Author Spotlight – Aaron C. Cross
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Aaron C. Cross!
According to family lore, Aaron learned how to read (or knew, actually) at the ripe age of two years old and proceeded to devour – figuratively, of course – every book he could get his hands on like a literary toddler-aged Galactus. He continued to read and expanded his reach to writing when he was in middle school, creating a piece of work that makes him physically upset any time he reads it. Seriously, the ‘working’ title is This Will Never See The Light of Day and that is the point.
Thankfully, he grew out of it and now writes reasonable-quality work that seeks to entertain, with his first book, Robocopter Ski Patrol, blending Doctor Who-style time manipulation with Archer-style humor and moderate to severe vulgarity at times, his second book, Untitled Spy Story: A Novel, creating a world where roundhouse-kicking the Secretary of State on top of the White House after a mescal-fueled dance sequence is possible, and his third book, Ruben’s Cube Alaska: Bullet Point 2: Judgment Day: This Time It’s Real, showing that there is, in fact, a point at which colons can be abused along with semi-immortal Russian mountain men with direwolves and a person that may be two people in one. Yeah, it’s complicated. Aaron is currently working (somehow) to achieve his FRIGGING DOCTORATE, YO, is very much single (ladies), and has a Moleskine filled with ideas and concepts for dozens of new books. Video games, the Internet, and a good appreciation of fine beer and scotch whisky completes him.
Welcome to the Hive, Aaron. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
It’s difficult to say because, as of late, I haven’t had a lot of time to read! At least not for pleasure, anyway. Academic reading doesn’t quite count. The last book I finished would have to have been Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. I devoured that one in one night which, when I do get a chance to actually read, is my usual style. I’m also working on Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft because who isn’t at this point?
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Clarification: are we talking who I would want to be or who I would actually be? Who I would like to be is straight-up barbarian with a big ol’ hammer to beat things to death with. Who I would actually be? Bard. A singing bard with pretty high Charisma/Intelligence and Persuasion. I’m fully aware of my physical limitations, being in my 30s and ‘husky’, but I can at least talk pretty well.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I’ve tried different ways to write but ultimately, if I’m creating, there’s a pretty standard format for me to use. Late at night (past 10 PM my time). Sweatpants and a t-shirt. Headphones on and blasting heavy metal. A glass of scotch whisky next to me. That’s all I need.
As far as the style goes, I definitely prefer to type. Hand-writing can be fun but then you have to transcribe it into a Word doc, which is just doubling up the effort.
I am also nearly 100% a pantser/gardener. I generally don’t create outlines and prefer to let my characters tell me the story they’re going to have. Sometimes it’s really coherent and moves the plot along. Sometimes they just fart around for a few pages and I have to figure out how to get them on track. That can be frustrating, but it can also lead to moments where the characters show parts of themselves that even I wasn’t expecting, which can make that all worth it. I’m trying to get better with outlining, though, because I have to finish something else eventually.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators with whom you dream of working someday?
That’s an interesting question because I’m sort of diversifying my genres, so to speak. For my first three books, they are comedy. Full stop. For those, and I hate to be cliché, but Terry Pratchett really helped influence me. Not so much in the satirical aspect, but in the whole ‘building a cohesive world’ thing, where each book was connected to all the others. I still have a ton of those ‘brained out’ in OneNote and notebooks (we’re talking 8-12 books) but those aren’t my focus at present. It’s hard to be funny when you’re working on your dissertation. Turns out it’s bad form to even hint at a dick joke in your Methods section (note: that was in and of itself a joke because I would never – good gravy, that gave me anxiety even joking about it). Beyond that, playing and DMing games of D&D have really influenced how I see character work and how the world can impact who those are. Yeah, I roll, even though the dice usually try to kill me.
In terms of creators, though, I have plenty I’d love to work with. Jonathan French is a friend of mine and I’d love to play around in a new world with him. I think our styles would bounce off each other very well. Josiah Bancroft would be fun too. Devin Madson, Dyrk Ashton, any of my Fool’s Guild buddies. No matter who, I think it would be enjoyable to try out. Basically, any fantasy author that would want to, I’d love to brainstorm and world-build and see what we could come up with. Feel free to hit me up with that – seriously. I’m interested.
If we’re talking dream to end all dreams though, I wouldn’t mind tagging in with Neil Gaiman on a sequel to Good Omens. That would be…something.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I actually watched the Game of Thrones series finale and did not hate it (don’t @ me). I had made it through the series and it was kind of something my brother and I do, so that was part of it. I’m also very much into The Blacklist. James Spader just steals every scene he’s in. I’m totally invested in that. Twists and turns just scratch that itch, you know?
