Thursday, June 9, 2011

Aaron Polson - Q & A

I've been a fan of Aaron Polson's blog for some time. Outspoken and emotional, he comes out on writing world issues with both guns blazing.
Even yesterday he was bitching about the way his new book was coming ("Doing the Right Thing") and I read it and was like, hell yeah.
And then there's his practically famous tirade against a misguided literary agent who had the wherewithal to say self-published writers don't care about readers and publish for selfish reasons. Not to mention that readers need to be directed by the "gatekeepers" that legacy publishers apparently are.

Oh--that's right, because it's my f*cking job to serve the publishing industry. I forgot. *smacks head* I'm supposed to work for free for years to try and squeak through the needle's eye until the great gate-keeping elite think they can properly profit from my free labor. 
Yes, do you see that little word: profit. Because publishers are in this business to make money. Not "protect" readers. 
I'm sick of the hypocrisy of a system which would publish Snooki's trash and then pretend to be a protector of readers. Sick of it. Stop lying to me. Stop lying to the public. Stop lying to readers.
You know who cares more about readers than you, giant publishing machine? Writers do--all of them, whether "traditionally" published or indie or whatever. I like how we've decided the indentured servant model of publishing is "traditional". Back in Ben Franklin's day, anyone who owned a printing press was published. Don't play word games until you know a little history.
But wait--I'm not the one who has to prove I care about readers. I'm not the one readers are questioning, am I? 
Every story I write is a love-letter to storytelling. 
Go climb back in your stupid castle and shut the gate. We heathens will sit around our campfires and tell stories well into the night--as it should be.

Brilliant, inspiring, honest stuff. Commenters rushed to agree.
As much as I have always admired Aaron's blog, I hadn't, until recently, read any of his novels. When I bought my Kindle, however, one of the first authors I paid a call to was Aaron. Without blinking an eye I purchased almost all of his books. Then I had to decide which one to read first. Being a graphic designer by trade, I picked the cover I liked best – see? Covers really do sell books!
That book was The House Eaters.

Not only does it have a trés cool cover, it also has a cool haunted house concept that pits ghost hunting teenagers against the scariest broken down house you'll ever see in a weird neighbourhood in smalltown U.S.A.
I flew through the book. The plot drives you through it like the speedometer is stuck on 90. The characters are likeable and well-drawn and the tension builds to a fiery conclusion. I didn't realize until I was halfway through that Aaron had penned this as a YA novel but it was so well-written I had no idea it was meant for teenagers. Either that or I'm just sinking into my second childhood. (That must be it.)
I loved the book so much that I contacted Aaron straight away and tossed a bunch of questions his way. I also asked him for some casual photos that people hadn't seen before. Graciously, he acquiesced on both counts; and, for the photos? He said "do whatever you want with them." (Muahahahahaha.... he knows not that I am the Evil Photoshop Queen.)
So, sit back, pour yourself another cup of joe, and read some Aaron Polson. When you're done reading his answers, I highly recommend you go to his blog and buy one of his books.
Trust me. You'll like them. Because when he says "every story I write is a love-letter to storytelling," he's telling it like it is.

Q & A: Aaron Polson
Q: Hey Aaron, how’s it going? With you and your blog there’s always something seemingly on the go, whether it’s angst over the business of publishing or renovating your bathroom. To me, you blog like you write – straight from the hip with little fuss or flash, always delivering an emotional wallop. It’s like you haven’t got time to be frivolous – you’re a man on a mission, driven, it seems, to write as much, and as well, as you possibly can. Am I far off the mark on this quick assessment? How would you describe your writing style?
A: Wow.  To me, your assessment sounds like pretty high praise. I try to teach my students to write in clean, straightforward prose.  I want them to deliver as much punch as possible in few words. Sounds like some of my teaching has rubbed off on me. I try to write in a style which isn’t wordy and “clunky”, yet has a certain lyrical quality.  Reading one of my stories isn’t like reading the newspaper—it’s like hearing your favorite ghost story from your favorite grandfather. 
Q: I’m overwhelmed by the number of projects you have already published. I’d love a complete list of everything you’ve done that’s available to the public and where people can buy/find them.
A: Um… Okay.  Short of saying “Google me” (which sounds so silly) I’d suggest starting at my blog (  I have several short story collections available in e-format for the Kindle, through Smaswords, and at Barnes and Nobel.  I just discovered many of my works at the iTunes store (you can now search for books).  
For the record, here we go:
Short story collections (reprints and new work)
The Bottom Feeders (print, ebook)
Violent Ends (ebook)
Thirteen Shadows (ebook)
Black Medicine Thunder and the Sons of Chaos (ebook)
Monsters Among Us (Collects The Bottom Feeders, Violent Ends, Thirteen Shadows, and Black Medicine Thunder…in one ebook)
The Saints are Dead (print, ebook)
Novels/longer works
Monsters Among Us (ebook)
The House Eaters (print, ebook)
Borrowed Saints (ebook)
Loathsome, Dark and Deep (print, ebook)
Several stories are available to read for free online. I have a list of most at my blog.
Q: What projects do you currently have on the go? What can we look forward to?
A: I’m squeezing a few short stories in here and there, but I’ve started to focus more on longer work.  The second “Sons of Chaos” serialized novella will be available this fall at Red Penny Papers ( Two “novels” are also in the works. One is a MG novel, Raygun, involving an enchanted toy “space gun”.  My wife challenged me to write something Owen, our seven-year-old son, could read. In Raygun, the protagonist, a young boy, finds a stash of his grandfather’s old tin toys—a good, old-fashioned science-fantasy romp ensues.  The other piece is a supernatural thriller involving ghosts and a form of time travel.  I’m sworn to secrecy on the rest. 
Q: What’s your favourite novel and character you’ve ever written and why?
A: Probably a toss-up between Loathsome, Dark, and Deep and We are the Monsters for favorite novel (although We are the Monsters is “technically” a novella).  I wrote both for myself without regard to a “market” or potential sales category.  They’ve been my best reviewed work, too.  Go figure.  
My favorite character is probably Sarah Hawkins from The House Eaters.  She’s the girl I wish I would have dated in high school—cute, athletic, reads a ton of horror books—perfect. 
Q: You’ve said much about the business of publishing – why does this issue get you so pumped? How’s the world of self-publishing treating you? And do you have any quick advice for people who want to follow in your footsteps?
A: Advice?  Be patient.  Keep working.  Keep writing. Be patient. (I’m not.)
Self-publishing is a wide open world today, much different than it was even five years ago.  A writer can actually sell e-books (via Kindle, Smashwords, etc.) without fronting any money.  Self-publishing used to be fairly cost-prohibitive (and a bad business choice) because the up-front investment was so large.  Now, if you have quality work, why not let the readers decide if they want to spend their hard-earned money on it?
Q: You’re a teacher and you have a family... how do you find the time to write like you do and when do you do it? What’s the secret to sticking with a project when life has worn you down and you don’t have a lot of energy to spare?

