I’m so excited to introduce my next guest, Aaron Ritchey. He is a newly discovered talent that I think is going to be a big hit with YA readers. Not to mention he has a great sense of humor and always makes his posts entertaining. So let me tell you a little about Aaron…
Aaron Michael Ritchey was born with Colorado thunderstorms in his soul. He’s sought shelter as a world traveler, an endurance athlete, a story addict, and even gave serious thought to becoming a Roman Catholic priest. After too brief a time in Paris, he moved back to the American West and lives semi-comfortably with three forces of nature: a little, blonde hurricane, an artistic tornado, and a beautiful, beautiful blizzard.
He is happiest dancing among the extremes, reading Twilight, Atlas Shrugged , and A Case for God at the same time. Like a playlist on shuffle: Fatboy Slim to Rammstein to George Strait to Katy Perry. He loves the ambiguous and the incongruous. The beauty of reality, as well as the tragedy. From the basest evils to the most transcendent good.
So writing Young Adult novels is perfect for him because that is a time of extremes and firsts, and who doesn’t love firsts? First time on our own, first kisses, first heartbreaks, first everything. It’s an exciting, dramatic time, and that’s exactly what a good story needs, excitement and drama.
So let’s get to it… Aaron, you have the MIC!
Thanks so much to Jean Murray for letting me take over the Open MIC night. I’m here to rock the party, rock the party, right. Since I think the first chapter of my book rocks, I figured I’d go over the anatomy of my first page. Caution, my first page is anatomically correct. Or at least I hope it is.
First, a little summary. My debut novel, The Never Prayer, is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance about a teenage girl named Lena. Shattered by the death of her parents, she will risk everything to keep her disintegrating family together. In love with both a demon and an angel, Lena must unravel the mysteries of heaven’s fury and hell’s desire before she loses everything. Who is the demon? Who is the angel? Lena can’t tell the difference, and every minute pushes her closer to the edge.
Here are the first 16 lines:
“I’m not going to do it again,” Lena Marquez whispered to the red purse across the hall from her nestle of blankets. “Never again.”
All of her other purses, scarves, and belts were just shadows hanging from hooks on both sides of the bathroom door, but in the glow of the cracked Thomas the Train nightlight, the red purse glittered. Each sequin like a teardrop of blood.
The heater chugged on sending lukewarm air into the basement apartment, as cold as an icebox. In October, at ten thousand feet, Avalon, Colorado had no pity for the weak or poor. It killed both.
Through anorexic walls, Lena could hear her aunt’s barking cough in the next room. But it wasn’t the coughing that had Lena awake at 4:46 on a Monday morning. It was her three-year-old brother, Joziah, who would wake up any minute.
He was like an alarm clock, same time, every morning. So regular Lena was awake before he asked the questions she couldn’t answer.
Already the work of the day felt like bricks on her chest. Her junior year homework continued to pile up among the dirty laundry around their mattress on the floor.
But first, Jozey, always Jozey, no matter what.
Now, in the opening, I have to do a number of things. First, gotta hook the reader. Hopefully, the first paragraph will get you. I want the reader to wonder, what on earth is she not going to do again, and what does that have to do with her red purse?
In the first lines, I’m also trying to set the mood and setting. I tried to use strong language here to give the reader a feeling of desperation and tragedy: the cracked nightlight, teardrop of blood, anorexic walls et cetera.
As for setting, I’m hoping the elevation of the town, her sleeping on a mattress on the floor, the thin walls, will tell you she’s poor and struggling.
Finally, I have to give you a sense of who Lena is and why you want to root for her. I didn’t want to just say she was sixteen, so I described her Junior Year homework. And the laundry shows she has a lot on her plate, and she is stressed out.
Now, I did a little telling, not showing, in that last line about Jozey but I would hope I did it in such a way as to emphasize it in the mind of the reader. If you wanna read the rest of the opening, you can visit: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/TheNeverPrayer.html because the next paragraphs show Lena nurturing Jozey. You gotta have a hero people can like, and Lena starts out troubled, alone, kind of bitchy, so I needed a strong sense of her as the hero, taking care of her little brother.
So that’s what I was trying to do with my opening. One of my favorite moments in the life of this book was at a writers workshop, where my first chapter was being read aloud. A woman at the workshop started to read it, but she had to stop because she started to cry. I cried too. Our eyes met, and we understood each other at that moment, that life can be hard, but there is hope. Which is really the theme at the heart of my little book.
For more about me and The Never Prayer, you can visit us both at www.aaronmritchey.com. And of course, I’m on Facebook, as is the book at http://www.facebook.com/TheNeverPrayer. And I tweet – @aaronmritchey. If you are at all curious about the novel, our friends at Amazon.com would love for you to visit them!
Thanks again, Jean Murray!
Okay, Aaron. You’re not out of the hot seat yet 🙂 snicker, snicker.
Host: First, I want to say what beautiful writing you have. It draws you deep into the story’s character and her plight. I love to garner emotion from the readers, I write with that very goal. What is your goal when you right? What do you want readers to take away from your book? (I know very deep, but you put me in the mood with your excerpt).
