Interview with Aaron Ryan

Welcome, travelers.  Our stop in the Otherworld today brings us into the dark shadows of Earth, after an intruding force of aliens has come to wipe us out.  We listen quietly to author Aaron Ryan, who gives us glimpses into the version of our world that he is building, and into what molded him into the sort of storyteller he has grown to be.  Read on to learn more about the author, and his book, Dissonance: Volume I: Reality.


Tellest: Greetings Aaron!  I wanted to thank you for introducing me to your story, and to the greater Dissonance series.  You’ve tackled something that’s been done before—the alien invasion story—but you’ve injected it with so much character growth, ethos, and introspection among the thrills and chills that it really stands on its own.  I know that it took a long journey to arrive here, and that this is just one stop among many.  I’m excited to learn more about you and the worlds you’ve built, and the ones yet to take form!

Aaron Ryan: Thank you for having me, I’m very grateful!  I’ve loved writing Dissonance, and grateful for where it’s taken me.  I feel very much a part of the characters’ arcs and journeys and have thoroughly enjoyed partaking of their journeys.  There’s really a strange phenomenon that happens when you author a novel: you start to ruminate on the characters often to the point where they actually exist somewhere in your day; they really seem like reality, and it’s easy to miss the fact that they’re only fictional: you care so much about them.


T: To fully appreciate a favorite new storyteller, I’ve found that you need to understand the path they’ve traveled.  Most of my interviews start with a foundational question: What was it that inspired you to write your first words?  Did you have a favorite author growing up?  Or did you have other family members, or people in your community that helped to foster a creative spark?

AR: Well, I do mention in my About the Author sections that I wrote a fictional story when I was in second grade called “The Electric Boy.”  It was SUPER lame, haha!  But I was only 7 or 8, so that can be excused.  I still have it in a box somewhere.  It was an assignment given to me by my teacher, of course, and I was heavily influenced by E.T. at the time.  So that influenced my formation of the character, and his story.   I absolutely love J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.  It’s been foundational to my creative journey and is the first creative work I remember partaking in that really tremendously inspired me.  My parents were very formative in my journey, recognizing right away that I was fairly right-brained, and they encouraged me to push forward in all kinds of creative pursuits: writing, music, poetry, dance, acting, etc.  My authoring has really come full circle in that I’ve pursued so many other creative ventures over the years, and only recently came back to this.  I appreciate dystopian novelists such as Suzanne Collins and Marie Lu along the way, and Stephen King for the way that he handles horror.  They’re all brilliant.


T: How many of your previous creative pursuits have found their way into your written stories?  Music and poetry can lend a cadence and pacing to your story.  And I’m sure you could attribute dance to things like choreographing action.  You’ve done things like tech support, videography… It’s almost like you’ve run the whole gamut.  Do you try and incorporate all these experiences into your stories where you can?

AR: That’s a really interesting question, and something that I hadn’t really thought about.  But I suppose subconsciously, that’s pretty true.  There are definitely elements of cinematography I’ve tried to consider while fleshing out the story.  I have a picture in my mind of how this or that scene plays out, blocking, where things flow from and to, etc., and I try to really envision it with clarity.  So, for videography or cinematography, yes, that has found its way into it.  With poetry, yes, I think there’s something to be said for the rhyme and meter of your story, how the pendulum swings, and is there a symmetry between what you’re writing and where the story needs to go.  What people are saying, and is it in tandem with the story, and all that.  Again, on a subconscious level, I think that’s factored in, yes.  Poetry is, after all, creative writing, as is writing a novel.  And lastly, for music, yes, there has to be a musicality in what I write.  Music tells a story; songs tell a story, and that’s all I’m doing here too, is telling a story.  It doesn’t have quarter notes or treble clefs, but it does have a musicality to it, and hearkening back to the cinematography aspect, I can imagine a running score flowing through certain scenes of my novels: stirring, compelling, quiet and pensive, evocative, rhythmic, terrifying, arcane, loud and obnoxious at points, etc..  Rises and falls.  Crescendos and decrescendos.


