Second Interview with Aaron Ryan

Welcome, travelers. After a few months, we are making a return stop to a world in the Otherworld that looks like ours, but which has been overcome by terrifying intruders called gorgons. These monstrous aliens can freeze those they hunt in place, making them a fearsome sight—and often the last one people will have before they’re cut down.

But Aaron Ryan’s Dissonance: Volume II: Reckoning shows us that gorgons are not the only monsters on Earth, as humanity has always had darkness within them.

We speak to the author in our second interview, to gather up what has happened since we last spoke, and to determine what we can expect as the third book in the trilogy, Dissonance: Volume III: Renegade, hits bookshelves soon.

 

Tellest: Welcome Back Aaron! Thank you for making your way back here. It’s been a wild ride for you in so short a time, because you’ve got a new book in the Dissonance series out, but you also have one that will be out on May 18th, closing the trilogy. I’m eager to see what your experience has been with this series, how you wrapped up the final chapter, and what’s next for you!

Aaron Ryan: Thanks for the hearty welcome back! Good to be back with you, Tellest. Yeah, it’s been such an incredible journey. I wept when I wrote the last few lines of Dissonance Volume III: Renegade, I truly did. It’s a 431-page behemoth, and it nicely rounds out the trilogy in an EPIC way. Air Force battles, gunfights, standoffs, gorgons, humans, aerial dogfights, naval battles… I mean, it truly has everything, and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

T: While I’m sure it came out looking spectacular, how taxing did it feel when you were writing it? A lot of times those big fight sequences, especially choreographing things so expertly, can be draining. How did you stay ahead of that?

AR: Oh man. Honestly, those types of scenes just get my blood pounding and my fingers flying. The tank scene on the highway and the cave scene in Volume II, the air force base fight and the dogfight in Volume III, the cat-and-mouse between Colonel Keegan and the primary villain (no spoilers) … Those really just get me going so fast and I just let my fingers do the work. I feel alive, intense, alert, and all senses go. I didn’t feel taxed during or after…I felt exhilarated; it was always such a rush!

 

T: When you are writing scenes like that, do you try to make them quick and punchy, or are you looking for epic, sprawling expressions of combat that can last an extended period of time?

AR: The scene has to tell itself. I mean, in some scenes, the violence is brutally calm. There are many versions of violence. To quote Alanis Morissette: “These versions of violence…Sometimes subtle, sometimes clear…And the ones that go unnoticed…Still leave their mark once disappeared.” That’s so insightful. So, there are some scenes involving verbal combat. Others involve physical combat. Both can be equally powerful. I think in some cases the scenes where two people are trying to outsmart each other, those can be more effective than just typing up a line “I threw a grenade and it detonated.” It depends on how high the stakes are and who you’re rooting for. I just try to let them flow as best as I can and do justice to the tension of the moment without robbing the scene of its integrity.

 

T: When last we spoke, you had just finished getting Dissonance Volume I: Reality launched and ready for purchase. There are always some jitters when doing something for the first time, but you must have felt like an expert when you were ready to unleash book two. What did you find easier, or different, this time around for Dissonance: Volume II: Reckoning?

AR: Well, there are lots of pitfalls in publishing a book. Choosing the correct categories, writing a catchy blurb, publishing at “the right time”, making sure the cover is correct, more thorough editing, better narration of the audiobook, etc.—all of these things I really wanted to pay attention to in order to ensure a healthier and more robust launch that would be catchy. And, as with Dissonance Volume I: Reality, Dissonance Volume II: Reckoning hit the bestseller #1 mark in a few categories, and that was thoroughly satisfying to see. There are definitely things to pay attention to in terms of packaging and marketing, but when it all comes down to it, the story must come first. It must be superior to what you’ve previously written, it must raise the stakes, and it must propel the protagonist further along their character arc. I love the quote by Vladimir Nabokov: “The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” How true that is!

T: I had never heard that quote before now, and I absolutely love it. You certainly were doing that in book one, but I suppose in books two and three, you’ve had to find taller and taller trees! How did you elevate the stress for Cameron, and raise the stakes for our world alongside it?

