Friday seemed to get here pretty fast this week, and that means it’s time for an indie author – Aaron Lawler! His wife’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies sounds divine – with all the mouth-watering cookie descriptions over the past few weeks, I may have to start a new blog feature on cookie recipes – yes?
Fitz Faraday, his best friend Hollis, who comes from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, and his hoped-to-be-girlfriend Josey, the new girl in town, are taken through harrowing events and thrilling misadventures, as they learn about life, love, death, the inner workings of the psyche, and the flimsiness of reality. After witnessing the murder of Professor Oliver Crowley, who has invented a way of bringing thoughts into physical reality, Fitz and his friends must exonerate the town bully, who is being framed for the murder. Using Professor Crowley’s inventions, Fitz soon learns he can bend the field of Id, a sea of golden dreams and wishes. Fitz finds himself drawn inside a new world he never knew existed. He hopes he will be able to use that world to help his friends and even his enemies. To do so, he must master Crowley’s technique of “Thought becomes light and light becomes physical.”
What do you wish you’d known before you were published?
Overall, Black Rose Writing were very good too work with and remain so as we move into new areas of marketing and selling books. Initially, I queried nearly sixty different literary agents and publishers. Only three responded back with favorable offers. That much rejection can be hard to take, but it also taught me so much about myself and the process. In the end, when I chose Black Rose it was because they are a small press firm, and I believe in small press – I believe in the idea that more work should be shared with the world instead of relying solely on the Big Four. I am advocate for small press. Small presses are publishers with the “desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market”.
The Big Four book publishers include Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation), HarperCollins (a subsidiary of NewsCorp), Penguin Random House (a subsidiary of Bertelsmann and Pearson), and Hachette Livre. All, but Hachette Livre, are headquartered in New York, NY and two are subsidiaries of large news media organizations. What this means for us? As readers and consumers our choices are filtered through four megacorporations who dictate what should be part of the body of literature we have access too. I am staunchly against this system, even if literary agents and publishers are not. 99% of all published works are not on the New York Times Best Seller’s List, so we are often only exposed to 1% of works being created. My argument is simply, that is it possible the other 99% might contribute to our culture? Is it possible?
Like any performance, the anxiety of rejection always looms in the corner. Once I developed a thick skin for rejection and critique, I am now finding one of my biggest challenges is self-promotion. It does not come easily to me and moves me out of my comfort zone. I struggle with it, and often feel it comes off unauthentic.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
This game I have played too many times! But I think I would tell myself to keep being curious and keep being daring. There was a point in life where I stopped taking risks and stayed the true and narrow course. Although I have little regrets in life – even my biggest mistakes have helped me become who I am today – there are things I certainly missed out on for such silly reasons as peer pressure, fear of embarrassment or rejection, or just plain trepidation. As a child I was fearless – adventure was my calling! Be it the hikes in the woods, building forts and having wars with the neighborhood kids, or trying any sport/hobby/musical instrument that came in front of me. My adolescence somehow quieted the beasts of curiosity and wonder, but I rekindled those flames in adulthood. And my wife, and now my children, have become terrifying and beautiful adventures all on their own!
What do you love most about the writing process?
I am a classically trained painter, and one point in my life thought I would become a professional illustrator. Trying my hand at the trade, I found myself stifled. With endless parallel and extradimensional planetary worlds orbiting about in my imagination, I always thought the vehicle to sharing these would be through illustration. But I found that I much prefer the written word when it comes to world-building and character crafting. Painting slows my process down too much. My mind wants to invent, sprout up new places and sights and sounds with ludicrous speed. And the brush, the canvas, the whole process limits me too much.
I have found that I prefer to paint watercolor landscapes and mixed media portraits as a form of relaxation – something that actually lets my mind quiet down. Whereas writing is the opposite. Writing for me is painterly process but at superspeed. I can craft entire gardens, or ocean floors, or mystical forests with rich and lurid detail in mere moments and then continue my Aslan-like painting process by filling the world with the sons and daughters of my visualization.
My wife once compared my writing process to the Robin Williams’ movie “What Dreams May Come.” In the movie, the visuals are liquid paintings that shift and grow from scene to scene, always lavishly textured, and in a perpetual motion. This is how I write, filling the page with the symbols – in this case words – which represent full, technicolor splashes of life. Painting does not allow me to communicate this way, it is so arduous and would require hundreds of canvases to create the world I want to bring to life.
It is a double-edged sword in some ways. Because I want to create a specific visual in the mind of others – I want to seed them with my thought in the pristine, perfect way I have shaped it. But writing forces me to let go of this. I find myself relaxed at the release of control, at first it was painstaking to simply be – to simply flow. But now, I visualize the image, craft the words with poetry and rhythm instead of color and brush, and that is how I manifest my ideas.
