And here we find ourselves once again, looking at the lovely cover art for the anthology "Tails of the Pack", which contains my werewolf story as well as many others. You can purchase it here and here, in case you forgot since yesterday.
Today we talk to Aaron Smith, the latest author to brave my interview. His story, "The Librarian" is about a man whose wolfish nature is controlled, until something terrible happens to those he loves...
And now, heeeeeere's Aaron!
- Tell us about yourself. What do you write? What do you do besides write?My name is Aaron Smith, I’m thirty-six years old, and I live in New Jersey. As for what I write, I can’t seem to limit myself to a single genre and I don’t think I ever will. Writing about different things is just too much fun. In the five years or so since I started seriously writing, I’ve written mysteries, horror stories, science fiction, fantasy, a western, a few war stories. I’ve had three novels published, as well as stories in anthologies, pulp magazines, and comic books. I’ll write about almost anything if given the opportunity. I see absolutely no reason to limit the possibilities. I do go through phases though. Lately I’ve been writing a lot of horror, but I’m sure I’ll go back to mysteries at some point, or science fiction, or maybe write a historical novel or something else I’ve never tried before. The most well-known property I’ve had the opportunity to work on is Sherlock Holmes, and I’m still amazed that I managed to do that, considering that Holmes is easily my favorite literary character. I’ve had four Holmes mysteries published in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series of anthologies from Airship 27 Productions, with a fifth coming in the next volume.
My latest novel is a vampire story called 100,000 Midnights, which was released in June by Musa Publishing. So far it’s only available as an e-book. I hope those readers with Kindles or Nooks will look for it.
As for what I do besides writing, for almost twenty years now I’ve been running produce departments for a major supermarket chain. No, it’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but here’s a little secret about it. It’s perfect training for a writer. Think about it. Every human being has to eat, so everyone, from the richest millionaire to a single mother on welfare, has to shop for food. So, in that business, you get a really good look at uncensored humanity. Working in stores in different areas over the years, I’ve met people of all economic statuses, all different races, religions, political affiliations, and ages. I’ve chatted with celebrities and helped Smokey Robinson pick out his broccoli. I’ve been screamed at because of prices or because some paranoid woman thinks her child will die instantly if he eats a blueberry grown in Canada. I’ve had a gun pointed at me by a thief, seen people panic-shop when a snowstorm is coming, administered first aid to people who’ve slipped on grapes, and been in bizarre situations with all different sorts of people. Want to see people with their true personalities hanging out for all to witness because they’re going through a routine that they can’t avoid? Then hang out in a food store. It’s a great source of research, a good look at the beauty and the ugliness of human nature.
- What's your writing routine?I write or rewrite every single day, except for an occasional day off after finishing a big project. I have a nice little office in my basement (out of view of the television, which is important), with my computer and hundreds of books. The minimums I set for myself are either 1,000 words a day of writing or 5,000 words of editing if I’m polishing a project that’s already done in its first draft. Often, I surpass that thousand words, but 1,000 is the minimum I have to do to keep from feeling lazy and guilty. I usually juggle two or three stories at a time so that if I get stuck on one story I can jump over to another, which often un-sticks the first one too. I don’t have a set time when I write. Sometimes I do it in the morning before work, sometimes in the afternoon when I get home, and other times in several short spurts over the course of the day. But I will not do anything for pleasure or relaxation, like watching a movie, until the day’s work is done.
- Who or what are your influences?I truly believe that I’ve been, to some extent, influenced by everything: every movie I’ve seen, book I’ve read, person I’ve met, or memory I have. But if I have to name names, I’ll mention the writers whose influence I’m most conscious of and grateful for. Those would include HP Lovecraft, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming, Bram Stoker, Roger Zelazny, Ray Bradbury, Robert E Howard, JRR Tolkein, Robert Anton Wilson, and Stan Lee (and the artists he worked with). I guess I’ve also been pretty heavily influenced by many of the world’s oldest stories, the authors of which are often unknown. I mean the stories in the world’s religious texts or in ancient myths or old folklore, many of which also inspired the writers I just listed.
