Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Gordon Aalborg: author

Canadian author Gordon Aalborg agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his past and present life as a romance and crime fiction writer.

When someone asks you what kind of book do you write? What’s your answer?
(The famous elevator speech)

Mysteries, romance ... whatever will pay the bills and/or satisfy my need to be a storyteller - which is an honorable profession, historically.

When did you know you were going to be a mystery writer?
When I finished my second mystery, DINING WITH DEVILS, and realised that despite how hard it was, I could actually *do* this.

Tell us a little bit about your family background.
Oldest of two children, born in Canada, went to Australia in the '70s, came back in 2000. Reading was always important in our house, and Xmas wasn't Xmas without book gifts!

What is your educational background?
Finished high school. Got into journalism at age 22, still there 40+ years later.

Talk a bit about your present family situation.
Married to fellow mystery (and romance) author Denise Dietz, whose influence doubtless had something to do with me switching from writing romance to writing mysteries. We actually did one book together, sort of. It ( FINDING BESS) came out as a sort of romantic suspense, complicated by the fact that we wrote it via email with me in Tasmania and her in Colorado. Good book, but she kept wanting to kill people off and I kept wanting to get them in the sack together. I won. Or she did - we ended up moving to Canada and getting married, partly as a result of that book. :-)

What did you read as a child?
Anything and everything. Mostly animal stories, westerns, sci-fi. I had to get a letter from my mother to get me into the *adult* section of the library at the age of 9, just so I could read Max Brand and Zane Grey ... among others. And you'd be surprised just how salacious some of those early westerns really were.

What’s your daily routine when you aren’t touring?
Get up, have coffee, brekkie, off to computer ... except when the garden or carving studio beckons and the weather's good. I do hate staring at a computer screen when a good day calls with an excuse to avoid the work.

How much touring do you do?
As little as possible. I am like old wine - I no longer travel well. Deni, by comparison, is a mystery conference fanatic and tries to attend all we can manage. Maybe just trying to buy a bit of breathing space from me? :-)

What surprised you most about the writing community once you became a part of it?
I once (being a hopeless romantic) actually believed there were people in the industry who genuinely *cared* about writing and books and *story* and stuff like that. There are - they're called writers. Everything else is run by bean-counters who read nothing that doesn't involve balance sheets and bottom lines. When I met my first romance editor, back in the '80s, I was gob-smacked to hear her casually refer to "the page 18 dinner." Now, of course, I have become grudgingly accepting of the concept that publishing is a business, like any other business, and profit is all that *really* matters - except to the writers, of course.

What’s the hardest thing about being an author?
Somebody once said it is a profession that only gets harder the better you become. I agree. And, coming out of the *write it today, read it tomorrow* culture of conventional journalism, I found it difficult (and still do) to maintain enthusiasm for a book that I've half-forgotten (having written a new one in the interim) by the time I actually see it in print.

Let’s talk about promotion and marketing.

Do you blog? How frequently? Is your blog a group or single effort?
I contribute to "Hey, there's a dead guy in the living room"
- Jeff Cohen's blog, but only infrequently. To be perfectly candid, I am still unsure if there is any real value in blogging and/or if it will even persist over time. Books (he said, hopefully) are forever.

How frequently do you organize or participate in book tours?
Never, if given the choice. Unless somebody else is paying, which seldom happens.

What kind of events or signings do you do?
The occasional library event (I am a huge fan of libraries!).

In a typical year, how many times did you appear for your book?
Not many. Preferably none. I'm lucky enough to have Deni to be publicity maven for the family, because I am hopeless at it.

How many fan conferences such as Bouchercon will you typically attend in a year?
None, with luck. I am not a conference person and I sleep with the only fan I think I have.

Any specific recommendations?
They are all good if you like that sort of thing. I would think about ThrillerFest if I had the time and energy.

Do you have a web site and/ or other Internet places you routinely participate in, such as Good Books or Face Book or Twitter?
Not really.

