Folks, please welcome Aaron Paul Lazar, author of the Gus LeGarde mystery series, to the blog today. We chat about side characters, surviving a desert island misadventure, the influence of family, and more. Sit back and enjoy!
Who are your non-writer influences?
Hi, Susan. Thanks for having me here today. When I read through your questions in advance, I was thrilled to see they are not your usual collection of “where do you get your ideas?” or “how do you find time to write?” Thank you in advance for making this a unique and interesting interview!
Re. your first question about non-writer influences on my writing…I would say my family is probably the number one influence in everything I do, including the characters I create and the struggles they must get through. In the beginning, when I was a young man poring through all the books in my parents’ collection, they were exclusively mysteries, which definitely nudged me into my primary genre.
Now, later in life, my wife Dale and I have had a wonderful, but challenging life as a couple (33 years!), with frequent bumps in the road due to health issues and more. Getting our three daughters through the teenage years was harrowing, and it’s when my silver hair started to sprout at my temples. But now they’re grown and having families of their own, so the joys and problems have shifted. Many of our life experiences filter into the books, including some of the funny stories created by my beloved grandchildren. There was one hilarious story about my two-and-a-half-year-old Grandson that inadvertently made it into two of my series. He must have been a chef in his past life, because he started to make a twelve-egg omelet and a pot of soup in our kitchen while everyone slept at 5:00 AM! (I’ll tell you about that if you ask, LOL!)
I’m also, I must admit, influenced by the world around me in the form of friends and media. When a friend’s wife contracted a mysterious heart virus and she almost died, I couldn’t help but imagine how he felt, and of course, I’d put twists on the scenario in my constantly whirring imagination. Or when my boss’s daughter died of cancer, I couldn’t help but empathize with his pain. When I hear about horrible events on the news, after suitable sighs of dismay, my mind tucks away the possibilities of turning it this way or that, and what if… So in truth, there is nothing that happens in my world that doesn’t present possible ideas for the next book in the works. ;o)
In general, I haven’t progressed to the lofty ideals of turning my bad guys into good guys at the end of a story. Most of my character arcs occur with the “regulars” in my series who can be seen in each book. There are featured characters that come and go, and the villains usually just have one appearance in one book of the series.
But I do see the evil character redeeming himself more and more in literature and in the movies, and I’m in awe of people who do it well like S.W. Vaughn in her House Phoenix series (the Jenner character) or like the Korean man (I think his name was Jinn-Soo Kwon) in Lost who turns from a mafia type killer to a helpful, loving man.
My bad guys are admittedly evil, nasty creeps and I want my readers to stand up and cheer when I dispatch them, like I always do. In my most recent book release, DEVIL’S LAKE, I created a monstrous guy who kidnaps and hurts young women. I hate him. Oh, do I hate him. And it felt SO good to deliver a nice chunk of “payback” to him. I was cheering myself at that point. LOL.
I often get asked questions by fellow writers about how to deal with writer’s block, and my answer for that is similar to my answer to this question about what non writing/reading activities can help an aspiring author. I tell them to go out and simply live their lives, but with their eyes wide open. Go hiking in the woods. Grow a lush garden and revel in the tastes and fragrances it produces. Wander through a small town festival. Observe details, including all the sounds and sensations in the environs. Try to enjoy (instead of dread) a trip to the grocery store where a multitude of character types and conversations wait patiently for you to take notice. LISTEN to these voices so your own dialog can sound authentic.
Living life is how we absorb the sensual beauty of the world around us as well as collecting new characters and situations for books to come. It’s all about watching and listening to everything with awe and wonder, paying attention to the details, tucking these observations away for later, and letting them come back out in your next book.
How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?
Oh, gosh, Susan. You’d think I would remember. It was in 2004 when I first received a contract for Double Forté. I remember being exhilarated, feeling almost like a “real” writer, and telling my wife, who was quite calm about it. She’s still very blasé about my writing, which does take time away from our life together. But when The Seacrest paid for our vacation this summer, she smiled. So I’m making progress. I especially remember, however, when the first print copies of Double Forté arrived on my doorstep and I opened the box. Now, that was a thrill!
The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?
I’m going to include audio books in this collection, and I will make sure to bring plenty of batteries or chargers so I can listen, because some of my favorite books in recent years have been in audio format:
All of the Alan Bradley books featuring Flavia DeLuce. (six in the series so far)
All of John D. MacDonald’s books, hardcover or audio by Robert Petkoff.
All of Dick Francis’s novels, particularly those read by Simon Prebble.
A selection of titles by these authors, who I just love: Polly Iyer, Ellis Vidler, Michael Prescott, Laurie R. King, Jenny Milchman, Joan Hall Hovey, and so many more!
