated that I didn’t have a job that used my hodgepodge of skills. So I went back to my dream. The dream that has always kept me going: writing, or, more correctly, creating. I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter and, after failing at that hard, started exploring other writing forms. I stumbled upon Kindle and became interested in children's books after downloading a few of the early eBook offerings. I've always been a boy stuck in the body of a man, so it wasn't hard to get into it. All I did was ask, "What would the eight year old me want to read?"

That's where "The Monster That Ate My Socks" came from. I wrote and illustrated that in two weeks without really knowing what I was doing and it became a huge success. God blessed me with that title, and since then I have been striving to honor that creativity.

Children's books turned out to be at the intersection of everything I loved and could do. They allowed me to write, to tell a story, to create a world, and to illustrate that world. It was an unexpected joy and something I never thought in a million years I would wind up doing. Yet it makes perfect sense!

I love your illustrations and their vivid colors. These expressive drawings are sure to be well received by children. Do you illustrate your own books or do you have an illustrator that handles this aspect for you? 

Aww, thank you so much! I do all of the illustrations on all of my books. I use several different techniques and styles to create the work, changing ngredients to fit the story. I like colors to pop, so I take a lot of time selecting color palettes and arranging color space. From what I've heard, the children love the colors too! I approach the illustrations from a film perspective (going so far as to refer to the pictures as "shots") as such I sometimes find myself at odds with traditional illustration techniques. I really want these characters to come to life, to communicate, and I want the children who are reading them to understand the story from the pictures, even if they can't understand the words. Childhood reading is practically a theatrical experience and I want to give everyone the tools to enjoy it as much as possible.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being an author? Time restraints? Writer's block? Marketing? 

Here's a short list: marketing, promotion, exposure, and advertising, in that order. Seriously, writing is an incredibly difficult skill that takes years to master and an immense amount of failure to become proficient at. Yet, also a skill that is universally de-valued by the public. We used to be at the mercy of the publishers, now we're at the mercy of search engines and they have a rather unique set of demands. Pricing is difficult: too cheap and no one will buy it because it's "desperate," too expensive and no one will buy it because "eBooks should be cheap, there's no printing involved!" 

As such each book requires it's own promotion, pricing, and marketing strategy. I have done everything that the marketing books recommend. However, as most self-publishers know, none of it works. Well, not exactly. The truth is that some things work and other things don’t and you won’t really know until you try it. I've spent a little over a year learning book marketing, have learned a lot, failed a lot, and have come away with the realization that very few people, including the big boys at marketing agencies, actually know what they’re doing. The rest is money thrown at vacuums.

In that spirit, I have begun helping other authors market and advertise their work. I support indies because I know how hard it is to make a living off of our work. And I believe we have a right to make a living. We have a right as artists to make money and continue to create, even if sometimes it seems like everyone else makes money off of us. I got lucky with an early hit, but most people don’t 
have that fortune, and it pains me to see indie predators hawking the promise of success to the naïve.

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of interacting with your readers? 

I have a policy of never responding to reviews, but I always respond to emails. My readers, unknowingly, have directly guided my work. Early on I constantly offered various stories and characters but the audience spoke and I started to specialize in monsters. I don't mind being typecast. In fact it's an honor. It's a wonder of the digital age that we get constant feedback about what readers 
respond to.

Reviews are such a funny thing and can be extremely damaging if you’re not prepared for them. I have five stars that talk about how the book helped a child through a difficult situation. How "I Love You" helped a parent to express themselves to their child and for their child to understand that love. I have reviews that have called me a hack, have said that I support puppy mills or some other nonsense. Reviews that deride me and then advertise their own book! And reviews that say I am combative or inflammatory which, again, I have never responded to anyone for their review. But my absolute favorites are the ones left by children. They are so honest and brief and sometimes don't understand the rating system. Here's my favorite:

"Awesome! I loved it! I want the next one to have monsters fighting, so cool!" * One Star

Is there one particular letter or photo you've received that has touched you in
such a profound way as to affirm why you became an author in the first place?  

A few months ago I randomly stumbled upon one of my biggest fans on twitter. Her resulting enthusiasm blew me away. Beverly told me that not only was I her son's favorite author, but that he anxiously awaited each new book. I was stunned. She said that he had learned about honesty through "The Truth Fairy" (her favorite book) and that I had helped him to fall in love with reading. If I died that day, I would have died satisfied.

I have since kept in contact with her, and a handful of other fans, and have tried to actively involve them in guiding my work and life. I want to help people. I want to make the world a better place and I want my work to reflect that. "The Monster That Ate My Socks" has been downloaded over 300,000 times. That means on any given night there are at least a hundred children reading something I created just before they turn off the lights. How amazing is that?

Despite everything that has challenged me in life, the set backs, the nay-sayers, the horrible reviewers, that one fact keeps me going, keeps me creating. It's an honor, a God bestowed honor, to have created one little book that has touched so many lives. That's why we create. That's why we go through what we go through to bring a thought into flesh. We yearn to be heard. We yearn to affect 
the world. 

To anyone out there reading this that has thought about being a writer, or has dreamed of creating something, anything, I implore you to pick up that pen or that brush and continue. Finish it. Whatever it is, get it out there. You want to make it for a reason and we have no right to deny the world our creations any longer. You never know what God has planned for what you made. Don't mess up that 
plan. Create. Live.

Today, in this moment, if you could give your 10-year old self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. Everything will be all right.

Thank you, A.J. for joining me today. It was truly a pleasure having the opportunity to interview you and learn from such a down-to-earth, creative mind. I look forward to following your progress, hopefully learning from the sage insights you gave us here today, and watching your continued success.

Well, dear readers, I hoped you enjoyed looking back at your own childhood thoughts and dreams. Never forget that just because you have grown up, doesn't mean you have to lose contact with your inner child. Embrace that part of yourself. Let yourself feel the wonderment that only youth can comprehend.

To learn more about A.J. Cosmo, please visit him at his website,

Wishing you all a day filled with mystery and adventure,


  1. What a wonderful interview. Congratulations on all of your books, A.J. I love how you decided to follow your dreams and sorry to hear you were unemployed. I really wish you the best success with your work. 40 books, wow!!

    1. Thank you my friend for stopping by to learn more about A.J. and his accomplishments. He is definitely a great role model for us as we aspire to reach our goals in this industry.

  2. Thank you Geena. It's been a wild ride and I can't thank K. enough for the interview. The best part is interacting with other authors and I'm here to offer support for everyone. :D

    1. You were an absolute joy to have on the blog. I know my readers will find your interview both entertaining and informative! Thanks for being here and giving me the opportunity to showcase your talent and your books.