T: Let’s, as you put it, swing the pendulum the other way.  While you’ve certainly done plenty with your life ahead of writing this story, were there any quirks, hobbies, or interests that your characters had that you’ve brought into your personal life?  Or at the very least, were there things they had done that interested you enough to go down a rabbit hole or two?

AR: Well, I’d say the reverse is truer.  There are phrases attributed to some characters that are totally what I, or my wife, or others in my life, are either notorious for saying, or would say.  There are two different words at play in authoring: exegesis (pulling out of the text what you think it means), and eisegesis (putting into it what you think it means based on your own values and perspective).  I’m much more an “eisegetic” writer, and an “exegetic” reader.  But that doesn’t mean to imply that I pull things out of the writings and incorporate them into my own life…it feels more natural the other way around: I incorporate into the stories familiar elements of my own life, thoughts, experiences, etc..


T: Though your Dissonance project is your focus now, you’ve been creating for years, and this is not your first fiction project.  And whether it was intentional or not, you’ve felt the loss of creating a story and losing it to the aether.  Can you tell us what that was like, and how you were able to pick yourself up after staring down the digital oblivion?

AR: Oh man, that’s a hard story.  My first felt authoring tragedy came when I inadvertently deleted my only copy of “The Omega Room” when I was in my early twenties.  I had no intention of doing so…it was a complete accident.  I don’t remember the computer I was working on at the time but it was incredibly rudimentary: it had a screen that had four colored graphic blocks on it, and one of them was a word processing solution.  I wish I could remember what it was!  I don’t even remember if it had an accessible file system.  It was some kind of visual DOS interface, but beyond that, beats me.  Anyway, I deleted the file and remember sitting there staring at my computer for a hot five minutes, mouth agape, and coursing with horror.  There was no CTRL-Z back then.  It was gone.  It disassembled me.  I don’t recall how, but I eventually scraped myself off the floor and regathered.  I figured “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again” was good enough for me.  And in the end?  The next iteration proved to be better and richer than the first.  So ‘all’s well as ends better,’ they say.  Man, I’m full of idioms today!  But this project never saw the light of day as, at the time, it wasn’t where I wanted to go with my career: I was much more into pursuing music at the time.


T: With you writing your latest trilogy as quickly as you are, do you see yourself ever returning to The Omega Room?  Or is that something that will be from a previous life, and used to inform parts of the Dissonance books, and nothing beyond that?  What about a reboot or a sequel to The Electric Boy?

AR: Wow, no is the short answer on that one, only because I only have fragments and bits in my memory of what it was about, who factored in it, etc.  I remember two characters: Will and Marshall, and there was the villain who smashed one of his erring subordinates in a swiftly closing electronic hatch, and something about being surveilled and tailed, and the Omega Room being where the climax happens.  But other than that, no, I think it’s six feet under, for good reason: it was only my first work, and a draft at that.  BUT—the Electric Boy has DISNEY written all over it!  Wouldn’t that be something.  I should run THAT one up the flagpole and see who salutes!


T: You’re certainly able to visualize your stories cinematically.  Have you thought of the Dissonance stories the same way?  Do you envision these getting that sort of treatment in a perfect world?  And with that in mind, do you ever sort of fancast any of the characters in your mind?

AR: No, not really.  But truth be told, in the writing, I was acutely aware that I wanted it to eventually become a screenplay and see it adapted into movie form.  That would be SUCH a huge payoff, and utterly thrilling.  I can conceptualize everything to a degree, and cast the imagery only so far in the realm of my imagination, but to see it take shape on the silver screen: I would probably pass out from delight.



T: When it came time to write Dissonance: Volume I: Reality, how did you know that story was one that needed to be committed to page?  Was it an idea that was always taking shape in your mind, or was it something that had a sudden spark, and lit a fire in your imagination?

