Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview with Aaron Smith Author of 100,000 Midnights

What inspired you to become an author?

Becoming a writer was the last step on a journey full of missteps. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, something that told stories. I grew up wanting to be a visual artist and hoped to draw comics. That kind of went away when I graduated high school because I was wandering too much, unable to keep up the discipline it takes to sit there and draw for hours at a time. So I tried music and I tried acting and I enjoyed all those things but the problem was that they all depend on other people and can only be done at a certain time. You only feel fulfilled as an actor when you’re on stage and you can’t be up there all the time and you can’t play a guitar loudly at three in the morning. But writing is something you never have to turn off. And it’s a solitary activity. Sure, there are publishers and editors involved later, but when you’re putting the words on the page and all the characters are dancing around in your head, living and dying and loving and hating and otherwise coming into being, it’s all yours and that’s the perfect occupation for someone like me, because sometimes I don’t want to turn off the part of me that makes up all that stuff.
          So I didn’t really pursue writing until I was about thirty, but as soon as I did I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Having a success very early on didn’t hurt either. My first published story was in an anthology of new Sherlock Holmes stories, so I got to write one of my all-time favorite fictional characters and see it published. That was a big indication that I’d made the right choice in starting to write. And then I started to get royalty checks and that made me even more certain that I was on the right path!

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do and I don’t. I think I have a straightforward style, meaning that I don’t like to experiment or play tricks with words. For some writers, that works well, but I’m much more comfortable just telling the story, with the events being related in order (for the most part) and trusting my instincts rather than pondering precisely how I want to phrase each sentence. In other words, I try not to overanalyze what I’m writing. I just do it.
          But, because I write different genres and I frequently work on characters created by other writers, I do have to adjust my style from time to time. When I do a Sherlock Holmes story, I’m writing it in my words but I try very hard to bring the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into it. I don’t try to write just like him, but I do try to write his characters and his world the way I think he intended them to be.
          So I guess I have several different specific writing styles.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

The title, 100,000 Midnights, came with the first hint of the premise behind the story. The vampires in my book reach a stage in their lives called the Eldering. When they’ve been vampires for approximately 100,000 days and nights, they mature, their powers increase, and they tend to develop more undead abilities than they had before. 100,000 days is about 292 years, but 100,000 Midnights sounds better as a title, I think.  

Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

I almost always have a title first or shortly into the process of writing it. I can’t think of a single story I’ve written that didn’t have a title until after it was completed.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

Eric, my protagonist, is very much like I was in my early twenties, strangely fascinated by the past, working a job he doesn’t particularly like, unsure of what he wants to do with his life. Of course, what he does end up doing, spending time with vampires and other creatures of the night, is not what became of me in real life!
          But the events he finds himself wrapped up in do have something to do with my own experiences in that he meets an extraordinary woman and just goes with the flow no matter how strange things get. My wife isn’t a vampire, obviously, but being with her has certainly been an adventure, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!
          And some of the book’s settings are based on places I’ve been. They’re thinly disguised and renamed versions of many of the towns and cities here in New Jersey. The diner in the beginning of the book, the Paradise, is based on a real diner, the Oasis, which is a wonderful little eatery that looks and feels like it’s barely changed since the Sixties. I love that place, with its very basic food and local customers and retro atmosphere. I’ve had some of my best ideas sitting in that little diner.  

Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?

I’ve written Sherlock Holmes and had good responses from readers for those stories, so that takes the cake. Writing a character like that and getting paid for it is something so amazing to me that I can’t really put into words how much it means to me. As far as characters I’ve created, I tend to favor whoever I’m working with at the moment. Picking just one would be, I imagine, like a father choosing his favorite child. It seems almost cruel to try to single one out.

If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share?

100,000 Midnights is definitely the first in a series. The second book, Across the Midnight Sea, is scheduled for release later this year (around August, I hope). It’s a direct sequel to the first, picking up a few days after the ending of 100,000 Midnights. It begins with a murder mystery involving vampires and continues with an adventure that takes Eric and his vampire girlfriend Siobhan to various locations around the world. I’m having so much fun with this series that I’d like it to continue for years. I started the third book a few weeks ago but haven’t made too much progress yet. I know where it’s going though.

