I am delighted to welcome Aaron Lawler today…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Aaron J. Lawler has taught for fifteen years and has published peer-reviewed studies in humanities, technology, game theory and education. His mother taught him to tell stories, his father taught him to think independently, his wife pushed him to try. Aaron is a classically trained painter and holds advanced degrees in the humanities, education, and technology. He is in love with his wife, his two kids, and his two dogs; and always will be.
Aaron Lawler: “I am a traveller in both the world and in the library. Writing allows me to design the journey, where I will go, what I will do, and who I will meet. Adventures in Europe, Canada, the States and Mexico opened me to new ideas. Philosophical jaunts changed who I am and the way I think. But writing allows me to wayfind. I can engineer a compass for my own path, following my own direction. The mindscape is an amazing place for a daytrip.”
So here is what is on the book jacket: After witnessing the murder of Professor Oliver Crowley, who has invented a way of bringing thoughts into physical reality, Fitz Faraday and his friends must exonerate the town bully, who is being framed for the murder. Using Professor Crowley’s inventions, Fitz soon learns he can bend the field of Id, a sea of golden dreams and wishes. Fitz finds himself drawn inside a new world he never knew existed. He hopes he will be able to use that world to help his friends and even his enemies. To do so, he must master Crowley’s technique of “Thought becomes light and light becomes physical.”
Hook: Fitz Faraday punched Freud right in the face, and told the world he was his generation’s Tom Sawyer. You see, you cannot tell if this true or not, because Fitz Faraday treats the Id like a Wunderkind prodigy bending spoons. With the quirky fun of the Back to the Future trilogy, Shapers of the Id is a modern day coming of age, inspired by the wit and antics of Mark Twain.
Pitch: The newly orphaned teen, not only struggles with bending reality but also coping with his mother’s passing and living with his grandmother, his cuckoo aunt and his snivelling, little cousin. From childish escapades at the beginning of this bildungsroman, Fitz falls in love with the new girl in town, witnesses his mentor’s murder, defends his bully against false charges, and confronts his mentor’s true murderer. His hero’s journey prepares him for bringing the boon of Id-shaping to the Dreamtime. And that is how Fitz Faraday disproves Freud. The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday is a fantasy/sci-fi, coming of age series, modernizing the yarns spun by Mark Twain. Its first instalment, And the Shapers of the Id, is a story complete unto itself and rounds out at about 90,000 words.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
A combination of things really… I was interestd in creating a way to explore magical realism and fantasy in a contemporary setting so that it felt real or possible. But I did’t want the magic to replace the realism, just live beside it, so that I could invest in my characters. I also wanted to create a place that felt like now but wasn’t quite right – I intentionally left out cell phones and the internet to create a timelessness. Lastly, as a teacher I wanted to craft a book that met literacy standards like Common Core but was just a really good story, so this became an homage to Mark Twain.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Fitz Faraday – the titular character from my debut novel – is so interesting to me because he does not serve some adolescent cliché or nostalgia. As a high school teacher for eleven years and a community college professor for four, I have worked with teens and truly gotten to know them on personal and meaningful levels. So in large part their stories – some tragic, some heroic – are woven into each of the characters. No one character is based on no one person, but my years as a teacher gave me a repertoire to work with and flesh out truly three-dimensional “people” in my novel.
I often find that in novels, particularly speculative fiction novels, adult writers create adolescents for disingenuous reasons. What I mean here, is that adults see adolescents as two-dimensional personifications of a talent, a trait, or an emotion. These characters are typified by being sporty, or artsy, or social. Or they are characterized as being full of angst and rebellion.
Fitz has no special gifts. He has no talents or interests. He is really just an average, everyday adolescent. He is not defined by his angst or his gifts. Sometimes he is full of angst and sometimes he is whimsical. Sometimes he is brooding and has good reason to be so, and other times he is a romantic. He is not defined by some manipulated ideas by a narrator with a purpose, but is rather defined by his circumstance and events. When he begins to discover a phenomenal ability, he is still him. He is still just trying to be a good friend, do the right thing, and win the girl. Aren’t these the things that we all worry about, no matter what our circumstances may be? So that is why I like Fitz, because even though he stumbles into this godly power, he handles it the way I think we would all handle it – we would look for help from our closest friends, and we would second guess what we should and shouldn’t do!