AR: I relate very well to trauma, and I was going through a bit of a traumatic period after the death of a dream to return to music in 2023.  I figured, if I can’t write it and set it to melody, then I’ll write it and set it to page.  So, this story is basically music—albeit haunting—without the treble clefs, bass clefs or quarter notes.  But it has to have a cadence and a rhythm to it.  I feel pretty naturally inclined and gifted to write out something compelling, but I knew it had to come from a place of trauma: something dystopian in nature, and something that stacked the odds against our hero(es).  I really have a great fondness for Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series, and Marie Lu’s “Legend” trilogy, and knew those would be ideal starting points.  And, I knew that in order to be successful, the threat (in this case being the alien beings) had to be real and unique: stemming from ideas and visions that had always terrified me.  Thus, I went back to Greek mythology and started from Medusa the gorgon.  Don’t want to spoil anything, but that’s how it started and that’s where it went.


T: Since it has served you well, do you see yourself reimagining other famous monsters with sort of new flavors in order to craft additional thrilling tales?  Do you imagine you would stick to dystopia, or would you explore other genres?

AR: Possibly, but this one just felt so natural to me.  However, in all fairness to the story, and transparency for me, the monsters were originally called druids, and they were too conspicuously close to The Lord of the Rings’ Nazgul, or Harry Potter’s Dementors.  They needed to be adjusted, and so I thought about what terrified me, and as my kids are constantly rehearsing scenes from 1981’s Clash of the Titans Medusa scene (that’s the only scene they’ve seen from the movie; I promise I’m a good daddy) the name “gorgon” was a natural fit, especially since their paralysis ability pre-existed them actually taking on the moniker of “gorgon.”  It just fit.  I do appreciate dystopia, but I don’t have to remain there.  I can expect that my next book or series would be about something different: exploring undiscovered country as an author is pretty stretching and satisfying.


T: That is a very good point, and it could very well have you stretching other parts of your creative muscles.  While your book was dystopian, it was still kind of constrained into the land mass and landmarks of this fictional version of Tennessee.  But crafting something from scratch has its own intrigues and challenges.  Do you think that excites you more, or terrifies you more?

AR: Well, I think everyone authoring a fictional tale today that takes place on Earth really has a leg up on those of years past.  There is SO much information readily available now, free for all finders, and I found myself tracking my characters’ movements along the ground in satellite view, sometimes even in Google Street View, and I found that incredibly helpful to see where they exactly were. It also greatly aided me in the storytelling, because I had written passages, for example at the church in the chapter “Holy Ground”, but for anyone who goes there, they would instantly know I was off kilter, because they were at first factually incorrect; Google Street View rectified that for me by showing me precisely where they could get in, and where they couldn’t, for example.  And the characters threading their way through the cities, I could watch all of that overhead and plot it correctly.  So it was more or less fiction transposed as a film over real-life terrain.  Much like “tracing” for kids when they’re learning to draw, I had my boundaries, and now I just had to fill them in with what I wanted to see in there.  It was never really from scratch.  I think if you are crafting something from scratch that has no basis in actual tangible Earthly reality as we know it, you have far more freedom.  Rules can be broken with little consequence because our rules don’t apply there.


T: The gorgons being a part of the invasion of Earth is obviously a huge, central aspect of what is going on with your story.  But they came from somewhere.  Do you know where that is?  Do you think you’ll ever explore the planet or place they came from?

AR: Once the rights are granted and contracts are in place for the movie trilogy adaptation, I’m sure we’ll find that out in the prequel(s). 🙂


T: A dystopian version of our world has to be difficult to truly appreciate building.  As much as you are tearing down, you’re creating in some ways.  And you went deep into a research hole to truly get an understanding of the part of the world that you constructed.  What was your process like in building a version of Tennessee after what must have felt like our world had ended?  How did you get into the minds of those who surely felt like they had lost everything?

