Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Bex Aaron?
Bex Aaron: That’s a great question! Bex Aaron is actually something of a chameleon – I’m a little bit of everything. A long time ago, when forced to describe myself, I came up with, “I’m a lover, a fighter, a poet, a dreamer, a dork and a smartass…not necessarily in that order.”
Basics: I’m a 32-year old divorcee, who’s completely satisfied with that status. I’m an NBA historian (I seriously know more trivia about NBA/ABA than most guys I know, and I can quote stats like a pro), a Clippers fan, a Buddhist, a rock star, a raging smartass, a Mac junkie, an unapologetic smoker, a bullying survivor, a perfectionist and a master of accents.
If I had my druthers, I’d be Canadian…and green eyed…and at least three inches taller. But I must say, I’ve made peace with myself for the most part. It’s taken me some time to get to this point, so it’s definitely worth heralding.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
BA: I live in Texas, deep in the very heart of it (clap, clap, clap). I’m not enthused about living here. I don’t think I ever have been. I long for colder weather and more progressive thinking.
As for my day job, I’m a legal assistant at a personal injury law firm. My job entails everything from client intakes, setting up insurance claims, gathering medicals, preparing demand packages, negotiating settlements and finalizing cases. It’s riveting stuff. Oh, and the phone never stops ringing. It is a very stimulating environment – there’s never a dull moment, but at times, it can be very stressful, I won’t lie. The key, at least for me, is to take a moment to breathe and to remind myself that (in the words of my boss), that never-ending to-do list is job security!
DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
BA: I’m the only child of a single mother. We were kind of like The Gilmore Girls. I had the cool mom, the mom who not only allowed me to dye my hair pink at 14, she also did the back because I couldn’t reach it! She is still my most steadfast supporter and biggest fan. I’m everything I am today because of my mom, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My mom was the very epitome of what a mother is supposed to be – absolutely nothing ever came ahead of me, and that’s the mother that I someday strive to be.
My life hasn’t really been that interesting. I dropped out of school in 9th grade, went back and got a GED at age 19, got married sometime in my twenties, realized what a profound mistake that was, subsequently divorced and started my life all over. The past few years have been the most turbulent of my life, but they also taught me a lot about myself, and I’ve come out much stronger on the other side of them…which, I guess, is the most anyone can hope for.
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
BA: I find that writing is a form of therapy. It’s a way to release some of your pent up tensions, it’s a way to lose yourself in someone else’s misery for a while…it’s very therapeutic. At the same time, though, it can also be very heart-wrenching. I am the writer that gets far too attached to their characters. I talk about them like they’re real people, and I hate the idea of them suffering…which is really ironic, given that I wrote the most miserable group of people you can imagine.
DF: Do you write for yourself or for the readers?
BA: Probably a little bit of both. I write to be read, absolutely, but I also write because I love these crazy people and this crazy world I’ve created. I think the validation trap is so easy to fall into when you are in this position. For me, personally, I’m far more about feedback than sales. I have given away more books than I’ve ever sold, in the hopes that it would generate readership and feedback. I’m a slave to it, which is a double-edged sword. The positive feedback is a great rush, and a wonderful confidence boost…and the sounds of silence devastate me.
DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?
BA: Yes, as long as they are actually making a valid point. Those that criticize only to bring someone else down hold no merit to me. The best critics can balance positive with negative, and offer suggestions for improvement, rather than a laundry list of everything that they hate about your books. I immediately discount anyone that has nothing but negative things to say. There’s just not room in my life for negativity for the mere sake of it. Not anymore.
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Bex Aaron?
BA: I’d like to reach fans of small town suspense, gripping human drama and lots of layered storytelling. Daytime or primetime soap fans. Those that enjoy a book where there are no easy answers, nor are there any happy endings. Someone who wants to immerse themselves in the messy, unraveling lives of characters that any of us could know. That sort of thing.
Is there any audience for me? Well…I’d sure like to think so. I have found a nice little core of people, who interact with me through my book’s FB page (http://facebook.com/havenpark), so I know there are people out there actually reading these books. I know that audience could always grow, though, and I certainly hope that it does!
DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?
BA: Very important. My best advice to any writer is to know your characters inside and out. Work on your characterization until they feel like real people. I’ve always found that if you invest in them, it pays off. They sort of take over after a while. I’ve learned over time that my characters are much smarter than I am, and that if I just shut up and let them talk, the end result is much more satisfying. This is why I’m not really strict with outlines. I never used to do outlines at all, but I figured if I’m trying to plot a mystery series, it might be in my best interest to have some idea of how I’m going to go about it. Still, I always allow for the characters to improvise. It’s more enjoyable that way and feels more authentic to me…even if it makes the backseat driver in my own novel at times!
DF: Give us an overview of INDEPENDENCE DAY.
BA: INDEPENDENCE DAY is the story of a series of murders taking place in the overheated summer of 1966. Haven Park, Wyoming (fifteen miles east of Laramie) is the perfect picture of Americana. Violent crime doesn’t exist there. Everyone knows everyone else, and there’s a real community atmosphere…but there are also secrets that come to light one by one as more and more people end up dead.
