Joe Mynhardt: Tell us a bit (or a lot) more about your childhood. Primary school, High school, etc. How do you think your experiences benefited or influenced your career? Aaron Dries: I was a small town kid from small town Australia. One of those guys destined to fly the coop, yet always hungering home. I guess that tug and pull created a kind of discourse in me – a desire for something better versus all the comforts found in our own little worlds – that helped my imagination bloom. Complacency kills creativity. Wanting more, or a lack of stimulation in your environment, or indecision, or not knowing who or what you are… these are the things that build that part of your brain where the zombies and monsters grow. My school years were good(ish). I was an okay student—terrible at math, excelling in art and drama. There were defining moments throughout: the clarification that my creative efforts weren’t all for nothing, a couple of scarring bullies, and the ebb and flow of friends. All of this, and more, defined who I grew up to be, so of course it has influenced my writing. Like everyone else, I’m a patchwork of my experiences, even though the stitching is haphazard and frayed; and as an author, my fiction works the same way… honest, often autobiographical, a little angry, a little sad. Still frayed, and I guess I’m okay with that. Joe: Can you recall a moment where you had to choose between being an author/artist and another career? A decisive moment where you decided to go all out? Aaron: I made the decision to not go one way or the other. I do both – writer by night (or wee early mornings) and then there’s my day job in frontline/outreach disability advocacy/support coordination. Writing is therapeutic for me to some degree. If I fall into the trap of bringing my work home with me, I go that special kind of mad found in my industry—burnt out, empathetically fatigued, jaded. Writing helps me digest work. Work helps me digest writing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a result, my creative output is often glacial, but hopefully what I do write is better for it. Joe: How did you respond to your very first success as an author? Was it just rewarding, or did it motivate you even more? Or, did it perhaps feel underwhelmed, which motivated you to even greater heights? Aaron: When it comes to my writing, I’m plagued by indecision. I forever feel like what I’ve put out isn’t good enough or should be re-written. So when I first managed to emerge from the slush pile and into the realm of publishing, a success in and of itself, I guess it did motivate me to keep on going. But to be honest, I have trouble re-reading my own stuff. Every opportunity I have to polish, I take—every reprint, every new edition. It kind of sucks that once the book is out there, it’s set in stone for quite some time, because by the time it takes to write something and then find it on the shelf I’ve changed as a person. I like the idea of my writing being an evolutionary thing, something that can be worked on continuously. William Peter Blatty, a hero of mine, works this way. Every reprint is re-written; each new book is a beautiful exploration of similar themes and content from prior books. I guess striving to keep my fiction organic is something that keeps me motivated. Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family? Aaron: The most profound way being an author affects your relationships with friends and family is online. Your social media accounts suddenly become this double-edged sword in which the benefits and drawbacks of self-promotion both breed and bleed. This is something you have to balance, otherwise you’ll only end up driving the people you love and respect mad. Plus, it’s often a case of you’re preaching to the choir. I’m mindful of that. On a day to day basis (in reality), writing consumes you more than you’d maybe like – you’re often ‘there’ but not there because you’re thinking about that chapter, that plot twist, about words and sentences and the wonderful jigsaw of creating something from nothing. You’ve got to be careful to find a balance here, too. If you don’t, you’ll only end up frustrating those who are closest to you. And at the end of the day you have to ask yourself what’s more important? Be aware or beware. Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does? Aaron: Growing up, I was an R.L. Stine fan. He got me into reading in the first place, which was an initial hurdle. I then made the leap from Stine to King, the first book being Carrie. That book, and the film adaptation, are really important to me. They spoke to me at a time in my life when I needed speaking to, a shaking. The King route was long and glorious and on-going. Danse Macabre became a bible of sorts, a map for my formative reading years. Through that book I discovered a lot of films that led to novels and visa versa. That’s how I discovered formative writers like Robert Bloch, Daphne DuMaurier, Ira Levin, Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty, and others. They are still as important and influential to me today as they were then. Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are? Aaron: Hmmm. Good question. There’s a lot of me in all of my books. A lot of my frustrations, or past hurts, or things that happened to me, or questions events sparked in my mind which I had to work out creatively. I think there’s a lot of me in A Place For Sinners, my third and most under-read novel. There’s a lot me in that in regards to certain regrets, parts of my sexuality, my experiences as a traveller, my wonderment at other cultures and places, my fear of the unknown, and my love for the surreal. That book is utterly bonkers, but then again, life is bonkers, it isn’t fair, it often doesn’t make sense. I struggle to reconcile with this in reality, too; and A Place for Sinners is a direct reflection of that. Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day? Aaron: It used to bother me, but not anymore. I don’t really have targets. Every sentence is a victory. Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write? Aaron: I’ve often tackled challenging topics and issues, but the most difficult stuff to tackle is probably around sexuality. Not because I’m afraid of going there, because I’m not. But because I get all icky-in-the-tummy at the thought of my family stumbling across those certain passages. Still, it hasn’t stopped me yet. Be brave, go hard. That’s where the rewards are. Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing? Aaron: I’m always thinking about the story, and I’m okay with that. Thinking about stories and getting them down on paper essentially is me relaxing from an otherwise highly stressful day job. The trick is switching off the mental gears around bedtime, because as fun as writing these books may be, nobody should be actively concentrating on scary home invasions after the lights are out and your head is on the pillow. Haha! Joe: Tell us a bit about the people you met while researching a book. Are you still friends with some of them? Aaron: I’ve got a lot of friends with skill sets to whom I do turn to for certain advice – lawyers, police officers, social workers. So I maintain those relationships, of course, because they’re all my mates and I love ’em to bits. After a lot of digging, I managed to speak to a Catholic exorcist in my local region whilst researching The Fallen Boys to find out more about the idea of individuals desperate to draw the attentive eye of their perceived creator. Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author? Aaron: Whilst I’ve always been attentive, I think writing really makes you more empathetically attuned to people. It sharpens your observational skills. Joe: How did being an author change you as a person? Aaron: It hasn’t. But being a good person has certainly changed my ability as an author. Joe: Which response / comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career? Aaron: I was very moved by a letter I received in regards to my first novel, House of Sighs. It was hate mail. The reader called the book out for being pro-gay propaganda. He also said that he felt cheated because I’d hoodwinked him into reading as far into the book as he did before the subtext emerged—and if he’d known about it in advance, he never would’ve started reading it in the first place. This moved me because I found it so motivating. The fire was well and truly lit. Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author? Aaron: All I ever want (be it life-long or just within the confines of a sentence) is to move a reader. Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind? Aaron: As a human, I want to be remembered for my kindness and empathy, and that I was a good friend and family member. As a writer, all I want is to be remembered (in some capacity)! Paper may fade, Kindles may break … but if someone down the track says, “Hey, remember the story about the bus driver who kidnapped her passengers and took them home with her?” then I’ll be one happy ghost.