Here I am with a new interview, this time with Aaron C. Cross, author of many although he’s entered the SPFBO this year with his awesome comedy novel Robocopter Ski Patrol! Down below is the interview I had the pleasure of conducting with him as well as the link to his book! I’ve just started reading it and it’s a blast!
Previous SPFBO Interviews:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
My name is Aaron C. Cross and I write all sorts of books. The entry for SPFBO this year, though, is Robocopter Ski Patrol. It’s a comedic action/adventure/fantasy romp with stupid characters doing stupid things. I have two other books in that series, but I’m also looking to/working on expanding my range into other types of writing (like a noir, a serious fantasy, a comic fantasy, a pirate story, a few westerns…). Yeah, I know it’s a lot.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Honestly, they just come to me. For Robocopter, all of them came up through chatting with some fellow playwrights at a workshop/festival thing back in 2009. Untitled Spy Story, on the other hand, was from drinking and talking to my brother. I wish I had some funnier explanations, like ‘I go to a mountaintop, breathe in the crisp, cold air, take some ayahuasca, and write down the swirling dreams that come to me’ or whatever, but it’s entirely at random. I’m just lucky that I keep something to write with nearby at all times.
Tell us about your current project.
My current project, such as it can be called that, is an attempt at a serious fantasy novel, for once. I’m not ashamed to say that I took many of the characters from a D&D campaign I ran, but it’s not a LitRPG. I’m still in the process of figuring out exactly where to go with it because, for whatever reason, I can’t make book worlds simple. It’s fun but can be tricky when it comes to the actual writing.
For Robocopter, it was very much going into book-writing blind and figuring it out as I went. Originally, the entire concept was planned out as a stage play, complete with a very funny scene involving Robocopter and a toaster. Sadly, when it came to book form, that had to be left out. In a small way, I miss writing the way I did it then, which was utterly without controls on what I put down or on where the story was going to go. It was freeing.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Honestly, there really isn’t one main character of the novels. The three books out right now are in the same universe and do have some overlap in terms of characters, but there isn’t one MC. Each book has its own story and its own characters. Now, for those books, the MCs were very different. Robocopter had Adam Bitchenstein, who was dragged kicking and screaming into the plot, mostly because the lady he had a crush on was getting involved. Untitled Spy Story had Will Texas, who is in the same amoral, id-driven, super spy category as Sterling Archer. Ruben’s Cube Alaska had Lance Breckinridge with Bartok Benoit. It…makes more sense in the story. Kind of.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
I’m not the best for advice here, but I would say there are two critical pieces. First, you have to have the fundamentals down (grammar, spelling, punctuation, tense, etc.), even when you’re doing the first draft. If you want people to read and edit and help you out, making it easier on them helps a lot. Second, just do it! Sit down, write, and let your mind go. One of the toughest things for every writer to get over is just doing it.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
If we’re talking about authors, definitely Terry Pratchett. His big, interconnected world really speaks to me. For non-authors, Mel Brooks, the team behind Archer, and the South Park guys all work as influences for me, especially when it comes to refuge in crazy. All of those writers understood that comedy can be more than a gimmick. It can be meaningful and can lead to deeper worlds than one might expect from ‘just comedy’.
What inspires you to write?
Each time I sit down to write, it depends on lots of things. How I’m feeling, my mood, the music choices, the drink of choice (alcoholic or not)…all of that contributes to how inspired I feel. More than all that, though, I get inspired when I see people talking about my work, reading my work, and especially when they talk to me about it. I love making people laugh and add that little bit of catharsis to their day. That makes it all worth it.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part for me was finishing the thing! If you’ve never done it before and have no real guidance, it’s tricky to know when you’re done or when the story is reaching its conclusion. Actually, when finishing Robocopter, I got the last thirty pages or so done in a mass writing spree over a day or two. Also, the whole pushing through feeling like a hack or that the book is terrible thing is tough to get around, for sure.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
My favorite chapter in Robocopter is absolutely the chapter where the gang is going over their cover stories and alter egos for getting into the Baron’s party. The names and descriptions absolutely wreck me to this day and the abject frustration on Adam’s part just puts the cherry on it. I won’t spoil it for new readers, but it takes the ridiculous to a new level. Of course, if we’re talking about all my books, writing Grigor in Ruben’s Cube Alaska was the best experience and he’s one of my all-time favorite characters of mine. I will have to bring him back at some point.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned that writing a book takes a lot more time and effort than you may expect and that it differs depending on the book and the writer. Sometimes you can just sit and the words flow. Other times? You may as well just turn on Witcher 3 and play games because there isn’t a single word that’s going to be worth anything. That’s a tough understanding to come to – that you just don’t have it that day. We all want to be machines, but we’re human and sometimes we just can’t create and that is okay.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I let my characters tell me who they are. I know that sounds silly or crazy or nonsensical, but it’s the truth. I find that the more I let the characters do what they are going to do and say what they are going to say, the better the story is and the characters are. There’s one moment, for instance, in Robocopter where Ace – who has been the ‘Butt Monkey’ thus far, to use a TVTropes term – actually becomes kind of badass. The other characters are understandably shocked. Heck, I was shocked when I wrote it. It was a great moment because it wasn’t just that it was a stunning moment, but that it made perfect sense at that time. I wish I had more of those.
What are your future project(s)?
Well, to keep this list short, the serious fantasy and comic fantasy are near the top of the list. I also have three more books in the Roboverse in-progress, to say nothing of the basic plots of probably ten to twelve more. There’s also a noir story I quite like and a pirate story that I need to rework to make not terrible. Finally, there are a couple westerns that fit within the canonical Roboverse that are fun to work on. There’s also the whole ‘write a dissertation thing’ for my doctorate, which I think technically counts as a project, right? So, you know, there’s just a few things on my plate.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
That depends! I’m actually doing one of them (working toward my PhD and being a professor), but I’d also love to be an actor or a lead singer in a band. Those are somehow LESS realistic than being an author, though, so I’ll stick with this.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
There are few ways people can get in contact with me. I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RobocopterSkiPatrol/) , a website (www.aaronccross.com), I’m on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7037525.Aaron_C_Cross) , I have a Twitter account (@daneatscatfood), and I’m always open to talk to readers or other writers on all of them!
Many thanks for the chance Aaron! I hope to return soon with another interview, most likely this weekend. Keep them coming, this is a wonderful thing to be part of.