If you havenâ€™t heard of Aaron Dries you need to look him up because he is one hell of a writer. He has published one book and has another set for release very soon. He is a very talented guy and I was happy to have the opportunity to speak to him about writing, his favorite horror film, and just some random things in general.
Todd Martin: How long have you been writing, and how did you discover that you had a talent for it and enjoyed doing it?
Aaron Dries: Iâ€™ve been writingâ€”albeit incoherent and ridiculousâ€”stories since I was in the third grade. But whatâ€™s interesting is that even then, many of those tales had a warped sensibility. I recently found an old one, written for a school project, about a teacher who was torn apart by a lion! I guess the writing was on the wall, as they say. Although I aspired to write, I never really thought I was good at it. I kind of floundered through English class. It wasnâ€™t until a story I wrote in my senior year received an F from my teacher because it made her stomach turn that I actually realized the power of my words. Looking back, that was an important moment for me. I repulsed a nun. Thumbs up!
AD: Iâ€™ve written two novels: The Fallen Boys and House of Sighs. House of Sighs is about a lonely, suicidal bus driver, who instead of killing herself with the gun sheâ€™s stolen from her father, she kidnaps the passengers on her route and takes them home with her â€¦ whether they want to go or not. The driverâ€™s name is Liz Frost, a broken woman that youâ€™re forced to sympathize with, even though sheâ€™s setting off a chain reaction that results in a massacre. Liz is both the villain and the victim of House of Sighs; sheâ€™s also a kind of Hitchcockian Mcguffin, but to say more would be giving things away (cue evil laugh).
The Fallen Boys is set in the same universe and is kind of a thematic sequel to my debut. Itâ€™s about a twelve-year-old boy who kills himself, and about the dark and disturbing quest his father embarks on in the search for answers. But some questions shouldnâ€™t be answered â€¦ Itâ€™s about a lot of things, but primarily Internet bullying and the frightening temptation of revenge. Itâ€™s a blood-splattered and horrific cautionary tale, I guess.
TM: What would you say was the best piece that you have written? Which one is your favorite?
AD: Thatâ€™s a hard one â€¦ I guess my favorite/ best piece of writing are one and the same â€”my newest novel, The Fallen Boys. Iâ€™m really proud of it. The story is labyrinthine, wrapped in mystery, yet punctuated by horrific moments that seem to hit you right in the guts. Itâ€™s a cruel book, in some ways, one thatâ€™s designed to unsettle and manipulate, to lead you in one direction only to take you in another. The Fallen Boys just flowed out of me. And thatâ€™s scary to me, especially considering how f*cked up it is.
TM: How would you describe your writing style?
AD: I have no idea, really. I wish I knew. People have said that I write novels of utter chaos, only they read so damn smoothly. I like that! Horror writing is a ballet, twirling from sympathy to repulsion, light to dark. You canâ€™t stumble on your pacing. I also love contrasting elegant sentences with blunt incomplete sentences to disorient the reader. But above all else, I get a kick out of playing with a readerâ€™s sympathy. Thatâ€™s a great tool. If all this adds up to a style, then I guess thatâ€™s it.
TM: Who would you say were your biggest influences when it came to writing?
AD: Iâ€™ve long been influenced by Stephen King, as have so many authors. I love his regional voice, his settings and the way so many of his novels are high-concept ideas wrapped in tender character studies. Thatâ€™s so admirable, and rare. I also canâ€™t deny the impact R.L. Stine had my development even earlier. Yes, I was a Goosebumps and Fear Street kid growing up. I also discovered Robert Bloch in my early 20s, and wow, that changed me. I love the way he balanced horror and humorâ€”and his psychological novels are so wonderfully plotted. Psycho and Psycho 2 are stunners. The Fallen Boys owes a hell of a lot to Psycho. Later in life influences were Jack Ketchum, RyĹ« Murakami and William Peter Blatty, among others
TM: What is your favorite work of literature of all time?
AD: I honestly donâ€™t have a favorite, but here are a couple of close contenders. Rosemaryâ€™s Baby by Ira Levin is a perfect novelâ€”it makes me sweat. Kingâ€™s The Stand broke my heart. And I love, love, love Bret Easton Ellisâ€™ Lunar Park. Favorites however, are a constantly changing thing for me. Who can tell what these titles might have been had you asked me a week ago!
TM: Tell us just a bit about yourself. What do you do when you arenâ€™t writing? Do you have any hobbies or other interests that keep you busy?
