Book: They're Gone
Author: E.A. Aymar
Anthony Award-nominated E.A. Aymar's newest novel, THEY'RE GONE, will be published in November 2020 (under his pseudonym E.A. Barres).His column, "Decisions and Revisions," appears monthly in the Washington Independent Review of Books. He is a former member of the national board of the International Thriller Writers and, for years, was the managing editor of The Thrill Begins, an online resource for debut and aspiring writers. He is also an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, and SinC. He also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide.
1. What is the secret to holding and maintaining suspense throughout your novels?
Man, I hope I did that! For me, I never want to let myself grow bored. And given that my attention span LOOK AT THAT WEIRD TREE!
Basically, I need to make sure that my attention doesn’t wander, and I don’t want there to be any parts that a reader should want to skip over. If you’re editing your own work and it’s boring you, then it’s going to bore the reader. You have to work and work and work until you’ve honestly impressed yourself. And then you have to determine if that’s enough to impress others.
2. What excites you most while writing your novels?
There’s a moment when you’ve finally hit something good, when either a character or an idea that brings unrealized life to your work. And that’s exciting. I call it something like the “I don’t want to die” moment (I need to work on titles). I start to worry that I’ll die somehow before this book is finished, and I won’t be able to share it. And I say all this knowing it’s not the best thing ever written or anything…but it’s the best thing I’ve written. That’s an important moment to reach. A necessary one.
3. What can readers look forward to in They’re Gone?
My hope is that different readers find different things to love. I want women to find recognition and identity with the two female protagonists, particularly since I’m a guy. I want minorities to see themselves in the pages, since there aren’t a lot of books with mixed race protagonists. I want residents of the DC/MD/VA region to see the area they’re grown up in, hopefully represented in ways that haven’t read before. And I want everyone to be propelled from start to finish. I hope those are things that readers will find in my work.
4. What are the key literary elements needed to create a great mystery novel?
It differs for everybody, since the components for greatness differ among readers. For me, it’s character. I know the answer is “plot” for so many people, but character is the thing for me. A complicated plot won’t pull me forward if the characters are clichés. I need to be invested into someone, and I need to find them engaging. Otherwise, my interest wanes quickly.
5. At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
It was probably late in college. I entered college as a Psychology major and, after two years, miserably failed out. The college agreed to let me back in if I took an academic training seminar, maintained a certain GPA, and switched majors. I became an English major, since it seemed natural and easy to me. And then I realized just how demanding and challenging it was, and I was enthralled. It helps having good professors. And the threat of expulsion looming over your head. But also good professors.
My professors introduced me to the greats, very canon-esque writers that I still admire a great deal…even if I wouldn’t teach them in my own class. But once I saw the deep beauty in literature, I wanted to be part of it more than anything.
6. Some of your writings have garnered the reputation of being very hardcore and graphic in nature, is this by design, and do you feel that this reputation is warranted?
Yeah, probably. But it really depends on the book. The Unrepentant was about sex trafficking, and my research was horrific, and that made its way into the work. And the thing is, I held back. The truth of what I saw was unpublishable. No one wants to read what happens to kids.
They’re Gone is far less graphic than that book was, but I never want to downplay violence. My view of violence is that it’s ugly and corrosive, and I want to make sure that perspective is felt. A punch is a defining thing for someone – both giving and getting. I want to write about that sensation, the fear it brings, the ugliness. And even though I’ll have characters relatively “immune” to violence, I want to show how that immunity developed, and what it means for them.
7. What’s the best book you have read this year so far?
S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland has received deserved accolades from everyone. It’s really good, really gritty, and you can tell that he spent time poring over those sentences. I also recently read Hannah Mary McKinnon’s Sister, Dear, and the protagonist of that book was so richly drawn and human that she’s remained with me. And likely will for a while.
8. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
There were times when I created problems for myself, invented obstacles so I’d have something to overcome. That was a brash youth kind of thing, and it was a part of my life until someone advised me not to seek out sadness, because it finds all of us. Realizing that helped me understand the importance of happiness.
9. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Absolutely! There’s no retirement for writers, and I wouldn’t want it if there was. It took me a LONG time to have a published book. I started writing seriously in 1997, and didn’t have a published book until 2013. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that necessary struggle, or the exhaustion, or the love of discovering craft. But I’m hungry and ambitious, and I have a lot more to say.
Writing makes me happy, and the more I write, the hungrier I get.
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