VH Okay A.J. let's get into it. If you could change one thing about our world, what would it be and why?
A.J. The one thing I would change is the way women are treated in certain cultures. During my time in Malawi, Africa, with the U.S. Peace Corps, I was privy to what I consider some pretty outrageous customs that women were primarily forced to succumb to -- puberty and birthing rites, wife inheritance. Genital mutilation, while not practiced in Malawi any longer, is still a reality for women in many other countries. Part of the reason I wrote my third novel, Vuto, was to raise more awareness about these traditions. In my book, the protagonist and title character becomes fed up with the cultural rule that prevents a father from acknowledging his child until they have survived past two weeks of life; if they do not, the mother and women of the village bury the child and it is forgotten. When Vuto's third child dies before the two-week mark, she forces her husband to look at the child, leading to her banishment. A Peace Corps volunteer tries to help her, taking her in. When Vuto's husband finds out she has not truly left, he goes to the volunteer's home in the night. In an effort to protect Vuto, the volunteer kills her husband, leading the two women to flee. It is my hope that people will read this book and understand what life might be like for women in Africa.
VH If you had two years left to live from this moment, what would you change about your life?
A.J. I would dedicate as many waking hours as possible to writing. I want to leave behind a whole slew of books -- I swear I have a new idea for a full-fledged novel daily. I'd probably move back home, lock myself in my room for 12 hours a day, and hopefully die with five or six more novels under my belt!
VH If you could go back in time to when you were seven years old, what wisdom or advice would you pass on to yourself?
A.J. I would tell myself not to worry, your dream of becoming a published author will come true! As it stands at 28 years of age, I already have two novels out in the world -- Choice and Queer Greer -- and a third on its way. I am actually seeking funding this very month through my Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to see Vuto through to fruition later this year.
VH It is an absolute pleasure to hear back from you A.J. Thank you.
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