I’ve eagerly awaited work from Aida Brassington and was thrilled to learn that she’s released her first novel, Between Seasons. I currently have my grubby little hands on it, and I can’t wait to dig right in.
Aida was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book, her writing process, and her affection for kilts. Read on and learn why I’m such a fan. Be sure to read on to the end, where you’ll learn how to win a copy of Between Seasons!
As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”
Between Seasons tells the story of Patrick Boyle, a 19-year-old man who dies in 1970 and becomes trapped in his childhood home. His parents take off, and forty years later a young woman moves in.
Here’s the official blurb:
There are things Patrick Boyle will never forget: the sound of his own neck breaking at the moment of his death in the fall of 1970, the sweet taste of his mother’s chocolate cake, and the awful day his parents abandoned him in his childhood house-turned prison.
Nineteen-year-old Patrick wonders for decades if God has forgotten all about him or if he’s being punished for some terrible crime or sin over a lovely forty years trapped in an empty home. But when Sara Oswald, a strange woman with a mysterious past, buys his house, old feelings reawaken, and a new optimism convinces him that she’s the answer to his prayers.
Things are never simple, though, especially when she begins channeling the memories of his life and death in her writing.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? Can you tell us about it?
I had an imaginary friend when I was a kid, like when I was three or four – her name was Mona. While I don’t remember writing it, my mother still has pictures I drew of my family and Mona, including one on which I wrote a really bizarre short story (think flash fiction) about Mona and I going on a hay ride.
Do you prefer plaid or stripes?
Plaid, but only because I really like kilts.
Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before?
Like most writers, I want the fantasy: the literary agent, the traditional publishing deal, being able to walk into a Barnes & Noble and buy my novel right off a shelf. With the closing of Borders and print novel sales shrinking, agents are more and more nervous about taking on anything they aren’t 99.9% sure they can sell. So while independent publishing isn’t something I’ve always dreamed off, it’s becoming more and more of a reality for those of us with stories to tell. The success of indie authors demonstrates that agents and traditional publishers don’t necessarily know what people want to read – playing it safe in the publishing industry is the equivalent of cranking out nothing but remakes in the film industry: people get bored and want something truly new.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I am! I just began the follow-up novel to Between Seasons, and I just finished a project for National Novel Writing Month (a YA horror novel).
Do you have any rituals before writing? Music or silence? Coffee or tea? Twizzlers or M&Ms?
I tend to write sitting on my couch with the television on and my computer on my lap. For Between Seasons, I liked to listen to music since it’s such a big part of the novel – the music Patrick loved in 1970 as well as more modern music that Sara would have listened to in 2011.
Have you ever based a character on someone you know?
Absolutely! What writer hasn’t? Sara’s sister Julie is based on a woman I used to work with, and bits and pieces of Patrick and Sara are pulled from other people in my life.
What color is your umbrella?
Red and white alternating panels.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I have two: Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving. It makes sense since Irving considers Vonnegut a mentor, and I appreciate the way both of them handle language, plotting, and humor.
What was the last book you read?
I recently finished German For Travelers by Norah Labiner, which is a great novel put out by Coffeehouse Press.
Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research? Or do you make up entire settings in your head?
I tend to include locations I’ve been to – Between Seasons is set in Media, Pennsylvania, which is a small town not far from where I live. However, some of the novel takes place in a mental institution, which is somewhere (surprisingly) I’ve not been. I had to rely on the kindness of friends to get solid information about that experience.
After the last word is written, then what? Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over? Do you begin query letters immediately?
I’m anal retentive about getting feedback. After each chapter I write, it goes to a group of four people (some writers, some editors, some readers with a keen eye) who tear it apart. I revise based on their feedback and then it goes to my critique partner (an older man who writers really great mysteries), who also tears it apart. After that I feel reasonably happy with the outcome, but it goes to a few people who read just for reaction. And then I usually sit on a novel for another month or two before giving it another read and after more revision, then I start the query process.
What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?
Oooo, let’s see. I listened to “Slip Away” by Clarence Carter a lot during the early days of Patrick and Sara’s relationship, but I think the official song that’s perfect for Between Seasons is “Through Glass” by Stone Sour.
Where can people find your book?
Can we read a little excerpt?
To set this up, Patrick has died, and we get his thoughts on his wake:
“Yes, he had such a bright future.” His high school shop teacher stood by his aunt’s side, giving her the eye.
“I can’t believe you’re trying to get lucky at my wake, man.” Patrick chuckled and moved away, gravitating toward Ginny and her parents. He couldn’t believe what people were saying about him – hearing all about what a good guy he was, how generous he’d been, how kind and giving. Most of these people had barely known him. Dying transformed him into a hero, apparently, although that shouldn’t have surprised him – he’d been to a funeral or two, and no one ever said anything shitty about the person who’d kicked the bucket.
When the old guy down the street had a heart attack, Patrick’s mother had dragged him to the viewing. The man had been a real jerk, chasing kids off his lawn and stealing newspapers off his neighbors’ porches, but everyone had gone on and on about what a saint the guy’d been.
Ginny’s parents were deep in discussion about picking up milk on the way home, but Ginny’s lips clamped into a firm, white line. She looked upset, and even though Patrick thought this whole wake scene was idiotic, he was glad at least one person who really knew him – other than his parents – was sad he was gone. Well, not gone… dead.
“I have to visit the bathroom,” Ginny muttered, heading toward the stairs. Patrick followed, Ginny’s brown dress swishing around her legs as she climbed, and she immediately turned into his bedroom instead of the bathroom.
“Patrick?” she whispered, startling him.
“Ginny?” He moved closer, sinking fingers in her shoulder. She wrapped her arms across her chest, shuddering and staring out the window. “Hey, can you hear me?”
She crossed herself and continued to stare at the yard below. “I can’t believe you’re dead.”
“I can’t believe I’m dead, either. It kind of sucks.” He wished she would open the window so he could jump through. Wait. What would it matter? He’d just toss himself out of it – he could move through the glass and screens, no problem.
A lone tear traversed the slope of Ginny’s cheek, and she allowed it to roll to her chin before she wiped it away with the back of her hand. Patrick moved around and sat on his bed – all the crying was killing him. It was such a drag, and it made him feel bad for dying. It was definitely a buzz kill to his idea about trying the window – he couldn’t let Ginny cry by herself.
“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,” she mumbled, touching the glass. Patrick’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. What was that from? “If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.”
It came to him in a few moments. “Nice.” He snorted in amusement. “Seeing me off with some Whitman. I hear it’s better than the mass during my funeral – Andy said it was like cats squealing or something when the soloist sang.”
To enter, simply leave a comment. The contest will close on Friday at 11:59 pm CST. At that time, all names will be dropped into a hat and an impartial third party (my 11-year-old nephew) will draw for the winner. The winner will then be announced here on the site, on my Twitter account, and on Aida’s Twitter account. In the event that we do not hear from the winner within twenty-four hours, another winner will be drawn. Just in case, it’s a good idea to follow both of us so you don’t miss out!