Thursday, 21 April 2011

INTERVIEW: Ben Aaronovitch

After the release of his first book, Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US), Ben could have sat on his laurels and released the second title next year, yet three months later he’s back and he’s hitting harder than ever with his second title in the Peter Grant series, Moon over Soho.

Here we had the chance to chat to him about writing, monsters who demand royalties and musical mood lists…

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Ben Aaronovitch: If you can't make it pay then writing is a definite affliction, if you can make it pay then it's a wonderful indoor job with no heavy manual labour.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

BA: I didn't want to be a writer I wanted to be SFX designer (this is pre-CGI) but I'm colour blind and have terrible craft skills. So I started writing as an alternative way of putting the images in my head out into the world.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

BA: If you can write you can write anything if you can't write then the length
is irrelevant.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

BA: I would bribe them with money.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

BA: Buy this book or you might just wake up with a horses head in your bed!

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

BA: I have a hardback list of which currently Hamilton, Pratchett and Bujold are on + some non fiction.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

BA: I generally have a vague idea about what will happen the character outlines tend to get written as when they are needed.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

BA: I don't relax I procrastinate (there's a difference). Currently reading N.K. Jemisin's 'The Broken Kingdoms' before that it was mostly research books.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

BA: Not going to tell you.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

BA: I have an Evil Monster Boy (my son) but he doesn't appear in my work because then he'd demand royalties.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

BA: Apart from Peter Grant? That's a difficult question - Beverley Brook but also Molly.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

BA: Not that similar we have some things in common, we're both Londoners and we both went to the same school but he's so much younger than me that there's this whole generational shift between us.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

BA: I don't have hobbies really, apart from the reading.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

BA: I steal them mostly.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

BA: I have a tendency to faf about and procrastinate but it's not really writer's block as such.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

BA: I get up at 06:30 in the morning during the winter and 05:00 in the summer this allows me to get a good 2-3 hours of procrastination in before I start to write around 9:00

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

BA: I have mood lists on iTunes, action scenes, sad scenes, happy scenes etc, they're also tailored to match the tone of each book.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

BA: Writing is the stuff of life, if god existed he/she/it would be a writer.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

BA: It's called Moon Over Soho and follows the adventures of Peter Grant as he investigates the mysterious deaths of London jazz musicians.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

BA: I took the McKee 'Story' class (for script writing) which I recommend.

If you want to write a novel I recommend 'How Not To Write a Novel' by Sandra Newman & Mittelmark - read that, write novel, submit novel repeat until published.

I personally question the utility of workshops but just because they don't work for me doesn't mean they wont work for you.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

BA: I ignored them.

I lie, I noted the fuckers down on my shit list and then I ignored them.

One day I shall return to that list and extract my revenge... bwahahahaha!

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

BA: If you can make it pay then it's easy work that you do from home and an unparalleled opportunity to inflict your own fantasies onto an unsuspecting public.

You can check out our review of Ben's Rivers of London here.

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