Meet Aaron Dries!
Hello! What’s your name?
My name is Aaron Dries and thank you for having me.
What do you write and why?
I write horror novels, although over the years I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different genres and formats. I’ve written short stories, many of which have been published in internationally, though I suspect only a handful of people would have actually read them. I’ve written screenplays and made a lot of short films, some of which did well, but nothing full-length as of yet. But that will change. Film has always been a big part of my life and that passion feeds into my novels as well, which probably accounts for their cinematic quality.
Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?
Oh definitely. You only need to look at my bookshelves to see that I’m a hard-core horror nut. I once had a gentleman come to clean the carpet of my apartment here in Newcastle (he was friendly, though primed to judge without whim, and he wore his blue collar roots on his sleeve, it seemed). He stopped mid-job, cocked his baseball cap to one side and asked me: “for the love of Jehovah, why on earth would you read that crap?” whilst pointing at my bookshelf … I guess answering questions like that is second nature for seasoned authors, but as a 27 year old guy who thought it was perfectly okay to own four different versions of Blatty’s The Exorcist, it was a bit affronting!
But having said all this, it’s imperative that writers read outside their genre. As Stephen King has said so well in the past (and far more eloquently) without reading you don’t have the tools to write. I love all types of writing and all types of genres.
What is the title you are promoting right now?
My debut novel ‘House of Sighs‘ was released in ebook format this March and it is available now. The paperback lands in July and is up for pre-order everywhere.
What is it about?
It’s the spring of 1995, and the passengers of the Sunday bus into town have realized that something is very, very wrong with their driver. They don’t know that she began her day planning to kill herself. But they know that she’s threatening to kill them. They began the ride as her passengers, but now they’re her captives. She’s already shown she won’t hesitate to use that gun in her hand, and no one wants to be the next to die. They have no idea where she’s taking them, who will be left alive when they get there, or what‘s in store for the survivors. With a madwoman at the wheel, the bus has gone far off its route, deep into insanity. And for most of the passengers, the next stop will be their last.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
Well, I seem to be a niche within a niche genre. Horror literature is inundated (in a good way) with supernatural narratives. My work is different in that it’s based in reality. But a lot can happen that within reality. A lot. And a lot of it can be very scary. I’m interested in the psychology behind the “why” and about those really terrifying realizations that happen ever so often … where there is no explanation. That’s a strong theme of ‘House of Sighs’—you can justify a person’s actions, give them all the character development you think the story deserves, but there are those people (those really bad people) who sometimes do bad things simply because they want to. That scares the shit out of me. That’s evil. This is what keeps me looking over my shoulder at night.
I’m not the only writer out there doing this kind of thing, Jack Ketchum, who is astoundingly good has made a career out of writing in this genre. This isn’t to say that I won’t try my hand at supernatural fiction (I’ve actually got some killer ideas floating around in my head), but at the moment, I feel hooked into the world around me and a lot of that world unsettles me. I’m going to work within those themes for a while. At least I think so. Who knows!
What’s the story behind the story?
I used to be a pizza boy in rural New South Wales, Australia, and on my route there was this house. I’d delivered to this place a handful of times and knew the nice looking, middle-aged woman’s face and those of her two young children. They always had vegetarian pizzas, garlic bread and Diet Cokes —the order of a mother who obviously knew pizzas were bad for her children but was trying to dampen to damage.
Well, that woman went on to shoot her kids and then herself—there had been no warning and there were no explanations. It shook up the whole town—hell, the whole state. Never had I felt so much like a spectator in a really ugly game. This played on my mind for a while. Why did she do it? What makes a seemingly considerate mother put a bullet in her children’s heads? These questions lingered with me for quite a while and I eventually wrote and directed a short film called ‘Placebo,’ which was for my major work in my final year of University. It did really well, won a bunch of awards and was my ticket into the media industry. I’ve been told they still show it at the University, which is very humbling.
Those themes have stuck with me simply because the questions that event raised never went away. And the more I thought about what made that woman snap the more I realized that I wanted to dig further. So I wrote ‘House of Sighs.’ I still don’t know the answers … I guess that is why the book works. Horror is uncertainty; horror is the questions we can’t answer. Or don’t want answered.
What is your goal as an author?
