UNC Charlotte professor, former punk frontman team up for novel

Sekret Machines: Book 1 Chasing Shadows by Tom DeLonge and A.J. Hartley. (Christine T. Nguyen/North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Andrew Hartley has written countless books: mysteries and thrillers, academic books, children’s and young adult fantasy, and even novelizations of some of William Shakespeare’s best-known works.

His latest, “Sekret Machines Book 1: Chasing Shadows,” is a collaboration with former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge —— and another notch in Hartley’s varied writing career.


“I never do anything that I don’t particularly enjoy, which is why my yard always looks a mess,” Hartley said.

Hartley is a professor of Shakespeare Studies at UNC Charlotte on top of being a New York Times bestselling author. A native of England, Hartley taught in the United States for two decades after first coming to Boston University for his master’s degree.

From there, his path to North Carolina was pretty typical of those who once lived in New England.

“I’d been in Boston for seven years, and I remember putting my Christmas tree out the last year that I was there, and it was still there in April because the snow had never gone down,” Hartley said. “I was just like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ So I was happy to leave.”

The 51-year-old —— who uses A.J. Hartley in his published works —— taught in Georgia for nine years before coming to Charlotte 11 years ago.

Hartley’s most recent project is perhaps the most unique in his personal and professional trek. DeLonge’s interest in UFOs —— a fascination, even obsession, some believe led to him being replaced in Blink-182 —— led to working with Hartley on the the new series.

DeLonge spends much of his time poring over information on UFOs and meeting with people in aerospace, engineering, the military and politics. Hartley then writes what the duo considers historical, not science, fiction.

“Initially I thought this was going to be an aliens and UFOs book, and it’s really not,” Hartley said. “A lot of it is about a conspiracy of silence. And a lot of it is about human capacity and human technological capacity. It’s not about little green men.”

After talking and meeting, Hartley and DeLonge agreed to work on the first book. DeLonge presented Hartley with the latest information he gleaned in his research and meetings, and Hartley did the writing.

“A lot of my focus became about credible, plausible characters who people feel like are regular people. They’re not Indiana Joneses,” Hartley said.

DeLonge was so pleased with the early results that two more books in the series with Hartley are planned, along with a separate three-book series by Hartley that DeLonge’s media company will market.

Has working with DeLonge swayed Hartley at all on the phenomenon?

“I think it’s easy to come into this kind of thing thinking, ‘Oh, this is all crazy, tinfoil hat stuff,'” he said.

But Hartley said some of the evidence DeLonge has unearthed, including people on their deathbeds coming clean about their work in Area 51 and other places, has certainly made him think.

“One of the things you constantly run up against is the fact that people lie to us,” Hartley said. “They’ve been lying to us about a lot of things for a long time. And they only stop lying when they get called out.”