AR: Easy. Take him and put him up in a tree and throw rocks at him. Seriously though, I put him in a claustrophobic tank with a gorgon, in caves with gorgons, in a narrow hallway with a gorgon, in the sky with gorgons, in a cockpit with a gorgon right outside, and all of them flying and swarming around him. It just takes a lot of conjuring up intense predicaments that I can sit my protagonist down into and realize that if I’m scared while I’m writing it, then the audience is probably going to be scared while reading it.

 

T: Throughout this interview, we’ll learn that you tend to express your feelings alongside the characters, whether that’s empathy for what they’re going through, or fear for what might take them down. With that in mind, do you ever feel or worry about going too rough on any of your characters?

AR: No, not really. Cameron, the main protagonist, is very much like me. He’s cynical, untrusting, brash, opinionated, snarky, and ready to fall on the sword of his own beliefs. Art mirrors life, they say, and so I think I would be doing a disservice to my characters if I didn’t make them as real and tangible as possible, and, where appropriate, true to who I am and how I think/feel/function. For instance, Cameron is not the protagonist in the prequel that I’m now writing (Dissonance Volume Zero: Revelation)—he’s only 7 years old. But you can see some of those same behaviors and personality traits coming out even then through the protagonist of that chapter, his dad, Andrew. It’s actually been super refreshing to write this prequel because characters who died are alive again, they are young, they are adorable, they’re learning and growing, and even though you know the trauma and malevolence that’s coming (which in itself lends to a lot of fear and tension and worry as you draw near to the inevitable invasion), it’s been such a rich experience writing them at a different place and time in their lives.

 

T: A humongous draw of your series, as we discussed in the last interview, was these creatures that you’ve brought to our world, the gorgons. But as we’re quick to find, they’re not the only threat to deal with, as Cameron soon learns that some monsters are home-grown. What was it like balancing the dangers that come from outside our world to the ones that we’ve come to put our trust in?

AR: Good question. In all cases, the enemy we don’t see is the worst one: operating nefariously behind the scenes, unraveling the yarns we’ve painstakingly raveled, undoing our victories, and eroding our earned confidence in the system. It’s always those who labor against us in whom we had placed a measure of trust that cuts the deepest. Betrayal from a friend stings far more than the enemy’s nuke. Cameron is learning who he can and cannot trust, and he’s taking some painful wounds in the process.

T: Does it get to a point, do you think, that a regular person would just be unable to trust anyone if they were in Cameron’s boots? I mean, we have a cataclysmic event that just terraformed our planet into a feeding trough for alien life, and the people that Cameron works for and with prove time and time again that he might be better off looking for refuge alone out in the wilderness.

AR: I think we have people like that already. But it’s our sense of trust that keeps us in a community. Once you’ve been burned enough, you become a cynic, and the cynics tend to go it alone. But thankfully, there are plenty of people in Cameron’s life still who do foster trust, who do communicate integrity and decency, and keep him on the straight and narrow. It’s oftentimes that we feel so frustrated by the ones that wreck it for everyone that make us want to go Lone Ranger, but when we have compelling voices in our corner, such as Ally, such as Pastor Rosie, such as other new characters introduced in Volumes II and III, that we find the strength to stay in community and fight it out.

 

T: In the version of the world that Cameron finds himself, how does he allow himself to get close to anyone, knowing that there are such extensive dangers all around them?

AR: The dangers will never go away. It’s instinctual to trust, and Cameron is no exception. Innocent until proven guilty. I know there are anomalies: those who go through life certain that everyone is out to get them, arms-lengthing everyone, sidelong glances at every single other human, and that’s a pitiful and pathetic way to live. Such an existence doesn’t foster community or invite belonging, it only furthers hostility. So, while at first he’s suspicious of Bassett (suspicion not being the same as distrust), he learns that he’s actually okay, and his trust in him is rewarded tenfold. Same with Ally…same with Foxy…same with Cardona…same with Monzon…same with Rosie…same with Stone, eventually.

