AJ Aberford is a best-selling international crime author, best known for his Inspector George Zammit series.
Inspector Zammit is a Maltese policeman who combats crime, corruption and terrorism in the southern Mediterranean. The inspiration for this character came from Malta itself, where AJ primarily resides.
Prior to becoming an author, AJ had a varied career, including working as a corporate and banking lawyer, owning and running a private investment company, and founding a leading Yorkshire craft brewery.
As of March 2023, AJ had four books in the series out, with the fifth due out later in the year, and a sixth already in the works.
Meet AJ Aberford
Questions On Writing
What has been the hardest part of your writing experience?
Learning how to get the finished work to readers. I was lucky to find a publisher and have my wife helping me with the social media side, leaving me free to write. Otherwise, it would have been a titanic struggle.
How has your writing developed from your debut novel to your newest release?
I work with a great editor who is brutal in her appraisal of my work. She has developed my style, taught me about structure, themes, charaterisation etc. then picks at my manuscript, correcting and improving the prose. My wife is also my harshest critic and proofreader!
Do you have a favourite of your books? Or is that like asking someone who their favourite child is?
I am very self-critical, so every time I revisit one of the books, I think, “Oh, that reads ok!” and it becomes my new favourite. Also, there are some sections in all the books that I think really work well, so I suppose, yes, I have favourite sections but never favourite children.
Do you make yourself write everyday/regularly, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
I see writing as a job. I’m pretty disciplined, so I start at 09:00 and write (off an on) until 13:00. Then I’ll pick it up again, reviewing, editing at 16:00 until 19:00. I’m lucky that I’m retired and don’t have to worry about another day job.
What does literary success look like to you?
I want to build the Inspector George Zammit series. To date, there are four published. Book five is in the final stages for release later this year and the first draft of book six is written. To see all six on the shelf will be a big achievement, leaving me free to start a new series, with a new cast of characters off on new adventures.
How do you celebrate when a new book is published?
Clear the decks and move on to the next one. I enjoy the process of writing and I’m happier when I’m in the middle of writing a book, than when I’m casting around for ideas at the start of a new one.
How much planning/world building do you do before writing, and how much comes along as you write?
To be fair, I’m not much of a planner at all. I’ve tried, but I find the characters take over and steal the plot away from me. I know each of the characters pretty well before I start, broadly plan where I want to end up. Who will live and who might not is always up for debate, as I go along. Also, I know the geopolitical context that underpins a lot of Inspector George Zammit plotlines (oil smuggling, ISIS in Libya, Greek/Turkey tensions over marine exploitation rights, Mount Etna’s eruptions etc.) As I write and become more immersed in the story, inspiration finds me. If it doesn’t, I’ll go for a walk to find a way to resolve a problem or a dead end.
Questions on Books and about You
Firstly, the most important question: what books are currently ‘on your bedside table’?
Well, I have to say that, as I get older, I struggle to read the font size in paperbacks, so I rely on my Kindle. But waiting to be read are: A Cursed Place by Peter Hannington and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, then Divided by Tim Marshall. I’m a big fan of Tim Marshall and I think his books really help us to understand the geopolitical context of our world today.
What children’s book would you suggest every adult read?
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.
What does your writing space look like?
I’ve got a nice sized, street-facing study with a sofa, for afternoon ‘reflective pauses’!
How many books do you think you own?
Too many. I’ve taken to giving boxes away free on Facebook Marketplace, e.g. a box of political biographies, box of Tour de France and cycling memoires, box of outdated Rough Guides, box of old paperback trillers, box of old cookery books etc. I’m a great believer in passing books on, once I’ve read them! I also regularly donate to the local charity shops.
Who is your literary icon?
A true literary icon whom I read, and re-read, is Joseph Conrad. The fact that English was not his first language always amazes me.
If you could own one rare/first edition of a book, which one would it be?
I’m not much into ‘stuff’. I don’t collect things like watches of treasures. I holiday with a cabin bag, I have a Kindle (not books due to font size and space), so a rare first edition would be wasted on me. Sorry, not very writerly!
Is there an author who you always read?
I had the eager anticipation of a young teen waiting for the next Potter, when Hilary Mantel was due to release the next part of the Wolf Hall trilogy – her death was a sad day when that rich vein of genius was no more.
And finally, what teasers for book 5 can you give us?
Title: The Knife of Mercy (it is the executioners knife, featured in Caravaggio’s The Beheading of John the Baptist that hangs in Malta’s St John’s co-cathedral!) There is a teaser!
George investigates a massive conspiracy to defraud the UN in Syria. I based it in Idlib, which I thought was a relatively unknown area of Syria but, following the earthquake, I’ve had to revisit it. I couldn’t let such a major disaster go without referencing it.
ISI in Levant is plotting to bomb cities in the UK, France and Holland.
Major melt down between the principal characters in the series leading to murder, mayhem, and ???
Thank you AJ for this insight😊
AJ Aberford Books