A Conversation with CJ Daly Author of THE ACADEMY SAGA

Who are you? 

I’m an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. LOL! 

But seriously, I’m author CJ Daly, and I hail from the plains of Eastern New Mexico. When I was supposed to be helping my six siblings with chores on the family ranch, I was really sneaking behind dusty haystacks to read, and dreaming about becoming a writer. 

After graduating high school, I moved to Big D, where I quickly put myself through college while trying to rid myself of my country accent. I had better luck with college, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in English literature. After a humorous stint trying to teach seventh-graders how to appreciate poetry that doesn’t rhyme, I quit to have back-to-back boys. During those slap-happy, sleepless nights I began writing in earnest. 

A few months later and The Academy Saga was born. Upon its debut, it became an instant Amazon Bestseller and earned a Readers’ Favorite seal of approval. When I’m not banging out the stories swirling around my head, you can usually find me running from one athletic field to another to cheer on my boys, or feeding the wild animals that show up at my back door. On the occasions when I’m not running, I like to kick back with my gal pals and sip Texas-sized cocktails while gabbing about our favorite books and TV series. But my greatest pleasure is sharing The Academy Saga journey with new readers. 

What inspired the idea for your book?

I took my interest in occult abilities, my obsession with elite military, and married them together with romance, then added a dash of suspense and a pinch of mystery . . . and—Voila!—The Academy Saga was born! I love the idea that someone, who is living what they think is a “normal” life, has something (or someone) that crashes into them and forever changes everything.  

Tell us about a favorite character from the book.

That is such a toughy! I love them all—even the villains are great. You love to hate them. However, the protagonist Kate is the girl everyone roots for. She’s kind of gotten a raw deal in life, what with her mother dying and her father being absent and all. She has a lot on her young shoulders, including raising her two younger brothers. But she comes armed with her mother’s sixth sense, an indomitable spirit, and a sassy attitude. Those two alpha cadets have finally met their match!

Amazon ~ Walmart

Can you tell us about the book cover and how it relates to the story?

I had the artist render a drawing of The Academy logo and then had it set against a mysterious sky backdrop. The logo is shielding the couple silhouette, because even though The Academy Saga has intrigue and adventure, at its heart it is a romance.  

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

That the characters know best. What I mean by that is that I had the plotline all sketched out, but when I would get into a scene, the characters would do something different than I had in mind. Ended up that their way was the right way. I finally just caved and let them show me the story. Sometimes I feel like I’m just the portal. 

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?

If I was friends with Kate, we would be trying to figure out why she gets such a bad feeling about The Academy. So I guess a lot of Googling then! LOL! 

How do you define success as an author?

You know it’s funny: It’s not been hitting Amazon Bestseller twice or Readers’ Favorite 5-star three times; it’s the fans. I just love their insights, the way they care about the characters, and most of all how they share my love of this incredible story. 

What difference do you see between a writer and an author?

A writer writes from a passionate place. An author has to think/worry about what’s going to sell. 

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

Characters all the way.

As an author what do you think makes a good story? 

Must have intrigue and suspense. I like a good romance as much as the next woman, but for me, it has to come wrapped in a greater story. 

What do you look for in a story as a reader?

Like I mentioned above I like a story that’s not just a one-note. Also, characters that aren’t all good or all bad. I like the nuances that makes us all human. 

Who is your audience? 

I have such a varied audience—men and women, young and old enjoy the series. But the sweet spot would have to be women in their 30s-60s. Ironic that Book 1 was intended to be a YA. 

How do you interact with your readers?

On social media, mostly FB & IG, but also my top fans often reach out with emails after I share a sneak peek. 

What is your all-time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

There are just too many to count, but I will say I’ve definitely been influenced by my favorite writers and books. I especially love books that stay with you. For me that’s The Glass Castle, Memoirs of a Geisha, Poisonwood Bible, and Twilight. Yes . . . I said it! 

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish.”? 

The day my youngest son marched off to preschool. I was like . . . this is it!

How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

If you can believe it, I haven’t suffered from writer’s block yet. Thank God!

What sets your writing apart from the rest?

I think I have a distinct author voice. I like realism in dialogue, and write true-to-life characters. I’ve been told this multiple times, in both editorial and reader reviews. Also, I write guys really well! It helps to have four brothers and two sons! 

What is an underrated book, series or author that you think everyone should read at least once?

That is such a fun question, and another tough one. I really liked Dive From Claussen’s Pier. I hated the ending though, and, apparently, so did everyone else because I noticed it got pretty beat up on Goodreads. However, the writing is amazing, and I loved the characters and the story as a whole. I really appreciated how the author made me fall for a guy that I wouldn’t find interesting in real life. I just wish I could tear out those last ten pages and rewrite it! 

Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

Traveling, eating, watching series and movies with my boys and my gal pals

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry, be happy. Seriously, to quit fretting over every little thing. Geesh!

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Take a course in marketing and creative writing first.

What are you working on now or in the near future?

A series for a movie producer. (Shameless brag;-) 
Book IV of The Academy Saga

What are you reading now?

The Hobbit with my son. I’ve actually never read it before. 

What would the title of your autobiography be?

This is Me-ss

If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past or present) who would they be and what do you think you would all talk about during lunch?

Stephenie Myers, Jeannette Walls, J.D. Salinger 

Jeanette, J.D., and I would reminisce about our crazy childhoods, and then we would probably gang up on Stephenie for being so “normal.” LOL!

What would your dream library look like?

All the classics leather bound, all the paperbacks categorized by genre, then by romance heat level, lots of light, and a great big comfy couch. And a fireplace. Now I’m yearning!

If you had your own talk show, what would the topic be and who would be your first guest(s)?

My topic would be about positive news. I would highlight all the love and support we Americans have for one another. My first guests would be unsung heroes, like those awesome couples who adopt bus-loads of needy kids. I would love to have Oprah, Steve Harvey, and Reese Witherspoon as my special guest stars. Interested?

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

I get this a lot. A LOT! Which I love. There’s just so many choices for the main three characters. 

If you went on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Jeannette Walls. We could both road trip together across the country and neither one get whiny on account of our similar upbringings.

What is something you can do better than anyone else you know?

Act goofy. Followed very closely by writing.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

Maybe invest in that talk show I described earlier. Think you made me think of a great idea—we need more positivity in our lives. This is just one reason why I love reading so much. 




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