AR: Well, Tennessee is the microcosm of course; the Earth being the macrocosm.  I did do my research, and took my cues from both literal and fictional pointers.  Fictional from movies like “I am Legend”, and “28 Days Later,” and literal from friends and colleagues who had working knowledge of what the earth might function and appear like after such an apocalypse.  How would we survive?  What would we eat if nearly all the animals were eviscerated?  If humanity itself were annihilated, where would we find solace?  How long would it take to build up some working defenses and the ability to mount a counteroffensive?  There couldn’t be any kind of immediate panacea; that would be too easy.  But little by little, scrape by hard scrape, humanity is finding ways to claw back from the brink, because that’s what we do.  However, yes: as Cameron (“Jet”) and his cohorts go through their odyssey, you are greeted with traces of dissonance, disunity, discord, disadvantage, and all other dis-’s, and they see evidence of the initial invasion and its ensuing aftermath, all around them.  (I had some great help from some trusted friends, but I’m positive that there will be a gaping hole or two, some yawning chasm that I hadn’t thought to leap prior to publishing.  But that’s what revised second editions are for, ha!). Additionally, however, Cameron begins to see evidence of these dis-’s in humanity itself, and that leads to the greater struggle.


T: While the first Dissonance novel is very much an alien invasion theme, it’s also, as you mentioned, a study on the failings of humanity.  In a lot of ways, the creatures feel like variants of zombies, as in zombie mythology, a lot of the time it is humans that are the true monsters.  Was that the route you intended on going when you developed this tale?

AR: It wasn’t at first, no. But with any good plot twist, it’s the things that you don’t see; you have to peel back the onion and expose the subterranean elements of what’s really going on.  There’s always someone behind the someone: you point at “that” and say “that’s” the problem, when really that other thing is the problem behind it.  It’s cause and effect.  And it’s a sad—but true—reflection and indictment on modern society and the “cellulizing” (I just coined that) that social media and narcissism has wreaked on our society.  We’re all so nuclear and isolated, and that breeds mistrust.  It’s about asking a fundamental question: can we ever really trust a person unless we’re right there with them and seeing who they really are and what they’re really doing and saying?  Is everyone nefarious deep down?  That’s the problem.  Here we all are fighting gorgons, and yet you have these distracting elements that are eroding your support and causing you to lose focus.  And they’re supposed to be on your side!  They’re your fellow humans, for crying out loud.  They should be supporting you.  In a sad way, it’s an invoked echo, crying out down through time from Rodney King: “Can we all get along?”


T: In a lot of ways, stories like these help us to understand the concept that humanity is not monolithic.  Sometimes that can be helpful, and sometimes it can be a hindrance.  Our differences can make us or break us.

But with something like the gorgons, who can feel so primal, it might be hard to see them as anything other than monsters.  Do they have these sorts of ethical failings too, do you think?  Or is keeping them the boogeymen in the shadows something that works well enough for you and the tale you aim to tell?

AR: One of the greatest movies of all time, I consider, is the original Predator movie with Arnie.  That movie had its plot, its mission, and these guys were all seasoned commandos who could handle anything.  But what the heck is this?  We went into the jungle to rescue Hopper or whoever it was, but all the sudden their standard plot and mission are completely and unexpectedly interrupted by something no one has ever seen before.  It’s a massive disruption and diversion from everything the characters, and us, have ever known.  In that light, I think keeping the gorgons as unexpected monsters serves the greater subtext, and that is that the real enemy is still out there.  At that point, the gorgons become little more than a nuisance as our protagonists find they’re dealing with something far more nefarious.  Think Burke in “Aliens” sabotaging the Marines’ escape from LV-426, because he works for The Company, and they have aims of their own.  Those are the ethical failings that I’m really much more interested in.



T: You set out to create a terrifying creature with the aliens you’ve brought to Earth in your series.  How did you conceptualize these frightening beings, and what ideas raced through your head as you were coming up with some of the scenes in which we experience their nature?

