Interview with YA Urban Fantasy Author Aaron Galvin @aarongalvin5

I welcome Aaron Galvin to my blog today. Aaron is the author of Salted, a YA Urban Fantasy about Selkie slave catchers and one that features a new twist/take on mermaids. He is also an accomplished actor. Aaron has worked in Hollywood blockbusters, (Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers), and starred in dozens of indie films.

Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.

A bit of both, actually. With a series, I think an author has to know the direction the book(s) is taking them and at least the broad strokes of how it will end. Otherwise you could end up lost down the road and stuck with writer’s block. At the same time, I think it’s important to leave yourself open to new ideas. One of my characters, Chidi, initially began as a background role. Over time, her voice became stronger in my head to the point that I had to write more with her. Now she is one of my favorite characters. So have an outline, but leave yourself open to inspiration.
Saled by Aaron Galvin

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
I love research. In fact, I now have a library of marine life books! To my thinking, anytime you can incorporate something physical that a reader can relate to having seen or touched makes the story a bit more real. With my Salt series, I’m writing about seals, sea lions, and other marine creatures. To do that effectively, I needed to learn about the various species—what makes them unique, how to tell them apart, etc. That took a lot of time, but it’s hopefully paying off now in that readers can better imagine these fantastic animals I’m writing of.

I went about my research in a few different ways. One way (and the most fun) was visiting aquariums. I previously worked as a management consultant for about six years and traveled a lot. The great thing about that experience was it gave me the chance to visit a number of aquariums throughout the U.S. So, in a way, I was like my Selkie crew skulking through all these fantastic aquariums. Fortunately, I only sought understanding and didn’t have to recapture a runaway slave like the Selkies in my book.

The rest of my research came from watching countless documentaries, Discovery channel specials, and reading non-fiction books about the various animals.

What inspired your latest release?

My mom. I had written a different book that received numerous rejections and was moping around her one day because of it. She told me to suck it up. Write something new. For about an hour she gave me various prompts.

“Wizards!” she’d say.

Harry Potter,” I’d reply.

“Vampires! Werewolves!”

Twilight, Mom.”

Finally, she said, “How about mermaids?”

I didn’t have an answer for that. This was back in 2009 when I admittedly hadn’t been reading much at the time. Too busy chasing my other dream, acting. Anyway, I couldn’t think of any mermaid books at the time. The only response I could come back with was that mermaids were for girls. And what guy wanted to be seen reading about mermaids anyway? They weren’t cool!

Then Mom said something I’ll never forget. “Find a way to make them cool.”

That changed everything. I’m a pretty competitive person. Suddenly I had a challenge. How could I make mermaids cool for guys like me? How could I make them different?

Salted is the result of that. It took me five years to reach this point, but I like to think I accomplished Mom’s challenge. Readers will decide if that’s true.

Please tell us your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of it?
Social media is a challenge for me. I’m a bit weird in that the actor side of me is very extroverted and loves interacting with others, but the writer in me is shy and likes alone time. So I would say my least favorite part was that initial push to put myself out there. Also the time vacuum it takes up to really keep everything going.

In the end, it’s worth it though because it leads to connecting with readers. That’s my favorite part. It still amazes and humbles me that people want to read my stories. I suppose it always will.

I’ve also loved meeting new authors. Again, I come from acting and film where everyone is competing with one another for limited roles. I’m sure there is some of that competition out there in the publishing world too, but I’ve yet to see it. Everyone I’ve been in contact with thus far has been exceptionally welcoming and willing to help a newbie like me learn the ropes.

How much of you is in the books you write? In what ways?

I feel like I should deflect this question to my wife. She says I’m Lenny on my sarcastic and grumpy days. Garrett is the high school version of me, only bigger. (I was really scrawny back then).

I think characters require at least a small part of the author in order to give them life. That’s not to say an author can’t write about a murderous villain. But I believe even murderous villains need to have some human component, some piece of the author, however small, to make them real.

Have you had other careers before becoming a writer?

I worked as a management consultant for about six years after college. It was a fantastic opportunity – mostly because it kept me fed while I pursued my acting and writing dreams. I grew up in Indiana and had not really ventured too far away until obtaining that job. Through the accompanying travel, I was able to visit forty-four states. (Only six more to go! )

The great thing about the consultant job was that in involved meeting people. The work consisted of interacting with different departments from the ground floor to the penthouse, so to speak. It was a fantastic learning experience to discover what mattered most to each group, see different management styles, and how what works for one department doesn’t work for another. The biggest thing I learned though was it doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO, or the lowest one on the totem pole, people are people. A little kindness goes a long way.
Salted - Aaron Galvin

Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?

