Coming up over the next few weeks, I will be having some authors on the blog who were previously unknown to me and who I wanted to learn more about by asking them some random questions or by them doing guest post. And today I have a Q and A with author and educator Aaron J Lawler.
Who is Aaron?
I wear a number of hats in life, and all of them make me a better me
“When we learn something new, we are all a little like Don Quixote; for it was Cervantes who said, “Who reads much and walks much sees much and knows much.” And that is the core of what I do – learning and helping others learn. I am a writer, an educator, a family man and a community leader.
I have written a number of nonfiction publications in humanities, technology, game theory and education. I have been a teacher for 15 years from the littlest kids to adult learners to seniors in lifelong learning programs.
Here’s what I asked Aaron about his writing
What book do you wish you had written?
My favorite contemporary works are Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, which is just so lush and whimsical and philosophical; and Michael Crichton’s Prey which not only moves at the pace of an action movie but changed my entire perception of reality in terms of holism, emergence, and interconnectedness. I would have loved to write either one. But if I had to narrow it down, I would start with Phillip Pullman. I love his worlds, his characters, and his plots. He just creates this rich tapestry where you become completely immersed. I would simply ask, “How? How did you create this world for His Dark Materials?” And then I would try to tap into that energy and that magic, to create this kind of world. I am in such awe!
Where do you do your writing? And where would your ideal location be?
I write all over. I do a great deal of my writing on my iPad or Laptop. There are two apps I use: The Writer’s App by Thomas Sillmann and Daedalus Touch by The Soulmen GbR. The first one is an organizer, which helps you map out plots and keep character bios. The second is a minimalist text editor. I love typing on Daedalus because you can create pages and each page counts words/characters, as well as lets you rearrange them. So I basically create a chapter on a page, and if I need to move things around its as easy as touch.
The reason I use these two apps is because you never know when inspiration will strike. I have found myself pulled over at gas stations, in doctor’s offices, or at my college’s cafeteria (I am a professor at Waubonsee Community College) and wanting to write. Mainly I write scenes and my novels are very much like a play, chocked full of dialogue, action and setting. So it’s very natural for me to write wherever I am at. My favourite place to write, though, is in my bed before I go to sleep. With the end table light on, and the quiet sounds of the house, I find myself always at peace and able to string together the best scenes.
What’s the best part about being an author? And the worst?
It is simple really – storytelling. It is an age old art that extends back to our most prehistoric ancestors and is how we became who we are today. I love stories. I love to read anything and everything. Neil Gaiman once said in an interview (and I am paraphrasing here) that “as a writer it is important to read good works, bad works, and everything in between” (or something to that affect). I think this is true. We are hardwired to tell stories. It is how we learn about the world, about one another, about everything.
So together it made sense – stories and knowledge. I am a college professor now, and was a teacher for over a decade. I use storytelling as my delivery method, so for me, writing is like teaching, I just share ideas with an audience. But like any performance, the anxiety of rejection always looms in the corner. Once I developed a thick skin for rejection and critique, I am now finding one of my biggest challenges is self-promotion. It does not come easily to me and moves me out of my comfort zone. I struggle with it, and often feel it comes off unauthentic.
Who if anyone inspired/encouraged you to write?
My mother told me stories and read me stories when I was very young. She helped me write down the stories I would create – crazy worlds where spacemen kept pet chinchillas, or a group of boys (very similar to the kids in Sandlot) navigated an underground world after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, and dragons had birthday parties (both actual stories I wrote as a child!). My father taught me to challenge everything. Every idea that every grown-up or peer said, I was taught to critically analyze. And he taught me to learn about everything – science, history, culture, people, politics, and economics.
And without my wife none of this would have been possible. She is my constant champion and pusher. She forces me to leave my comfort zone and put myself out there. She is always in my corner and always by my side. Because of her I have had my greatest adventures both in the real world and the imaginary worlds of my novels. I love her all the more for it!
How many books do you currently have on your to be read pile?
Too many to willingly admit! I am reading Not For Profit – Why Democracy Needs the Humanities by Martha Nussbaum, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare by William Joyce, Psychonavigation: Techniques for Travel Beyond Time by John Perkins, The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny and Globalization by Harm de Bliij, and so many others, including my own novel, The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id mainly as research for the series of vignettes I am writing which lead in to the sequel which I hope to have completed this time next year. Between my Kindle, my nightstand and my office, I just have dozens of books piled here and there waiting to be finished. Each one will get its due, but not before I start a dozen more!
How do you prioritize what to read next?
It depends. As a professor I need to finish the non-fiction works before my classes start, so I can use the material for lectures and lessons. As a writer, there is research work I need to finish in order to write the next chapter. As a PhD candidate, I am always reading material for my courses and building up my dissertation which I hope to defend next year. And as an avid reader of young adult fiction, science fiction and fantasy, I love to read for pleasure and so find myself straying to these titles when I am probably supposed to be reading something else!
Are your book shelves arranged by jacket colour or by author?
Ah, now this is a good question. In my office at the college, my books are arranged by topic: world religions, psychology and sociology, world history, art and art history, education methods, and my Calvin and Hobbes collection.
At home we have them organized by size. My wife is largely responsible for the organization and decoration of our home library (which was intended to be a dining room, but we thought books made more sense!). So there books are really categorized by age and care – our first editions and special books are on display. Paperbacks are off to the side. Our art books, coffee table books, humanities texts, and what not are displayed in the lower shelves. And then there are a number of artifacts scattered about – a boomerang from Australia, a hand carved dragon from China, a wooden flute from the Navajo, souvenirs from our trips in Europe and Mexico, and of course photos of relatives and our children.
My thanks to Aaron for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish him luck with his book.
You can get more information on Aaron and his book from any of these links.