Okay, don’t spread this around, but there is one really funny argument my wife and I always have. She’ll wake up and find me already working on a book at the crack of dawn. After our good mornings to each other, sometimes she rolls her eyes and says, “What else did I expect.” She shakes her head and goes for her coffee, mumbling, “Aaron and his computer.” I always rise to the bait. I say, “It’s not me and my computer! This is just a tool. It’s me and my WRITING.” But it never fails. It’s like she thinks I am having an affair or obsessed with a electro-mechanical gizmo every time. I admit. I am obsessed with my parallel universes and there’s no question about that.
Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?
One of my new favorite authors is Polly Iyer. She writes great books and her characters just jump off the page. In a recent book, Hooked, I fell in love with many of the minor characters. Hooked is a slick, sassy, sexy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I fell in love with the characters, who in spite of their failings were incredibly memorable and unique. Not for those seeking pure and wholesome stories, this examines the seedy underbelly of the call girl world in New York City, but it isn’t what you might expect. This book was full of humor, intrigue, and romance, but who would expect to take a liking to a whorehouse owner? I did! I loved Polly’s character, Benny, and recommend the story to thriller lovers everywhere.
In my recent work, it seems folks have fallen in love with octogenarian Kip Sterling, the gentlemen featured in Lady Blues: forget-me-not, who has lost his memory, but with the help of a new Alzheimer’s drug, is beginning to remember things about his life. Most important, he’s remembering the long, lost love of his life, Arabella DuBois, a black nightclub singer he had a torrid affair with in 1946. Gus LeGarde tries to help him find out if she’s alive, and if she is, if she still remembers Kip.
I’d love to share two new books I just released last week – here are the details.
Devil’s Lake – Synopsis
After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York attempting an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the place. The man Boone has become frightens her to near paralysis, but she’s too traumatized and physically devastated to keep going.
Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skeleton-thin, afraid of everything and unable to talk about where she’s been, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together.
Through her family’s love and Boone’s undemanding affection, Portia gradually begins to come back to herself, and to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But a dark stain threatens her fragile hopes for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he’d kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her… waiting to make a deadly move.
The Liar’s Gallery: a Gus LeGarde Mystery
The last place Gus LeGarde expects to find his old friend Byron Cunningham is in a plane that crashes in a field near his farmhouse. But that’s just the first surprise in a series of shocking events beginning with the discovery of a Monet painting crammed into the plane’s fuselage. Is it real? Or fake? The trail leads Gus into a twisting trio of dangerous art world conspiracies.
Gus fends off some very pushy collectors and soon realizes he may have crossed paths with treacherous criminals, putting his family at risk. As if that isn’t enough, he must also contend with a problem that’s close to his heart: his daughter, Shelby, is growing up too fast. She’s determined to sing professionally and is now under the spell of a wolf in tenor’s clothing, handsome Greek student, Dmitri. When she vanishes with the family car, her frantic parents desperately chase the fading trail.
A slew of Facebook messages on Shelby’s computer lead them to The Eastman School of Music, where both Shelby’s new flame and Gus’s old friend have been hiding secrets linked to the art scandal. There’s a real Monet out there somewhere, and nothing—including murder—will stop the desperate man who wants it.
All of my books can be found at www.lazarbooks.com, and I love to hear from readers and writers who want to connect with me.
Thank you, Susan, for having me here today. It was a pleasure being here and I wish you and your fans/friends well – happy reading and writing!
Places to Stalk Aaron Paul Lazar
- 2014 Best Beach Book Festival WINNER, Romance category
- 2013 ForeWord Book Awards, Romance, FINALIST
- 2012 ForeWord BOTYA, Mystery, FINALIST
- 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Grand Prize Short List
- 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction
- 2011 Global eBook Award Finalist in Historical Fiction Contemporary
- 2011 Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place Mystery
- 2008 Yolanda Renée’s Top Ten Books
- 2008 MYSHELF Top Ten Reads
- 2011 ForeWord Book Awards, FINALIST in Mystery
- 2012 Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Reads
- 2013 EPIC Book Awards, FINALIST in Suspense
- 2013 Eric Hoffer Da Vinci Eye Award Finalist
- 2012 EPIC Book Awards WINNER Best Paranormal
- 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Award, WINNER Best Book in Commercial Fiction
- 2011 Finalist for Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice
- 2011 Winner of Carolyn Howard Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (not Nobel!) Prize for Literature
- 2011 Finalists for Global EBook Awards
- 2013 Global Ebook Awards, Paranormal – Bronze
- 2013 Semi Finalist in Kindle Book Review Book Awards, Mystery Category