Aaron Paul Lazar wasn’t always a mystery writer. It wasn’t until eight members of his family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. “When my father died, I lost it,” he says. “I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.”
Aaron lives in the Genesee Valley in Upstate New York and works at KB America, in Rochester NY as an applications engineer and quality manager.
Q. Were you a writer before? Why mysteries?
Fran, I’ve always loved to write. But it wasn’t until my father died that I felt the need to do something creative to help with the pain of the loss as well as to honor him. I began writing in 1997, then stopped for a bit, then picked it up again in 2001. My first of 22 books was published in 2004, and I’ve been on a roll ever since! I’ve transitioned from mysteries to romance to thrillers – and have two new books coming out in the next month. The first is The Liar’s Gallery – book #7 in LeGarde Mysteries (you can read these books in any order, btw!) and the second is Devil’s Lake, a romantic thriller.
Q. What are the commonalities between engineering and writing?
At first thought, you might imagine that there could be NO connection between engineering and writing. After all, electrophotographic engineering involves the science behind the digital presses, the physics behind the toner, developer, imaging cylinders, and the hardware that delivers the print when you send the job. One might be hard put to understand how such work – data, science, formulas, and hardware – could be even remotely related to writing. When I’m on a project, whether it’s the development of a new toner to meet incredibly stringent standards, or whether it’s solving a problem in a complex system, there’s always a mystery to needs to be solved. It’s that challenge, that incredibly exciting contest that gets my blood pumping.
And of course, no matter what one’s profession, there’s always the human drama that occurs in real life to stimulate a writer’s emotions and imagination. My colleagues have experienced appalling trials, and these traumas spark fears.
What would I do if I lost any of my grandchildren? How would I deal with the sudden death of my wife? What if I experienced a life changing heart attack? How would I handle it if one of my daughters was being abused, or was in danger? Those are the fibers that make up the cloth of everyday life. As in news stories, they generate a germ of an idea that may blossom and grow into a storyline or an entire book Most of the themes I’ve used had come from my own life, but the influences of those around me cannot be denied.
Q. You don’t seem to have any problem coming up with ideas. You’ve said: “It seems as though every image ever impressed upon my brain finds its way into my work,” says the author. “Whether it’s the light dancing through stained-glass windows in a Parisian chapel, curly slate-green lichen covering a boulder at the edge of a pond in Maine, or hoarfrost dangling from a cherry tree branch in mid-winter, these images burrow into my memory cells. In time they bubble back, persistently itching, until they are poured out on the page.”
You got the idea for the Moore Mysteries, otherwise known as the green marble mysteries after finding a green cat’s eye marble while gardening.
But how did you come up with the idea for your first series – Gus LeGarde Mysteries?
Although I always loved mysteries, thanks to the books my parents introduced me to over the years, this specific series was borne of loss.
There were eight of them. Eight family members and friends who died in five short years.
I was a neophyte in this death thing, having been blessed with a life yet untainted by such losses. My grandmother died when I was forty-three. It crushed me. I’d always dealt with death from afar. It had been a real possibility to face some day – in the distant future. Easy to put off. Impossible to imagine. When it happened, the shock of facing it head on was overwhelming.
Guilt clobbered me. I should have visited more. Called more. Written more.
But the three baby daughters we’d had in two years had consumed every ounce of our energy. We’d fallen into bed each night exhausted and awakened tired, yet happy, each morning. The thought of a ten-hour trip home seemed insurmountable with three little ones in car seats and diapers. So we delayed visits home for too long.
The next death came in a single, whooshing blow. My colleague at work, with whom I’d shared an office for eight years, suddenly died of a heart attack. Next came my father-in-law, my grandfather, and so on. I struggled to make sense of it. People were disappearing rapidly.
The unthinkable happened in 1997. My father was diagnosed with cancer in the same month that his mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease.
We had a summer of hope, but the disease hit again, and he was gone. Gone for good. Gone for real. In six short months, he was diagnosed, treated, and then he vanished.
Completely shattered, I walked a lot, trudging through the autumn woods as the crispy leaves eddied around my feet. I heard his voice whisper in the breeze, imagining words that weren’t there.
The need to write was insistent. Urgent.
I’d return to my office and madly type poems full of gaudy words that painted my grief. Each time I walked and mourned, I’d return home and write. Again. And again. And again.
Getting the words on paper was immensely comforting. Although I’d always known I would write a mystery series someday, I thought it would be when the kids were grown and I’d retired.
Then it hit me. I’d write a book and model the protagonist after Dad. It would be a tribute to him, a testimony to his life.
I began to write Double Forté. My hero was a music professor, like Dad. He gardened with a passion, like Dad. He embraced the arts, like Dad. And he assiduously tended to his musical spirit, like Dad. He played Chopin etudes with wild abandon to clear his mind and feed his soul. And he cooked magnificent feasts for his family from his gardens that burgeoned with exotic vegetables.
As the book began to take shape, so did the characters. Gus LeGarde’s secretary, Maddy, became the reincarnation of my Grandma Lena. Oscar and Millie Stone were near replicas of my maternal grandparents. I found consolation in the creation of scenes, as if I’d found a way to “visit” with them. And as the process of writing one book became easier, the next, and the next, and the next flowed effortlessly from my fingertips until I stopped to breathe. I written twenty-two books in 13 years. And the pattern continues. I’ve written ten books in this series. Here is a complete list. A few books are yet to be released, but they’ll all be out by end of this year.
LEGARDE MYSTERIES – in order of chronology
Q. Why have reviewers dubbed your books as “literary mysteries?”
I think it’s because there is much more than the element of mystery in each story. There’s love, love lost, unrequited love, and more. There’s living in the country, from gardening to walking in the woods to riding horses. There’s a complex level of plot and details to accompany it. And although the writing is usually simple and easy to get down, there is also a bit of poetry infused within the pages. That’s my guess, anyway!
Q. One of your talking points is selling books in wineries. Did you think that wine enthusiasts are mystery readers?
Wine enthusiasts seem to love all genres of books, but mystery is a very popular category. I love selling at the wineries because folks who come on the tours are almost always jovial, expecting a great day, full of good humor (or wine), and flush with cash. I’m also the only one there with books to peddle, so it’s much better than being in a books store, to tell the truth!
Q. How do you market your books? Do your books sell best in the Genesee Valley?
I do my very best these days with eBooks and audio books, although my local sales tend to be print books. I use emailer promotions like Kindle Books & Tips, BookBub, Book Gorilla, BookSends, etc. and find them the most effective.
Aaron was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter, an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat.
http://www.talkradioadvocate.com and http://talkradioadvocate.blogspot.com
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