2014 Snapshot Archive: Pete Aldin

First published at David McDonald’s blog.

Pete Aldin lives in the burbs of Melbourne, Australia. His professional life is spent helping people make major life decisions and re-training people for the workforce. His private life is spent making things up.

His short stories have haunted the pages of many a magazine and anthology including Niteblade,Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, A is for Apocalypse and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. As a father himself, he has written for several parenting magazines.

He is a rabid Chelsea FC supporter, he wastes countless hours playing FIFA games on xBox and he makes a reasonable stir fry. He can often be found lurking in the shadows at www.petealdin.com.

You’ve built up a strong list of short fiction credits (including a pro sale to Intergalactic Medicine Show). What inspired you to start writing? Who are your influences?

As a teenager, I discovered Asimov’s robot tales, Narnia, space operas and believe it or notCatweazle(!) – and I dreamed of writing a book, bringing other people the same joy I’d felt.

I let that dream die in my late 20s with dozens of novel projects started and never completed, believing it was “dumb” and an unworthy expenditure of my time and attention. Late in my 30s, I began writing non-fiction articles for management and parenting magazines, as well as blogging in a community of Dad Bloggers. I had so much positive feedback, I figured, “Maybe Iam a writer.” Then the experience of holding a glossy paper magazine with my name and my words in it sealed the deal. I was turning 40, I’d had a good idea for a novel since 1994 and I thought “If not now, when?”

Influences: Stephen King, Raymond E Feist, Martin Cruz Smith, Harry Harrison (his Rat series) and a bunch of less-successful authors whose names I could no longer tell you. But these authors taught me about style, about maintaining a dark edge, about the art of humour in hard fiction and about poignancy. I love to make people feel  something as they read my work. I was particularly stoked when a beta reader told me she read one of my action scenes late at night and was so hopped up on adrenaline, she couldn’t sleep that night! I’m drawn to writers like that, who play with style and with emotions, who write complexity.

Congratulations on the sale of your novel to Clan Destine Press! Could you tell us a bit about the book, and the journey to finding a home for it?

Thank you! Wow, the journey. The journey. Well, I started Eventide in 1994 (or made a series of false starts, I should say, between then and ’95), then left the opening 3 chapters in a drawer until I turned 40 in 2006. It took me three years then to write and edit it. Just as I was completing it, James Cameron’s Avatar came out in cinemas, and I had to do yet another round of edits because he had used many of the same names and even the same scene(!) as I had in my novel. A month or two later, I was happy with it and started querying publishers and agents.

Two agents wrote back in the 12 months following, saying they were very interested, but at 180 thousand words (say 650 pages in a paperback) it was wayyyy too long for a first time author and could I cut it back to 100,000 words? I said, No, but thanks and put the book aside to start working on two different novels, planning them to that 100 thousand word mark.

I met Lindy Cameron at the Melbourne Continuum con mid-2013 and pitched her the idea (badly). She was gracious and asked me to send a sample and a synopsis. She got back to me and said, “Love the idea. But way too long. Can you cut it down to 130k?” Over the next three months (with some expert and serendipitous advice from Cat Sparks) I got it down to 149, 000 without ruining the story. Still too long for any publisher to risk with a paper book, but Clan Destine read it, loved it and said they would publish it as an eBook with the possibility of a hard copy print down further down the track. And I was one very happy writer!

My blurb for the book follows (though Clan Destine may well change this upon publishing it in 2015, because it could certainly do with fresh eyes!):

Corporate military cop John Ryder thought he had a deal going with his employers, one that meant he’d never do planets. Apparently he was wrong.

With the recent arrest of a serial killer to his credit, Ryder finds himself the victim of his own success when he’s sent to solve the murder of a Marine at a research facility on a classified world. Twenty years living in space – where things are clean, orderly and techno-chic, where advanced forensics make solving crime simple – haven’t prepared him for an investigation amidst the mud, dank heat and chaos of an unsettled planet.

In this place where the indigenous stone-age Jarinyi are the ancient guardians of a wonder-drug sought by Ryder’s corporate masters, he becomes increasingly aware that the role his bosses have cast him in is spin-doctor … and becomes ever more compelled to pursue the truth. Assisted only by a military policewoman whose deeply religious nature and resemblance to Ryder’s dead lover cause him an increasingly uncomfortable attraction, his inquiry is obstructed by a smarmy anthropologist siding with the locals, a scheming Lieutenant with a hidden agenda and a drug-addicted and sadistic commando whose psychosis is fast spiraling out of control.

What’s next for Pete Aldin?

Another novel (a fifth novel project) after I’ve completed my current werewolf one in a month or so: this new one’s a Buddy Story set post-apocalypse. I have loved post-apocalyptic tales since I saw the Omega Man at about age 15. I’ve toyed with a few short stories, had a couple published, but the entire full-length story for this novel downloaded itself into my brain about a week ago and has been clawing its way out onto paper ever since.

I’m also enjoying writing for Rhonda Parrish’s series of anthologies A is for Apocalypse (out later this month), B is for Broken, etc. Still working on my fantasy short story for B. Apart from that, I’m putting short stories to rest as I need to focus on telling longer tales…

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Heaps of them. Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers is simply the best epic fantasy I’ve ever read, and I’m horribly slack in getting around to the sequel. Meanwhile I’m halfway through Jason Frank’s Bloody Waters which is a charming read. Earlier this year I enjoyed A New Kind of Death by Alison Goodman (5 star thriller). The opening and closing stories in the Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land anthology were sheer genius (aw shucks -Ed), as were all the stories in Surviving the End. Also SM Johnstone’s Sleeper was a very tight and punchy YA novel I read very early this year – that’s worth a look for teenagers, especially girls.

The standout for me at the moment is the historical drama I’m 50 pages off finishing calledBurial Rites. I mentioned earlier that I love poignancy in books I read. This book is so emotional, that I find myself quite choked up and even angry at times. It depicts a sad 19th Century world that is cruel to the people in it. And the prose is to die for.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I am one of those people who vowed never to read eBooks…and who now owns a Kindle with about 50 books on it. From time to time, I’ll continue to buy eBooks when they’re problematic to pick up in a local store or when eBook is the only option available (as it will be with my own novel next year!) But I’m a big believer in both paper books (which become treasured artefacts) and buying from local bookstores.

I think the opportunities for emerging writers like myself into the near future include both epublishing and small press. With both, there is the chance to not become stuck in a rut or labelled: for instance, I had never considered the option of writing novellas until recently, since these are more attractive to both small publishing houses and are easier to create and market if an author self-publishes. This has meant I now have rough outlines/ideas for three novellas sitting in my “Maybe” folder in my office.

I think it’s a larger world for authors now, but with bookstores on the decline, it’s a tougher one for readers to find some of the new gold that’s out there.

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