An interview with author, Aaron M. Carpenter. Me.

July 10, 2017

When I was first asked to sit down for an interview, my first thought was, “who would want to interview me?” But, I pushed my lack of hubris aside and decided to go for it. Then on a Sunday in July, the interviewer arrived, and I was struck by his lack of height. His thin hair. The LA Kings shirt… Hey wait, that’s me. Am I interviewing myself? Damn. My mind has broken. The stress of publishing has taken its toll.

I decided to go ahead with the interview.

Interviewer: So, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

Author: Likewise.

Both Author and Interviewer sit on opposite sides of a white, plastic table. In the center of the table is one lamp, with a black base and a white lampshade, casting a warm, dirty, spotlight on the Author. The Interviewer proceeds to pull out a black notebook from a brown bag, which clashes with his LA Kings t-shirt. The Author, meanwhile, wearing pajama bottoms and a black t-shirt, leans back in his folding chair, brushes back his receding hairline and plops his feet, with black socks, one with a hole in them, on the table.

Interviewer: Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Author: Whatever you want chief.

Interviewer: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Author: That’s not easy to say. When I was a kid, I loved books, particularly the late eighties, early nineties, fantasy books. The Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms stories. I even wrote some fan fiction, before it would be considered fan fiction. But, even before that, in Elementary school, I wanted to be a writer. But, it only took a few decades later before I realized what that meant.

Interviewer: What do you mean?

Author: Well. I forgot. I got into film. I wanted to make movies. But, the emphasis was the same. I wanted to tell stories. Look, I already wrote a blog post about all this.

Interview: Ok then. Next question: How long did it take to write, The Ending is Everything?

Author: The whole process from beginning to publishing?

Interviewer: Whatever works for you?

Author: The first draft took about six months. But, there were years of daydreaming beforehand. Then another six months of polishing. Then two months final copyediting and all the publishing junk.

Interviewer: Such as?

Author: Cover design. Blurbs for the back. Interior design. That sort of stuff. In total it was about fourteen to sixteen months, from blank paper to published novel.

Interviewer: So, you don’t know exactly how long it took?

Author: There were quite a few start and stops at the beginning. So, the first draft could be anywhere between four to eight months, depending on when you wanted to start counting.

Interviewer: Fair enough. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Author: It depends. Since I am currently devoid of a real job, my day usually begins around eight in the morning. I get coffee. Browse YouTube, Facebook, look at e-mails. Then at nine, I put on my creative hat, and I either work on my blog, write a scene or, and this is the case most days, visualize the scene and work out what the scene should look like, yet don’t write anything down. At noon, I have lunch. Then from one to three, I go through the same process of writing or daydreaming. Then at three, I spend an hour reading or so. Four, I take the dog for a walk, if weather permits. Then spend the rest of the evening hanging out with the family. At eleven in the evening, I sit back down at my computer and write until I can’t write no more.

Interviewer: So, is it fair to say, you do most of your writing late in the evening?

Author: Yes. Like David Hasselhoff, I am a night writer.

The Interviewer gives a slight chuckle, while the Author laughs hysterically at his own joke, banging his fist on the plastic table.

Interviewer: How did your book get published?

Author: I published it myself. Self-published. Indie publishing.

Interviewer: Why?

Author: Well, it’s in my DNA. As a big fan of punk music and the ethics of DIY, it felt natural to go that route. Also, I didn’t want to go through the whole publishing grind. Finding an agent. Selling the book to a publisher. All that stuff. It would take at least another year before anyone would see the book.

Interviewer: But, isn’t it true, that the book would have been more polished and professional if you went with a traditional publisher?

Author: No doubt. But, I am not writing War and Peace here. The Ramones could’ve signed to a major label and spent millions to produce their first album, and it would’ve sounded better. But, it wouldn’t change the music or meaning of the music. It would’ve just sounded cleaner, which may have taken away some of the effect of the album.

Interviewer: That sounds like just an excuse, not to have to deal with rejection.

Author: But, that’s how I looked at it.

Interviewer: Where do you get your information or ideas for your novel?