AR: 1981’s “Clash of the Titans” was a staple of my youth.  I remember running home from school, putting on some beef Top Ramen, and eating a whole pack while watching that movie before my parents came home.  In all of the scenes, I couldn’t wait to get to the one with the gorgon slithering around her temple seeking her prey, Perseus and his fellow warriors.  Granted, there was primeval CGI back then, and it was nothing flashy.  But it did the trick: the way that they had Medusa’s stop-motion face emerge from the shadows, and her eyes light up bright green like sickly torches, accompanied by that frightening high-pitched strain….yeeshk.  Still terrifies me to this day.  I wanted something like that.  Something that had the potential to completely immobilize you, and then feast on your flesh.  I suppose, to that effect, that there may also have been a germ of thought in my brain harkening back to the dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park: spitting its paralyzing venom onto its prey before it consumed it.  Overall, I knew it couldn’t just be a capture-you-and-claw-you-to-death kind of alien.  It had to possess some creepy additional element which would further restrict your ability to fight back.  A truly “no fair” aspect.  Thus, the “You just…don’t…look” tagline.  You could swing your fists at it, but it would just be shadowboxing, because you weren’t looking; and if you did, you were toast.  That concept terrifies me more than being mauled by a bear, a lion, or anything.


T: I definitely sensed a bit of Jurassic Park in there as well.  The gorgons have a bit of a hard time seeing as well, so in some ways it evens the playing field a little bit.  As much as they might feel like the dilophosaurus, they also feel like the T-Rex.

Even early on, though, you allude to other versions of the gorgons.  Do you think we’ve seen them all by the time the final page is turned in Reality?  Or are there more to come in subsequent books?

AR: Spoiler alert!  Oh no.  You will see different adaptations of gorgons.  They are evolving too, just as we are, and the universal principle of “adapt and overcome”: well, they’re not immune to that either, and they are far from home, on an alien world for food and water, and they have to figure out how to fulfill their needs.  But you have to remember that they’re essentially drones: and drones aren’t independent; they’re tethered to, and controlled by, something greater.  That’s all I’ll say about that part of it.  But the berserkers, too: you learn about them in the first volume as well, and why they’re “special”, and more terrifying.


T: Once you put aliens on Earth, you answer the time-old question: are we alone in the universe?  But with that in mind, are there other lifeforms in the Ryan-verse?  Is that something that you might explore in the future?

AR: Hey, it worked well (at first, kinda) for Aliens vs. Predator, right?  I think Aliens vs. Gorgons would be an entertaining movie to see.  Not sure who I would root for there.  I think it’s safe to say that there are, but Earth has been around for at least 6,000 years…and, at least in my story, this is the first major contact that we’ve had where mankind has been flipped on its head so severely.  It’s pure comedy to have the gorgons come wipe out eighty-five percent of mankind and then have a more dangerous species come wipe out eight-five percent of the gorgons shortly after that.  Kind of like when a team like the Yankees beats our Mariners in the playoffs, we want the Yankees to then beat the next team that they face off against, because then it might make our elimination more worthwhile and those who eliminated us more formidable.


T: You completed this story in a very short timeframe.  Did you know ahead of time the breadth of what you were going to be describing?  Or was it a sort of “seat-of-your-pants” storytelling experience?

AR: Oh it was definitely seat-of-my-pants organic storytelling.  However, there were chapters like “LoJack” and “Holy Ground” during which my fingers just flew off the keyboard.  I swear that if I hadn’t written those two chapters, I’d still be writing the book today.  They just propelled me forward like a red-lining superset: I sped through those like a missile, and they became powerful.  The rest of the story, particularly while they’re journeying on the road together, took some time to write, as I had to plot their courses, literally, from aerial Google maps, using actual street names, and determine how long it would take between each point.  And for the twists and turns, those came pretty naturally.  Some wonderful “Aha!” and “What if?” moments reared their heads pretty readily, which surprised me.  I don’t want to give anything away but you’ll find them too, and I pray they accomplish their purpose: to terrify, inspire, delight, move deeply, and more.


