|Aaron Paul Lazar (photo provided)|
Through a blog party for writers, I recently became acquainted with Aaron Paul Lazar. We've discovered a number of interests in common, including reading and writing mysteries. Because of his ties to Upstate New York, where I grew up, I bought one of his books and I've been hooked ever since. If you haven't sampled his works, you really should. They are very good. The mysteries are satisfying and Aaron's ability to give the reader a wonderful sense of place is outstanding.
He's won multiple awards for his writing, including 2012 EPIC Book Awards WINNER Best Paranormal for Healy's Cave (Sam Moore mystery), and 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction for Tremolo: The Cry of the Loon (Gus LeGarde mystery, and a coming-of-age tale). He's written mystery books in three series, a stand-alone romance and three non-fiction books about writing. Three more books are scheduled for release this year. Read more at Aaron Lazar Books
I asked if I could interview him, and here are my questions and his answers.
JHY: I see in your bio that you began writing as a release of your emotions following a period of great loss in your life. I think many people will identify with that, but I'm wondering why you chose to begin writing mysteries.
APL: Joan, I have always read mysteries, and only mysteries! I’m a mystery addict, and so were my parents. The house was always full of books, and my mother and father had their noses buried in PD James, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and John D. MacDonald books every day. The bookcases were full of them, and I devoured them all. As a child, when the “Arrow Book Club” flyers would come out at school, I’d bring them home with a dozen books circled, and even though we didn’t have much money to spare, my parents always bought every single book for me that I’d circled! Usually they were mysteries about horses or dogs. I also would devour boxes of books my parents would bring home from auctions. Once we got a whole collection of The Hardy Boys and I was in heaven!
|Double Forte, book one of the Gus LeGarde mystery series|
APL: I was born in Boston, grew up in the quiet countryside nearby, and spent summers at my grandparents’ camp in Maine. Dale and I were married when I graduated from Northeastern University in 1981, and we moved to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY when I took my job with Kodak the same summer. We started our family here and I’ve called this place home now for 32 years, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also base my Moore Mysteries series right here. Tall Pines mysteries always start out on a little house on Honeoye Lake, then migrate up to the Adirondacks, another favorite place of mine.
JHY: Are there particular things you do consciously when you are describing a location for a book?
APL: No, the words just sort of pour out of me, always from real memories that bubble persistently beneath the surface. If I’ve been somewhere that I loved, it usually sticks with me. I try to migrate into my character’s head fully – and as I write I imagine what he sees, tastes, smells, hears…and hopefully my readers can enjoy the same types of images that are floating around in my brain.
JHY: I also read that you are an engineer at Kodak. How do you work full-time and still write?
APL: Oops, I need to update some of my bios that are out there! I’ve been gone from Kodak since 2009, when they laid me off along with my entire group. I’ve been happily employed at a small German company since 2010, doing engineering and customer liaisons across the seas between Germany, Thailand, and the US. I love my new job and cherish the people here.
|For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery (with Adirondack settings)|
JHY: People don't usually think of engineers as people with great imaginations. Would you like to comment on this?
APL: When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be an engineer. First, I hoped to be a cowboy. Then, I dreamed of all of the artistic possibilities – painter, music teacher, writer, horse farm owner. Unfortunately, none of the above seemed like it would support me. So – I was surprised to find a love of physics and math (hated them in high school) when I went back to night school after starving for a while. (literally!) At that point, engineers were in huge demand, so I went for it. I was pretty good at it, but I really did love the arts first and foremost.
It was surprising to me to find many of my Kodak colleagues had the same passions! My boss was a secret painter and stained-glass window maker. A fellow engineer was a closet musician. And so on. Almost every one of these “boring and predictable” engineers was very artistic and creative. They enjoyed their work, yes. But they really shone when it came to their secret passions! I believe that stereotype before I got to know them, and discovered I was more like them than I’d expected.
JHY: How many books have you written, and in what genres?
APL: I’ve written twenty-one books, if you count my writing guides, Write Like the Wind volumes 1, 2, & 3. Three are nonfiction writing advice books, seventeen are full-length mysteries, and my newest novel— The Seacrest—is a romantic suspense. I’m now working on book twenty-two, another standalone romantic suspense.
JHY: Do you enjoy one of these more than another? Do you have a favorite of the books you have written?
APL: I love them all. Writing is writing, for me. It doesn’t matter what genre. I wrote mysteries for so long, and started writing articles/blog pieces about eight years ago. That was quite different and I enjoyed it immensely. I decided for book twenty-one that I’d branch out. I’d always wanted to write a love story. And I did it!
Asking about my favorite book is almost like asking me to pick a favorite child. Oh, man. Impossible. I guess if I were forced today to pick a few of my books that I might hold dear to the heart, I’d say Essentially Yours and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, two very different mysteries.
JHY: Do you have a work in progress that you'd like to share?
APL: Yes! I’m tentatively titling this one Bittersweet Hollow, a romantic suspense set on a horse farm in Vermont. It’s about Portia Lamont, a young woman who has been missing for four years. She arrives home—thin and traumatized—to find her mother has cancer. Boone Sterling, the neighbor whose been helping her parents keep the horse farm afloat, may be the one person who can help her recover. Little by little, the family discovers the horror of what happened to Portia. It’s their love that will heal her, in the end.
JHY: Is there some other type of writing you'd like to try some day?
APL: Yes – I’d like to try a children’s story, or maybe a middle grade chapter book!
JHY: What kinds of activities do you enjoy in your free time?
