Today, I’m flying high with A.J. Mayers.
A.J. is the author of Final Boarding (Mascot Books)—a two-and-a-half year labor of love due out tomorrow. His previous novels include Among Us, Moonshadow, The Cosmos of Destiny, and Black Sheep’s Meadow. A veteran of the entertainment industry, A.J. has juggled writing with working full-time for MTV, Paramount Pictures, and, most recently, Universal Pictures, in creative film marketing. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for an anti-bullying non-profit called Boo2Bullying. A.J. hails from Laredo and is a graduate of the University of Texas (where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film); he now makes his home in Hollywood.
Praise for Final Boarding:
“This is a fast paced journal account of events immediately prior to the departure of Flight 619 and the subsequent investigations and search. I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this book, steeped in mystery and conspiracy as the search continues. Ideal for readers who like James Patterson and Dan Brown, this exciting story keeps the readers attention to the final pages. Definitely a good read!”—Kerrie Waller, Goodreads Reviewer
“Final Boarding is a fast-moving thriller with a plot that twists and turns like the turbulence of an aircraft twirling through a rough storm. Patrick Baldwin, aeronautics engineer finds himself blessed and cursed at the same time. Because of a delay at the airport, he misses his flight only to discover a few hours later that the plane has vanished without a trace. He encounters a web of collisions and clandestine affiliations that lead to conflicts and deaths. The end of the novel leaves the reader exhausted and wistful, but completely validated. Final Boarding is a mystery and a love story that enthralls and intrigues the reader.”—Mary Lou Lopez, Goodreads Reviewer
From the publisher:
Patrick Baldwin had no idea missing Phoenix Airlines Flight 619 would mean he would live to see another day. The flight he missed went missing itself over the Pacific Ocean, going off radar without a trace or any sign of debris. When the world can’t stop talking about the disappearance, Patrick begins to delve into the mystery of the missing airliner in hopes of discovering its fate and the fate of his three colleagues who were on board. The deeper he finds himself in this mystery, the stranger the circumstances become. Was Flight 619’s disappearance an accident, or something more sinister?
Now, A.J. Mayers navigates readers through Final Boarding …
John Valeri: What first inspired you to write Final Boarding – and how did that idea evolve throughout the 2.5 year creative process?
A.J. Mayers: The inspiration came from the real life mystery of MH 370 – the Malaysian Airlines plane that went missing almost 3 years ago. I was glued to CNN every day following this bizarre mystery that has yet to be solved. I wrote this story not really knowing what my own ending was going to be and it changed a bit when I finally found the final scenes in my head. Some of it was molded by my own growth during the 2.5 years I worked on the book and also by developments in the real search for MH 370. The main evolution was my own personal growth and obstacles I faced with people in my own life.
JV: Your protagonist, Patrick Baldwin, is an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary situation. In what ways do you hope readers will find him relatable – and how did you endeavor to balance the suspension of disbelief with realism?
AJM: Quite an extraordinary situation indeed! I think he’s relatable because he has heart. His life is not a fairy tale or glamorous – and he’s an engineer that makes a good living! He struggles with his relationship with Francesca Fields. He has health and mental obstacles to overcome. I, personally, can relate to someone that has obstacles and challenges in life. He was given a second chance at life when he missed Flight 619. Patrick is a survivor, a victim, and an underdog at times. Balancing his journey, which is very much a suspension of disbelief, was afforded by the fact that regardless of how crazy his adventure becomes, it’s not that farfetched that such a thing can happen in real life – and technically it did – though that doesn’t have an ending yet. I wanted my story to have a sense of realism because we live in a crazy world today. Just watch the news or listen to the Presidential debates! I wanted to make the readers feel on edge and lead them into a false sense of pretense by leaving the fictional world I created and maybe at one point or another guide them to think they’re reading nonfiction.
JV: The narrative unfolds through Patrick’s journal entries. Why did you choose this format – and in what ways do you think having done so benefits the overall delivery of the story?
AJM: This was my first time writing a book in this point-of-view which at first I felt would make it easier, but the truth is, it has its challenges because you see the world through the eyes of one person. I wanted to write a character that was very different from me professionally, but shared some similar personality traits and struggles I’ve faced in my life in some way, shape, or form. Patrick’s journey is difficult, dangerous, and plagued with tragedies. Reading the story through his voice helps readers feel the emotional journey he takes off on. I chose to write the narrative this way to challenge me, but to also feel an emotional connection that Patrick and I are bound to by the symbolism of the written word and my personal journey.
JV: You use metaphor and symbolism throughout the book. What is the power of doing so – and how did you manage being impactful without being overhanded?
AJM: Thank you for noticing – funny how I ended my last question with talking about symbolism. Metaphors are a way I can express multiple layers of my story that might be reminiscent of real life experiences I’ve faced and ways to add layers to the mystery in Final Boarding. My book began with the idea of the symbolism behind the mythology of a Phoenix bird and I just ran with it. The idea of a bird that never dies and his reborn from ash is fascinating to me and I think this metaphor will continue to unfold in the future … but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and reveal my future secrets yet! But biggest metaphor is talking about “true quiet,” which Patrick describes many times – that came from my own real life skydiving experience – exactly the same for Patrick. In a world where I’m constantly connected and tied to a busy lifestyle, my dream vacation is simply peace and quiet. But peace and quiet to mean so much more too … [no spoilers!!!]
JV: You have experience in the film industry. How has that informed your approach to craft – and in what ways can coming from that background be both a help and hindrance?
AJM: I wrote the book as a movie in my mind. I think about what I would love in an action-packed thriller, and then I imagine the scenes in my head with music. It helps with being able to create a world that can transcend different mediums, and I can definitely say I’m heading in that direction, but it also makes it a challenge because if I can see it in my head, it doesn’t mean others will see it the same way. I paint a picture through my words and I can only hope it translates.
JV: Leave is with a teaser: what comes next?
AJM: There’s so much back story I leave vague on purpose regarding a certain organization in the book, and there are characters who have more story to tell. I’m developing prequel/spinoff/sequel ideas – remember a Phoenix dies and bursts into flames, then comes back to life … reborn! I might have another plane to catch, but maybe this time it’s not an airplane, per say.
With thanks to A.J. Mayers for his generosity of time and thought and to Georgia at Dawn til Dusk Publicity for providing this interview opportunity.