 

T: The gorgons are terrifying when we first meet them, but we also need to continue to fear them as the series races forward. In a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, the catastrophe itself begins to feel secondary to the world the characters have grown comfortable with. But you’ve found ways to keep the terror alive. What are some of the secrets that you can divulge?

AR: Well, in Dissonance Volume III: Renegade our protagonists find themselves in the dark, with gorgons running around. Uh…no thank you. That hits at a primal fear that all of us have: a fear of the dark. I can’t wait to see THAT on screen. It’s going to be epic. And there’s a highway battle in tanks, where a gorgon actually gets inside one of the tanks. Talk about claustrophobia to the power of fear. I knew when writing that scene that a gorgon HAD to actually get in the tank with them. That terrified me in the writing! And there are more that I can’t spoil yet of course. You’ll see. They truly are more and more terrifying, with varying broods being introduced in Volumes II and III.

T: One of the things you’re known for is your ability to vividly describe what your characters are experiencing. And because of the nature of your series, sometimes you must do that with eyes closed. How do you put your spin on the world when you can’t trust one of your most integral senses?

AR: Being deprived of sight, well, that’s one thing… Being deprived of the ability to make any sound as well, well, you truly become handicapped. That’s one thing I really appreciated about A Quiet Place, and how they painstakingly lived an utterly silent life in order to not attract the aliens to themselves. It’s so paralyzing and castrating in a way, to be cut off from everything else because you can’t shout “yay!” or even look at it. Your senses are revoked, and you must make do by feel. Then, to plunge our heroes into Mammoth Cave in Kentucky when they already can’t see, and now they’re in the dark, I felt that would be tremendously effective. It’s also claustrophobic being down in cavern tunnels well below the earth’s surface… You lose all sense of direction, so you’re handicapped in that sense as well.

 

T: And yet you’ve done so well navigating that handicap as a writer! Sure, your characters are experiencing those hurdles, but you write what they’re going through with an elegance that helps the reader feel what the characters are feeling, but without losing sense of things. Yes, the walls might feel a little closer to them, but it’s still impressive how much you’re able to show with your words.

AR: Thank you! I appreciate that. I think I’m just imagining myself in their shoes, and because of that, it feels relatable. That’s my goal, is to make it relatable for the reader.

 

T: Dissonance could work just on the premise of its peculiar and scary alien intruders, but it’s also able to be described as a military thriller. How do you keep that machine running under the threat of the monsters, the infighting among the survivors, and the growing scarcity of resources and safe havens?

AR: I think the mechanism speaks for itself here in that the military always survives. Guns always get people out of scary situations for a while, or at least can hold them at bay. Well, at the end of Dissonance Volume I: Reality we find that the military has quietly been building up a presence in the region and now they’re armed with LSTs, tanks, battleships, guns, masks, and a horde of DTF emitters ready to protect them. It gives humanity a fighting chance, and that breeds hope, which is what all of them have craved. They finally have a chance to strike back now.

 

T: In a perfect world, where at the end of these three books, the marauders from another world are driven off, do we ever find our way back to a normal society? Or is the idea that there is life out there putting an impetus to be strong upon us? Do we forevermore at the point become militaristic in order to persevere against such threats in the future?

AR: I think that’s inevitable. We let our guard down. Many of us would solemnly breathe, “never again.” But I think there’s an inherent sense of unity and coming together that keeps us going. There’s a strong theme of this in Volume III where innocent lives are on the line, but we have nothing in common with them. Do we throw them to the wolves and release them from our care, simply because they’re not like us? No, because our moral compass disallows it, if we have one and if we listen to it. So, we band together, and then we fix things, but yes, this happened once, and it might happen again, so now, all of us working together, we can stay vigilant and hopefully be ready when and if Dissonance Volume IV: Revenge comes around. Oops, spoiler! No, just kidding. I haven’t thought that far into the future, and it would be somewhat anticlimactic, unless there was a savage demand for it by my readership.

T: Hey now, a sequel could be great for fans, but maybe you let it breathe and see what comes of the world you’ve played in. There’s a bigger universe out there than we know, and you introduce a version of it in Dissonance that could go in a fair number of directions!

