Author Interview: Aya Walksfar

Today I’m interviewing Aya Walksfar, who enjoys writing mysteries and thrillers. In fact, I’ve downloaded a sample of her novella “Of Dead Men and Cats”, so you may be seeing a review from me if I find it appealing. You can find out more about Aya on Goodreads here:

1.  What do you like about writing?

For me, writing is about inviting people into my particular reality, sharing with them a special part of myself. I like sharing, but even more so, I like the fact that I can bring someone a few moments of relaxation, of contemplation, of adventure before they have to charge back out into the world.

I love studying people, finding out what makes them do what they do, and then setting up realities where my characters act out the insights and questions that I have about people. It is such a learning process.

I love having someone come up to me and say: I never thought of this-or-that, but when I read your book…..   In my first edition of Good Intentions (second edition coming soon!) I wrote about a young woman discovering family secrets. I had a number of young men and women who read the book and talked to me afterwards, who told me that the book helped them to feel not so alone, like they could get through their family “secrets and issues”. That made all the hours of writing that book more than worth it.

2.  There seems to be more GLBT thrillers and mysteries out there. Why do you think that is?

The closet door has been blown off. We are no longer changing the orientation of our main characters so our books can find a wider audience. GLBT people, like black people, have spent decades–and more–reading about characters that don’t resemble the people they are, or the people they know. But if an author wanted acceptance on a wider, more general level, then the main character needed to be heterosexual. (Except of course in the case of Rita Mae Brown! That woman rocks!)
If you kept your main character as a gay man or lesbian woman, the book was shelved in the “special GLBT section”, and many people never went to that special section, especially when they were looking for mysteries and thrillers.

Nowadays, you are more likely to find those mysteries and thrillers out with the mainstream books. A main character who is GLBT no longer relegates the author’s work to a back corner of the bookstores.

3.  What made you want to write a thriller/mystery?

I love reading mysteries. What I most like about mysteries is how the people who are solving the crime can change and grow through the process of finding the killer. Crime changes not only the victims, but also those people charged with bringing the killer to justice.

I wanted to have a good solid mystery with the twist of being character driven rather than plot driven. Too many mysteries have nearly interchangeable characters: big, tough, smart mouthed, strong, great looking, usually heterosexual…you know the types. I wanted to write a mystery where the characters were every bit as important as the plot, and were unique individuals who impact the process with their own personalities.

4.  Tell me about your latest book.

Dead Men and Cats is a mystery novella. For me, there is a contract with my readers that says I need to deliver an entertaining story FIRST; everything else that I attempt to do with the book has to be secondary to that obligation. The book, Dead Men and Cats, follows the twists and turns of how a hate crime is born, so to speak, and how that impacts an entire island community.

5.  Who is your favorite writer, and why?

I have a confession: I am a voracious reader. I love mysteries, paranormal romance, vampire novels, literary works, and a whole host of others. That makes choosing a favorite writer rather difficult.

However, with that said, I think my favorite author at this time is Ruby Standing Deer. Ruby, the author of “Circles” and “Spirals”, has crafted a series of novels–each one can be read alone but are really better read in sequence–that transports the reader into an entirely different culture, and time. These books are fascinating, and spiritual, not in the religious way but in the uplifting and reconnecting of the human spirit to life way. She has accomplished this without sex or excessive violence.

6.  What are you working on next?

I am working on bringing out a couple of books while I am writing the second book of the Special Crimes Team series.

Good Intentions, second edition, explores the impact of family secrets on a young woman. The story is told through multiple viewpoints around a central character (who is not the protagonist). Every viewpoint while revealing a tidbit about the central character, actually exposes the person who is talking about the central character. As our young woman continues to dig into the family secrets, she learns that people she thought she knew, are not what she thought they were.

The second edition of this book is being brought out by my publisher, Mountain Springs House in the next few weeks.

Sketch of a Murder is the first book of a series of detective based mysteries. The detectives are part of the Special Crimes Team. This team is comprised of misfits and loners who have overstepped the “line” with a superior and consequently have gotten assigned to the Siberia of Law Enforcement–SCT, pronounced SCaT. A serial killer is targeting wealthy, prominent men, but can the leaders of SCaT set aside their differences to catch the murderer before an innocent man dies? This novel comes out later this month.

I am currently, also at work on the second book of the Special Crimes Team series: Street Harvest.

Two men, tortured to death. Two children, raped and manually strangled. Street kids disappearing. Separate cases, or so the Special Crimes Team thought, until an elderly black woman insists they are all connected.

7.  What makes a good protagonist?

Complexity that is logical. What I mean is the character needs to have a three-dimensional life, a reader needs to ‘feel’ a back story in that character’s life. And, that complexity needs to be logical, every action, word and thought needs to follow in a logical manner. Why does Sergeant Nita Slowater hate reporters? That hate is part of the complexity of who she is, but it has to have a reason for being.  Why is Lieutenant Williams so against having a female as his second-in-command? Why does Officer Mulder act like he hates everyone equally? Now, none of these things have to do with solving the crimes, directly, but they impact how the characters react and interact which makes the story real.

If a protagonist is always tough, smart mouthed, and so forth, yet the reader isn’t given a feel for why they are this way, then the character becomes a cardboard cutout being moved by the writer and used simply as a device. The reader can’t develop a relationship with that character.

When I read, I want to be drawn into a protagonist’s life, feel the joys, and sorrows, and know there is a logical reason behind them.

8.  What advice do you have for new writers?

Read, write, then read some more. Don’t make a list of reasons you can’t write, just sit at the computer, or in front of the blank tablet page, until the words start appearing. Don’t edit while writing the story or you may never get beyond the first chapter. Have people who are willing to be brutally honest about your work, give you feedback. Develop a tough skin. This is a craft. My books are not my children, they are part of my developing craft. The only way to learn is to hear the bad (and the ugly) along with the good.

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