Hi, folks. I have a book signing this weekend and am moving my daughter to Boston next week, so I won't be able to write my usual Sunday column for a few Sundays. I hope you understand.
Instead, I'm going to post a few interviews. This one was conducted by Beryl Singleton Bissell, author of The Scent of God.
BSB: As I was reading Tremolo, I kept thinking what fun it would be if you created a series of these “young Gus” stories for middle readers. Sort of like the Hardy Boy’s of the late 20th Century. Do you have any plans for such a series and if not, why?
APL: Actually, I do have plans to continue the “young Gus” series – at least two more books. I haven’t aimed these at any age group in particular, however. It seems my oldest readers (one of my favorite readers is 98 years old!) enjoy the young Gus romps as much as the YA crowd.
I still haven’t “shown” my readers the year after Tremolo, when Siegfried is struck on the head by a motorboat and loses most of his faculties. Poor Sig. He’s my angel on earth.
And let’s face it – I probably won’t be able to rest until I have “documented” Gus’s whole life!
I’ve written another prequel that takes Gus and Elsbeth to Boston in the late sixties, when they both attended the music conservatory. It’s a delicious hippie aged adventure, replete with flower children, white slave traders, and plenty of emotional plunges. That book may generate some of its own sequels. Gus and Elsbeth are just married in Portamento and they discover their pregnancy at the same time that Gus’s grandmother becomes seriously ill. Multiple traumas happen to our poor hero! On top of that, he almost gets pecked to death by a peacock. But that’s another story for another day…
BSB: I’ve noticed how totally good and loving your main characters are, and how totally evil the criminal are. Most of us, even the most jaded, have elements of both good and bad within us. Can you explain why you’ve chosen to present your characters as either good or bad.
APL: It’s strange, but I never really “chose” to do this. It’s just the way it tumbled out of my brain. I’m not sure why, because I’m certainly aware of how most folks are a blend of good and bad. Maybe it’s just exposure to too many movies where characters are painted that way. Or simply the way my crazy imagination works.
Better yet, it could be my passion for opera. You know there are always the good guys and bad guys, and rarely anyone in between. I think that must be it.
BSB: I am interested in ways that your writing has impacted your life. Can you tell us about how writing changes or strengthens you?
APL: This is a great question, Beryl, one that I know you have great insight to in your own life.
When life gets tough – I turn to my writing for solace, borne of escapism.
Sure, family and friends help soothe life’s woes, and they are fantastic sources of comfort. Especially those hugs I get from my little grandsons. But there’s something uniquely satisfying about turning to the parallel universe I control (when I can’t control anything else) and “taking charge.” Gus LeGarde and Sam Moore (protagonists of both mystery series) are a lot like me, and by creating scenes with them I’m able to participate in virtual adventures. Or to relive the loss of a loved one – and work out those feelings. Or to recapture the joy of childhood. Or to get my blood pumping in my virtual armchair by running helter-skelter through the woods after a bad guy. Or to enjoy “visits” with my beloved father and grandparents, who are populated throughout the books.
You get the drift.
But even if life wasn’t fraught with its own very real problems (we have plenty of medical problems in our family), I’d still write. I have no choice. I need the stimulation of the creative process every day. I need to connect with readers. I live for that.
There’s nothing more satisfying that coming across a reader in the local grocery store who stares with star-struck eyes and tells me how she wants to marry Gus LeGarde. And so does her mother. LOL. It’s great.
Seriously, though, there are deep connections that bind us together – whether they are through themes of loss, honor, family, nature, gardens, music, art, or any common element that resonates with readers. I always encourage my readers to connect with me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com.
BSB: How does your family react to your writing and your writing life and its demands?
APL: You’ll laugh at this one. Or maybe not. Could it be a common problem?
My family is jealous of my writing.
It’s not like I squirrel away in a secret place to write for hours during the day. I don’t. Though sometimes I wish I could!
I get through the day’s needs – engineering, commuting, dinner, babysitting, dishes, catching up – and then I take just an hour or two to write and promote.
Whether it’s late at night or in the early morning, I need a few hours for myself. It was impossible when my three daughters were younger and needed me for everything. You know, laundry, homework, packing lunches, driving everyone to drama club practice, band practice, soccer games, or piano lessons. But as they matured and became more independent, I found the time to pull away just a little.
Even now, it’s never enough. Promoting takes so much time away from the pure writing process that it’s sometimes frustrating. But “nobody ever bought a book they haven’t heard about,” so it’s a necessary part of the business.
My wife is proud of me, but sometimes she gets jealous of “me and the computer.” I try to explain that it’s “me and my books,” but she always mentions about that darned computer. Says we’re joined at the hip.
My daughters seem proud – but they haven’t read all of my books yet. I think that’s because “it’s just Dad,” and they can read them anytime. I guess it’s like that “in your backyard” scenario. I live near Rochester, NY, and I’ve never visited the George Eastman House. Because it’s right there and I can visit “anytime.” Shameful, really.
So now can I add more sex and violence to my books?
Originally I wanted to write stuff that was titillating, but wholesome. I avoided the sex scene details, worried what my little girls would think of their daddy. As time went on, though, in the later books I have added some mild steam to the mix. Nothing scummy or graphic – just sensual scenes between Gus and his wife. In Mazurka, which is due out this year from Twilight Times Books, Gus and Camille enjoy their first “time” together in Paris on the night of their honeymoon. My readers have waited a LONG time for this event.
BSB: With your busy schedule as an engineer, gardener, chef of family feasts and other meals, photographer, blogger, father, grandfather, how do you find time to write?
APL: It’s not easy. On top of the above tasks, I also do the cleaning, laundry, home repairs, shopping, and bills. Oh, I hate doing the bills. Maybe someday when I’m rich and famous (LOL) I won’t have to worry about the struggle. But it never seems to end, even when you think it’s going to “get easier this year.”
But things worthwhile are never easy, are they?
I manage to balance it by putting family first and writing second. The rest comes along for the ride. I also cook healthy feasts on Sundays and we eat off of that every night during the week. Lots of veggies, poultry, and fish. And if the oil change in the car is a little overdue, or if my weeds aren’t all neat and tidy like Sam Moore’s gardens (the creep is retired; I’m so jealous!), or the kitchen floor isn’t shining… well, so be it. I’ve gotta write. I have no choice.
Thank you, Beryl, for these lovely questions! Unique and insightful, they gave me an opportunity to chat about stuff I usually keep to myself. :o)