Aaron J. French (a.k.a. A. J. French) is currently a book editor for JournalStone Publishing and the Editor-in-Chief for Dark Discoveries magazine—a professional, internationally distributed print magazine specializing in dark fiction, currently on its tenth year of continuous publication and distribution. He has worked with and edited such authors as David Liss, Norman Partridge, Gary A. Braunbeck, Thomas Ligotti, Steve Rasnic Tem, Jonathan Maberry, F. Paul Wilson, and many others. In 2011 he edited Monk Punk, an anthology of monk-themed speculative fiction and The Shadow of the Unknown, an anthology of nü-Lovecraftian fiction. His latest anthology Songs of the Satyrs will be published in 2014 and features a brand new novella from New York Times best-selling author David Farland. Aaron also served as co-editor for The Lovecraft eZine for several months in 2012.
Aaron’s fiction has appeared in many publications including Dark Discoveries, Black Ink Horror, Something Wicked, After Death…, Bedlam, Beware the Dark, Chiral Mad, The Lovecraft eZine, and others. His zombie collection Up From Soil Fresh was published by Hazardous Press in 2013. Also in 2013 “The Order,” Aaron’s occult thriller novella about a Lovecraftian secret society, was published in the Dreaming in Darkness collection. His single-author collection, Aberrations of Reality, will be released mid-2014 by Crowded Quarantine Publications. He is currently an active member of the Horror Writers Association.
Aaron is pursuing a Religious Studies degree from the University of Arizona, where his main areas of interest and research include Anthroposophy, Western Esotericism, Freemasonry and Esoteric Orders, and Esoteric Christianity. His nonfiction articles on Thomas Ligotti, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Karl Edward Wagner have appeared in Dark Discoveries magazine, while his online column “Letters from the Edge,” focusing on the occult, spirituality, rogue scholarship, esotericism, and speculative fiction, is featured regularly on the Nameless Digest website. His academic paper “Toward Christian Renewal,” which explores potential contributions of esoteric Christianity within mainstream Christianity, was published in 2013 by the peer-reviewed journal The Esoteric Quarterly. He is currently a member of the ESSWE, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I started writing when I was in grade school, even helped produce a horror magazine with an artist friend that we passed out to other grade-schoolers until the principal made us knock it off. I took a break from writing after that, but read and read and read a ton of horror, like all Clive Barker ever wrote, all Steve King ever wrote, all Ramsey Campbell ever wrote, all the Lovecrafty man ever wrote… it was ridiculous, I truly had no life and wanted to escape what horrible life I did have. I dropped out of high school, but in my twenties I tried to start writing again, and here I am ten years later, making a real go at it. Somewhere in there I started editing, too, and now I’m a book editor for JournalStone Publishing and the Editor-in-Chief for Dark Discoveries magazine. If you’re a horror fan and haven’t subscribed to DD yet, first of all you must be crazy, and secondly what are you waiting for? The editorial team and I are getting all-original fiction from the biggest names in the industry, and some of their most interesting work. I’ve edited a few anthologies, as well, and my next anthology Songs of the Satyrs, with new stories from David Farland, Mark Valentine, John Langan, Rhys Hughes, Wilum Pugmire, and more, is due out in April from Angelic Knight Press. I’ve also gone back to school recently to study/teach religious and consciousness studies, and you can find some of my more scholarly work floating around on the Internet out there—including my online column for Nameless Digest, which focuses on rouge scholarship, the occult, and literary weirdness. Nameless is another one I’d strongly recommend subscribing to. The level of strange and unique content Nameless puts out is rather amazing.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I usually try to go with weird or dark fiction for my own personal reasons, but I have nothing against horror, and props to those who can embrace the term without flinching. In a recent letter to me, Bentley Little told me he didn’t write dark fantasy or supernatural thrillers or dark fiction, etc., but that he was a horror writer through and through, always was and always would be. I highly respect that. But as for my own personal writing goals, I do try and stretch my writing all over the place, but specifically into realms of reality expansion, and that doesn’t always require horror, but it almost always requires something dark. Why is that? Beats the hell out of me.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I think I’ve listed a few already up above, but I’ll reiterate them and some others. For horror: King, Barker, Straub, Little, Matheson, Simmons, Braunbeck, Grant, Strieber, the Tems, to name a few. For weird: Lovecraft, Machen, Ligotti, Campbell, the VanderMeers, Langan, Barron, Evenson, Valentine, and a host of others. For thriller: Koontz, Harris, Wilson, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Saul, etc. Dark sci-fi: Michael John Harrison, Bear, Dick, Leiber, Ellison, and Simmons again… I’m just going to stop at this point actually, because this is getting out of hand and we’re only scratching the surface.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Ha, this seems like some kind of a trick question, so I’m just going to give some kind of a trick answer. Both characters from Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (1989) for both answers.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think it’s great, and it only keeps getting better and better. Of course, there’s a little bit of shaky ground with the changes in the publishing world, some of which have let a flood of crap through the fiction gates, but on the opposite pole I think some of the most talented writers out there are rising up to the surface at this time—which means I had better get a lot freaking better and soon, because everything that rises must converge!
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Jeez… well, the last great book I read would have to be Italo Calvino’s If on a winter's night a traveller (1979), even though that has nothing really to do with horror. I’m not too sure about the last book I read that disappointed me. If something is crap I usually just don’t read it, and that way I’m never disappointed.