How do you pick your characters names?
This is actually an incredibly lengthy process for me. Each character name is rooted in symbols and motifs which carry on in the character’s personality.
Fitz Faraday is named after Michael Faraday, an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry, and Fritz Heider, an Austrian psychologist who worked in Gestalt psychology or gestaltism. I actually changed Fritz to Fitz after becoming a big fan of indie pop and neo soul group, Fitz and the Tantrums. Fitz’s supernatural abilities are related to electromagnetism and gestalt psychology.
Josey Campbell is named after Joseph Campbell, a mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology/religion. Josey’s parents are scholars, studying cultures and anthropology. She relies heavily on their ideas when trying to make sense of Fitz’s powers.
Hollis Scout’s real name is Holluschickie Scout and is named after the works of Rudyard Kipling and Kipling’s friend Lord Baden Powell. Holluschickie is a word which means “bachelor seal”; a young male seal which is prevented from mating by its herd’s older males, and shows up in Kipling’s a White Seal (part of the Jungle Book stories). Baden Powell was the founder of the Boy Scouts. Hollis is a wildchild and the son of the town drunkard.
The other characters in the novel have the same kinds of mythos built on real people or fictional characters. Each one is a clue to how they function in the story or their personality traits.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I am a classically trained painter, and one point in my life thought I would become a professional illustrator. Trying my hand at the trade, I found myself stifled. With endless parallel and extradimensional planetary worlds orbiting about in my imagination, I always thought the vehicle to sharing these would be through illustration. But I found that I much prefer the written word when it comes to world-building and character crafting. Painting slows my process down too much. My mind wants to invent, sprout up new places and sights and sounds with ludicrous speed. And the brush, the canvas, the whole process limits me too much.
I have found that I prefer to paint watercolor landscapes and mixed media portraits as a form of relaxation – something that actually lets my mind quiet down. Whereas writing is the opposite. Writing for me is painterly process but at superspeed. I can craft entire gardens, or ocean floors, or mystical forests with rich and lurid detail in mere moments and then continue my Aslan-like painting process by filling the world with the sons and daughters of my visualization.
My wife once compared my writing process to the Robin Williams’ movie “What Dreams May Come.” In the movie, the visuals are liquid paintings that shift and grow from scene to scene, always lavishly textured, and in a perpetual motion. This is how I write, filling the page with the symbols – in this case words – which represent full, technicolor splashes of life. Painting does not allow me to communicate this way, it is so arduous and would require hundreds of canvases to create the world I want to bring to life.
It is a double-edged sword in some ways. Because I want to create a specific visual in the mind of others – I want to seed them with my thought in the pristine, perfect way I have shaped it. But writing forces me to let go of this. I find myself relaxed at the release of control, at first it was painstaking to simply be – to simply flow. But now, I visualize the image, craft the words with poetry and rhythm instead of color and brush, and that is how I manifest my ideas.
The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id actually pays homage to this process. Although my first novel, this not my first writing (I have even published nonfiction articles with the International Journal of Art and Art History and the Erudite Journal of Educational Research). Yet this novel is so personal because Fitz creates his world the same way I created the world for Fitz and even Fitz himself. There is a meta-element to this novel in that it in many ways explains how I created the “paracosm” – a word here, meaning parallel world sideways from our own.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
So when I originally started this list I thought I would break it up into sections: contemporary fiction, literary fiction and nonfiction. And then it just became a list of my favorite books in each of these categories. I decided I was going to narrow it down to best answer the question (“biggest” instead of “all of your” literary influences). My favorite contemporary works are Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, which is just so lush and whimsical and philosophical; and Michael Crichton’s Prey which not only moves at the pace of an action movie but changed my entire perception of reality in terms of holism, emergence, and interconnectedness. My favorite literary works include Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and TH White’s The Once and Future King. My list goes on from there, but these four books have such texture, such opulent and sumptuous pages, they create a space for magical realism to inhabit. I love magical realism as a foundation, and think that all speculative fiction would be enriched by its principles: the mundane being supernatural and the miraculous being natural.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Hands down, Phillip Pullman. I love his worlds, his characters, and his plots. He just creates this rich tapestry where you become completely immersed. And I would simply ask, “How? How did you create this world for His Dark Materials?”
