VH: If you had two years left to live from this moment, what would you change about your life starting tomorrow?
AJW: For me, life is all about packing in as many varied experiences as possible. With a two-year deadline to experience all I can, I would immediately buy a round-the-world plane ticket (after begging money from every single family member and friend to fund the trip!). It has always been my dream to stand on every continent at least once, not to mention trek through as many countries as possible. I would recruit a couple of travel companions to accompany me – no doubt my parents would drop everything to come with me to at least a few of my destinations. First stop? I’m thinking I should visit Hawaii before really getting the expedition underway in Japan, tackling Asia and making my way west.
As a writer, I would also bring several journals with me and catalog the entire trip in vivid detail so as to be able to leave behind something once that fateful day two years from now arrives!
VH: I think Hawaii is a great start. Knowing me, I would stay there and call it quits.
When was the last time you felt alive? I mean really alive!
AJW: There is one specific moment that comes to mind – jumping off a 50-foot cliff into the ocean. I was 17-years-old and on a family trip to Jamaica. My brother, 13 at the time, was game to take a running jump off of this cliff and I refused to be shown up by him. So, not only did I jump off that cliff, but I did it TWICE to prove it was no fluke the first time. It was terrifying and completely exhilarating all at once. That sense of free-fall is like nothing I had ever felt before. I couldn’t have been in the air for more than a couple of seconds, but it felt like time was stretching out as I got closer and closer to hitting the water. The Caribbean Sea rose up to meet me, giving me a pretty nice wedgie in the process. I have never been a religious person, but I can honestly say cliff jumping brought me closer to any type of Higher Power than I had ever felt before in my life.
I think it might be time for me to take it up a notch for my next adrenaline-pumping adventure. Sky diving, anyone?
VH: I'm in! Wait, no I'm not. You're crazy A.J!
When was the last time you helped someone? I mean really helped someone. What did you do for this person? Were they grateful or did they resent it?
AJW: In many ways, I have been really helping someone since 2009 without stopping. For the past three years I have been corresponding with an inmate in Texas whom I have come to believe has been wrongfully convicted of the crime she was incarcerated for back in 2003. Her name is Elizabeth Burke and she was charged with the murder of her seven-week-old son, Ian. Not only have I been boosting Elizabeth’s morale with biweekly letters, but I am actively working on her case with the goal of getting her a retrial. I visited her in Gatesville, TX, last July for the first time, furthering her hope in her future. The case is complicated, to say the least, but I feel that with the right attorney, she can attain the justice she deserves. I have pledged to her that I will not stop fighting for her, even if this takes another decade to sort out. Elizabeth is nothing but grateful for my friendship and my assistance in all legal matters. I’m no lawyer, but I know how to research and I am nothing if not persistent. It’s only a matter of time before others see her case and trial for what it was – a miscarriage of justice.
VH: What an incredibly selfless act. If she is truly innocent I wish you success and Godspeed.
Thank you A.J.
Greer MacManus is uprooted from her childhood home in South Carolina when her father is determined to fulfill his strange but pressing dream to become a border-crossing coyote. Her parents take her and her younger sister to Prescott, Arizona to start a new life closer to the border. Greer enters a new school with the hopes of reinventing herself from the wallflower with one friend to speak of, to a social butterfly. She soon finds herself among the company of athletes, a swimmer herself. While Greer tries to get comfortable in her clique under the admiring eye of Cameron Keeting, the most attractive jock in school, she becomes increasingly interested in someone else. Rebecca Wilder, the beautiful swim team captain and infamous lesbian in town, befriends Greer, taking her under her wing. A love triangle soon overtakes Greer's world, leading to drug experimentation and mental confusion as she comes to grips with her sexuality as her world starts to fall apart. Without anyone to turn to, Greer must find an inner strength and the courage to be herself in a society that doesn't always understand.
Haley Fry and her twin sister, Jamie, have been compared to one another since birth. Haley is the quieter twin, a lover of music who prefers solitude to spending time with multiple friends. A prodigy on the saxophone, she dreams of a career as a musician. Jamie, on the other hand, is the athlete of the family who prides herself on her popularity and how many boys are after her. The twins’ parents, Larry and Maggie, place more trust in Haley because of her calmer nature. They expect the unexpected from Jamie, but not Haley. When Larry and Maggie learn that sixteen-year-old Haley is pregnant, they are shocked. Surprising everyone, but mostly herself, Haley faces a life-changing decision: Does she abort the baby or become a teenage mother? Choice presents Haley’s dilemma in a unique way. The first half of this novel narrates what happens when Haley chooses an abortion, while the second half reveals Haley’s life when she chooses to keep the baby. Told through the eyes of the entire family, Choice illustrates the tough decisions involved in a teen pregnancy.
A.J. Walkley is a novelist currently writing out of Tempe, AZ. She has written two novels that are available for purchase – Queer Greer and Choice – and is now hard at work on her third novel, Vuto, inspired by her experience as a U.S. Peace Corps health volunteer in Malawi, Africa.