Aria E. Maher has been a writer for the better part of her life. With a great interest in both fantasy and steampunk, she enjoys blending different ideas to create something new. She has recently self-published her first book, Behind Her Mask was Death, a YA mystery/fantasy novella. You can connect with Aria on her website, or through Facebook and Twitter.
Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I have been writing since I was around seven years old. My first books were made out of sheets of sketch paper taped together, with a real ‘cover’ and blurb on the back and everything. They were mostly about Super Mario and Zelda and Gandalf and other video game or book characters I knew about. Sometimes, my siblings and I would make appearances in them too! I didn’t start inventing my own characters until much, much later. In the beginning, it was all about the story, although I now find myself writing stories that are much more character driven.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I don’t think any character is ever completely out of a writer’s imagination. There is always something that inspired you, some person, somebody you know, or maybe even another character in another book. And you don’t always realize the inspiration until later. But my characters tend to be mostly from my imagination, although they will sometimes share a trait of mine, or some idiosyncrasy of someone I know. Often, they will be born out of a single idea or mannerism. The main character of Behind Her Mask was Death, Devon Lavender, was created out of the single idea of a shy detective. Now that I’ve spent so much time with him, he has become much, much more complex than that. But that was the little idea which shaped the creation of his character.
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
For Behind Her Mask was Death, I actually had to investigate the medical symptoms of various poisons. I read several in depth descriptions of people dying from cyanide and strychnine poisoning, so that I could be accurate when describing the death of the victim in the book, although I didn’t end up use either of those poisons in the story. It is actually an extraordinarily interesting thing to read about. One article I found which I really enjoyed was How to Poison your Fictional Characters on fmwriters.com.
Are you currently working on any new book projects?
I am in the middle of editing a paranormal horror novel which will be made available as a series on Channillo.com. It’s called The Tangle, and it tells the story of a girl named River who finds herself trapped in a strange house full of people and creatures who want to keep her prisoner. I was actually contacted by the founder of Channillo.com, Kara Klotz, and asked to write a series for them, which was very exciting! I will probably begin releasing it early next year. You can find out more at their website.
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
Currently, I have only finished two real books (books I plan on publishing), so I don’t have a ton of experience with my own writing process. But the process of writing Behind Her Mask was Death and that of The Tangle were definitely very different. Behind Her Mask was written in bursts. Sometimes it would be days or weeks before I wrote anything more, and sometimes I would write an entire chapter in a day. The Tangle has been much more controlled. I have a deadline, and so I decided that I would write something every day, be it a paragraph or half a chapter. That way, I could be sure that I would finish the first draft at some point, and I actually completed it ahead of schedule, which was nice, because I’ve gotten to take a bit of a break before jumping into the editing.
Often, the idea for a new story will be nothing but a little snippet, maybe of a character or of dialogue or a scene, and I’ve got to extrapolate out from that snippet and create an entire story. I always have to have a beginning scene before I start writing, and I like to have at least an idea of the ending as well. But the middle is usually fair game for new ideas and subplots and whatever. In The Tangle, I actually found myself killing off a character which I’d originally intended to make it out of the book alive! I like to have a strict beginning and an idea of the ending, and then just wing it for the rest, at least on the first draft. Afterward, I’ve got to reign my ideas in and fix all the mistakes and plot inconsistencies.
As for how long it takes, the first draft of Behind Her Mask was Death was completed in under two months. I began it in October of 2015, and finished it before Christmas. However, I was still editing it up until August of this year. The Tangle has happened much more quickly. I began it this October and I’m hoping to be completely finished with it before February 2017, and then to start releasing a new chapter every two weeks.
Who is your favorite contemporary author? Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?
My favorite contemporary author… It’s really a tossup between N. D. Wilson and Marissa Meyer. N. D. Wilson has been in my top favorite authors for a long time, ever since I read his 100 Cupboards books, which, by the way, I heartily recommend to everyone. Marissa Meyer has been a fairly recent discovery for me, and I’ve devoured her Lunar Chronicles books. I can hardly wait to read Heartless as well! As of this writing, I am reading The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby (published 2010, so I don’t know how contemporary that is), and I recently finished reading Marissa Meyer’s Fairest, a companion book to the Lunar Chronicles.
