Indie Author Interview–with Aria E. Maher!

How’s NaNoWriMo going, everyone? Still churning out those words?

Well, take a break. Right now. Use a crowbar to pry your fingers off the keys, if necessary. It’s time to relax for a few minutes and focus on something else.

And it’s also time for another author interview! I’m very excited to be part of Aria E. Maher’s blog tour to promote her paranormal suspense novel, The Tangle (available now on Amazon)!

Aria E. Maher has been writing for almost her entire life. Her first real, honest-to-goodness book, a mystery/fantasy entitled Behind Her Mask was Death, was published in October, 2016.

Aria lives and works full time in her room, doing horrendously difficult math, learning a dead language, and voraciously reading everything from The Selection to The Count of Monte Cristo. She also works part time keeping small children from killing themselves on gym equipment. The Tangle is her second book, her first full length novel, and the first time she has ever been made slightly scared by something she wrote herself.

And here’s the synopsis for The Tangle:

When River finds herself imprisoned in a strange house, belonging to a mysterious man called Uncle, she only knows one thing: She must escape. But every power in the house, it seems, is bent on keeping her within its twisted walls. The creatures that patrol the halls may be deadly, and River may have nothing but her wit and her will, but, with the help of several unlikely allies, she just might be able to make her way out of the house before she becomes nothing more than a mindless prisoner.

Tell us how you started out as a writer.

In all honesty, I started out writing fanfiction because I thought that inventing my own characters was too hard! I would write ‘books’ about Super Mario and Zelda and Gandalf and all my favorite book and video game characters. Later on, I graduated to bizarre time travel stories with my own (one dimensional) characters and ridiculous romantic plots. My first serious writing endeavor was an epic fantasy trilogy that spanned a massive world complete with its own language and detailed maps and cultures. I don’t know how many hours and days and months I spent trying to make that one work before I finally realized that it was a gigantic mess that would never see the light of day.

Pretend my readers and I are Hollywood producers and pitch The Tangle to us. What’s the story premise in a nutshell, and what sets it apart from other works in the paranormal suspense genre?

River finds herself trapped in a mysterious house patrolled by monsters that will do anything to keep her within its walls. Will she, and the other prisoners, be able to escape?

I like to think that what sets The Tangle apart is that it is a battle of good versus evil. I found that in most of the paranormal/horror books that I read to research this project, there was often a lack of a real good side and a real bad side, as main characters dabbled in things like witchcraft or demon summoning without any actual consequences. I took this moral ambivalence and flipped it on its head, devising a small-scale battle between a group of kids and a band of demonic monsters, with characters on both sides wielding supernatural powers in different ways and for different reasons, and, of course, plenty of scares and suspense along the way.

What are some of the predominant themes you explore in the book?

Probably the main theme that I explore in The Tangle is of deception, the idea that the main characters could possibly be tricked into accepting their prison and liking their evil captors. Deception plays a large part in the book, both through magical illusions as well as through lies and cunning words.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the book written and published, and how did you overcome it?

In all honesty, probably the biggest challenge I faced was formatting the book itself! As an indie author, I like to do all the formatting for my books myself, and usually I find it to be very enjoyable. This time, however, the book just fought me. I literally had to reformat the entire interior of the book about five times, changing trim width and resizing the text and everything. It was extraordinarily frustrating…

There were also a lot of plot holes that had to be patched up after I wrote the first draft, because I completely changed how a bunch of the paranormal magic-y stuff worked half way through the draft, so…

Tell us about your writing process. How do you develop your ideas, and what’s your balance between outlining and discovery writing?

I outline as little as possible. I find that plotting out the middle of the story too much means that I’m more likely to get stuck. I do have to have a basic idea of the ending, the premise, the main character, and a solid beginning scene, however. If I don’t have a clear idea of the scene that starts off the story, I can’t start writing.

Mostly my actual first drafting process involves a lot of flailing and procrastinating and sudden prolific outbursts of words that I can’t possibly put on the page fast enough. I like to print out my drafts for editing, because I find that holding a physical copy of my writing makes me slow down and read it more carefully, so that I’m more likely to catch plot holes or other errors.

What’s your favorite music to listen to while writing?

What I listen to (or if I listen to anything) while writing really depends on the day and what mood I’m in, but you can always be sure that these artists will be somewhere on my playlist (or I’ll have one of their songs/albums on repeat because I’m that kind of person)…

Twenty One Pilots: Hands down my favorite band. There’s something about aggressive ukulele playing, introspective emo lyrics, and fabulous acoustic drums that really speaks to my soul.

Lights: A Canadian synth-pop artist with a refreshingly diverse sound. Want something gritty and electronic with poetic lyrics and a sick beat? She’s got a whole album of that. Want some sweet, happy bubblegum-pop tunes to jam out to? Yep, she’s got it.

Lindsey Stirling: She had me at ‘pop violin’! She does amazing instrumental tracks, and some great songs with lyrics as well.

Who are your three favorite fiction writers?

My favorite author of all time is N. D. Wilson (Please go binge read all his books. They are amazing.) I would have to say that Terry Pratchett comes in at a close second, and Marissa Meyer probably belongs on this list as well.

What is your favorite writing-craft resource?

There are actually two AMAZING writing blogs that I read religiously, and there’s no way I could narrow it down to just one favorite, so here they are:
Hannah Heath’s blog: http://hannahheath-writer.blogspot.com/
Tea with Tumnus: https://ateawithtumnus.wordpress.com/

What advice would you give aspiring authors working toward publishing their own books?

Write the book you want to read, and never compromise that vision. Don’t try to fit in to your family’s or friends’ expectations, or society’s, or even your own! I never would have thought of myself as ‘the kind of person’ to write a creepy paranormal book, but you know what? It was the book I wanted to read at the time, and I wrote it, and I am very happy with it. You don’t have to stick to one genre or style or formula. Write the book that you don’t see anywhere else, and that you want to see.

What are your future fiction-writing plans? Any teasers for your next project?

Currently, I have a sci-fi duology in the works, although there is honestly no telling when that will appear, because I burnt myself out writing the first draft of Book 1 in about a month (usually I am a notoriously slow first drafter) and am still in recovery from that ordeal. I actually have a novelette about a character from Behind Her Mask was Death that is in the final stages of editing, which I plan on releasing as an eBook sometime in December. In the future, I would really like to write a lot more books set in the Behind Her Mask was Death world, but we’ll see what happens!

Thanks so much, Aria! Readers, don’t forget to buy The Tangle from Amazon, as well as Aria’s other novel, Behind Her Mask Was Death. Also, check out Aria’s website, and look her up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Now, back to writing, everyone!

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