I would also love to speak with Neil Gaiman. His works have been a huge influence on my own writing style and patterns. Specifically the way he treats dialogue and unfolds action. And I would ask him, “Is there a point where you find you are going too dark and you bring it back to the light? How do you know when? And why?”
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes, and I always have been! I always say: Read. Read everything! Read good books, read bad poetry, read news articles, read the back of cereal boxes. Inspiration is not some mystical force, its a natural way the mind works. We are hard wired to solve problems, that is how we have survived as long as we have. To solve problems you need information. The more information you have, the more inspiration you have!
When did you start to write?
From the very beginning of it all – My mother told me stories and read me stories when I was very young. She helped me write down the stories I would create – crazy worlds where spacemen kept pet chinchillas, or a group of boys (very similar to the kids in Sandlot) navigated an underground world after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, and dragons had birthday parties (both actual stories I wrote as a child!). My father taught me to challenge everything. Every idea that every grown-up or peer said, I was taught to critically analyze. And he taught me to learn about everything – science, history, culture, people, politics, economics.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I love the Harry Potter novels – I do, they are exquisite works with fantastic world building and great characterization. And with any phenomena like those works, there is an incredible amount of pressure on the author to wrap things up in a genuine way. With that said there are a few things I was not thrilled about when it came to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I always find the scene where Harry goes into the dreamlike afterlife to be contrived. I almost think it might have been better – more nobler for sure – to simply have Harry sacrifice himself and die, as opposed to being given the choice to return to the world. It seemed less climactic. I also was not a big fan of the epilogue. It seemed to “happily ever after” which the previous novels did not go for – for me, these were sort of cheap tricks to wrap everything up and make everyone happy. But then again, JK Rowling is who she is with her multimillion dollar franchise and I have one small book published by one small publishing house
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games – but not because I love these books. On the contrary, I am actually not a huge fan. I love the premise: the dystopian, post-apocalyptic nation; a modernization of the Theseus and the Minotaur myth; and the strong female lead. All of this is the makings of a great novel. I know it is heresy to say, but I really struggled getting through these novels. They are clever in idea, but for me, they just did not move in the right way. I found the characters to be a bit two-dimensional and predictable. And I found the reactions of the world to be unrealistic in terms of the horror they were facing. I know she was going for a commentary on the social normalizing of tragedy, and that part I had less of a problem with – it was the way the rebellion starts and formulates I found disjointed from actual history. But just like JK Rowling – I think I am out of turn here, making such condemning reviews
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
This is too hard to answer! There are so many great characters that I am just dying to meet! If I am being honest, I have imagined this too many times. For my own characters, for instance, and this may sound a bit strange, but I talk to my them. Donatello (not the TMNT!) is rumoured to have yelled at his statue, Lo Zuccone (“Pumpkinhead”) and said, “I know you are alive, get down from that pedestal!” Perhaps an urban legend, but the truth is when you create something from nothing it can take on a life of its own. There are times I will finish writing and am not sure where the surge of creative energy came from. So when I get stuck or write myself into a corner, I shout at my characters, “What do you want?” “Where are we going next?” “How did we get here?” Then, having that dialog is useful – it gives me something to work with. It is far less existential or schizophrenic than it sounds, and probably more like pretend or Calvin and Hobbes.
When I was a child, I would have loved have spoken with Watterson’s Calvin or Peter Parker (Spiderman). But I would also love to hang out with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and Wart (King Arthur) from TH White’s Once and Future King.
Today, I think I would look for a little more wisdom – some sage advice. Gandalf, Merlin or Dumbledore would be too good to be true. Where? In a bookstore with old classic books, and great big leather chairs, and the smell of suede. We would share steaming cups of tea – maybe green tea or jasmine. And we would discuss the biggest ideas humankind has ever dreamt and we would solve the world problems. Ah, I am but a romantic!
What are you working on right now?
The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of Id was written with series potential in mind (Even the title was structured that way so that it would always be The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the…). So my plan is to put Fitz in new challenges and new landscapes, refining his abilities to turn thoughts into reality. But I also want to chart the progress of his internal growth as well as his supernatural growth. The debut novel was as much a discussion of morality and truth as it was “what would it be like to have superpowers?” Both are fun to write about, but for vastly different reasons.
