Thursday, February 25, 2016

Author Spotlight with Aaron Dunbar

Introducing the AWESOME author of A Wish for Giants Aaron Dunbar 

Aaron was born in the small western town of Kittanning PA. When he was 2 his family moved to another town about an hour north where he lived for the next 30 years or so. After his grandparents' passing he moved back to his family's original farm just a couple miles outside Kittanning. Fun fact: Kittanning was the site of filming for "The Mothman Prophecies" in 2000, staring Richard Gere. Also, a 15 minute drive from the old funeral home where some scenes for "Silence of the lambs" was filmed.

He was married in 2002, has 2 boys, 10 & 13 and a step daughter who is now 21. His wife is his biggest supporter AND critic when it comes to writing. "I'm told I have a gift of creativity; however, such a talent sometimes impairs one's ability to follow rules. SO, while I write cool stories with east--punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure often suffer. Thankfully, I'm married to someone who got A's in English."

At age 10, he wrote his first book, "Snowbeast" which was typed on an old typewriter and the covers were made from cardboard and fabric soaked in some starch solution his mother mixed up. "I'd say writing is the single most ambition I've had from day one. Despite my lingering tendency for misspelled words, out of place commas and shoddy sentence structure, I did actually minor in English writing in undergrad. The rest of my formal education includes major in Psychology then I went on to earn a masters degree in secondary ed counseling (M.Ed)"

After a short stint working at a community mental health center, he decided it just wasn't for him. He loved counseling teens, but had some apprehensions of their penchant to medicate children and the pay generally afforded to social services was hardly sufficient. Now he makes a living by...a markedly different interest altogether...Landscape Architecture. There was also a transitional event, after being fed up with status quo mental health, he decided to buy a bar. It was a 100 year old landmark hotel with a dark past, and--you guessed it--it was what some would call "haunted". "That'll be a subject for a future novel.  Let's just say I've acquired a spirituality from it&#X1f60a." In addition to writing, he loves to build things. Mostly backyard paradise kinds of things--in ground pools, waterfalls, gazebos, ponds, retaining walls. He gives credit to the old Hotel that was in disrepair when he bought it, so he learned quickly how to DIY.

So, now that he has written his second book to be published, "A Wish for Giants," his aspiration are to retire as an author. "From what I can tell, marketing is the key to success so I'm always open to suggestions."

Watch the Book Trailer for A GIFT FOR GIANTS

Favorite Book/ Book that inspires you: 
The keyword here is "inspires" so I would have to go with the Bible, although I often fail miserably when compared to its ideals. Now, as far as reading for pleasure or entertainment, I have to say I'm drawn to all things Bigfoot--whether fictional or non.

Favorite Fictional Character:
Oh wow--I have lots! Sadly, for a man of my age, most are Marvel Superheroes. My wife bought me a birthday cake one year and had the bakery print the Hulk on it--the woman asked her how old her son was...#Reality

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Anything but a grown up! While my career objectives changed several times throughout childhood and on through college, the common thread I would have to say is that I always loved to write stories. Perhaps giving away my age, but the typewriter was my favorite toy from about 4th grade on. 

How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite and Why?
Not counting "Snowbeast" which I wrote in 5th grade using an old typewriter and fabricated the covers myself...TO DATE, I've written 3 novels. "Nostalgia" "A Wish for Giants" and "Isaka". The first 2 are published and available. "Isaka" is still in the editing process. Of those, I'd say Isaka is my favorite. It's a tale I built from a dream I had when I was about 14. Seldom does a single night time dream remain with a person throughout middle age and yet it does. I'd go deeper with my explanation but I don't want to risk giving away the story line before the book is published.

Your Current Read:
Not currently reading anything right now. Perhaps I could be tempted by fellow authors  

Besides writing, I'm a movie fanatic who's typically drawn to paranormal genres--especially if they claim to be "based on actual events". I also like to build things when the mood hits me--all sorts of things from helping my son build a bionic arm or laser to adding a new structure to our backyard paradise for my wife to paint. I'm also a workout junkie with a semi-health conscious diet. 

Who inspires you?
That's a difficult question to answer. I'm inspired daily by different people. Overall, I'd say I'm most inspired by those who I perceive to have already accomplished those goals which I've set for myself. 