DF: While reading Book One I couldn’t help but think that INDEPENDENCE DAY falls into a genre I like to call The Little Town With Big Secrets Genre. It starts out like “Twin Peaks” what with a surprising and horrifying murder that shocks the entire town. Then we move into “Peyton Place” territory. Are you a fan of soap operas?
BA: First of all, thank you for noticing! I always feel gratified when someone “gets it”, and you totally nailed it! J
I grew up watching soap operas. As I said, my mom was the “cool mom”, so I had my own TV, with no restrictions on what I could watch…of course, we didn’t have cable, so I couldn’t run across anything too risqué. Still, I spent my days watching soap operas and cooking shows, when I was about four or five years old. Funny thing, I can’t cook at all…but that soap opera influence has never left my writing, even after I gave up on the dismal soap genre.
What I strived to do with this book series was emulate a classic soap opera called “The Edge of Night.” For those unfamiliar with daytime, this was a series that premiered in the 1950s, and in the beginning, it was designed to be a daytime version of Perry Mason. It had the elements of mystery and classic soap drama mixed together, and that’s what I was hoping for here.
Now, when I say “classic soap drama”, I do wish to clarify that I do not mean camp, over-the-top antics like one might expect from today’s soap operas. I mean the character-driven human drama that used to be a staple of daytime television. Forbidden love, dark secrets – this sort of thing. I want to make abundantly clear that once someone dies in Haven Park, they stay that way! And nobody has an evil twin! J
DF: Is Haven Park entirely in your imagination or is it a version of someplace you grew up or once lived?
BA: It’s all my imagination, really. I grew up in a fairly small town, but nowhere near that small. I have, however, incorporated elements of my own life into the town. For instance, the church. I grew up in a Baptist church that was not unlike the one depicted in the book. The congregation largely consisted of elderly ladies who liked to backbite and talk about everyone else. There wasn’t much room for progression or change, and unfortunately, they didn’t have a pastor like Brett, who actually wanted to buck tradition and try something new. I quit going there years ago, but I suspect that it’s much the same way I left it. Cycles like that keep repeating themselves, I’ve found.
DF: INDEPENDENCE DAY is a five part story. Why five parts? Why not write just one huge Stephen King sized doorstop of a book?
BA: INDEPENDENCE DAY actually has roots in webfiction – which, for those initiated, is a genre where one creates a website and serializes their novel, releasing one chapter at a time. The story was originally divided into arcs, consisting of ten chapters an interlude (or, as was the case of arc one, one prologue, ten chapters and two interludes).
I made the decision to remarket the story as a book series in 2011, after trying the webfiction route with little success for two years. At that time, I had two arcs completed and was laboring over the third. I decided to go ahead and release what I had at the time, and the arcs became the books.
The plan is once the story has wrapped up, I’m going to release the complete series as one humongous book, with paperbacks and electronic versions available. I have no idea how big those damned things will be, though, because this is going to be one long story.
DF: Once INDEPENDENCE DAY is done do you plan to do anything else with Haven Park and it’s good citizens?
BA: Absolutely, because I have one hell of a time letting go. My plan was originally do a prequel, but I’ve since scrapped that one. I am planning a sequel now, set 30 years later, in the summer of 1996. It would highlight the characters left standing, and how their lives have changed in the years that have passed. It’s in the very early planning stages, so I can’t really say too much about it, but I think it will be an interesting look at the characters we’ve established in a new, more jaded and even more miserable light…which, of course, is what I’m known for, so it should be fun!
DF: Anything else you’re working on that we should know about?
BA: At this time, no. I tend to be a writer that has a one-track mind. I wish I could work on multiple projects at one time, but I always feel disloyal to them when I do that. I just don’t possess that type of focus…perhaps this is why I just want one child, because I would never want to shaft either of my children because Mommy isn’t good at multi-tasking!
DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?
BA: I want to write as long as the inspiration as there and there are people still willing to read my stories. I’d love to eventually hit it big and see big screen adaptations of my novels – don’t we all want that? I try to be realistic, though. I just want to reach a few people. I want to provide them an escape, a world they can get lost in, and a way to forget about their own lives for a little while. If I can accomplish that, I’ve succeeded.
Derrick Ferguson: What’s A Typical Day In The Life Of Bex Aaron like?
Bex Aaron: Weekdays: Wake up, have coffee, smoke, get dressed, go to work, lose my mind in small increments over the course of the day, come home, unwind and settle into bed with my phone and Netflix. I’m not much of a partier. I’m a very boring old woman, actually…but I like my life, and that’s what counts.
Weekends: Wake up, have coffee, smoke, repeat, listen to Mmmbop (seriously, that is what I’m listening to as I type this), spend time with my mom and labor over my writing. I used to be able to knock out a chapter a weekend, but not so much these days. I need to get back into the habit, especially given that I have a deadline to meet! INDEPENDENCE DAY: Book Four, Dirty Little Secret, is coming on May 1.
Did you see how subtly I snuck that plug in there? I’m so awesome at marketing, as you know. Slick as all hell, I am! J