A: Wake up early and go to bed late. ;)  I find my writing day goes better if I sit down first thing in the morning, even if I only knock out 100 words.  Then I can tell myself, “hey—you’ve already started today.”  I’ve also cut my TV viewing down to about an hour a week.  That helps.  
Q: And regarding The House Eaters: what was your inspiration and how do you really feel about haunted houses? Was this book everything you hoped it would be or are there things you might change? How’s it selling? Is a sequel in the works?
What do your students think about having an author for a teacher?
A: The original “story seed” for The House Eaters came when I took a wrong turn and stumbled upon a ruined building.  At first glance, it seemed to be a Victorian mansion, complete with central garret (almost like the Psycho house), buried in the side of a hill.  It looked as though something had “eaten” part of the building—that is, the front façade had been demolished. The image chilled me—even though, upon closer inspection, it was only an old quarry building.  Once I found the proper highway and headed home, the idea took on a life of its own.
I think I could have fleshed out the relationship between Nick’s parents, but in general, I think it’s a pretty fun read.  Right now, it’s my best seller on Kindle and I hope the audience grows.  Sequel… Well, I’m not supposed to say anything, but I have a few notes and a bit of an outline (shhhh).  
I hope I can inspire my students to write, and keep writing until they get it “right”.  Writing isn’t easy; it never has been.  But what worth doing is “easy”?

Er, I didn't Photoshop this one...
but doesn't Aaron look remarkably like Nicholas Cage?


  1. Fantastic interview! And great photos too. I love Aaron's blog and his writing. His name seems to be everywhere - and with good reason.

    I wish I'd had a teacher like him. My teachers liked writing to be all flowered up. You spend half your life learning to use adjectives and adverbs, and the next ten years unlearning it all.

  2. Great post/interview/picture catalog! :-P I've also been a great fan of Aaron for a while now, and I guess I'm one of the fans of The House Eaters as well. Great book, loved it.

    One thing I can learn from Aaron is to cut my TV time down the way he has. My God, I watch a *lot* of Netflix.

    That last picture is the shiz. :-)

  3. Excellent interview. Got to see another side of Aaron. Picture galore! (Hugs)Indigo

  4. Excellent interview and the photos are hilarious.

  5. Awesome interview and pictures! Aaron is fabulous. His students are lucky, indeed.

  6. Great interview, thanks for the info :)

  7. Hi! (I'm back from my trip!) Thanks for introducing us to Aaron. I really liked what he said about his stories being love letters to his readers :-)

  8. Fun interview, and love the excerpt from his blog about the biz. Missed that one. Off to check out Aaron's stuff. Peace...

  9. What a great post and excellent interview.

  10. Thanks Cathy for this Q&A ... I didn't know Aaron's work but I will certainly check him out. Thanks for the heads up, again...

  11. Fantastic interview, Cathy. It was nice of Aaron to share his insights into writing (and rare photos). I've been a fan of his for some time. Hey, you've GOT to be part of his fan club...get the badge from my blog and put it in your side bar!

  12. Thanks for introducing me to this author! Great interview. And great photos.

  13. Cathy, thank you so much for doing this interview with Aaron! I had not heard of him before, but now I'm so intrigued, (especially after reading the beginning of The House Eaters), I've got every one of his books on my reading list.
    Great, great work Aaron! Keep it coming!

  14. It seems as if lately, every publication I explore to possibly send a story has one currently in it by Aaron P. He doesn't know it, but he's the guy I'm personally trying to catch up with on the short story front.

    Sigh. Now I'm way behind on the novels!
    Love his stuff. Thanks for the interview Cathy. As always, you are entertaining and supportive.

  15. Aaron Polson does have a cool blog. I read Loathsome, Dark, and Deep and really enjoyed it. I've also downloaded Bottom Feeders (half way through it) and Violent Ends. It amazes me how much Aaron can produce and how much of it is quality good stuff.

    I agree with his take on publishers/agents too. You can't get in anywhere unless you have the bio to prove you can write, but you can't get the bio until you get in, all irrelevant of writing half the time it seems.

    I admire the publishers and editors who want to read my 'writing' and don't give a shit about who I am. If I'm going to be judged on my writing, then why ask me 'Who have you been published with recently?" To me, that's someone who doesn't know their goods. Frauds.

    Thanks for the great interview Aaron and Cathy. I always enjoy reading about another writer's world, especially one that juggles similar challenges.

    Also, you are quite a comrade, Cathy - the best supporter of writers I think I've seen. You need an awarded for that.


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