How did you find your publisher? What was your journey to publication like?
Behind Her Mask was Death was actually self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace. I originally intended to send it to a traditional publisher, but I learned about CreateSpace at a convention and decided to look into it and maybe give it a shot. I’m certainly glad I did. I got to design and format the book myself, which for me was incredibly fun and rewarding, even if it was a bit frustrating at times, and I am very pleased with the finished product. The Tangle, of course, will be appearing in serial format on Channillo.com, although I may consider creating a paperback or Kindle edition if people enjoy it. For a control freak like me, I’ve found the freedom and control provided by self-publishing to be very rewarding.
How have your friends and family received your career as an author? Are they supportive?
All my friends and family have been super excited and supportive, which has been absolutely amazing. My best friend came with me to a small Comic-Con-like event called Great GeekFest this past October, where I had a table, and hung out with me for almost eight hours! My mom and dad and brothers have also been really great. One of my brothers even begged and begged to be allowed to read Behind Her Mask was Death back when I was still editing it, so that I finally had to give in and let him. He’s nine, and really likes Pokémon and Minecraft and stuff like that, so I wasn’t sure if he’d enjoy my story very much, but he told me that he gave it four and a half stars, and that it was ‘interesting’, which I thought was rather hilarious.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
The first thing every aspiring writer should do is to read a lot, both in the genre they want to write in and also in other genres as well. Always read widely. You never know where you’ll stumble across a good character or plot idea or story element, even in books in genres other than what you want to write. Read nonfiction as well, even if you want to write fantasy. I read several books on Victorian London which greatly influenced some of the cultural and aesthetic elements in the fictional city where Behind Her Mask was Death takes place, and I also drew some of my tone and ideas from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, some of which are among my favorite books of all time.
For the actual writing of the book, you need to get your ideas down on paper as quickly as possible. If you don’t finish the first draft, you’re never going to finish the book. Don’t spend your time perfecting that first chapter or first few chapters, at least not till later. You have to get the story down before you can start perfecting it. First drafts are almost always garbage, or mine are, anyway, but they can always be refined later on.
As for promotion, you definitely need an author website/blog, as well as a Facebook page and probably a presence on Twitter as well. If you have a following on one of this platforms beforehand, that’s great, but if not, you need to start building your base as soon as possible, definitely before the book comes out. I started my website as a simple wordpress.com blog in April of 2016, well before Behind Her Mask was Death was even officially announced. You need to have a presence online, and you need to begin building as soon as possible.
Entering writing contests with good promotional prizes, especially if it’s free to enter, is also a great idea. One of the blogger/authors I follow, Anela Deen had a Micro Fiction writing contest on her website with a first place prize including an author interview on Intisar Khanani’s website, a guest post on Kate Tilton’s blog, and a promotional package from Tweet Your Books. If you can win a contest, its great exposure, even before the book is released. I also got a table at a local Comic-Con-esq event after my book was released, and got to meet some very cool people and sell some books as well. I’m a very introverted and shy person, but I still had a lot of fun talking to people and telling them about my book. I’ve also reached out to a local bookseller and have been invited to bring a copy of my book to them to look at, and maybe, Lord willing, I’ll get some of my books in their store! It’s all about connections and reaching out to people and getting to know them. It can be hard for shy people like me. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. Never be afraid to ask!
About Aria's Book, Behind Her Mask was Death
People don’t usually think about death, especially not on the night they are going to die…
Devon Lavender never thought he’d end up in the middle of a murder mystery. But when an unnamed red haired woman dies in his arms on the dance floor in the middle of the Prince’s extravagant costume ball, it would seem obvious to everyone who the killer is. Devon finds himself with one chance, and one chance only, to prove his innocence and discover the real murderer, before it’s too late.
Book Giveaway Hosted by Aria E. Maher
Aria E. Maher is hosting a book giveaway today at Pandora's Box. Feel free to leave a comment below to be entered to win a digital copy of her book, Behind Her Mask was Death. She's giving away five copies. Be sure to leave your email address in your comment so you can be contacted if you are a winner.
A special thank you to Aria for guesting today and sharing with our readers.