I also plan to incorporate a more diverse pantheon. The first novel offered a perspective of small town America which was populated by predominantly white, working class or middle class people. I would like to broaden the scope and add characters who bring different perspectives to Fitz’s world. For instance I am working on a character that has background in Eastern philosophy, who will bring some ancient ideas into what Fitz is doing. The groundwork for this was laid out with Josey’s parents (they are academics) but I think I can dig this even further with a character that has a far more personal connection. She is also a female character, adding another powerful woman to the cast (Josey is of course a pretty substantial character already!).
As for the plot, it is going to be a journey – a quest of sorts – but one that is both real and paralleled by the unreal. The trick will be making sense of both, as I plan to pull from my magical realism background and make the everyday parts of life seem magical, whereas the supernatural parts of the novel seem normal.
Do you have a new release due?
I am currently working on some vignettes – shorts set in Fitz Faraday’s world. They will star different characters, but will serve as the bridge between the first novel and the sequel. My hope is to have the first one of these vignettes wrapped up in March.
Also, as a big thank you to my supporters I recently launched the Fitz Faraday Fanart Fray (4FContest): a chance for you to create an original piece of art—drawn, painted, digital, or in any other two-dimensional format—that depicts two or more characters in a scene from the story! #MPoFF #4FContest
Submit your original artwork inspired by the book “The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id” for a chance to have your artwork showcased in the special edition of the novel! Here is your chance to become a published illustrator (looks great in your portfolio!)! More information can be found here: http://writeraaronjlawler.strikingly.com/blog/fanart-contest-launched
How can readers keep in touch with you?
You can find more information about my novel or myself at: writeraaronjlawler.strikingly.com, my blog: writeraaronjlawler.strikingly.com/#aaron-s-blog, my Facebook site: facebook.com/writeraaronjlawler/, or my Twitter account: twitter.com/WriterAJL.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
January 7th: Book Tour Launch
11am – 12pm Author Talk; 12pm – 2pm Signing
Barnes & Noble, 47 Chicago Ave #132, Naperville, IL 60540
January 22nd: Facebook Live!
6pm – 7pm, Meet the Author and Q&A
February 18th: Book Signing and Reading
1pm – 3pm, Book Signing and discounted books with a cup of coffee
The Village Grind Coffee & Tea Co
19 Main St, Oswego, IL 60543
*February (TBD): Writer Event
11am – 12pm Author Talk; 12pm – 2pm Signing
Barnes & Noble at Concordia University
7400 Augusta St, River Forest, IL 60305
*February (TBD): Twitter Live! /Podcast Debut
5pm – 6pm, Meet the Author and Q&A
March 4th: Alumni Book Signing and Q&A
11am – 12pm Author Talk; 12pm – 1pm Signing
North Central College, 100 E Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL 60540
March 15th: Local Author Night
7pm – 9pm, Book Readings and Signing
The Book Cellar Inc., 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago IL
March 24th: Facebook Live! and Twitter Live!
6pm – 7:30pm, Meet the Author and Q&A
March 29th: Local Author Event
6:30pm – 7:30pm, Book Readings and Signing
Sugar Grove Library and Modest Coffee
125 S. Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove IL
Save the date for future upcoming events!
*October (TBD): Oswego Literary Fest
TBD, Signature Speech from Authors
32 West Jefferson St, Oswego, IL 60543
*November (TBD): Lisle Lit Fest
TBD, Author Panel and Discussion
777 Front St, Lisle, IL 60532
*dates and events remain in planning phases, confirmations TBD
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Aaron 🙂
Publisher: Black Rose Writing; First Printing edition (9th November 2016)
Fitz Faraday, his best friend Hollis, who comes from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, and his hoped-to-be-girlfriend Josey, the new girl in town, are taken through harrowing events and thrilling misadventures, as they learn about life, love, death, the inner workings of the psyche, and the flimsiness of reality. After witnessing the murder of Professor Oliver Crowley, who has invented a way of bringing thoughts into physical reality, Fitz and his friends must exonerate the town bully, who is being framed for the murder. Using Professor Crowley’s inventions, Fitz soon learns he can bend the field of Id, a sea of golden dreams and wishes. Fitz finds himself drawn inside a new world he never knew existed. He hopes he will be able to use that world to help his friends and even his enemies. To do so, he must master Crowley’s technique of “Thought becomes light and light becomes physical.”
Buy your copy HERE