How would you describe your writing style?
Evolving. Simple as that.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Yes. The positive review for my occult Lovecraftian thriller novella “The Order” in the Dreaming in Darkness collection from Dr. Michael R. Collings really helped me to have a good day. Also Dark Eva’s review of the Monk Punk anthology I edited. All positive. I try and abstain from anything negative (yeah right).
What’s your favourite food?
Vegetarian. Although I socially eat meat.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
It changes over the years. At one point it would have been Carcass, at another Tupac Shakur, at another Jimi Hendrix, at another Tom Waits, at another Elvis Costello, at another Current 93, and at yet another Culture and Sizzla Kalonji. Currently I suspect it’s the German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
That one must keep doing it no matter what if one wishes to get any good at it; also, that editing a piece over and over again is key.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
That I must keep doing it no matter what if I wish to get any good at it; also, that editing a piece over and over again is key.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve certainly matured in my ideas and the themes I write about, and the tons of editing I do has helped my prose. I think at first I mainly imitated writers I liked, especially Barker and Lovecraft (that’s an odd combo, but along with King those are probably my biggest influences as a horror writer). I didn’t really have much to say. But, once I did start reading more, particularly on theological, philosophical, and spiritual subjects, the content of my writing became a lot more serious, I think. It is very good to discover that you might actually have something to say. That’s finally begun to happen with me.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
My first proper red pen experience came from Thomas Ligotti. Up to that point, I’d never actually scrapped anything I’d been working on completely and started over, but I’d heard so many other established writers claim to have done it. But I couldn’t foresee myself ever doing it. Throw the draft out and just begin again? Get real! But when Ligotti read in advance my article on him for the Weird Fiction & Film issue of Dark Discoveries (#20), his comments and marks were such that I realized I indeed had to throw the whole damn thing out and start again. I didn’t really have a choice, either; come on, this was from Thomas Ligotti. So I did it, I just opened a blank page and wrote a whole new article, utilizing Ligotti’s comments. The new version turned out so much better that Ligotti then sent me a note praising the issue and the article once the magazine had been published. That was a hard yet important lesson I had to learn: that sometimes you just need to go back to the drawing board.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favorite character from “The Stain” in The Chapman Books has to be the pigman. He is just such a weird and interesting creature, and his umbrella butterfly weapons basically came out of nowhere, and I think they’re super cool. I love it when bizarre and interesting things pop up in your story spontaneously, with little prior thought given to them.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Least favorite? Probably some of the side characters I’ve used in my stories. I find it difficult to make the characters who play lesser roles in my tales to seem as interesting and real as the main characters.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Let’s get this straight, since the Renaissance any person striving to be an artist is firstly and foremostly doing it for fame. It’s very unlikely that you will be paid very much, so you’d be better off getting a real job. However, once that fame starts to trickle in, it then takes business acumen to keep things rolling. And once you learn to keep things rolling, you’d better demand some respect for yourself for having accomplished the impossible, or otherwise it could just slip out of your reach.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my novella “The Order” in Dreaming in Darkness. “The Stain” in The Chapman Books is a close second.
And are there any pieces that you would like to forget about?
Yes! Many of them are scattered all over the Internet…
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book was The Chapman Books, a collection of shared-world novellas from myself, Erik T. Johnson, and Adam P. Lewis about some mysterious circumstances surrounding a family called Chapman, and based on some old manuscripts that Lewis found. The next book I’m working on is my single author collection Aberrations of Reality coming this summer from Crowded Quarantine Publications. CQP is putting out some amazing books recently so I’m very excited to be working with them. I will also be releasing on omnibus 2.0 edition of The Shadow of the Unknown and MonkPunk anthologies I edited combined into one book, featuring brand new stories from Richard Gavin, John R. Fultz, Stephen Mark Rainey and others. Hazardous Press is releasing the book sometime in the summer, as well.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
Are you currently in need of a literary agent?
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON AARON AND HIS BOOKS FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW
Amazon Author Page
It's dangerous to be a doctor... ...Or a member of the Chapman family in this collection of three loosely tied together tales of the macabre by authors Aaron J. French, Erik T. Johnson, and Adam P. Lewis. Aaron J. French starts this weird progression with "The Chapman Stain," a kind of horrorized version of the nature vs. nurture debate. Is it genetics or is it demonic possession? The story moves quickly, with hints of both A Christmas Carol and The Exorcist lending touchstones to the proceedings. The story's end is a heady blend of spiritualism and gore. Erik T. Johnson's "The Chapman Delirium" is a euphoric, phantasmagoric trippy trip through the world of a patent medicine called Etcetracaine. Johnson's writing is, as always, mind-bendingly good, with passages you will read, stop, read again, then curse yourself for not having written. And finally, the Chapman Family's bad luck runs its course in Adam P. Lewis' "The Chapman Remains," a horrific tale of revenant corpses and life-draining ghouls. Lewis manages a shivery Fall of the House of Usher feeling throughout, which gives this tale of grave disturbance and...well...grave disturbances a nice depth. "Interesting to see what three talented authors can do with a shared-world theme, The tales are different enough to hold your interest completely, but tethered enough to each other that they lend some deeper, more twisted meaning to their companion pieces. Highly recommended!" --- John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths
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