AR: Thank you! I have LOVED writing this. I actually found myself weeping when I was done with Dissonance Volume III: Renegade. When I had typed up “The End”, it was so much like the scene in Romancing the Stone where the author does the same thing and then exclaims “Oh God that’s good!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKfKLj9wbrk) – such a true scene. I felt the same way, but I was more sad than happy, because I had worked so hard on the trilogy, it was such an emotional rollercoaster, and I’m SO proud of how it has turned out. I did an enormous amount of research on all three of these novels, exponentially so as they grew in sequence. That research helped me achieve authenticity, and where you have authenticity, you have real. It was wholly real to me because I wanted it to be so. That sense of real lingers, as if I was there myself.

 

T: Now, let’s shift gears to talk about the third book in the series. You’re close to having a full trilogy on bookshelves, and that’s something that few people get to see come to fruition. First off, how proud are you to have this set completed?

AR: I cannot even begin to describe my pride, or to put it into words. I have had SO much help from people for this book…to say nothing of the fact that the internet is replete with resources like Quora, Reddit, private and governmental websites, YouTube videos, and more, to round out the edges of details I’m not privy to. But it’s been the people who have really come alongside me for Volume III: a 35-year retired aircraft carrier captain, an Army chopper pilot/aviator, two senior Air Force airmen, and a Lt Col in the USAF…all of them have been instrumental in helping me really get the details right here, and that has helped me achieve verisimilitude, which is something I’ve really striven for. It is EPIC, Tellest…it truly is. Had you asked me if I had known that it would grow this large when I was back at Volume I, I would not have been able to forecast how amazingly monstrously this trilogy concludes. It’s EPIC, and I’m not kidding.

 

T: We’ve woven together some threads throughout our conversation that are leading to some really interesting questions. You mentioned A Quiet Place earlier, and there are certainly some similarities that can be drawn. But it’s this massive warfare opportunity that you have which helps to bridge the gap more toward something like Independence Day.

Do you think that Dissonance could have ever worked from the perspective of a smaller, more intimate tale? Or was it always destined to be big and bombastic, with tremendous stakes and a wide scope?

AR: That’s the way I always intended it to be. I’m very much “go big or go home.” Always has been. I don’t really do anything small. It’s against my programming, ha! I just really wanted an epic showdown, and all the great trilogies have that. The epic space battle in Return of the Jedi. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. The huge (and rather drawn-out yawnfest, although massive) fight at the end of The Matrix Revolutions (if you liked that movie). All of the greats have them, but I think they also (wisely) incorporate the more intimate battles that are part and parcel of the bigger picture as well. Leia is having a battle against her own urges with Han while they’re fighting the greater battle. She likes him because he’s a scoundrel. So, there you go. I have my own scoundrels in my stories, with their own little intimate battles set in the thick of the greater war.

 

T: What can you tell people about Dissonance: Volume II: Reckoning that they might not know just from reading the blurbs you’ve provided?

AR: Well, there are wins and losses. There are tales and countertales. There are accounts and corrections, and Cameron constantly has to question what the truth actually is. No one likes being lied to. We want the truth, even if, as Colonel Jessup so eloquently put it in A Few Good Men, we “can’t handle the truth.” We want it. We need it. And Cameron needs and deserves it. He is slowly awakening to some new truths in this book, particularly from a new character who provides a ton of backstory as to how the real nemesis came into place, and that greatly helps him and continues his character arc of pursuing justice vs. revenge.

T: Cameron has the necessary skills to survive what is coming at him, whether it’s the gorgons or humans with ulterior motives. Would a civilian just trying to make it through the day have any chance?

AR: If they had a weapon and some smarts, yes. But overall, system attracts community. Planning attracts optimism. Strategizing attracts hope, and you would need to be at least on the periphery of such community in order to have a chance. You’d need training. You’d need weapons and some marginal militarization in order to understand how to fight back. Otherwise, you freeze in your own shoes, and then you’re frozen, and eaten.