Game-wise, I’ve poured well over a hundred hours into Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey since it came out. Any AC game, honestly, is what gets my time. Same with Far Cry, now. Far Cry 5 is absolutely one of my favorite games of all time. Story, to me, matters. I’m also a sucker for anything involving cults, it turns out.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
That prospect is both terrifying and liberating. If I don’t have anything else I have to do, I’m sleeping in, going out to lunch, coming back, cracking a beer, and playing video games until my brain shuts off. Having that kind of lack of responsibility is an interesting prospect, though. I don’t know that I’ll get there again.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
This is another interesting questions because things are so scattered. I’ll try to give some detail, though.
First and foremost (and taking up 90% of my brainspace) is my dissertation. I’m at the point now where I’m not quite seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but I am starting to feel a change in the temperature of the air, to make that metaphor as clunky as possible. For that, I’m looking at how people experience being online and being who they want to be, as well as how being in groups with others influences that sense of identity. Don’t worry, nobody needs to (or likely will) read it outside of my field.
Creatively, though, I have a couple pieces in progress as well.
The first is a weird Western piece with a suitably-gruff lawman (think a good guy version of Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2), malevolent gray dust that sticks to everything and eats anything lost in the storm without protection, a cult buried deep in a mine, and your typical mishmash of ‘Western’ accents in dialogue.
The other is a more traditional fantasy piece with a Brienne of Tarth-style MC, a massive world that I’m still trying to figure out, a threat from up north involving shadows that steal all sound, political dealing, and a shadowy queen that’s isolated an entire country from civilization.
The last book, I suppose, is the fourth offering in the Roboverse. That one has the ‘average guy’ type of hero, an insane government conspiracy, sexy Russian spies, a frustrated government official, and a sort-of-sidekick character that is like a dude-bro version of Sancho Panza.
Yeah, I don’t ever make ‘easy’ reading. Always gotta go hard.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I think the most and least helpful is the exact same advice: write every day. It’s useful, it’s absolutely useful, and making that the intent is important. Doing your best to write every day can get you into a rhythm and keep momentum going.
But sometimes you just don’t have it. Sometimes it’s not possible. Sometimes cutting bait and trying again tomorrow is okay. ‘Write every day’ unfortunately casts doing so in an unfavorable light.
It’s a double-edged sword – some good, some bad. Like everything.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
It depends on the day. Some days, you just brainstorm or take notes. Some days you try to get at least a few paragraphs. Some days, you hit a point and just punt and try again the next day. There’s no shame in knowing your limits and deciding to push past them or retreat a bit.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
This is tough! Do I have power and influence or am I just me? If I have that power, I would definitely check out the time of the Medicis in Italy. It’s just fascinating to learn about how things played out and all the political intrigue going on. Plus, I could maybe get a statue and/or painting made of me and that sounds killer. If I’m just me? Hm. I’ll have to rain check that one.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’m going to go super-obscure and wager that nobody has heard of it. It’s a book series called Mesopotamia//Tiamat by Ashley Wrigley. It’s a self-published series (she’s a friend of mine from college) and the books are absolutely engrossing. I was up till 3 AM finishing the first one and the second is just as good. They’re this cyberpunk/dystopia series with the standard evil corporation and all that, but there’s so much more to them than that. They’re definitely worth a read and I’m always going to root for the barely-known self-published authors (since I’m one).
Awesome! Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Readers should check out my work if they like to just be swept along with a story. If they like Archer or South Park or Mel Brooks and enjoy laughing at material like that, readers will hopefully enjoy my books. They are bizarre and silly and packed with drinking and sex and witty banter but are also loaded with time-and-reality travel, some weirdly-poignant moments, and a fourth wall that is in shards after a certain point. My books are quick reads and jammed with references and jokes that may require Google searches, but the specificity makes them that much funnier. They are not for everyone, no, but if you simply want to read and laugh, my books absolutely could fill that role for you. Of course, once I finish the more serious books, I’m going to have to fix this pitch but, for now, this is accurate.
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us today, Aaron, and good luck with the dissertation!
Aaron C. Cross is the author of comedy-action novels Robocopter Ski Patrol, Untitled Spy Story: A Novel, and Ruben’s Cube Alaska: Bullet Point 2: Judgment Day: This Time It’s Real, all available now.