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Happy new year! I’m pleased to say I’ll be doing a new series for this year. My usual gaming articles will still be happening, and I have several reviews and projects in the pipeline, but I’m pleased to say I’ll be conducting author interviews! It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity in doing this, and hopefully this allows you wonderful people to get your eyes on some amazing books from authors around the globe.
Today, I bring you an interview with doctor and variety author Aaron Cross. His latest novel is due to come out soon, but you can pre-order it right now!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Well, first off, I am technically a doctor, having gotten my PhD in 2019. I am not the kind that you want to try to heal you, though. I’d probably make it worse.
In terms of what I write, it’s really varied! I started my career doing comedic/spy fantasy/thriller stuff (of which there are multiple ideas still in the queue), but I’ve moved on to different genres. Right now, weird westerns and noirs are my jam, but who knows what it’ll be in a few years?
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Honestly, I mostly just let them develop themselves. I usually find out what is happening and who my characters are as I write them! That being said, I typically do have some barebones structural points for both of them before I get going. Names and all that or maybe some essential plot points. Other than that, it’s part of the process.
Tell the world about your current project!
I currently have two major irons in the fire, so to speak. The first is the sequel to my upcoming weird western and involves a bounty hunter undertaking analogues to the Labors of Hercules in order to take down powerful people engaging in the slave trade. The other is a noir involving a man shot and left for dead by his ex-girlfriend and others. Naturally, he wants revenge and will go to increasingly bloody and cruel ends to do so. It’s sort of watching a descent of a character.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
The MC of my latest book is Sheriff Errol Thorpe, also known as The Judge. He’s a tough, mean, and violent man who pursues justice at all costs. Once he rescues a girl from being exploited, he has to go on a journey to protect himself, her, and those few people he cares about. He’s like if Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2 had a sheriff’s badge and was willing to go to even further lengths to take down those who do evil. He’s a badass.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
I haven’t. Not yet, anyway. I’d really like to get to one someday, but it’s time and cost-prohibitive at this point.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Even when I was a kid, I would write little sketches and skits for my brother and I to perform, so it’s always been something I’ve loved doing. After the first book I tried writing in middle school, which is nuclear-level cringe, I continued to work on and refine things. It’s only been in the last decade or so that I started to see it as a life I wanted to follow.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
I would 100% live in this little hotel I know in Sorrento, Italy. The room overlooks the Bay of Naples, the weather is beautiful, and inspiration comes in waves. Plus, it would be an absolutely killer (no pun intended) location for a murder mystery to take place.
What advice would you give new writers?
It’s going to be cliché, but seriously just write. Put something down. Even if it’s not what you want it to be, you can’t start to fix anything or improve anything if it’s jammed up there in your head. Take the time and give yourself over to the creative process.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
For the finished western, it was definitely part of the Old West aesthetic coupled with swampy New Orleans-style territory. I love the idea of caves and swamps and mountains being filled with things we can’t understand and that bleeding into the world.
What inspires you to write?
It all depends on what latches into my brain! Playing RDR2 made me want to do a western, but I always adore cult stuff (a la Far Cry 5) and weird, terrifying, eldritch creatures. For the noir, re-reading James Ellroy and seeing clips from LA Confidential just started the itch to do something dark and bleak. Little pieces of something just worm their way in and I have to do something with them.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
There’s a certain point (or two points) in every book where it just becomes a slog and a half to write. 40 to 50,000 words is usually the worst. At that point, the ‘new story’ excitement is gone, but the ‘end game’ excitement is a ways off. You want to make sure the story isn’t boring either, but you just want the fun stuff to happen.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I wish I could say I had a routine, but I really don’t. Some days I lock in and can write multiple chapters at a time, some days I just can’t do a single word. There are some things that can help, like scotch and music, but those aren’t a guarantee. It’s annoying, in a way. I prefer consistency.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
Man, that’s a tough one. The exploding bear running joke in Robocopter? The only thinly-veined Lou Bega cameo in Untitled Spy Story? Anything with Grigor in Ruben’s Cube Alaska? The cult compound in Where Blood Runs Gold? So many to choose from that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite!
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
Interestingly enough, what I learned was not in relation to little pieces of trivia or whatever, but about how to professionally develop a book! For my first three books, I had done all the art and editing and the like by myself, but for this latest one, I hired an editor and a cover artist, found beta readers, and did everything that doing it ‘right’ entails. It’s a fascinating process.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Almost entirely a pantser. I do best when I’m figuring out the story as I go. You could call it a gardener too, although that’s still probably too much credit. I have maybe a few plot points ready to go and that’s it. The rest is for me to learn as I write it.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
This is a cruel question, but I’d have to give up snacks and drinks. Music is too essential to me being able to zone out and get into the mindset of writing. A good soundtrack can have me five pages in before I even know it. As much as I like a glass of scotch with writing, music is more important.
Which is your favourite season to write in, and why?
I don’t have a specific one, because they all have merit. Spring and fall are nice because they’re cool enough to walk around to clear my head or sit outside and scribble notes. Summer is nice for similar reasons, as well as just being full of life. And winter, much as snow and cold bother me, is nice because I have an excuse to stay curled up and comfortable inside to get writing. I know it’s a non-answer, but…
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Not totally sure it’s mentally healthy, but I try to put myself in the mindset of the characters. What are they feeling? How would that manifest? If I was in the same position, how would I actually react and how would I want to react? In the context of the story, which is more realistic for the character? More often than not, the impulse is what I go with because it tends to be more able to move the plot forward.