The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id actually pays homage to this process. Although my first novel, this not my first writing (I have even published nonfiction articles with the International Journal of Art and Art History and the Erudite Journal of Educational Research). Yet this novel is so personal because Fitz creates his world the same way I created the world for Fitz and even Fitz himself. There is a meta-element to this novel in that it in many ways explains how I created the “paracosm” – a word here, meaning parallel world sideways from our own.
What’s your favorite kind of cookie and why?
Oatmeal chocolate chip – hands down. My wife makes these from a recipe handed down from her great-grandmother, and there is little better in the world than a homemade batch of these! Its an entire process, almost like the samsara cycle leading to a transformation into nirvana. When she first starts mixing the batter there’s a subtle hint of the flavors wafting through the house. The undernotes are just at the tip of your senses and you know what is coming – something quite remarkable. When they begin baking in the oven, the oatmeal rises and the chocolate melts. Everything in the universe comes to a single point of perfection, as if the very moment of creation was made from cookie dough. The trick is to not let them cool too long. You have to eat them just before they completely congeal, where they live in this liminal state between solid and semi-solid; one foot in reality, one foot in the spiritual realm. And then that first bite is explosive. Every taste bud screams in unison like a crowd at a concert. Euphoria. Ecstasy. The voice of God fills your chest as the warmth trickles down your esophagus and all of reality sparks in singularity, trapped perfectly in your mind’s eye. And then there is the release. The “Mmmm” that overcomes your entire being. You stop thinking. You stop worrying. You stop being self-conscious. All that exists is a cookie. A perfectly crafted cookie that is slightly crunchy on the edges, gooey in the center, and chocolate that liquefies across your tongue. Its sensual. Its warmth. Its home. And I can get drunk after eating them; a bear-like sleepiness forces me to the easy chair and I drift off into the best nirvana-like dreams.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV/Netflix?
I just finished Westworld, Season 1 – the HBO series. It was life changing. I was immersed in the entire experience. Mind-bending narratives, idiosyncratic philosophies that challenge what is known and how it is known, beautiful violence romanticized as good as the best Kung Fu aesthetic, sex scenes that drive you mad because they uncomfortable and voyeuristic but somehow emotionally moving, and unparalleled acting. Amazing performances where you lose a sense of reality, and cannot understand how a person is a robot and is a human; how can a human play a robot that thinks it’s a human? Just a remarkable series.
If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
My favorite contemporary works are Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, which is just so lush and whimsical and philosophical; and Michael Crichton’s Prey (Crichton was the author of the original Westworld series, by the way!) which not only moves at the pace of an action movie but changed my entire perception of reality in terms of holism, emergence, and interconnectedness. But if I had to narrow it down, I would start with Phillip Pullman. I love his worlds, his characters, and his plots. He just creates this rich tapestry where you become completely immersed. I would simply ask, “How? How did you create this world for His Dark Materials?” And then I would try to tap into that energy and that magic, to create this kind of world. I am in such awe!
There are two characters in Pullman’s series that I really identify with (certainly a much more idealized version of myself!). Lee Scoresby a Texan aeronaut who befriends and helps the main character. Scoresby has this folky sort of wisdom that is just so powerful. He is a living embodiment of an Aesop Fable, and I am drawn to him because he says little but when he does speak its poignant and powerful. In that way he is the opposite of me – I am a college professor and I say way too much! In the movie version he was played by Sam Elliot, who is just the quintessential cowboy.
The second character is Iorek Byrnison, a panserbjørn (armored, anthropomorphic bear), who is a great, Byronic character. His vices separate him from his armor – the most prized relic of a panserbjørn – but eventual through his regaining of his honor, he wins the armor back. I love this idea on so many levels. The armor is symbolic of the protection and vulnerability we experience, while the loss of it represents the loss we all experience when we make poor choices or let our vices get the best of us. But in the end, perseverance, friendship, and wisdom bring forth the courage to regain his honor. I just think that is a beautiful metaphor for our lives.
Aaron J. Lawler has taught for fifteen years and has published peer-reviewed studies in humanities, technology, game theory and education. His mother taught him to tell stories, his father taught him to think independently, his wife pushed him to try. Aaron is a classically trained painter and holds advanced degrees in the humanities, education, and technology. He is in love with his wife, his two kids, and his two dogs; and always will be.
Aaron Lawler: “I am a traveller in both the world and in the library. Writing allows me to design the journey, where I will go, what I will do, and who I will meet. Adventures in Europe, Canada, the States and Mexico opened me to new ideas. Philosophical jaunts changed who I am and the way I think. But writing allows me to wayfind. I can engineer a compass for my own path, following my own direction. The mindscape is an amazing place for a daytrip.”