T: Did you have to do any sort of railroading for your characters?  Did they want to go off and do their own things, or did you keep them in line, and they behaved for you?

AR: No, not really.  I think I get a good sense of the character when I first envision them.  Sometimes, if they appear villainous at first, they’re actually noble.  If they feel decent at first, they’re really inherently evil.  I think Cameron, or “Jet”, is the only one whose vantage point you’re seeing it from anyway, being first person.  Because of that, you’re learning organically with him, and he tends to make decisions in the heat of battle too, that take him in different directions than originally planned.  Sometimes emotions begat by certain developments necessitate that the character change, whether that’s the protagonist, a supporting character, a villain, a gorgon, whomever: and you just have to roll with the punches and see where it leads from there.  It’s all a fairly natural evolution, like dropping a Plinko puck down the board on The Price is Right.  You never know where it will go.  Or like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “you never know what you’re gonna get.”



T: While you’ve just released this first book, you have two others that you’ve committed to telling through 2024.  Is that where the story definitively ends, or have you had ideas to tell spinoffs, prequels, or other parts of this universe?

AR: Oh, I’ll never tell, haha!  Like the character of Bassett, I have to keep those cards close to my chest.  Yes, I have to leave room.  I’m fond of cliffhangers, and I’m equally fond of the absence of any finality.  Any good story can be continued: if there’s a worthy seed of continuance in there that can be harvested, any gem of furtherance that can be mined, I like to keep the doors open for that if I can.  For now though, I had always envisioned a trilogy, although I didn’t have the epiphanies of the subtitles for each book at the outset.  That took time.  Speaking of time, time will tell.  Sign up at the blog at for updates!  But I did know that I sought to follow the pattern of Beginning-Middle-End: three acts in a play, like any of the great magnum opuses.  I’m a great fan of sequels, like so many are.  You develop a relationship with the characters in a book or a movie, and you want to know how their life pans out, because you care deeply for them, good or bad.


T: So then, Dissonance aside—and we did mention other books earlier, but we’ll dive in a bit further here—what sort of stories are you itching to tell as you work your way through your current to-do list?

AR: For now, I’m super absorbed with this series, and that’s all I currently see.  But I do keep coming back to a possible storyline with a being like The Phoenix from X-Men that is terrifyingly powerful and uncontrollably deadly, and what do you do with such a being?  If they truly are immortal, will they be noble or ruinous?  Will they work for us, or against us?  I’ve always been impressed and interested in the indestructible antihero, like Doomsday actually killing Superman.  Whoa.  They’re so interesting to me, because you thought your superhero was indestructible!  So…maybe.  We’ll see.  The gorgons have to be driven off first, and mankind has to settle back into some semblance of unity first.


T: So, just to clarify, that would be part of the Dissonance part of your universe?  That’s spectacular.

AR: Ha!  I don’t know.  Although now you’ve got me thinking SuperGorgon wouldn’t be so bad of an idea.  *scribbles down ideas furiously*


T: With the first book having released, and the sequels soon to follow, readers are going to want to know more about you and the world you’re building.  If fans wanted to discover more about Aaron Ryan, or the Dissonance series, where could they find you online?

AR: Well there you go!  I’d love that.  Nothing more fulfilling than when someone buys my books or signs up on my blog for more information.  It’s such a rich reward when they do.  So thank you for asking!

My website is at

Subscribe to my blog at for updates!

Follow, like, subscribe and more at, which includes Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

And thank you for the interview!


T: And thank you as well, Aaron!  I appreciate you spending time with me getting into some granular details with your version of Earth, and the stories you tell.  I also appreciate you clearing up some of the fog, and helping to give readers a greater sense of who you are, and how you came to walk down this leg of your journey.

And now, to those readers: Do yourself a huge favor and check out the Dissonance series.  You can use any of the links that Aaron Ryan has provided here, and if you want, you can check out Dissonance: Book 1: Reality on Amazon!

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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.
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