If you could spend a day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Myself--when I was younger. I'd like to have a father/son kind of talk with my younger self. Tell that kid to straighten up and not do some of the things he's some of things he didn't do...not be so afraid of taking risks like he often was.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I was told I'm a good drawer. I'm also artistic in that I can visualize something then make it happen. For a living I build back yard paradise sorts of things: Gazebos, retaining walls, ponds, waterfalls, in ground pools, various culturally themed structures. Creativity has been my best friend in the work world. I love looking at a barren yard like a blank canvas on which many cool ideas can be brought to life. Most of my clients have an idea what they want but rely on my suggestions to materialize their thoughts. I really enjoy doing that and feel I've been blessed with this talent.

Things you keep at your desk:
Since my desk is simply my laptop at the breakfast table--a glass of ice water and perhaps a snack. My car keys as well, because my zip drive is on the keychain--it contains all my novels and photos to date. It's called "Gorilla drive", claiming to be water proof, etc. Not a bad way to spend $12 at Staples.

How long have you been writing and what initially inspired you to write?
Since 5th grade, I can't really explain why but I've always been fascinated by the concept of writing a book. With the wonderful inventions of such things as computers and "word" my interest has found a great atmosphere in which to thrive. I guess it's the freedom to create a setting and characters that do exactly what I want....what's that word--expression? When I'm zoned into writing mode, I live in that world and have an almost personal connection to the characters. For me, this is better than any exotic vacation.

What’s your cure for Writer’s block?
Close the laptop and go do something physical--some cardio or weightlifting, perhaps. Other options would be to drive to the mall and walk around--you never know who you might run into. Sometimes that stranger you hold the door for could inspire a new thought or direction for your writing with something as simple as a smile. I'm a socialite so being around people is a rich environment for ideas...watching them converse or interact while imagining how I'd convey what I see to a reader. So many times I steal physical or behavioral qualities from people I encounter in everyday life and project them onto characters.

What motivated you to write A WISH FOR GIANTS?
A Wish for Giants was written for the purpose of raising money for Make-A-Wish. I took 2 otherwise unrelated interests and merged them into a novel. As a long time Bigfoot researcher, I've always wanted to pen a novel about the big hairy guy. As a person who loves to help others, Make-A-Wish is one of my favorite causes. I contacted Make-A-Wish late in the spring of 2015 an asked for permission to use their name as a basis for my novel. They chuckled at the notion of adding Bigfoot to the mix but after consulting their national office they approved my request.

How long did it take you to write A WISH FOR GIANTS?
I began writing in May--the final edits were completed and proof was in hand by December.

How did you come up with the title?
It just seemed natural to name my novel what I was a child's wish to meet a Sasquatch.

Can you briefly share with aspiring writers your publishing process?
Create space is a wonderful tool. My wife is much more computer savvy than me so she pioneered us through the publication of "Nostalgia" after a bad experience with a publisher a year earlier. Once you've done it, it's like riding the proverbial bicycle. The steps are so well explained even I can do it. They give you a preview to see exactly how your work will appear on each page. There are lots of editing tools as well. Once you're satisfied you can order a proof copy to be sent to your house and go over--sometimes this is the best way to find small errors. There's no time pressure, take as long as you need to change anything you're not completely thrilled with. As far as I know, there's no limit of times you can go back and edit...until you submit the final version. Believe me, it can be frustrating when you think you're done (after 19 or so edits) then find that one period where it shouldn't be or a space where there should be a letter...for a cool $3k or so you can get a professional to shoulder this task but I've heard they can let one slip now and then too. Self-publishing is not for the impatient personality; however, it's normally much quicker than traditional publishing--not to mention a sure result.

Who designed your cover?
I did, actually. It's simple, yet it defines the general flavor of the work. The back ground is a shot of the forest behind my house at dusk. The Sasquatch hand is from a costume my wife bought me for Christmas one year. The girl's hand is my neighbor who was over swimming last summer. I mentioned to her parents I was looking for a young girl's hand for the cover of my novel--she literally jumped up "Pick me pick me!" So there you have it. 