Do you like to travel?
Not anymore. Not afraid of flying or anything, but the nonsense of wasting hours and hours in airports being frisked and treated like a geriatric terrorist or public nuisance isn't worth the effort. To me. Also, no matter where I visit, after three days all I really want is to get home to *my own* comfort zone. Maybe I'm getting old?

What surprised you the most when you became a published author?
At the height of my romance writing career, when it was still the stated principle that no man could write romances (and I was living on a hobby farm in Tasmania with neighbors who were *real* farmers) and I had no available peers and not much moral support -- this is before the internet provided such wonderful, instant networking for authors -- I recall getting a pretty damned-fine-splendid check and wondering, "Is this all there is to this business?" Because I'm a *real* romantic ... to me the *story* is everything. And of course I was writing under a female pseudonym! So what I had was money without recognition, without prestige, without ... significance. I went to an RWA conference once and was warned by my editor: "Keep your head down and your mouth shut and remember you don't exist."

Do you think you’ll change direction or spread out a bit? Write a different kind of crime novel? If so, what kind.?
If I live long enough, I may yet write the Great Canadian Novel. Do not hold thy splendid breath.

Especially since 9/11, how do you respond to the accusation that you are trying to make money on a phenomenon in society we call murder? Or heinous crime?
Can you spell NONSENSE?

If you could be anything else in the world, have any other career, what would it be?
Some other form of storytelling. It's about all I'm good at, except maybe editing.

What career would you least like to do, if writing was to become impossible?
Telemarketing. I would sell my body in the streets, first.

Have you ever collaborated on a novel? Would you consider it?
I think I answered this earlier.

Who are the authors who you feel have had the most influence on your writing career.
Too many to count. John D. MacDonald might have been the earlier, mystery-wise. Edgar Rice Burroughs had a world-class imagination but wasn't perhaps the greatest writer of his generation. Still ... imagination is the keystone.

Tell us one or two authors or books you absolutely universally recommend.
Carol O'Connell, Jeffrey Deaver, John Sandford, James Lee Burke.

Who is your favorite mystery author?
Any and all of the above. Deaver is the master when it comes to unexpected twists. He leads the reader into thinking X will happen or A is the bad guy, then seamlessly (and perfectly) does a u-turn to reveal that what's really happening is Y and B is the bad guy.

Where do you want your career to go?
Forward, upward, onward, somewhere.

To what organizations related to your writing career do you belong?
International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada,

Who is your publisher? What’s your current book?
Five Star, a division of Cengage Learning. "DINING WITH DEVILS - A Tasmanian Thriller."

Are you agented?
Been there, done that, didn't get a t-shirt, got no satisfaction, either. There are, of course, excellent agents, but without getting into stereotypes or anything I would mention words like parasite, tapeworm, fleas, lice, leeches, et al.

What’s your take on the rise of electronic publishing?
Damned good thing.

What’s your favorite word?
"Bugger-bugger," as used in Australia to mean, "Oh my goodness gracious Aunt Matilda."

What’s your least favorite word?
Not for your tender, virgin, shell-like ears. Today, actually, it is *Customs* - as in the governmental, bureaucratic insanity that insists on a pound of flesh just so I can actually *see* the author copies of my own book!

If you could change one thing about the world what would that be?
The insanity caused by organised religion, which is responsible for more misery and war in the name of peace than I find possible to imagine.

Do you have any pithy (or other) words of advice for aspiring authors?
No sense to this. Writers *will* be writers if they are fated to be, and usually don't listen to any opposition and/or common sense on the subject.

Tell us about your upcoming book or other project.
I am tip-toeing gently into a third Tassie thriller, but I've been away nearly ten years, now and it is ... difficult. Fortunately, the alternatives are mostly even more difficult. "Real" work? Telemarketing? Ugh! Better to write ... write anything, tell stories, even lie a bit if necessary. LOL

Mr. Aalborg’s novels, including “Cat Tracks,” “The Specialist” and “Dining with the Devil,” (coming soon) are available in various bookstores in Canada and the US.

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