I’m delighted to have author Aaron Gansky with us today.
Sheri Yutzy: Hi Aaron, welcome to Made to Create! I’d like to get started by giving my readers a picture of who you are. So what does a normal writing day look like for you?
Aaron Gansky: That depends on a variety of things. I wear a lot of hats, so to speak. My day job is teaching, so summer looks vastly different than the school year. Typically, I’ll get up very early in the morning to make sure I can get all my goals for the day done. On a school day, I’ll get in to work early and hammer out a page or two. Then, after school, I’ll stay late and put a few more pages together. I try to balance it with my school work as much as possible. During the summer, writing is my top priority. I’m still up early to find a few quiet minutes to get my writing done before the chaos of the day ensues. We keep pretty busy over the summer. 🙂
SY: At the end of the day, what makes you want to get up and do it all again the next morning?
AG: Usually it’s a sense of excitement of finishing the scene I’m working on, or putting together the next scene. I’m a discovery writer, so I rarely know where a book is going until I write it. It’s that sense of wonder and possibility that drives me. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so I enjoy editing my work. When I’m revising my drafts, it’s a quest to really elevate my language and literary techniques. It’s where I get to show off a bit and flex my literary muscles, so to speak.
SY: It’s great to hear you’re still filled with wonder after writing several books. You started Firsts in Fiction, a podcast geared toward writers learning the craft. What inspired you to help other writers?
AG: I’ve always been a type of teacher. I enjoy sharing knowledge and challenging others to do better. I’d heard several other writing podcasts, and I appreciate the drive to develop and educate a community of writers who may not be able to afford going to school to get a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in the art. It’s my way of contributing to that community and fostering an encouraging community of writers.
SY: That is a great gift to the writing community. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read? (if your conscience will let you share.)
AG: I’ll probably get some grief for this, but there are several books I’ve not enjoyed. I don’t like throwing other writers under the bus (especially since many of them are more “successful” than am I). I’d rather say that I’ve never read the worst book I’ve ever read. I know early on if a book is for me or not, and if it’s not for me, I take a hard pass. I will say this, though: if you listen to the podcast, there are times where I will give examples of what NOT to do.
SY: That’s a good way to put it. I probably wouldn’t be able to answer either. Who do you look up to the most in the writing world?
AG: Bret Anthony Johnston. He’s the Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University, or he was for a time, not sure if he still holds the post. I took a class from him when I was at California State San Bernardino. He gave me many of the most practical, resounding writing advice I’ve ever received. He shaped how I read fiction, and how I write it.
SY: How has your writing shaped your relationship with God?
AG: A fine question. I think, to an extent, there’s an intimacy writers and artists share with God in the act of creation. I firmly believe that, as God created us, so we create others. That may be a painting on a canvas, or a sculpture, a song, or a novel. Either way, we understand God’s call to make things beautiful, but also to recognize the beauty in things others will miss. We pay attention to the natural world and to God’s people and to how they interact. For me, that’s an act of worship.
SY: I love that thought—to recognize beauty that other’s miss. What do you do to refresh your brain when writing doesn’t come easily?
AG: Music and poetry. For whatever reason, they get my creative juices going and challenge me to find new and unique ways to thread words together to make something artistic and memorable. Or I’ll read a craft book if I’m really struggling. I’ve got a stable of about five or six books I can pick up from my shelf at any moment and leaf through to find the one piece of advice that I need at the time. Flannery O’Connor’s On Mystery and Manners is pretty much gold from cover to cover. Every writer should have it on their shelf.
SY: I’ve been wanting to read Flannery O’Connor, so I’ll start with that. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It was a privilege to have you.
AG: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
In addition to being a loving father and husband, Aaron Gansky is an award-winning novelist, teacher, and podcast host.
His first novel The Bargain (2013, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a finalist for the Selah Award for debut novel. Two years later, The Book of Things to Come (2015, Brimstone Fiction), the first book in his Hand of Adonai YA Fantasy series, won the Selah Award for YA Fiction. He has written two books on the craft of fiction; Firsts in Fiction: First Lines and Write to Be Heard (with Diane Sherlock). To find out more about his books, click here.
As a Creative Writing teacher in California, he brings his expertise on the craft to several writing conferences around America where he speaks on a variety of topics. To learn more about his teaching, or to request him as faculty at your next writing convention, click here.
In 2013 he began his Firsts in Fiction Podcast with Steve McLain. Shortly after, Heather Luby joined the line up. Lately, he chats with his father, novelist Alton Gansky, about elements of the craft . Each week they dispense practical, in-depth analyses of how to write powerful fiction. To find out more about the cast, click here.