Aaron: You know, I find life very difficult. Other people seem to skate through the existence as if they have the “how-to-be-a-human” manual in their back pocket. But then, that’s me comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. I think we all have our drama. So in my books, I want to present life as it is, hard, brutal at times, gritty. But then I bring in the paranormal to show that there is hope, there is joy, there is the impossible around us, to save us when we most need saving. Life is full of miracles. If you look for them.
Host: What is it that draws you to write Young Adult? How do you get into the head of your teenage heroine?
Aaron: Funny, but I had a guy who wondered how I could channel at sixteen-year-old girl so well. It’s like Dickens, being a teenager is the best of times and the worst of times. It is a time of unimaginable growth, where children become adults. For me, I found the whole thing traumatizing. I wanted life to be like a sitcom, and it wasn’t, and poor me. So I remember the angst. I remember how hard just going to school felt. I still feel like a teenager sometimes, awkward, afraid, yet courageous. Immortal. Yes, teens today face a different world than I faced, but it’s still the human experience. Still, the same old drama. As for the girl part, I’m part girl—I loved soap operas growing up, I cry at commercials, I find clothes interesting. And though I think gender is important, being human is more important.
Host: So what are readers saying about your book? Yes, it is okay to brag 🙂
Aaron: I have had some wonderful reviews on Amazon, some from very talented writers. It humbles me. Really. I love it when someone picks up my book, thinking they are getting the same old, same old—the good versus evil, fallen angel versus evil demon, type of story, and then, it grabs them. Even those that don’t like the paranormal. I love it when I hook the skeptics because that means I’ve done my job. My story isn’t about angels and demons, it’s about life! The Universe! Everything! I’ve been compared to Ray flippin’ Bradbury by one reviewer. Humbled. And when I hear the words, “I couldn’t put it down”. Hurray!
Host: Now that you have teased us, tell us a little about the male hero of this story? In your description of the book you mention two love interests—do tell.
Aaron: I can’t say much because part of the fun is that you don’t know who the villain is until about halfway through the book. Both of Lena’s love interests are broken, one shows it, the other doesn’t. One is an angel who wants the world to be perfect, and the other is a demon who revels in the despair, desire, and death he sees in people, though you wouldn’t know it at first. Because of course, a good demon will seduce us before we know he’s a demon. But I can’t give away too much. Both are broken, but smoldering hot, ‘cause I love a good romance, and a good romance has to have the hunks.
Host: As a debut novelist, out of all the milestone in your beginning career what one thing stands out? Unfair question, I know.
Aaron: Two things. I made my publicist cry. Bree Ervin is one tough bird, but she cried when she read my book, and she cried when I signed her copy because without her, I wouldn’t have as many readers as I do now. You can find her at ThinkBannedThoughts.Com. The other thing was a night I spent with my friend and official Girl Friday assistant, Chris Devlin. That Tuesday night, when I was overwhelmed with fear and desperation, Chris and our friend Angie Hodapp sat me down in a Village Inn restaurant and we talked about how everyone is afraid, how everyone is broken in some way. That night, my life changed. Writing is hard. Getting published is hard. But without Chris Devlin, dang, I don’t know here I’d be. Prolly either at a methadone clinic or a soup kitchen. If you are looking for help with the administrative tasks of writing, or you need a cracker-jack copy editor, you can find Chris Devlin at http://chrisdevlinwrites.com.
Host: Do you have any advice for new writers? Words of wisdom to share?
Aaron: I will now tell you the secret to life. Get your pencils and paper ready. Okay, the secret to life is this: enjoy what you are doing and where you are, right now. I wish I had relished my pre-publication days. I wish I had breathed those moments in deep. Because before you know it, your writing time will be cannibalized by marketing your book, doing signings, et cetera. And learn to love writing, so you’d rather write than eat ice cream, you’d rather write than watch T.V. Hemingway has a great quote about when writing becoming your greatest joy, you will do it until you die. Enjoy the creative process. Laugh at the funny parts. Cry at the sad parts. Relish the stories you write.
Host: What comes next? I know you are busy promoting your book. Where can readers find you? Conferences, book signings, blogs….
Aaron: If you really wanna follow my madness, My News and Events page on my website has all of my doings. I just got interviewed on Bookmark Radio, which was a great experience, and I have a book signing in San Jose, California at Hicklebee’s on May 12, 2012 followed by a California launch party on June 14, 2012. The world is invited. I’ll be speaking at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in September, 2012, and of course, Mile-Hi Con in Denver, October, 2012. Before the world ends in December.
As for projects, too many to count. I am just finishing up another YA Paranormal about a broken girl who has to overcome her own limitations to help her dying grandmother travel to France to see the grandmother’s love from World War II.
Aaron, thank you for sharing your story. I wish you the greatest success with The Never Prayer.
It has found its place on my TBR and I can’t wait to read it.
To find out more about Aaron Ritchey….
For more about Author Aaron Ritchey and The Never Prayer, you can visit them both at www.aaronmritchey.com. And of course, he is on Facebook, as is the book at http://www.facebook.com/TheNeverPrayer. And his tweet handle– @aaronmritchey. If you are at all curious about the novel, our friends at Amazon.com would love for you to visit them!