When I first started my writing life, I had more questions than I could find the answers to. Even now, my questions are endless, but I’m grateful to have found a wellspring of information in the writers around me. One of the aims I had in starting Daily (w)rite was to help out aspiring authors find the advice they need from experts.
There’s no denying the challenges that come with being an author. The writing life can sound like a dream, but the logistics can be daunting. Establishing your voice, growing your audience, and the process of publishing is an uphill task.
This is why I’m grateful to established authors like E.A. Aymar, who generously share their time and experience with new-er writers. Anthony Award-nominated E.A. Aymar’s most recent thriller, No Home for Killers, received praise from the New York Times, Kirkus, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and was an instant Amazon Bestseller. His previous thriller, They’re Gone, was published to rave reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus (starred), and named one of the best books of 2020 by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. His essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Publishers Weekly, and more. He is a former member of the national board of the International Thriller Writers and is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Sisters in Crime, was born in Panama and now lives and writes in, and generally about, the DC/MD/VA triangle.
I’m pleased to be able to interview him on Daily (w)rite today.
1. The writing life can be hard. What does your writing day look like?
It kind of sucks! I generally wake up too early in the morning and write for a few hours, and then I work out, get my kid ready for school, and start my day job. And I’m exhausted by, like, 6 pm. So the early morning is really all the time I have. But that’s not too bad – my mind is annoyingly sharp in the morning, and the compressed time schedule forces me to be disciplined. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if had all day to write, but I’m pretty sure I’d spend the exact same amount of time writing. The rest of the time? Probably building Lego sets or playing video games. So this is fine.
My regret is that, generally, I’m too tired in the evening to return to writing, regardless of how much caffeine I drink during the day. And I drink a lot of caffeine. There’s a chance my heart could explode before this sentence is finished.
2. What are your preoccupations as a writer, and the themes you find yourself returning to often?
That’s such a great question, and it’s something I’ve thought about for years. I really admire the writers who have certain defined themes that are present through their work, regardless of how much their writing changes and grows. You know, the kind of writer where you can pick up a book and know it’s their book – stylistically and thematically. And, for years, I wondered what an E.A. Aymar book was.
And I think, about four books in, it’s occurred to me. The key components are humor, betrayal, and a delightfully unhinged character. Those have always been the constants, regardless of what I’ve written, and it’s only now that I’ve realized I need to embrace them.
3. One of the challenges while writing a good crime novel is balancing character portrayal, and setting descriptions with pace. How do you handle this?
Humor goes a long way in this, and it’s such a wide concept that authors often don’t realize how much it permeates their favorite books. We think of humor in crime fiction as the sarcasm of a character, but that’s a very base level. Humor is often found in the pace of a book, in the crispness of how a location is described, in the punchiness of a metaphor. It’s something that engages those comedic responses, even indirectly, and compels the reader to keep reading. It’s like the famous Chandler line, “He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.” That has the delivery and sense of a quip, and the irony of a joke, but it’s a description.
4. Do you find yourself approaching the writing of your novels from Plot ideas or Characters and their voices?
It’s a bit of both. I used to really focus exclusively on character and, while that is what I enjoy, it was a bit of a sacrifice of pacing and plot, which is death for a thriller. Since I tend to plot out my novels, I now make sure that every scene is propelling the novel forward, and all of the character insights (and often, backstory) that I relish are exclusively for the benefit of those scenes.
I still want to write character-driven fiction, but as a page-turner.
5. You write about violence with elegance and insight, which is a terrific quality in a crime writer. How do you achieve this wonderful sense of balance in your work where violence is never far away, yet does not feel excessive?
That’s a lovely compliment, thank you!
And I really mean that because violence has always been an important element of my work. And I think part of that is because I only want violence to be traumatic. I really want to write against the sense of violence as entertainment, because I think violence has ravaged the world and the times I’ve experienced it were awful, and the people I know who made a living in unbridled violence are damaged. I do have characters who relish violence, but I never want their actions to be celebrated, and those characters are almost always the tragic elements of my work.
6. If you could give your younger writing self some advice, what would it be?
When I started my writing life, I essentially wrote in a cave. I told no one what I was doing, and spent years crafting a novel. When it was finished, I emerged triumphant, holding it over my head like a stone tablet and expecting crowds to gather around.
That book never sold, those crowds never came, and it took me years and years to finally get published.
I’ve worked with a lot of aspiring and debut novelists since then, and the one thing I tell them is to network – I hate that term, but it’s the right one for this. “Network” has such a selfish business sense to it, but I mean creatively as well. Reach out to as many others as you can. Read what they’re doing and, within the confines of your own early, feverish, excited writing, try and use the wondrous lessons you’re first learning. You’ll learn about the process of constructing a story, but you’ll also learn about the industry, and both are equally important for writers to understand.
7. What are the five thrillers you’ve recently enjoyed reading?
I have to plug your book, because I loved reading it! Damyanti Biswas, The Blue Monsoon.
I think Jordan Harper is possibly the best writer working today, and his 2023 novel Everybody Knows delivers on the promise of his Edgar Award-winning debut, She Rides Shotgun. Although it’ll make you never want to go to LA.
I mentioned earlier how I’ve worked with aspiring writers. I met one of those writers, Sian Gilbert, through a mentorship program called PitchWars, and her manuscript stood out from the pack. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. We worked together, and that manuscript ended up with an agent, and then a publisher, and came out this past summer through Harper Collins as a Book of the Month Club selection! She Started It is a fantastic debut, and Sian is a writer full of fierce potential.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Kwei Quartey’s newest novel for The Washington Post and, although I’m sort of iffy about writing reviews, books like Quartey’s Last Seen in Lapaz make the process much easier. It’s the kind of book you want others to read – a menacing detective case set in West Africa, with a compelling female protagonist and a fearless look into the devastating world of human trafficking.
As a writer, I’ve often wondered about the complexities of voice and theme – what stories do we tell, what makes a Damyanti Biswas or E.A. Aymar novel? And I’m envious of writers who have seemingly found the exact stories they want to tell (and readers want to read). May Cobb is one such writer, and her novels detailing the secret lives of women – typically housewives – in east Texas are the kind of books you devour. Her latest, A Likeable Woman, plays against the restrictions so many women writers face with their female protagonists, and is an even greater artistic achievement than her prior outstanding works.
8. What’s next for you, and where can readers find more of your work?
My next thriller, When She Left, will be published next February by Thomas and Mercer. It’s the story of a young couple on the run from criminals, and the reluctant hitman/realtor hired to find them.
As for my work, you can find everything I’ve written on my web site, eaymar.com, and on my newsletter, Crime Fiction Works. That newsletter is really a monthly resource for fans of crime fiction, but I do manage to mainly make it about myself.
Have you ever wondered about the writing life of an award-winning author? What questions have you always wanted to ask? Did you pick up any useful advice from Ed’s answers?
My literary crime novels, The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon are on Kindle Unlimited now. Add to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day ! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin. Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.
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