Aidan Thorn, a short story writer who has also published a novella, When the Music’s Over, talks to me about his work, his background and the writers he admires the most.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?
I’m not convinced I’ve ever totally defined my writing style and that’s a big part of why I like to write short stories, it allows me to experiment a bit with different voices and styles. I guess on the whole I write what Paul Brazill would term Brit Grit, but that said I’ve had people comment that one or two of my stories put them in mind of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett – I take the compliment, but I don’t believe the person telling me. Some say I write “noir” I don’t really know or care what that means to be honest – for me I just write stories. And why am I drawn to dark fiction, mostly because that’s what I like to read and watch – let’s be honest all the best characters are anti-heroes, everybody loves to read about a rogue and I love creating them, they can be shallow empty people just out for themselves, or complicated individuals with layers behind why they do what they do – they’re great to write.
What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?
I’ve always had an interest in writing, when I was a kid I remember writing a story about a boy that found a time machine and went on adventures. As I grew up I had numerous attempts to get bands off the ground (fail) and wrote lyrics for songs. And then a few years ago on a trip to the USA I couldn’t sleep at night so I let an over active imagination outline the plot to a novel. Those initial thoughts are now my first published novella, When the Music’s Over, which came out last year from the excellent Number Thirteen Press. Of course that wasn’t the first story I had published, I had a bunch of shorts published widely across the internet and in anthologies in both the UK and US. I always had a love of crime fiction, the likes of George Pelecanos, Michael Connolly, Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane etc… and so it seemed a natural fit to get into writing that genre.
You write a lot of short stories. What draws you to this style of writing?
There’s a couple of reasons I guess, one is, as I said earlier, it allows me to experiment with styles and voices. Another reason is that I have a bunch of ideas rattling around in my head at once and I just have to get them out, they often become disruptive to bigger projects, so I get them done and I hope that I’m then free to write the bigger stuff – it rarely works, I’ve only ever completed two novellas. The other reason is I like the breadth of coverage I get from writing short stories, there are currently nine books sat on my bookshelf with stories by me in, plus a bunch of websites out there hosting my work – I couldn’t achieve that writing long stuff.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?
Everyday life really. My short story for Exiles was inspired by nothing more than doing some gardening and taking the rubbish to the dump. My story in Rogue was inspired by a trip to buy a few tropical fish for my tank. As I said earlier I have an over active imagination, and perhaps a slightly criminal mind- I see a story in a lot of things that happen every day, and usually a potential crime.
I don’t really have any rituals for writing, I like to listen to music, or stick a concert on YouTube while I’m doing it but I typically just write when the mood strikes me and I can fit it in.
What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?
There are so many writers I admire to be honest, and if I list them all here it’ll get very boring. I am a huge fan of George Pelecanos, I always seek out anything new from him the minute it’s out. But I’d like to use this space to give a shout out to some of the best writers I’ve ever read, that the average reader that browses the shelves of Waterstones wont have heard of. The list is endless but let me pick out just a few (and I’m sorry to those of you I miss out but you know I love your work)… Darren Sant, he writes fabulous short fiction, his Longcroft Tales are incredible, but for me his stand out work was The Bank Manager and the Bum, an incredible adult fairy tale that has stayed with me since I first read it a few years ago. Gareth Spark, in my opinion the best writer working today, his short story collection Snake Farm is a master class in how to write dark fiction and his novella Marwick’s Reckoning was a book I was looking forward to for a very long time and it exceeded even my high expectations. I really could go on forever here but I’ll pick out just one more (and again apologise to everyone else who I love!) early this summer I read Ryan Bracha’s The Switched – possibly the best book I’ve read – incredible.
If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I’ve already done it. Earlier this year I wrote to a bunch of people who’s writing I enjoyed and asked if they’d like to be part of a charity anthology I was putting together in support of a lovely lady from the writing community that I’m part of called Henri Furchtenicht. Henri isn’t a writer herself but her husband Craig is an incredible one (add him to the list above!) and we’d become friends via Facebook. Henri is battling Multiple Myeloma and so I decided to do a charity anthology for her. I wrote to a bunch of writers I admire and as soon as they knew it was for Henri they jumped onboard the project, now known as Paladins. On this project I was the curator and so I got to work with incredible writers, all of the guys I’ve mentioned above, plus Christopher Davis, Matt Mattila, Graham Wynd (AKA K A Laity), Keith Nixon, Jason Beech, Bill Baber, Linda Angel, Cal Marcius, Dave Jaggers, Gabriel Valjan, Robert Cowan. It was a massive honour to pull together such a talented group of writers, and also have Craig Douglas do the formatting and Mark Wilson create the stunning cover design. I hope to put together Paladins 2 at some point, I hope many of these guys will return and that we get some new faces on board with the project.
Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I’m currently pulling together all of my crime or gritty short stories into one collection ready for release later this year. The collection will be called Tales of the Underbelly and well include over 30 stories varying in length from short vignettes to a couple of novelettes that are around 10,000 words each. A lot of my short stories use the same characters so I’ve tried to batch stories in the collection so that the reader can follow character developments. Other than that I have a novella in development called Rival Sons and a novel that I’ve been working on for a while called Killing in the name of… whether either of them see the light of day will depend entirely on how many new short story ideas keep popping into my head!
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
Always… But then I have a bunch of books sitting on my shelves and Kindle that I haven’t got around to reading yet and I’m looking forward to also, for example Robert Cowan’s All is Vanity and Joe Clifford’s December Boys. A recent release that I haven’t picked up yet is Ryan Bracha’s After Work Call, I’m looking forward to that, plus Paul Brazill’s Cold London Blues and I’m delighted that Tess Makovesky has her book, Raise the Blade coming out this year too. The one I’m most looking forward to though is the release of Cinnamon Girl by Christopher Davis, I read an early draft of that one and gave some opinions, so I can’t wait to see how it turned out… Chris is a great guy and he really deserves to see his work being read… as all these guys do!
Anything you’d like to add?
A couple of things – look out for the guys writing for the indie presses and putting stuff out themselves, there’s so much talent out there that goes largely unnoticed and the other thing, thanks for having me here!
Thanks very much to Aidan for taking the time to talk to me, it’s been really enlightening to hear about the work of such a talented writer and his peers. To find out more about Aidan and his writing check out his website HERE.