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas in your book that you would like to discuss?
Make-A-Wish is the basic foundation of my novel, coupled with the enigma of something science has yet to achieve. I will note, however, that when I was in the early stages of writing and character creation I did a lot of brainstorming for ideas. The main character's name, Roxie, came from a twitter poll I did at the time. I explained I was looking for a young girl's name, sorta tomboyish. To my shock, one of my favorite movie actresses Tina Ivlev ("Bound to Vengeance", LMN's "Death Clique", "Major Crimes", "CSI") responded so it was she who named the lead character. Also I should mention that Bob Gimlin, who was present when the most famous footage of Bigfoot was shot in 1967, was kind enough to give permission to use his character for an entire chapter. The dialogue therein is based on an actual conversation I had with Bob at a Bigfoot convention several years ago. I sent him a copy of the novel and he sent me a check to donate to Make-A-Wish. Finally, Cliff Barackman of the show "Finding Bigfoot" was awesome enough to let me use a photo he took of that 1967 film site, as it is today! This photo graces the back cover of my novel. Cliff also donated to Make-A-Wish.

Are any experiences in your book based on someone you know or events in your own life?
Most of the characters are fabricated although some were comprised of personalities from people in real life. The wish coordinator from my local chapter was patient enough to answer questions via email--sometimes daily--as I wrote. This was to keep the story in accordance with actual procedures within the organization, as if it were a real case.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) you faced while bringing your story to life?
Being a staff member on a forum about Bigfoot, research on that topic was readily available so I was able to throw in some theories and facts from the field to bring my story to life. As far as the Make-A-Wish setting, I learned as I went--the various titles, roles and duties within their organization. I also learned certain appropriate vs inappropriate terms to use when referring to their service. They NEVER say terminal illness--the proper term is "life threatening medical condition". The reasoning is  we never want to condemn to a gloomy end, but rather, endorse a positive outcome. It should also not go without saying that 80% of the children referred to them do live on to become adults 

What advice do you have for new writers?
Never give up! 
Also, watch out for publishers who call you. I learned a very expensive lesson when I published my first novel. Salesmen will call if you leave your number on a website seeking info, etc. They will sell you services ranging from a couple hundred dollars for a basic plan to several thousand--depending on which "package" you go with. I did so thinking they would market for me....wrong. The extent of marketing is they put your book on a list available to retailers like Barnes & Noble but do little to encourage them to buy. They will also, for a fee, make your work available on Amazon as print on demand or various eBooks (kindle, etc)...something self-publishers can also do for themselves free. Another thing that was even worse than not marketing was they printed a retail price on my book that was so ridiculously high ($27.95 + S&H) my own mother wouldn't have bought it! And, despite the high price, my royalty was less than $2! Now, I know not all publishers fit this bill. I'm only sharing my experience to help others be cautious. Do lots of research before you pay anyone to publish what you worked hard enough to get finished, edited and ready for print. 
Network with as many other authors as you can. Trade books even. We're never in competition with each other but rather all on the same team. Social media is wonderful for getting known in the writing world. Who knows, maybe the right person will catch their eye on your work and open up a whole new world for you. It has happened before!

Roxie Madison, a nine year old diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, is referred to Make-A-Wish (R) Most children with a life threatening medical condition ask to go somewhere fun, meet a favorite celebrity or get something their parents could not otherwise afford. Instead, Roxie's wish is to so something no one else has ever done-Find BIGFOOT! Contemplating a feat that science itself has yet to achieve. Make-A-Wish is at a stand still...until Sophie Bracone comes on board to volunteer. A graduate student and fearless children's advocate with political ambitions to leave no child without home, Sophie gladly accepts the challenge. A self-indulgent classmate who learns of her quest sets out to stage an elaborate hoax to gain fame and win Sophie's love, caring little for Roxie's wish-Who will succeed?  

Purchase A WISH FOR GIANTS by Aaron Dunbar, Proceeds go toward wishes for children with life threatening conditions.

Congrats to Aaron and the cast of A Wish for Giants. Now available on DVD & Blu-Ray

"Most people live for the next day, especially the young because they think they are somehow immune to the casualties of life. But sadly we aren't, even 17 year old handsome jocks face their own mortality. It isn't fair or logical and life doesn't have mercy on you just because you ask nicely. It's just a series of twists and turns, so you just have to buckle up, find someone to enjoy the ups and downs with and bedazzle your helmet." -Faye, Questioning the Universe


  1. Aaron Dunbar is indeed so awesome. Great read. And as usual, well-written. And the excerpt from 'Questioning the Universe' was amazing. And Roxie Madison is an inspiration. Thanks a ton for spotlighting her. Have a great weekend :)

  2. Aaron is new to me, and I enjoyed the post (the Hulk cake was cute; I'd probably ask her the same question). A Wish for Giants sounds like a cool book, and with a great motivation. Thanks.