What are your future project(s)?
The most recent ones are the western and the noir that I’ve mentioned. Future projects are the sequels to both of those with three or four more books for each one after that. I also have several comedy books in the pile right now, all of which could spawn more sequels. Basically, my to-write list is never-ending and that’s daunting and kind of fun at the same time.
What is your favorite book ever written?
Another difficult one! Maybe the Sherlock Holmes stories? Possibly House of Leaves. I wish I had a better answer here, but the choices are too multifarious! (I like that word.) If webcomics count, I do a full archive re-read of Achewood once or twice a year.
Who are your favorite authors?
This one is even tougher because it’s not specific! Are we talking favorites personally? Are we talking ones we admire? Are we talking ones that were formative to my reading and writing? Terry Pratchett would have to be up there. Jonathan French as well. This is one I don’t think I can fully answer at this point.
What makes a good villain? What makes a good hero?
This one I can do. A good villain has to be someone that you can understand, at least in some little part of you. You don’t have to like them, but you can look at them and what they do, listen to their reasoning, and understand their motivation. Maybe even see a little of yourself in them. What they cannot be, though, is either boring or irritating. I’m not talking irritating as in they keep interfering. Irritating as in you don’t actually want them in the story because you can find nothing you like about them. Villains require nuance.
Heroes also require nuance, but in a different way. A good hero is someone that is trying and working to figure out who they are and how they are growing. They see something and want to fix it, either in their lives or the lives of others. They put a plan in motion, but they also fail and learn from those failures. A hero with a clean journey is boring. A hero without growth is dull. Even Gilgamesh had to deal with Humbaba and Ishtar, you know?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
It’s pretty default, but I love video games, especially ones where I can get wrapped up in the story and the setting. Dishonored has one of my absolute favorite settings and worlds, because there is so much left to discover. I also am a sports freak and get way, way too invested in Oklahoma State sports. Like, it’s bad. I am not a fun person to be around on gamedays.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’ve actually had a taste of this one and that’s to be a college professor. I taught for the entire time I did my dissertation and the semester after I graduated and it was rewarding and challenging and enjoyable to be in such a setting with students and be able to guide them and teach them cool new things. It is, however, a bastard field to get into, even with a doctorate. Finding that next step is tricky…and not super fun, to be honest.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
I know it’s kind of heretical, but I don’t like either! I actually avoid caffeine aside from as mixers or in cases of exhaustion. I had a close-to-OD experience with it in college and I’ve cut myself mostly off since then. I do, however, like fruit juice quite a bit. And, of course, scotch and beer are my mainstays. I’m definitely a snob for both.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
I mean, the obvious answer is the end of space or the bottom of the ocean, right? All that unexplored space with limitless potential for anything? If I could be guaranteed survival, I would do the very bottom of the ocean to see if anything terrifying lives down there. Then I’d go to the Scottish Highlands for a drink and wide-open gorgeous landscapes. You know, to cleanse the palate from locking eyes with Cthulhu.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
Absolutely. Too many to list and I don’t want to give any of them short shrift by forgetting them, so I’ll just say this. Follow the reviews, respect the reviewers, and spread the love. You will find ones you adore, ones you dislike, and ones you’re neutral about. Regardless, they are all doing some heavy lifting and are certified badasses.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Whoo boy. Let’s see. Sarah Chorn, Luke Tarzian, Dyrk Ashton, Jonathan French, Quenby Olson, Josiah Bancroft, K.S. Villoso, Devin Madson, Nathan Hall, Ashley Wrigley, Krystle Matar, Michael Fletcher, Steve Thomas, Zack Pike, Clayton Snyder, Morgan K. Bell, Billy Davis, GM Nair, Vichet Ou, Sam Hooker, Liam Perrin, Jeramy Goble, Virginia McClain, Sam Hawke, JC Kang, Ethan Childress, Jaime Lee Moyer, Jonathan Pembroke, Dustin Frueh, and Pirateaba. I swear, if I missed anyone, I’ll be self-flagellating for a while, so I got you covered, don’t worry.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’m gonna cheat and go with Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, and Lara Croft. That way we can afford to do literally whatever we want, go wherever we want, we’ll be safe no matter where we are, and I can try to shoot my shot with a hot billionaire lady.
An alternative would be Panam Palmer from Cyberpunk 2077, Josephine from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Miranda from Mass Effect 2. We’re going down a bad route here, I think, and it could go on for a while. On to the next question!
What superpower would you most like?
I know this one is weird, but it’s too good. The ability to refill anything I want at any time. Need water? Done. Need scotch? Here’s a better one. Flat broke? Here’s a ton of money! There’s literally no downside to this one.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
The self-published version of The Grey Bastards is an all-timer. As for the second one, that’s tricky. There are so many awesome covers that continue to come out. Maybe the Arisman version of American Psycho. It’s chilling in a good way.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and the pandemic eventually comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
I’d say go on a date, but I wasn’t doing that even before the pandemic so…maybe go out to lunch somewhere without a mask? This got sadder than I intended. What a way to go out.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?