Aaron Michael Ritchey’s newest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, is now available. I sat down via the internet to find out more.
Congratulations on the new release. For those who have never read your books, what is Elizabeth’s Midnight?
It’s my third novel, and I’ve had some readers that say it’s like The Da Vinci Code for kids and teens. I don’t know about that, because yeah, there’s treasure hunting, but there’s more romance and less blasphemy. Actually, this is the first book I’ve published that doesn’t talk about God, atheism, or drug addiction. It’s also the first book I’ve written that is appropriate for the younger kids. I’ve had fourth graders read it and love it.
The book is about a shy, overweight sixteen-year-old girl who goes on a treasure hunt with her crazy grandmother who may or may not have fallen in love with a sorcerer-prince from another world during World War II. As the story progresses, the girl is forced to overcome her own self-doubt and fear to become the hero she never thought she could be. Oh, and there’s a cute French boy. Who doesn’t love a cute French boy?
Published recently, this book was released by your own Black Arrow Publishing. What spurred that decision?
I got the rights back for my first novel, The Never Prayer. My first publisher went under. Farewell, Crescent Moon Press. I thought about going to another press, but then I was kind of disenchanted with publishing as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I have a six-book series with another publisher, WordFire Press, but I guess I wanted to branch out, become a hybrid author, have more control, and have quick, up-to-date numbers. And get 100% of the royalties. My wife and I talked, and decided to open our own publishing company to do my stuff.
In this way, I get control over some of my projects, and I get the marketing arm of a publisher. Using both, I might maximize my revenue.
Did I just type those words? Oh my God. I’m so corporate. I got my rights back to my second novel, Long Live the Suicide King, and the small press that had Elizabeth’s Midnight was downsizing, so I bought my rights back for that book as well. We re-branded (thank you Natasha Brown, my cover designer) and so now I have control over my first three books. Hurray!
All three of your novels are stories about teenagers. What is it about that period of life that compels you?
I love a good character arc. And coming-of-age stories naturally play into a character arc. And I love having teens as readers. They get so excited about books!
My own adolescence was rocky. I had some of the best times of my life and some of the worst. Like bad. Like suicidally bad. Like don’t look. Fortunately or unfortunately, part of me will always be a teenager. I have the angst, the longing, the searching. That translates into my writing.
Your protagonists also deal with incredibly strong issues, such as dreams, family, and depression. What do you hope readers pull from your works that focus on such issues?
Life is hard. Being human is hard. We are both monkey and god. I’m drawn to stories with lots of conflict because there is meaning in the struggle. I’m slowly learning that I’m not your typical guy. Maybe this goes back to the angsty teenager part of me, but what other people find easy, I find really hard. Like sleeping. Or getting through the day. Or dealing with my own head. Again, this all gets filtered through me and into my books.
In some ways, I’ve lived a princely existence. In other ways, I’ve had it rough. Write what you know, or that’s what they say. So I write about addiction, suicide, family, Catholicism, depression, God, atheism, donuts, and the struggle.
Your stories also deal with real issues in fantastical circumstances. What is it about taking the trouble of everyday life into unordinary realms that excites you?
One of the themes in Elizabeth’s Midnight is finding adventure and beauty in this world. I’ve longed to visit other worlds–heck, I’d love to be a tour guide in Middle Earth, but this world, this life, has so much to offer. France really is like another realm. Just eat the cheese and tell me there’s not magic here on Earth.
I really like the idea of using speculative fiction elements to emphasize this world’s goodness and beauty. And I love science fiction and fantasy. In my heart of hearts, I want to write genre novels with literary themes. I love both so much.
What books, or movies, were some of your inspirations to write in such a way?
Elizabeth’s Midnight was inspired by the Terry Gilliam movie The Fisher King. I loved how there was blend of realism and fantasy in that movie. Also, I’m a huge fan of Twin Peaks—the show had this realistic setting, but then had this paranormal aspect to it. God, do I love David Lynch. I’m also a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other authors who use magic realism because stories don’t have to be factual to be true.
Maybe I spent too much time studying scripture and reading Greek mythology, but in the end, our language, our stories, are all metaphors. We can’t understand the world directly, but we can tell stories to try and figure out how to live and live meaningfully.
Dang, I’m all literary today. I’ll answer the next question with more of a focus on guns, cowboy, lots of guns.
What are you writing next?
The Juniper Wars! A six-book series young adult sci-fi/western from Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press with cowgirls, machineguns, and a post-apocalyptic cattle drive.
Yeah, what were The Hunger Games and Divergent missing? Cows.
And I know, “machine guns” should be two words, but I don’t like that. It’s machineguns for me, and I have a bunch of guns and action in The Juniper Wars. And it has all the things I love. You know that list I included above, about addiction, God, and all that? Add in an amoral priest and world-cracking clashes of epic proportions and you have The Juniper Wars.
The first book, Dandelion Iron, should hit in the fall of 2015. Out of all the books I’ve written, this series is EXACTLY what I like to write. It won’t be for everybody, no, but that’s okay.
The story is about three sisters on cattle drive to save their ranch in the year 2058. They come across a boy, and in my world, boys rare. Little do the sisters know that the boy has the future of the world in his pocket. And there’s an inhuman army who will stop at nothing to find him.
I have a prequel story for young adults on Wattpad. Here’s the link: http://www.wattpad.com/story/36787606-trapdoor-boy
And I have a novella called Armageddon Dimes for the more adult crowd that I’ll be emailing to my newsletter subscribers and to anyone who wants a taste of the world of The Juniper Wars.
If people want to connect with you, where can they find you?
I love the Facebook. You can find me under Aaron Michael Ritchey. I tweet, kind of, @AaronMRitchey. And I’ll be doing a monthly newsletter. Subscribe here!
I’m all over the U.S. at various sci-fi/fantasy conventions, but I love Mile-Hi Con and AnomalyCon here in Denver. I also do a ton of school visits. And I’ll be the Artist in Residence at the Anythink Library on Huron Street in Northglenn. So I’m around. And I love to chat with people.
Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, was called “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart” by Kirkus Reviews. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.