Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Interview With Author Aaron R. Even

He Comes In Fire

1. What inspired you to write your book?  During the 1990s I became aware of the alarming rise in church arsons throughout the Southern U.S., and continued following the story even as my work life took me into a research position with National Geographic Television. From there, around the year 2005 or so, I suddenly found myself with the tools to better investigate and understand the arson phenomenon in all its violent and baffling complexity. I’ve been working on this novel ever since.

2. What is it about? He Comes In Fire is about how the need to comprehend a frightening mystery like church arsons can sometimes lead us even deeper into darkness – into paranoia, false accusations, wrong judgments about our fellow human beings, and so forth. In a sense, though, it’s also about religious faith and what constitutes real faith in a fallen world. Is the person who looks and acts the part correctly a “good man,” or is it the stranger who, owing to genuine struggle, comes off as a nut job? So the way appearances interact with a deeper, more troubling reality is definitely a major theme.

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?  It’s not so much that I have a thesis I want to impress on the book’s readers; more that I hope the world I’ve created is sufficiently rich and detailed to live beyond the bounds of two-hundred-and-whatever pages of printed paper.  If you think about it, fiction is a weird art form that lives largely in the currents of our subconscious mind. Fictional characters are sort of like those crazy fish down in the dark deep of the sea, the ones with strange glowing lights and savage teeth. Once you’ve seen them, you know they’re down there, living, even if you never glimpse them in your everyday life. And that’s what I hope for readers of He Comes In Fire – that some striking memory of Lucas, Jack, Dana, and the other, much more disturbing characters who populate the novel, will stay with them for a long time.

4. What advice do you have for writers? Man, I was face down in the ditch. Seriously, I finished the first draft of this novel in 2008, and it went to publishers in the same month the market crashed. It was swept away in the riptide, and for a while it seemed that was the final word. I just kept revising and reworking it, even rewrote the story as a screenplay, kept at it, kept working, until I felt it was really polished, really finished. Then trying every door, so to speak, every publisher that would answer an email. Mostly they rejected the book out of hand. Some would agree to read it, but months would pass and I’d never hear from them again. Who knows if they read even a page? I just wouldn’t allow myself to despair. I felt the novel was too good for that, even if I wasn’t. I just kept at it, and finally I found Atticus Books. Right place, right time, right person – that’s what it all comes down to, and sometimes it just takes a long journey to find your way home. So my biggest piece of advice is to keep struggling and fighting, but also be really tough and honest with yourself, so that you keep getting better.

5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? Wow, that’s a tough one. For all its recent diversification in terms of new technologies, in some ways the creative landscape feels more restrictive than ever. There are so few opportunities for writers to publish (outside of self-publishing), and almost no publisher wants to take chances on experimental or unconventional works. Which means, on the balance, we’re seeing more blandly commercial stuff, and fewer exciting or challenging novels. Personally, I’m really rooting for smaller, independent presses to grow and flourish. And it’s absolutely possible. In the TV world, AMC was a pretty minor cable channel until the success of Breaking Bad, which changed everything. My hope is that more independent presses will become the book world’s AMCs by scoring hits with outstanding and original novels – and maybe, just maybe, readers will get tired of schlock and start to demand that change.

6. What challenges did you have in writing your book? Well, no shortages in that department. My goal from the start was to create a story that has the depth of a literary novel but the pace of a suspense novel – so walking a tightrope, in other words. From a technical point of view that was challenging all the way through. But one of the toughest problems, and someone recently asked me about this, is keeping the balance between your work and family life. I have two kids and, usually, a job, so finding hours upon hours to be immersed in such a demanding process isn’t easy. And the truth is, that’s probably why it took me so long to write He Comes In Fire. So I really had to learn patience, and come to terms with the idea that, you know, you’re not trying to score a quick success. You’re writing because you want to write, and you’d do it anyway even if you knew for a fact it would never see the light of day. It’s a little like working on a black belt in martial arts, which I’m also doing, and which has helped me a lot actually. You don’t do it for the glory of the belt rank, or because you think one day you’ll need to fight a dozen terrorists hand to hand – you do it for the satisfaction of perfecting the techniques. That’s enough in itself.

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?  Great question for me, because I lost my modesty over the past couple of years, maybe left in a hotel somewhere on Route 95 or 81, and I still haven’t found it. First off, He Comes In Fire is a fast, entertaining read. It’s mysterious and suspenseful, but at the same time it asks some provocative questions about the world today, not just about the American South. What kind of people are we? Who do we want to be? Do we accept crime, degradation, sinfulness, with a shrug? Does justice matter to us? Would we rather have easy answers than a complicated, uncomfortable truth? I think these questions apply very much to the current wave of violence we’re experiencing in America: the mass shootings, the murder of police officers, and the general sense of bewilderment surrounding all this. The phenomenon of church arsons is so bound up in issues of race, injustice and faith, that it would be almost impossible not to find some insight into the present situation through this story.  So buy it for either reason – to better understand the world we live in, or for fun – but you should definitely buy this novel. 

For more information, please consult: www.hecomesinfire.com 

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016.

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