What books/authors have influenced your life?

There are so many! I can pick a few of the major influences. I’ve already mentioned Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, so that’s obvious. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been pretty important to me. HP Lovecraft had a huge impact on me. There’s Roger Zelazny, whose works can just bend a reader’s mind into all sorts of strange positions! Ian Fleming, Robert E. Howard, JRR Tolkein, HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie all have to be on the list. Those are the older ones who are no longer with us. Among modern writers, I’ll mention Kim Newman, Edward Lee (one of the sickest horror writers I’ve ever read, and I mean that as a compliment!), Clive Barker, Steven King (his earlier books more than his later ones), and George RR Martin. 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

A bad habit I had in the past and often have to remind myself to fight is the urge to over explain things. Sometimes what seems like enough to me is too much. I have to remind myself to trust my ability to tell the story and to trust the readers to understand what I’m saying without hitting them over the head with excessive exposition.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If I could say one thing to everyone who wants to write, it would be “Stop worrying and write!”
          I often look around on forums for writers and I’m horrified by how much doubt people seem to have about the smallest things. “Can I use this point of view?” “Is my story too long or too short?” “Can I mix genres like this?” “How do I know if it’s good?”
          Sometimes it seems like writers are looking for a specific set of rules about what they can and can’t do, as if there’s a secret formula to writing the right way.
          As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules! To become a better writer, you have to write. The best thing to do is jump into the pool. Once you’re up to your neck in that water, you’ll figure out how to swim.
          When you write, you create a world, a universe. You are God. You can do whatever you want. The only thing you shouldn’t do is break the rules you’ve set for yourself. Let your imagination work, but then be consistent.
          When you start to write, you will make mistakes, but those mistakes are part of the process of learning and getting better at what you do. You won’t write the perfect story the first time. You just have to do the best you can at any given time.
          I look back at some of my first stories and cringe because I know I can do better now. But that’s a good thing, because it means I’ve learned and improved. Don’t wait for the right time to write. The time is now. Start writing, make the inevitable mistakes, and learn not to repeat them in the future.

What is next for you? Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?

2013 is going to be a big year for me, I think. I have three novels scheduled for release this year. I’ve already mentioned the next book in the vampire series that started with 100,000 Midnights. I’m very happy that the people at Musa Publishing are letting me continue the series. This one is called Across the Midnight Sea. Yes, I do intend to have “Midnight” in all the titles! 
          Also this year we’ll be seeing my first novel in the espionage thriller genre, which I’m very excited about. I hope that will also be the first of a series. Appropriately enough for the genre, I’m not yet at liberty to reveal the details.
          Then, right around Halloween, will be my horror novel, a zombie story called Chicago Fell First. This is for Buzz Books, a publisher for whom I’ve previously done some paranormal short stories. This is my most gruesome, horror-oriented novel so far. It’s a zombie story but it’s centered more on the human reaction to some terrible events than around the walking dead themselves.
          Also sometime this year will be my first attempt at another classic character. This time I’m working on the famous late-19th century adventure character Allan Quatermain, which is almost as thrilling for me as working on Sherlock Holmes.
          As far as works in progress, I’m working on my latest Holmes story now. When that’s finished, I’ll get back to my vampires and dive into the third book in the series.
          If you’re interested, the best way to keep up with my latest work is my blog at   

100,000 Midnights

When destiny calls from the darkness, will you embrace the shadows?

At twenty-two, Eric feels older than he is. His fascination with the past makes him something of an eccentric and he spends most of his time alone. But then he meets Siobhan. A nearly three-hundred year old creature of the night, she desperately needs Eric’s help. He comes to her aid, just barely surviving the experience, but soon realizes that he cannot go back to living without her.

Together with Siobhan, Eric goes deeper into the strange nighttime world inhabited by vampires both good and evil, towns trapped in bubbles of time, savage beast-men created by crazed scientists, and deadly mechanical angels manufactured by magic to slay the undead.

Side by side with Siobhan and her supernatural allies, Eric must go from being a normal man to becoming a warrior, facing dangers out of humanity’s darkest nightmares and wondering if he has a chance of surviving to see each new dawning of the sun.

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