Interview with Keith Aaron Gilbert , Author of “Set In Stone”

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I like thinking of my writing in terms like “lush”. If you look at a writer like Hemingway, I am exactly not that. I throw in a declarative sentence every once in awhile, but I have yet in my life found anything so bare bones as a Hemingway novel. I want the reader to know everything about the old man’s hands and everything about the bloody rent flesh of the massive marlin, the beady eyes of the shark, the sound of the oars cracking and the sail snapping. If you like that minimalist prose I am not your guy. I love Hemingway, don’t get me wrong; I just don’t see the world like he wrote about it.

Do your novels carry a message?

God, I hope so. I am nothing if not filled with messages. I use my characters to put them out there. Life is a contradictory thing brimming with paradox and dichotomy; at least it seems so until writers unify it all in their protagonists.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

My first book, which I am not sure will ever see the light of day is called Peony Dassaflowa, and I poured every ounce of blood in my body into it. It might be good or it might be horrific. In my subsequent work, the romances and my current sci-fi project, I have learned to modulate the blood spigot; though I must admit, everything I know about love is in the romances. Every little thing.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

I think at the creamy center of all my work is something that happened to me in real life. If not as represented in the work, then as an emotion somewhere in the words.

How realistic are your books?

I believe every single word I write, every tear that falls, every yawp. Most people who know me understand that my connection to the “real” is only ever a gossamer strand.

What books have influenced your life the most?

So many books. I am a big Somerset Maugham fan. Of Human Bondage showed me the kind of writer I aspire to be. I didn’t get to that until after graduate school, though, so by then I was well tainted by the canon. My youth was filled with Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Chronicles of Amber, all the Dune books, The Werewolf Principle. I specialized in the later works of Shakespeare in graduate school. I have not forgotten a single book I have read. They are all in there. Walking on Glass by Ian Banks rocked my world.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue your readers?

I think so. The Set In Stone romances I just released have turned into something much more. I have decided to take that world and write a science fiction novel building on that tone and trajectory. I have set the new work seventy five years in the future, added interstellar travel, four pairs of lovers, more narcissists, more sociopaths, and plan on connecting the two series of books as I add sequels to the Set In Stone series. It all looks wonderful in my head. The readers will make the ultimate decision as to whether it works. The important thing, though, is that I have a good time.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

Nothing that I have ever written has anything at its core that is not dedicated to love. That sounds so much cheesier than I would have it, but there it is. There are hardly as many major themes out there as Comp 101 would have us believe. It is all about love, no matter what the literary blather in which they wrap it.

That is one of the reasons that I decided to write romances. The other is a love I have never forgotten. That love was more more powerful by orders of magnitude than the worst memory of my life. So, yeah. Love.

Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?

I am going to die at a desk working. I would rather die of a heart attack on a bicycle, but I am going to die trying to pay rent at a desk.

Was there a time you were unable to write, At All?

My marriage was a self-deprivation chamber. I had been a clueless empath to a compensatory narcissist. You don’t know unless you know; there is no way to know unless you know, and if you get out alive, then you know. I wrote a memoir about it called Just Sane Enough. It’s on Amazon, maybe under an old pen name, Stacey Scott Mae. It is a raw and wounded work. Anyway, my marriage was a lesson in a soul shriveling into a lava-rock. A soul like that can’t write: it just gasps for love like air.

Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?

Hah! I think The Set In Stone Series would make great movies. There is a scene in there where my female protagonist ponders who will play her in the movie. I thought it was clever. The scene is in Finding Forever, somewhere after the denouement and before the climax. My characters are thought-rich, with plush internal dialogues, which would be a challenge for the screen. I really like the way they do text messaging in the movies, now: like in the new Sherlock Holmes. I think it could work.

Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?

Good god, yes! First drafts of anything are always garbage. I dislike extra words. I am not against a liberal use of modifiers, but they all have to serve the purpose, to drive the plot or the prose. If my sentences don’t do that I smith them until they do or cut them.

Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?

My bubble is perpetual, it seems. I move people into or out of my bubble, but it is always there. It has been there since my decision to slough off and out of everything that was not me. I control the porosity of it, but I am no longer capable of functioning in society unprotected by my bubble.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

Tough question. I am a big movie fan. The first movie that I saw that I knew was adapted from a book was First Blood. The book was written by David Morrell. Sylvester Stallone played John Rambo and I was mesmerized by everything about it. On the other hand, when Jillian Anderson played the protagonist in House of Mirth, a Wharton novel, I was transported. And then there are the Jane Austen books/movies… Yum. I am a damned sucker for good period pieces. Also, I get ridiculous and weepy when I see acts of valor, of loyalty, and easily enraged when I witness their opposite. While that works well in literature, I find that cinema well-done punches things home in something I think is more visceral as opposed to the cerebral filter of the written word.