AD: I love tinkering with video. I grew up making short films with my brothers with the old family camcorder, and that passion hasnâ€™t gone away. I used to be a video editor and Iâ€™ve longed to work in film (although it hasnâ€™t happened yet â€“so hire me, okay?). I just made the trailer for The Fallen Boys which I think it came out well, considering it was made for $30. I love to paint too. When I was younger, I was tempted to become a professional artist, but decided against it because it didnâ€™t seem financially viable. So I became an author instead! Ha!
TM: What is your favorite horror film of all time?
AD: The Exorcist 3. That film scared the shit outta me. And yet itâ€™s hilarious! And although I freely admit that it isnâ€™t as good as the original (which I also love), itâ€™s that decidedly William Peter Blatty-esque tone of humorous melancholy that elevates it (for me, anyway). Itâ€™s beautifully written, shot, acted and scoredâ€”even with the flaws and the studio tinkering.
AD: The scariest book I ever read is a dead tie. Although neither are my favorite works by these authors. The first is Geraldâ€™s Game by Stephen King; I couldnâ€™t sleep after reading it as a teenager. And the other is The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum, which left me deeply shaken. With films, again, itâ€™s not my favorite, but itâ€™s still the most terrifying thing Iâ€™ve ever seen, was Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Mauryâ€™s Inside (2007). I saw it once, loved it, and now own it, but Iâ€™ve never been able to watch it again. Iâ€™m too scared. Thatâ€™s never, ever, ever happened before!
TM: If you could co-write a book with anyone who would it be with and why?
AD: Gosh, what a tough oneâ€¦ Iâ€™ve never collaborated with another author before, but man, Iâ€™d love to. So if youâ€™re interested, hit me up. For the dream team, I would have loved to work with Robert Bloch. I mean, who wouldnâ€™t? Plus, he only did one collaboration, with Andre Norton on The Jekyll Legacy (1991), and itâ€™s uneven at best. I donâ€™t think working together brought out the best in either authorâ€¦ So basically, what Iâ€™m saying is: if the ghost of Robert Bloch would like to haunt me, and thus, make me a better writer, then please, feel free to do so. Iâ€™ll supply the chains. You rattle them.
TM: Do you ever suffer from writerâ€™s block or just have a period where you just plain didnâ€™t feel like writing? If so how did you overcome the problem?
AD: Iâ€™ve never suffered from writerâ€™s block (thus far) and I always want to write, but I go through periods where I simply donâ€™t have the time. Like many authors, I work full time and have life-commitments. The latter always comes first. Those special to us are usually the ones who inspire us the most, anyway. I work to live, not live to work. Writing just has to fit around all of this, somehow. I really wish there were more hours in a day. I miss writing whenever Iâ€™m not doing it.
TM: Do you have any future projects that you are currently working on you would like to talk about?
AD: Iâ€™m about half-way through my third book, but of course, who knows if itâ€™ll ever see the light of day. Itâ€™s tentatively called Bastard Island and is about back packingâ€™s darkest side. Itâ€™s set in Thailand, within the same universe as House of Sighs and The Fallen Boys, finishing a thematic trilogy. If it gets published â€¦ prepare to be frightened. Iâ€™m showing little to no mercy. Iâ€™ve also started planning another psychological horror novel called Mister Meanwhile and a supernatural trilogy called Lady Guillotine. But itâ€™s all in the early stages. Stay tuned.
TM: What is your favorite subgenre of horror? In other words do you like slasher flicks, werewolves, zombies, vampires, aliens, etc?
AD: Iâ€™m not a hard-core subscriber to any subgenre so to speak, but Iâ€™m tired of watching and reading shit. I donâ€™t know how to put it any more diplomatically than that. Iâ€™m burnt out on some things, like vampires, but if itâ€™s quality stuff, Iâ€™m there. I adore books and films the blend genres (as opposed to those who blend villains (ie: vampires vs werewolves)), push the limits and get under your skin. A great example is both the novel and film version of Lucky Mckee and Jack Ketchumâ€™s The Woman. What a glorious and grotesque mind-f*ck that was. And damn it, I love a good monster movie. I thought Darabontâ€™s The Mist was amazing. I have a lot of guilty pleasures, too. And I mean guilty
TM: Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or anything you would like to add?
AD: Iâ€™d love to give an utterly heart-felt shout out to every single person who read my first book, House of Sighs. You donâ€™t know how much that means to me. A writer is nothing without readers. Fingers crossed you all come back for more. And also, thanks so much to the team at HorrorNews.newâ€”itâ€™s an honor to be here.
Thanks to Aaron for taking the time to speak with me!
You can find his books here: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/fallen-boys-p-7141.html?osCsid=cad5d7210d7a4f75ae13cc3616cfc6d4]
And here: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/house-sighs-p-6914.html
Interview: Author Aaron Dries