AJ Tillock


AJ Tillock image
Me as AJ Tillock

Imposter syndrome? I seriously thought this was a joke. The term is used a lot amongst creatives, but I never understood exactly what it was or what it felt like until last week.

Imposter syndrome, I thought, denoted a lack of confidence or belief in one’s own abilities in one’s chosen endeavor. I’m not a real writer. My work isn’t good enough. No one likes what I produce. Stuff like that.

For me, it was something a little different. As my alter ego AJ Tillock, I volunteered myself to be on the Blasters and Blades podcast, which is solely dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. I figured, hey, opportunity to promote my comic fantasy series Grinding Reality by talking about the first book, The Forbidden Bean. Easy peasy.

That is until two hours before the scheduled interview time when I received the show questions. That is when panic set in and imposter syndrome took over and I discovered how woefully unprepared I was.

“What’s your first memory of engaging in the speculative fiction genre?”

I had NO IDEA how to answer many of the questions because they centered around sci-fi and fantasy books and movies and probably video games as well. “What’s your first memory of engaging in the speculative fiction genre?” Imposter! Imposter! Can I say that when I wrote The Forbidden Bean, I didn’t know it was speculative fiction? Or even what speculative fiction was? Or that there was such a category of fiction? Can I admit that I still don’t know what it is?

What can you tell us about the universe? Um, that I didn’t create a universe. My story takes place in contemporary times in a town very much like Naples, Florida in the USA.

What sort of tech/magic could we expect from these books? Oh, geez. Magic coffee beans that cause temporary shape-shifting when ingested? Magic coffee beans that are highly addictive and transform the heroine into a reluctant superhero? Do I sound like an idiot? No? Oh, that’s a relief. Because I kind of feel like one.

If you’re ever in a situation where imposter syndrome rears its ugly head, my advice is simply to admit it. Be honest about what you don’t know. But also remember you are an expert on your world and on the world or product you created. You don’t have to fake that.

Before we even started, I admitted I had a case of imposter syndrome and that I wasn’t at all well versed in the worlds of science fiction or fantasy. In fact, I’ve read exactly two science fiction books in my life, both recommended by my husband:  Enders Game and Old Man’s War. I saw Dune recently at the behest of a group of writer friends (we all went together). Is that sci-fi or fantasy?

The podcast hosts couldn’t have been nicer, more understanding or better at setting me at ease. They mentioned The Lord of the Rings. Oh, yes. I read that in high school (because my brother had all the books). Later I recalled how much I liked Star Trek and a few other sci-fi or fantasy movies.

I guess that age-old advice “just be yourself” still applies. I’m pretty sure it’s the only cure for imposter syndrome.


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