Hello my darlings! Today I'm sitting (well, from across a whole ocean) with US author Edward Aubry, whom I've only recently discovered via his adult book Unhappenings (my review here). Edward was so kind as to reach out to me after I reviewed it - I tossed an interview proposal, and he gladly accepted. Now, I know that usually people are wary of reading interviews with authors whose work they aren't already familiar with, but believe me, Mr. Aubry has a few interesting (and even unexpected) things to say about writing and the birth of a novel (or series). Also, with my questions, I tried to spotlight the most peculiar aspects of his catalogue, and I hope to steer some new readers towards his books, present and future!
Before we get to know Edward Aubry a little better, here's a spotlight on his ongoing debut YA-NA series...
(now Book 2 in theMayhem Wave series) original cover
Title:The Mayhem Wave (4 books) Book 1: Prelude to Mayhem Book 2: Static Mayhem Book 3: Mayhem's Children Book 4: Mayhem's Reign
Author:Edward Aubry Genres:Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Fantasy
Release:From Nov 26th 2016 (1st book) Prelude to Mayhem (book 1 in The Mayhem Wave series) on Goodreads
Blurb for Prelude to Mayhem:In the ruins of his world, Harrison Cody follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt. (Goodreads)
Interview:So, first off, thank you Edward for agreeing to a Q&A session on Offbeat YA! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Sure! Hi everyone, I’m Edward Aubry, author of Unhappenings and the soon to be released Mayhem Wave series. By day, I teach high school math. I am currently at work on my sixth novel, with plans for many more.
The classic question: what prompted you to become a writer?
Seventh and eighth grade English class. I happened to have a teacher who pushed all the right buttons to spur an interest in writing fiction, as well as some fantastic starter tips for how not to suck at it. She actually told me at the end of eighth grade I was one of the worst student writers she had ever seen when I started her class, and by the end of those two years I was one of the best. She gets full credit for that transformation as far as I am concerned.
I’m impressed by your manifold field of expertise. Music, mathematics, and writing of course. Do the first two influence the latter in any way?
Oh, yes, to be sure. Every life experience is valid source material for fiction. The music tends to creep into my thinking less than the math, mostly because science fiction leans on mathematics in ways that are easy to describe, and partly because teaching math has been a much longer running phase of my life than composing music was. But the music does rear its head from time to time.
Your debut book, Static Mayhem, was first published in 2010. How did you come up with the idea, and how long did it take to actually put it on paper?
The roots of Static Mayhem go back so far I can’t even begin to speculate where they came from. I have memories from my childhood of daydreams that included some of the core elements of the premise. In terms of locking it down to a story, that actually came about in 1992, on a particularly boring commute drive. The highway was nearly empty, and imagined what it would be like to be the only car on the road, and why that would be the case, and all these ideas that had been floating around in my head unconnected started to organize themselves. That thought experiment became the first chapter of Static Mayhem.
As to how long it took me to put it on paper, you can probably do the math from the two dates above. For about ten years, I kept coming back to that story, fleshing out characters, building the world, and defining conflicts. Most of that work was completely internal, just spinning ideas around in my head while they gradually took sharper form. I still write that way, actually. Most of my planning involves rehearing dialog and narration in my head, usually while I drive, long before I type it out.
Between 1992 and 2002, I wrote one complete first chapter, about half a dozen partial scenes (including an epilogue), and an outline consisting of nothing more than thirty-two chapter titles in four sections. Again, I did so much work internally I knew exactly what every one of those titles meant, but there is no way any outside observer would have been able to turn that list into the book I wrote.
So, after ten years of sitting on this huge idea, gradually determining I would never find time to write it, a friend of my wife’s invited me into her writing group. They met weekly and traded short pieces to read and critique. Good food, drink and conversation abounded in these meetings, and I enjoyed it as a social activity. I brought the three Star Trek stories I had written as submissions to the Strange New Worlds competitions Pocket Books used to run (all rejected, but with a second note enclosed telling me they came close and asking me to submit again next year—simultaneously disappointing and encouraging). When those ran out, I brought the first chapter of Static Mayhem. They received it with polite enthusiasm, suggestions for improvement, and requests for chapter two.
So I wrote chapter two. And then three. And then a novel. It took me nine months to crank out a rough draft of about 160,000 words. Turns out all I really needed was for the book to be a homework assignment.
Since Curiosity Quills Press picked up Static Mayhem, it has been expanded into a four-book series, scheduled for printing from next November onward.
Since when did you start envisioning the story as a much larger universe? What are the most significant changes you had to make in regard to the old standalone version?
When I first finished Static Mayhem, I made a conscious choice to end it in a way that would allow it to stand alone. I toyed with the idea of a trilogy, but only theoretically. The story I wanted to tell, I told. That said, as soon as I typed the words “The End,” some ideas for what would or could happen next followed pretty organically. I started jotting down notes for a sequel, Mayhem’s Children, which I wrote a few years later. That one definitely ends on a note that leads to another story.
As far as the changes I had to make, the biggest one was expanding the first few chapters of Static Mayhem into its own novel. One of the minor characters in the original Static Mayhem is one of the protagonists of Mayhem’s Children, and I never really told her back story. This expansion allowed me to do that. So the first book is now called Prelude to Mayhem. The second book, which consists of the lion’s share of Static Mayhem, still has that title. Apart from the expansion of the first section, the story is essentially the same.
You write both adult fiction (Unhappenings) and YA-NA. What do your books have in common - assuming they share any trait?
My books tend to shy away from conventional speculative fiction tropes, or at least that is my intent. The Mayhem series mixes elements of science fiction and fantasy. My second novel, Caprice, actually started as a writing exercise to see how long I could sustain a story where the genre changes every chapter. Not very long, it turned out. Unhappenings is the closest I have come to writing a traditional science fiction novel, and even that plays fast and loose with time travel theory in a way that disregards almost every story that came before it.
Regardless of age, who do you think is the best audience for your books?
Probably open-minded readers. All my stories have experimental aspects, and sometimes that takes them outside the usual fiction comfort zones. The most rewarding feedback I ever get is any variation of the phrase “This is unlike anything I have read before.” That’s not to say readers find them inaccessible, but I find the people who enjoy them the most feel that way because the stories stretched their notion of what a story can or should be.
Many thanks to Edward Aubry for being my guest. I'm very much looking forward to the Mayhem Wave series, and I'm sure that, after reading his answers (and maybe my review of Unhappenings, why not? *hint hint...*), many others are going to add it to their TBR list! Who can resist a series that has been haunting its author since he was a kid? ;)
About the Author:
Edward Aubry is a graduate of Wesleyan University, with a degree in music composition. Improbably, this preceded a career as a teacher of high school mathematics and creative writing.
Over the last few years, he has gradually transitioned from being a teacher who writes novels on the side to a novelist who teaches to support his family. He is also a poet, his sole published work in that form being the sixteen stanza “The History of Mathematics.”
He now lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three spectacular daughters, where he fills his non-teaching hours spinning tales of time-travel, wise-cracking pixies, and an assortment of other impossible things.