Above all else my goal is to emotionally involve and move my readers. That may mean scaring, or challenging, disturbing, or provoking them. My aim isn’t to preach; I want to offer a reader an experience they won’t get elsewhere. I’m of the belief that even people who say they don’t like horror like to be scared, or at least, like to scare others, whether it is via rollercoasters, rock climbing or books like mine. Terror is a natural feeling and the one emotion we constantly deny ourselves; stories like mine provide an outlet to something we’re programmed to feel. I want to offer that experience. In spades.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
I’ve finished my second book and it’s being edited by Don D’Auria at Samhain Publishing as we speak! It’s called ‘The Fallen Boys’ and it will be released later this year. It takes place in the same universe as ‘House of Sighs’ and deals with similar themes. The storyline concerns online bullying, taken to the extreme, leading to an almost inevitable conclusion—only with enough twists and turns to keep your head spinning. It’s a horrific, disturbing mystery—and a heartbreaker. I worked really hard on it, and I know that work has paid off. I think it’s twice the novel ‘House of Sighs’ is.
I’ve also started my third book, which will be set in Thailand and concerns the way the tourist industry has shaped the culture of the land there—for the worse. It has an international cast who converge on a tourist boat. Naturally, things go terribly, terribly wrong and all of the tourist traps that they came to Thailand to see come back to bite on the ass. It’s a full-on horror novel and I’m having an absolute ball writing it. It’s just a matter of finding the time.
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
I don’t really have a favorite author, but there are those who are a constant inspiration. Stephen King is one of them – his characterizations are second-to-none and he has a way to make sprawling concepts and scenarios incredibly intimate. I love that he’s really hit his stride again, with ‘Under the Dome’ and ‘11/22/63’ being among his best. I’m counting down the days until ‘Doctor Sleep,’ his sequel to ‘The Shining’ is released. I’m also in love and seriously indebted to the work of Robert Bloch, the author of ‘Psycho.’ He taught me about the fine line between horror and laughter and how horror is best when it’s so absurd you almost laugh. I recently wrote about his work at length in an article called “Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain – On Forgetting Robert Bloch,” which can be read here: http://www.aarondries.com/apps/blog/show/13547984-pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain-on-forgetting-robert-bloch
Other names that spring to mind are Jack Ketchum, Ira Levin, William Peter Blatty, Dan Simmons and Clive Barker. The list goes on and on.
Where can readers find you and your work?
The best way to discover me is through http://www.aarondries.com . I love meeting new readers. Or hit me up on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AaronDries or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aaron-Dries/297589356966510. Other than that, visit Samhain Horror http://store.samhainpublishing.com/house-sighs-p-6692.html — where you can find my book, or through channels such as Amazon http://www.amazon.com/House-of-Sighs-ebook/dp/B006VFOAUE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332919204&sr=8-1 etc.
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
I cringe when I think of my book going out as it was before going through the publishing regime. I edited it multiple times, had people tear it apart—I did everything that an author should do, and as it stood, it was good enough to win the Rue Morgue / ChiZine / Dorchester Publishing “Fresh Blood” competition and to subsequently be picked up by Samhain.
But that wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot. ‘House of Sighs’ went through so much work there—editor edits, line-edits, multiple proof reads, fact checking etc. The polish was great. My manuscript would not have received that treatment if I’d self-published … That ‘sheen’ is missing from a lot of self-published works. What’s sad is that a lot of those self-published novels are good enough to have been picked up by big publishers, only the author didn’t submit and go through the (admittedly horrible and arduous) process of acceptance.
There’s good indie writing out there, but there’s a lot of crap too. It’s making it increasingly difficult to find good writing, and that has nothing to do with taste. The one thing authors seem to pride themselves on hating is grammar, punctuation and the like. This ignorance shows in a lot of unpolished work (as it did in my own). If you’re going to self-publish, don’t settle for instant gratification. Don’t upload it as soon as it’s finished. You cannot, and should not, release a book in any format until a year after it was written, at least. You need that time to distance yourself from the work and to look back at it with fresh eyes. And then you need at least three other people to tear it apart. You have to let go of your inner diva and allow yourself to be criticized. If you’ve done all this and you believe that your book is good then go for it! And I wish all of those authors the best of luck. A lot of them deserve to make it. They worked hard.
Do you have a favorite quote?
That one’s easy. “Not all those who wander are lost…” which is from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. As someone who has felt lost, in careers, in life, in travel, hell—in the midst of a sentence, this quote just rings true.
What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?
Keep writing. Write hard. And then step back and leave your work for a while. Come back with fresh eyes and then make changes. If you’re not making changes you’re not doing it right. Listen to other people. Don’t ignore their criticism—if they don’t make you feel like you want to cry then you aren’t hearing the trtuh. Don’t give in. I write books between multiple jobs, family commitments and your average life interruptions—you can do it. Work to find your voice and don’t write in the voice of someone else; it’s always obvious. Write the kind of books you want to read, not what you think other people want to read. And above all else, write what you know.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?
I think that’s it! I super appreciate you taking the time to interview me. This is a great site.
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Please take a moment to visit Aaron at the links below!