Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turning the Tables - Interview of Aaron Lazar by Joan H. Young

Hi, folks!

Are you all set for Christmas?

For the first time in years, I can say yes to that question! This is mostly because we decided to take seriously our new pledge to keep it simple, do mostly homemade gifts, and enjoy the company of our family rather than going into terrible debt for "things." Things aren't worth it, and although it's fun to spend money like a drunken sailor, we all decided it was time to stop the madness. So - I used my photos to create very special coffee table books for my daughters and calendars for others, featuring the Genesee Valley and my gardens. Reasonable prices (esp. on sale!) at Shutterfly, and one can really put a personal touch to the creations with text beneath each photo.

Now, on to MB4 news!

Last week I conducted an interview with a new favorite author, Joan H Young, who writes delightful cozy mysteries set beside the fictitious Dead Mule Swamp way up north. It seems we must be in sync, for before she read my request to do the interview, I received a similar request from her! She recently posted this interview with me on her blog, and I thought you might like to take a look at the interesting questions she posed.

JHY: I see in your bio that you began writing as a release of your emotions following a period of great loss in your life. I think many people will identify with that, but I'm wondering why you chose to begin writing mysteries.

APL: Joan, I have always read mysteries, and only mysteries! I’m a mystery addict, and so were my parents. The house was always full of books, and my mother and father had their noses buried in PD James, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and John D. MacDonald books every day. The bookcases were full of them, and I devoured them all. As a child, when the “Arrow Book Club” flyers would come out at school, I’d bring them home with a dozen books circled, and even though we didn’t have much money to spare, my parents always bought every single book for me that I’d circled! Usually they were mysteries about horses or dogs. I also would devour boxes of books my parents would bring home from auctions. Once we got a whole collection of The Hardy Boys and I was in heaven!

Double Forte a Gus LeGarde mystery Double Forte, book one of the Gus LeGarde mystery series
JHY: One of the things that impressed me about your writing is your ability to give the reader a unique sense of place (in Upstate New York for the Gus LeGarde mysteries). Have you always lived there?

APL: I was born in Boston, grew up in the quiet countryside nearby, and spent summers at my grandparents’ camp in Maine. Dale and I were married when I graduated from Northeastern University in 1981, and we moved to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY when I took my job with Kodak the same summer. We started our family here and I’ve called this place home now for 32 years, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also base my Moore Mysteries series right here. Tall Pines mysteries always start out on a little house on Honeoye Lake, then migrate up to the Adirondacks, another favorite place of mine.

JHY: Are there particular things you do consciously when you are describing a location for a book?

APL: No, the words just sort of pour out of me, always from real memories that bubble persistently beneath the surface. If I’ve been somewhere that I loved, it usually sticks with me. I try to migrate into my character’s head fully – and as I write I imagine what he sees, tastes, smells, hears…and hopefully my readers can enjoy the same types of images that are floating around in my brain.

JHY: I also read that you are an engineer at Kodak. How do you work full-time and still write?

APL: Oops, I need to update some of my bios that are out there! I’ve been gone from Kodak since 2009, when they laid me off along with my entire group. I’ve been happily employed at a small German company since 2010, doing engineering and customer liaisons across the seas between Germany, Thailand, and the US. I love my new job and cherish the people here.

For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery (with Adirondack settings)
I’ve always worked full time and managed to put out a few books each year, and it still works. I get up early and get all my chores done, then take an hour each morning to write in the dark and quiet. Nowadays I write with my dogs near me (or on me!) beside the wood stove. It’s very peaceful. I also love writing on vacation up in the Adirondacks on a chair overlooking The Sacandaga River. Extremely peaceful and invigorating at the same time.

JHY: People don't usually think of engineers as people with great imaginations. Would you like to comment on this?

APL: When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be an engineer. First, I hoped to be a cowboy. Then, I dreamed of all of the artistic possibilities – painter, music teacher, writer, horse farm owner. Unfortunately, none of the above seemed like it would support me. So – I was surprised to find a love of physics and math (hated them in high school) when I went back to night school after starving for a while. (literally!) At that point, engineers were in huge demand, so I went for it. I was pretty good at it, but I really did love the arts first and foremost.

It was surprising to me to find many of my Kodak colleagues had the same passions! My boss was a secret painter and stained-glass window maker. A fellow engineer was a closet musician. And so on. Almost every one of these “boring and predictable” engineers was very artistic and creative. They enjoyed their work, yes. But they really shone when it came to their secret passions! I believe that stereotype before I got to know them, and discovered I was more like them than I’d expected.

JHY: How many books have you written, and in what genres?

APL: I’ve written twenty-one books, if you count my writing guides, Write Like the Wind volumes 1, 2, & 3. Three are nonfiction writing advice books, seventeen are full-length mysteries, and my newest novel— The Seacrest—is a romantic suspense. I’m now working on book twenty-two, another standalone romantic suspense.

JHY: Do you enjoy one of these more than another? Do you have a favorite of the books you have written?

APL: I love them all. Writing is writing, for me. It doesn’t matter what genre. I wrote mysteries for so long, and started writing articles/blog pieces about eight years ago. That was quite different and I enjoyed it immensely. I decided for book twenty-one that I’d branch out. I’d always wanted to write a love story. And I did it!

Asking about my favorite book is almost like asking me to pick a favorite child. Oh, man. Impossible. I guess if I were forced today to pick a few of my books that I might hold dear to the heart, I’d say Essentially Yours and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, two very different mysteries.

JHY: Do you have a work in progress that you'd like to share?

APL: Yes! I’m tentatively titling this one Bittersweet Hollow, a romantic suspense set on a horse farm in Vermont. It’s about Portia Lamont, a young woman who has been missing for four years. She arrives home—thin and traumatized—to find her mother has cancer. Boone Sterling, the neighbor whose been helping her parents keep the horse farm afloat, may be the one person who can help her recover. Little by little, the family discovers the horror of what happened to Portia. It’s their love that will heal her, in the end.

JHY: Is there some other type of writing you'd like to try some day?

APL: Yes – I’d like to try a children’s story, or maybe a middle grade chapter book!

JHY: What kinds of activities do you enjoy in your free time?

APL: I love walking and photographing the hills and woods of the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes, I’m a passionate gardener, love to read, cook, and listen to music. Oh, yeah. And I kind of enjoy writing, although it’s more of a calling than a hobby.


Thanks again to Joan for a fun interview, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers and friends of Murder By 4! Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday week!

Warmest regards,

Aaron Lazar


Unknown said...

Great interview!

Kim Smith said...

We are doing likewise - homemade beats store bought every time! Merry Christmas yall--!