Aaron and the Horror Librarian at PPWC2014.
The Horror Librarian: Aaron, you're a noted professional in the Colorado writing community, a presence at many writing and literature-related events, and often leading discussion and workshops on writing and the writing life. Can you talk a little about your passion for sharing your passion? (What have been some of your favorite topics and events?)
Aaron Michael Ritchey: I'm noted. Coll! I love that opening! Okay, noted professional. Me. Gotcha. I love to talk about artistic angst, writers block, the gut-punching terror writing can bring on. Writing, marketing, pitching, selling, promoting, all of that is so wonderfully difficult. It's taken me decades, literally decades to find the courage to write and market my writing, everyday. Yes, I've had to do an unbelievable amount of growing.
There are many paths to enlightenment. Writing is only one.
My favorite class to teach is my Writing Success Through the 12 Steps workshop, which I'll be presenting at the Castle Rock Writers Conference this October 4, 2014. I basically show writers how to use the 12 steps of addiction recovery to help ease artistic angst. It's worked for me, and I want to help others. I'm so Catholic that way.
The Horror Librarian had the pleasure of attending Aaron's "Talking Your Book" workshop at the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. She also saw him talk a few years back at the Colorado Teen Lit Conference. While the title of the workshop can't be remembered at the moment; the topic was most assuredly about writing angst. Aaron presents with a high energy and humor-laced style.
In your most recent novel, Long Live the Suicide King, you approach a topic of gravity with a sense of levity (per your usual style). What's your technique for creating an authentic young adult in crisis while maintaining a balance of humor and darkness?
Aaron Michael Ritchey: Well, I'm Irish, so we as a people can blend humor and tragedy fairly well. But more than that, this is really an autobiographical project. I was a suicidal teenager. I've suffered from depression and I've thought about ending it all, and you know what? After a while, all the tragedy becomes silly. I've learned to laugh at most of the thoughts passing through my brain. I've learned not to take myself so seriously.
JD, my main character, is a funny guy, and he was fun to write because he is so funny, snarky, witty. And yes, he's going through a dark time, but he's looking for the light. And he fins that light in the most unexpected places.
The Horror Librarian: You are a self-stated prolific writer. What is your creative process? How do you get from glimmer of an idea to finished book? And how do you find the time of day with such a busy life (and kids)?
Aaron Michael Ritchey: Getting up early is stealing time from God. I steal time. I get up early, stay up late, and don't sleep much, which is bad, but I'm driven. Writing books is hard, and the harder something is, the more I like it. I'm sadistic that way. And I want to write as many books as I can before I die.
I feel obligated to the characters, and to whatever demented force there is in the universe that keeps giving me stories to tell.
My biggest issue is which project to choose. Catherine Ryan Hyde, one of my favorite authors, talks about how when she feels a story come to her - she lets it foment, like storm clouds gathering in the sky. And then when the first rain drops start to fall, she gets writing. I think that's me. Some stories I HAVE TO WRITE! So I write up my pitch first, do a short one-page synopsis, then a three-act outline, and then I hit it. Revise. Revise. Revise. Final edits. And publish, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
The Horror Librarian: What are the three most important things you've learned as a writer?
Aaron Michael Ritchey:
a) Enjoy where you are today in the journey. Unpublished? Enjoy it. Indie Pubbed and shaking your ass for sales? Enjoy it. Huge contract that includes the use of Random House's Learjet? Enjoy it. Love the process or get the hell out.
b) I only get the chance to write some idea or describe something once, not three times, and not in prose so purple it leaves the reader bruised.
c) I don't get to have much of an opinion on what I write. My job is to write and edit, not to think about how wonderful I am or how much I suck. I'm usually wrong on both accounts.
The Horror Librarian: What are you working on right now?
Aaron Michael Ritchey: Actually, I'm juggling four different projects, all so much fun. I have a contemporary romance (very different), I got a YA sci-fi romance (Blade Runner meets Twilight), I have a YA steampunk family drama (very Firefly), and I have what I hope will be my next published book, Elizabeth's Midnight.
Elizabeth's Midnight is a contemporary YA with fantasy elements. Oh, it's so great. It has France in it, and treasure hunting, and love, and doing the impossible.
It's about an overweight, emotionally handicapped teen who finds herself on the fun with her grandmother. Both are being chased by the teen's mother, who wants to stop them from travelling to France to see the grandmother's lover from World War II. You don't know if the grandmother is crazy and lying, or if she is telling the truth about her lost love, since yeah, she claims he's a sorcerer-prince from another world.
It's a really fun book, solid PG, with wounded characters, the broken kind I like to write about because I get to watch these broken people find healing, which has been my journey through this hard ol' world.
Life is sweet.
The Horror Librarian: List 5 things that are currently on your writing desk.
Aaron Michael Ritchey: Um, I don't have a writing desk. I have backpack, which I take with me to Starbucks, or to a park, or to my back porch, but I'll list what's important:
1. My Starbucks mug with my cool COle Gibsen Katana ninja cup holder
2. A tupperware container full of apples, nuts, dried mango, and other assorted fruits 'cause health and nutrition are important, yo
3. In the summer, I smoke cigars because everything that kills me makes me feel alive. Thank you, ONeRepublic.
4. Laptop, Bluetooth mouse, earbuds, 'cause I gots to have music while I write
5. Purell. Its hard to write when you're sick.