 

T: So, what I’m hearing is “way scarier than a zombie apocalypse”. Unless you’ve already got some training and a group you can quickly militarize, you’re alien chow.

AR: Potentially. I mean, sure, you can find a place to hide and ride it out. But for sixteen years? Like I said earlier, those who arms-length others and are not in system, community, planning, optimism, or strategizing, well, they eventually lose hope. Some of them resort to desperation, as we saw Amos do in Volume I: Reality. And others would just off themselves, seeing no hope, and giving up long before any flowers of eventual deliverance had a chance to germinate and grow.

 

T: Now that your trilogy is wrapped up, have you put any more thought into what comes next? We talked a couple of months ago about what the plan would be, and you seemed pretty locked into Dissonance, but there were other ideas scratching at the periphery.

AR: I have! I really wanted to deal with the antihero, and a book on that, but frankly, I didn’t exactly feel “released” to pursue that yet. So, perhaps predictably, since there is so much time that has elapsed between the alien invasion of 2026 and the fast-forward to 2042 that we find in Dissonance Volume I: Reality, it was inevitable that I pursue a prequel. So that’s what I’m working on. And now is the time to disclose another detail: I’ve entered into a contract with a notable screenwriter to convert the first volume, Reality, into a screenplay for pitching to producers with Netflix, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, etc., and I could not be more grateful or excited. I truly have high hopes and am super optimistic about the future of Dissonance.

 

T: I’m glad that we get to talk about that! How did you start that process, what’s your relationship like with your screenwriting collaborator, and what else can you tell us about your experience so far?

AR: I did have to vet him online, and he’s vetted. He’s got lots of contacts on LinkedIn, he handles naysayers graciously, he won an award by Gale Ann Hurd (former wife of James Cameron, the producer of Aliens, my favorite movie of all time, so YES PLEASE!!!), he knows what he’s talking about, he’s registered as a Hollywood “fellow” (whatever that means), and he is no BS. I felt confident going into it that he was legitimate, and I’m confident he has the contacts to make it happen. I’m super excited. They approached me, and I really didn’t have to weigh it too much. His cost was right in the middle of what I expected a screenwriter to charge, but he also includes all the marketing in there as well, which is a huge bonus to me and worth the investment, as I don’t have those contacts nor any knowledge on how to approach them. He writes the screenplay AND the treatment, as well as the character bible.

T: You had mentioned that they came to you. What do you think you did right in order to be on the “headhunter” list, besides writing a compelling book series?

AR: I’m not sure, other than maintaining good visibility in the social circles. Ultimately, “ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die,” as Tennyson said! I’ll do and die, thankyouverymuch! I won’t ask questions. Just SO glad they found me!

 

T: You’ve now got two books out, with the third scheduled for release on May 18th. You’re no doubt going to have a lot of fans clamoring to learn more about the series and its writer. Where could they go to find out these details?

AR: Always love these questions. Thanks! They can visit either https://www.dissonancetheseries.com or www.authoraaronryan.com to find out more about the series, or my authoring, respectively. At the first site, https://www.dissonancetheseries.com, they will find all of the purchase links (Amazon, Kindle, Audible, direct copies, etc.).

 

T: Aaron, I would like to once again thank you for spending your time with us! It’s always great fun getting to see what you’ve done with this version of the world, and the greater universe, and I’m excited for your new release, and for the future sequel that you’re working on. Best of luck with all your endeavors, and I hope to talk to you again soon!

AR: Thank you SO much for the opportunity to share about this whole story that has so impacted me. I’m beyond grateful for how it turned out. I can’t even begin to express. It has become colossal in its scope, and from the very beginning, putting pen to paper for the first words of Dissonance Volume I: Reality, I had no idea how big it would become. My heart is full.

Thanks again for the interview!

 

T: And thank you once more, Aaron.

Readers, if you’ve joined us on this journey, you know that the Dissonance series is one that is not to be missed. Aaron Ryan has been working very hard at this content, and by the time you’ve read this interview, it will be ready for consumption. Don’t stay hungry. Be satiated by a great science fiction series, and check out the Dissonance series on the author’s website today!

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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.