I do have a view, though it depends it on the day and the mood I’m in. When I have the shades open you can see the San Gabriel Mountains and peak of Mt. Baldy. Some days, (usually when I’m writing a Lenny chapter), I like to keep them closed and the room darkened. My wife likes to joke that it’s my cave.

What do you keep on your desk?

My wife would kill me for admitting this, but there is usually anywhere between four to eight glasses on my desk. All of them filled to varying sizes with either coffee or water. Somehow I always forget to bring the old cups downstairs with me. This inevitably leads to me entering the kitchen with an armful of cups and receiving “the look” from my wife.

Other than that, I try to keep it reasonably clean though. I do have at least three stacks of books piled high. Most of them are for reference of the marine animals, ocean life, mythologies, or histories of the world while I’m writing.

I also have a black stone from an Alaskan glacier a buddy gifted me. When/if I have a hard time entering “the zone,” I roll the stone around in my hand until inspiration strikes.

What’s your favorite film of all time? Favorite book?

Favorite film: It’s a toss up between Braveheart and Gladiator. Most days I lean towards Braveheart.

Favorite book: The Stand, by Stephen King. I still remember my first reading of it in 8th grade. I had finished my math test early and the neighboring student had the paperback under his desk. I asked to borrow it while he finished up. Then, when he eventually asked for it back, I went straightaway to the library to see if they had a copy.

That book had a profound impact on my own storytelling. I love the different POVs King wrote in and the overall way the story built to these two sides confronting one another. I’ve yet to see it done better and doubt I ever will.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

That’s an easy one. I was a resident assistant (R.A.) for just over three years to help pay my way through college. For those who don’t know, an R.A. is kind of a counselor, disciplinarian, and general go-to person for anyone living in dormitories. My floor had at least sixty guys living on it and me responsible for the lot of them. We were a rambunctious group. Well known for pulling harmless pranks on one another. Something I may or may not have, but definitely did, support and encourage as teambuilding.

I used to leave my door unlocked for any of my guys who just needed to get away from their roommate, a quiet place to study, etc. I’m sure anyone reading this can tell where this is headed. But up to this point, I had never had any issues in the full year prior in my R.A. career.

So one night in early October I come home, turn on the lights, and see my room toilet papered. Just a literal spider’s web of toilet paper created throughout my entire room. I chuckle about this, go out in the hall, and see no one. Not a single door open, (quite unusual for my floor), down either hallway. Knowing the pranksters were hiding behind their doors, waiting to gauge my reaction, I yelled. “I’ve seen better!”

Mistake number two.

Fast forward to final’s week, mid December, I’m across campus working on a project that should’ve been done weeks ago. I’m exhausted because I was up the night before working on a similar project that also should have been completed weeks ago. All of a sudden, someone plops down in the chair next to me…my hall director and boss.

Straight-faced and stoic as always, he quietly asks. “Isn’t there some place you’re supposed to be?”

Then it hit me…I was on duty that night. AKA-The inmates have no one keeping watch over them.

My boss kindly informs me they have also left a little surprise for their absent R.A.

I sprint back to the dorms, up the stairs, and…no one in the halls. All the doors shut. Deathly quiet. I storm to my room, try the door.

It won’t budge. Not a lick.

I throw my shoulder into it and shove. It opens a couple inches. That’s when I see it…my room…stacked almost to the ceiling with wadded up newspapers.

It took me all night to clean it out. I still found bits of newspaper the rest of the spring semester. I later learned the night I issued my challenge of “having seen better,” the orchestrators of said plot put their heads together. They rallied not just everyone on my floor, but other floors too. For almost two months, all of them kept the daily school newspaper in their rooms in preparation for finals week.

I wasn’t a fan that night, but looking back it is hands down the best surprise I’ve ever experienced. And the best team builder.

For more about Aaron, visit his website and follow him on: Facebook and Twitter.

Salted blurb:

Life isn’t better under the sea.

Lenny Dolan is all too familiar with this reality. A Selkie slave in the realm beneath the waves, he has no choice when charged with leading a crew ashore to capture an elusive runaway. If unsuccessful, the loved ones kept behind will pay for his failure with their lives. But when their target leads Lenny and his crew to deeper, darker secrets, the Selkies are faced with a moral dilemma. Secure their own freedom at the expense of others, or return empty-handed to face the grisly consequences? How Lenny and his crew answer the question will teach them the harshest truth of all. Only through the loss of innocence does one become Salted.

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