Jaime Boler: Thank you, Aric, for letting me ask you these questions. The Fort is an electrifying coming-of-age thriller that grabbed me from the first page. You are a professional body piercer and novelist. How did you get into writing?
Aric Davis: Thanks for having me! I got into writing because of my lifelong love of reading. Being published was a dream, and it was wonderful to be able to see it through to fruition. I had a small kernel of hope that I might one day leave my day job behind to be able to write full time, and last year I was finally able to put the piercing needle down for good.
JB: How would you describe The Fort in ten words or less?
AD: A coming of age novel with realistic characters.
JB: What was different about writing The Fort, your third novel, than writing your first book, A Good and Useful Hurt?
AD: The Fort and Hurt share a few similar themes. They both allow entry into the mind of a delusional and dangerous killer, both have some very bittersweet moments, and both have a couple moments of stomach-churning violence. What makes The Fort different are the character perspectives of the children involved in the story. Their voices were a riot to bring to life, and it was a fun reminder of just how entertaining being young was.
JB: What inspired you to write The Fort?
AD: Much like Tim’s dad in the book, several years ago I installed a patio, and just like Tim, my daughter was lucky enough to get a fort from the leftover lumber. Staring at that day in and day out inspired the idea, and while I initially borrowed the idea to Will Daniels, the lead in Rough Men, I had to take it back.
JB: Whose character’s voice did you hear first?
AD: Tim, Luke, and Scott were the first characters brought to life in the first draft of The Fort, and they were the ones that led the charge. That said, Dick Van Endel, the cop in The Fort, is a character who has found his way into several books that I have written, most recently in Hurt, Rough Men, and in the Kindle Serial, Breaking Point. Van Endel has been featured in a few unpublished works as well, and hopefully I’ll be able to have more of my stories with him as a costar in the future.
JB: What prompted you to set the story in 1987?
AD: Some of my favorite books are the coming of age novels written by Joe R. Lansdale and Stephen King, both of whom have placed novels in the 1950’s. In that same way, I wanted the era that I grew up in to shine in The Fort. In pains me to say that the 1980’s are the same distance from today that the 1950’s were then, but somehow it happened.
JB: Are any of your characters based on real people?
AD: My neighbors have three sons that are finally on their way out of teenager-dom, and listening to them cussing at one another and bludgeoning their way through life was a wonderful reminder when writing younger male characters.
JB: Do you have a favorite character in your story? If so, please share.
AD: I really enjoy Tracy, the wise-cracking and foul-mouthed medical examiner. He’s a riot to write, even if he’s only used sparingly.
JB: How were earlier versions of the story different from the final copy?
AD: They were actually very similar. The Fort went through the same number of edits as anything else that I’ve had published, but they were far and away the easiest edits that I’ve ever had to work with. That said, even the more daunting edits typically go pretty easily. My editors Terry and David are never short of good ideas, and I am typically not so stupid as to resist their thoughts.
JB: What was the most difficult thing about writing The Fort?
AD: The hardest part of the book came about three quarters of the way through. My good friend and first reader Greg had a suggestion at that juncture, and all of a sudden the end of the book became clear. I may or may not still owe him a beer for that.
JB: Critics have compared The Fort to Stephen King’s Stand By Meand Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone. How do such comparisons make you feel?
AD: As those are two of my all-time favorite authors, I couldn’t be much more complimented. It’s a hell of a thing to have my name mentioned in the same breath as writers like that, and it’s incredible to me to think that I could achieve anywhere near to what they have with writing.
JB: What do you hope readers take with them after reading The Fort?
AD: Ideally a sense of longing for the story, in that way that any loved book grabs at the reader. As I certainly can’t hope for that from everyone, I’ll be a little more down to earth and say that I hope that readers don’t feel that they wasted their money and time by buying and reading my story.
JB: What’s next for you? Are you working on anything new?
AD: What comes next remains a mystery, but I am always working on something new. I’m a prolific weirdo, and right now I’m working on my fifth manuscript since completing work on The Fort last summer. Hopefully one of these goes through to publication; I’ve certainly had fun writing them.
JB: Thank you, Aric, for a wonderful interview. Good luck with the book!
Aric Davis’ novel The Fort is available now on Amazon.com. At turns heartbreaking and breathtakingly thrilling, The Fort perfectly renders a coming-of-age story in the 1980s, in those final days of childhood independence, discovery, and paradise lost.