- What's on your bookshelf (or shelves!)?Looking around the room to answer this question, I wonder what a psychologist would say about the strange assortment of books surrounding me. I have a lot of some things and a little of everything on my bookshelves. Obviously I have many books by the writers I already mentioned as influences. As for some of the other stuff here, I have novels by the masters of Science fiction like Asimov, Heinlein, and Dick. I have a nice assortment of horror ranging from older material by Lovecraft, Poe, and HG Wells to more recent books by Stephen King (although not as much King as you might expect; I like some of his work but not all of it), Kim Newman, and Poppy Z. Brite. Lately I’ve been exploring the works of three somewhat harsher horror writers: Edward Lee, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchum. I have plenty of mystery and spy novels too. There’s a scattering of classics like the Canterbury Tales, Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare, and Homer. I have tons of books on the world’s religions and mythological systems and I get many ideas from them. On the flip side, I read a lot of science too, with my favorite fields being quantum physics (I love the strangeness of it, but don’t ask me to explain its mathematical foundations!), psychology, and biology. I’m always interested in history too, especially that of the two world wars and the middle ages. Someday I might write a book set in medieval times that portrays life as it really was then, which was pretty disgusting and brutal, not like the sanitized version you see in old movies. I’m a longtime comics fan too, so you’d find a few shelves of collected editions of classic comic books from the thirties right up to modern material like the works of Neil Gaiman. So I do have a wide range of genres and subjects among my reading material.
- Do you have any advice for other writers?I certainly do. Maybe it’s none of my business, but I see things that frustrate me when I’m looking around writers’ forums online and it seems to me that some writers, especially those just starting out, make things more difficult for themselves and worry at times when they should just be writing instead. When I began writing, I didn’t bother with forums and online discussions. I just wanted to write and so I limited my communication to back and forth dialogue with my first editor. I must have been doing something right because I started to get stories accepted. I see a lot of people worrying so much about the little details that I can’t imagine how they find any time to just get the writing done. I see discussions about there being too many vampire stories, for example, out there and how it’s futile to try to submit a new one. But while that discussion was going on, I was busy writing and successfully selling a vampire novel! I’d like to say to other writers: don’t overanalyze things, don’t let others tell you what you should or shouldn’t write. Just do it! You should have two concerns when working on a story. First, will it be clear to the reader what is happening in the story? Second, is it interesting enough to make the reader want to know what happens next? That’s it. Get that first draft written and then you can go back and fix things or re-evaluate the choices you’ve made. But writing must come first if you’re going to get anything done. Write what you feel you should write and don’t let trends dictate your actions. Don’t wait for the right time, as far as popularity of subjects goes, to finish that particular story, because by the time you get around to it, the magic in your mind might be gone and you won’t be able to get that particular piece of work to do what it could have done when the idea was fresh. And one other thing, on the subject of self-editing. The best piece of advice I ever got on that, when I was worried because an editor wanted me to make some major changes to the style of a story, was “Love the story, not the words.”
- What's your favorite thing about writing?Writing is the quickest, most precise form of artistic expression a person can accomplish alone. Before I settled on writing, I tried some different art forms and all had certain limitations. I tried visual art and was able to draw quite well. They say a picture paints a thousand words and maybe that’s true, but it’s much easier and faster to write a thousand words than paint a picture! I was an actor for a while, but theatre or film depends on a large number of people working together and it gets to be a bit much for someone like me, not being the most social person in the world. I tried music too, but the beauty of a song is that it can mean many different things to many different people and I’d rather have my ideas understood exactly as I intend. And, also, writing requires no expensive or bulky equipment. There’s no need to carry a guitar around or buy paintbrushes or anything. All you need is a pen, a scrap of paper, and your imagination.
- Why did you decide to write a werewolf story for Tails of the Pack?Half the time I write whatever I want because inspiration came from somewhere. The other half of the time I write because I challenge myself to fill a need that somebody has. Occasionally, I’ll come across an anthology looking for a certain kind of story and I’ll let it sink in for a while and see what pops into my head. I read that Tails of the Pack needed material and a little while later the basics of my story, “The Librarian,” showed up in my mind. I hadn’t planned on doing a werewolf story, but the opportunity presented itself, so I took advantage of it.
- Did you have to do any research for your story?No. I had the werewolf lore I’d picked up over the years from books and movies and I came up with what I thought was an interesting twist on it and went from there.
- Give us a blurb for your story.Lycanthropy cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Thanks to a miracle of modern science, Byron has lived for years without losing control to the wolf inside him. But now, when those he cares about are threatened by the greed of an evil man, will he dare unleash the animal within and do what must be done?
- What other projects or publications are you working on that we should know about?I think anyone who likes my werewolf story will enjoy my vampire novel, 100,000 Midnights. I’m currently working on another horror novel, this time about zombies. I have a spy novel coming out sometime within the next year. And I hope fans of Sherlock Holmes will look for the newest volume in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series, which was just recently released. The best way an interested reader can learn more about my work is by visiting my blog at www.godsandgalaxies.blogspot.comThanks Aaron! Anyone who likes Holmes is OK by me. Check back tomorrow for more Q & A with Bridges DelPonte!