APL: I love walking and photographing the hills and woods of the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes, I’m a passionate gardener, love to read, cook, and listen to music. Oh, yeah. And I kind of enjoy writing, although it’s more of a calling than a hobby.
APL: Thanks, Joan, for having me here today. I’d love to share this excerpt from my newest release, The Seacrest.
The Seacrest Chapter 1
July 2, 2013
Life can change in the blink of an eye. This blink came when a cop car cruised up The Seacrest’s white shell driveway on a hot Saturday in July.
I’ll never forget the moment. You know how folks remember where they were when John Lennon died? Or when President Kennedy was assassinated? It was like that, every detail stamped into my brain, forever.
A fresh breeze laden with the scent of the sea rustled blue flowers in a nearby hydrangea hedge. Hot and sweaty, I stood in the blazing sun, feeling like a fool. I’d just finished weed wacking around the paddock fence posts. Unfortunately, said weed wacker had spooked Libby Vanderhorn’s favorite mare, Serendipity, who I secretly called Dippy, because she was such a loose cannon. She’d bucked three times and knocking down several fence boards. Libby was a good rider, but this time she’d landed in a sprawling heap on the soft dirt, swearing at me.
The boss’s gorgeous, stuck-up daughter didn’t mince words, and the sting of her accusations still sounded in my head. How stupid can you be, Finn? What’s wrong with you?
Libby’s father held great power on Cape Cod. Rudolph Vanderhorn sat on so many boards, I’d lost count. His father’s fish canning company made a fortune back in the eighties, and he and his daughter had enjoyed the spoils ever since.
I stooped to pick up a hammer from my toolbox, planning to reattach the fence boards before any of Libby’s horses got hurt on the protruding nails. Curious now, I watched the Brewster Police car circle the long drive, heading toward the mansion. The local authorities stopped by every few days to discuss town matters with my boss. But today the blue light was flashing, which didn’t look like a casual visit.
A shudder went through me, and I turned cold. Something bad had happened. I sensed it.
The front door opened, and Rudy watched them approach, one hand shading the sun from his eyes. Like a majestic lion, he stood broad-shouldered and strong, his longish white hair lifting in the sea breeze.
Libby stopped hosing down her big white mare, who thankfully hadn’t hurt herself in the fit she’d thrown earlier. The horse snorted and rubbed her big head against her owner’s arm as if to scratch an itch. Long, dark hair blew around Libby’s face, and she stared with open curiosity at the cruiser, rhythmically combing her fingers through the mare’s curly mane.
I stood still, gripping the hammer, studying the patrol car as it drove past the front porch with its impressive columns and portico. It didn’t stop for Rudy, but passed the six-car garage, followed the driveway to the barn, and rolled to a stop ten feet from me, lights still flashing.
Police Chief Kramer and Deputy Lowell stepped out and ambled toward me, their eyes somber.
I dropped the hammer, letting it thud to the grass near my feet.
“Finn?” Kramer said, approaching slowly. “I’m afraid we have bad news.”
There is nothing worse than hearing that bad news is about to be delivered. My brain went wild, imagining the worst scenarios. But somehow I didn’t quite picture what he was about to tell me.
“There’s been an accident,” Kramer said.
Lowell, a high school football star in his day, kicked the dirt at the edge of the path. “Car went over the cliffs,” he said, avoiding my eyes.
“For God’s sake, guys.” I looked from Kramer to Lowell. “Who was in the car?”
Kramer pulled out a piece of paper. “I regret to inform you that your wife, Cora Mae McGraw, and your brother, Jaxson Robert McGraw, have been killed in a vehicular accident.”
Deputy Lowell touched my sleeve, then awkwardly stepped back. “We’re real sorry, Finn.”
“Car went into the ocean,” Kramer said. “We believe they were dead on impact.”
I stared at them, numbness creeping up my spine. “What the hell?”
“Er, look, if there’s anything we can do...” Lowell seemed remorseful, and he offered a hand when I lost my balance and grabbed for the fence.
Libby and her father appeared at my side in seconds, but in the dreamlike state of denial and shock, I caught only brief snatches of their words, as if the wind had grabbed them, teasing me with the bits and pieces.
“Who was with her?”
And so on.
Libby guided me across the lawn and around back to the mansion’s cavernous kitchen. I leaned woodenly against the refrigerator while the family’s beloved cook, Fritzi, bustled her big, ample self about the kitchen making coffee and pushing fresh corn muffins at the officers.
Someone guided me into a chair. I sat, dazed and unmoving. The voices warbled around me and now my brain began to pick through the new knowledge, still not comprehending.
It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.
Jax is dead?
I hadn’t seen my brother in ten years.
Ten years since I’d even talked to him. I sometimes almost drove past the blueberry farm, thinking of my old life. But I never actually stopped there.
Ten years since my parents died in that fire. Since I lost my little sister, Eva. Ten years since my family burned because of that cigarette smoldering in the couch.
Ten freaking years.
I didn’t even know what Jax looked like anymore. Had he lost hair? Gained weight? Turned prematurely gray like our father did at age thirty?
A shudder passed through me. A great gulping sound sputtered from my throat. I think I started to hyperventilate.
I locked eyes with Libby, whose mouth was moving. I couldn’t hear her.
Cora is dead.
Jax is dead.
Laying my head on my arms, I silently convulsed.
One thought wandered around the edges of my brain, refusing to go away, in spite of the enormity of what had happened.
What the hell was Jax doing with Cora?