Author: The idea has stirred in my head for years. It came down to two stories I thought of and an old screenplay, I wrote nineteen years ago with my friend, Steve. Basically, what if ordinary everyday people and their normal everyday drama, was destroyed by a terror attack in seconds. That idea turned into a screenplay for a T.V. show, where the whole first season was about a guy returning home from the Army, and trying to reconnect with the world around him. Then the nuclear bomb goes off at the end of the first season, which puts the whole season and drama into a different context.

Interviewer: How far along did you get writing the T.V. show?

Author: Not far. A couple episodes and the beginning of a Bible for the show.

Interviewer: A Bible?

Author: Yes. Every T.V. show has a bible that is a road map for the show as a whole. What it’s about? The themes. Where it’s going? That sort of thing.

Interviewer: Interesting. What does your family think of your writing?

Author: Besides, the language. I am sure they are fine with it.

Interviewer: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

Author: How much time you don’t spend writing. At least if you are an indie publisher. From a writing perspective, how the characters will take you in unexpected directions.

Interviewer: Can you give an example?

Author: Well when I started, I had an idea of what would happen. The bomb. The government reaction. That sort of thing. But, I let the characters tell me their reaction. I did my best not to force the characters into situations, just for drama or action purposes. The external forces were pretty much mapped out. But, the character reactions, I tried to be as honest and accurate to the characters as possible.

Interviewer: So, you didn’t outline the novel beforehand?

Author: Yes and no. I outlined the dates and when the external, non-character moments were to happen. But, besides that. Not much outlining.

Interviewer: Why write it in the first-person?

Author: Well, since this was my first novel, I wanted to constrain myself. This story could spiral out of control if it was in third-person and jumped around to multiple characters. Also, I like the intimacy of the first-person. One of my favorite novels is War of the Worlds, which is told in the first-person and was a huge influence.

Interviewer: Interesting. You like War of the Worlds?

Author: You don’t?

Interviewer: I only saw the movie.

Author: Which one, the fifties one or Tom Cruise?

Interviewer: Tom Cruise.

Author: That explains it.

Interviewer: On the subject of good and bad entertainment, what do you think makes a good story?

Author: Hmm. That’s a tough one. I can only answer for myself.

Interviewer: Of course.

Author: For me, it’s a combination of characters, purpose, and honesty.

Interviewer: Can you elaborate?

Author: Maybe. Let me see. Well, most novels, movies, plays and any other type of fiction are a combination of the following elements: Setting, Characters, Plot, Theme/Story and Prose. Prose is another way to say; how is the story told? And when you are writing or making a film, or producing a play or whatever it is you are doing. You have to prioritize these elements. Now, if you are a genius and can knock all of them out of the ballpark, more power to you. But, as the mere mortal that I am, I need to concentrate on the elements that mean the most to me while telling the story. So, for my novel, I focused on Characters, Theme/Story, Plot, Prose and then Setting. In that order. And that is where the honesty comes in. You have to be honest with yourself when creating. What means the most to you? What do you like? Now, if someone else wrote this exact same story. They may have: Plot, Setting, Characters, Prose and Theme/Story, in that order. Which would create a completely different novel. In fact, if you look up post-apocalyptic novels on Amazon you will see hundreds of different novels with a similar story, yet are vastly different. At least, I hope mine is different.

Interviewer’s eyes are closed, his head hangs low, and a brazen snore reverberates the plastic table. Author bangs his hand on the table.

Author: Did you get any of that?

Interviewer (rubbing his eyes): Sure. Got it all. So what are you currently working on?

Author: I am working on a short story, or novella, or novel. I haven’t decided yet. I will see where it takes me. Tentatively titled: A Man. A Dog. An Apocalypse.

Interviewer: Another apocalypse novel?

Author: Yes.

Interviewer: Any relation to The Ending is Everything?

Author: Yes. In television terms it would’ve been the B or C story.

The Interviewers head bobs down to his chin and his eyes close.

Author: You need a nap?

Interviewer: No. I’m fine.

Author: Is that it?

Interviewer: That’s it.

 

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