Ed Ahern sometimes detours into literary fiction, but he’s best known as an innovative genre writer and poet. He’s tucked away several awards and honorable mentions for seventy-seven short stories, sixty published poems and three books. The stories have appeared in ten countries and, counting reprints, a hundred fifty-nine publications. His stories can be listened to through Audible and the New York Public Library. And he started writing fiction at sixty-seven, and poetry at seventy.
His editorial skills are based on a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and extensive experience at the Providence Journal. Ed’s been honing the skills for several years at Bewildering Stories, where he serves on the review board and as review editor with a staff of five. (Bewildering Stories is widely known for the author-friendly quality of its critiques.)
Ed also serves as the newsletter editor for the Connecticut River Salmon Association. He’s a member of several writing groups, including the Fairfield Scribes, where he’s known for his tough-love comments.
He has his original wife, but advises that after almost fifty years together they are both out of warranty. Two children and five grandchildren serve as affection focus and money drain.
His work career after university has been an enjoyably demented hopscotch game. U.S. Navy officer (diver and bomb disarmer); reporter for the Providence Journal; intelligence officer living in Germany and Japan; international sales and marketing executive at a Canadian paper company (twent- three years, seventy four countries visited, MBA from NYU); same job for the company that also owns the New England Patriots; and retirement into writing like hell to make up for lost time.
Longshot: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Ahern: Physically, none. It’s not where an author is buried that interests me. If I like an author’s writing I’ll read about her methods and read more of her stuff to see what I can steal. The biography usually has little to do with the writing. (Except maybe, ‘David Foster Wallace committed suicide…’)
The ‘her’ above is used deliberately. I suspect there are now more women authors than men.
Longshot: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Ahern: Neither, but I go stale after two or three hours and have to get up and putter for a while before I sit back down.
Longshot: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Ahern: My own: Worrying about publishing before a piece is finished. Thinking that my first draft should be read by anyone other than me. Focusing on the money; very damn little of it will be there. And in the case of poetry almost none.
Longshot: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Ahern: An “it depends” question. Successful, main stream writers (I’m guessing) use an inflated ego productively. If I think a story approaches literary satori an editor will point out plot holes and shallow characters.
Longshot: What is your writing Kryptonite?
Ahern: Ideas that I think are clear in a story, but are still hiding in my head.
Longshot: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Ahern: No. Maybe if I started writing erotica or diagrams for bomb making.
Longshot: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Ahern: There are no new ideas in writing, just well or badly rendered rewrites. I see little point in writing just for myself, and try to entertainingly screw with readers’ minds.
Longshot: What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Ahern: None. If I disliked them at first read they stayed disliked. And, God help me, I’ve tried. I’ve picked up and put down James Joyce’s Ulysses a half dozen times.
Longshot: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Ahern: Honestly? The Witches’ Bane, my novella. I’m fond of Ray Bradbury, who’s lost a lot of his popularity.
Longshot: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Ahern: Why the hell would I do that? I’m feral enough.
Longshot: What does literary success mean to you?
Ahern: It’s stages: 1. Getting Published 2. Favorable comments/ reviews by discerning people. 3. Good sales. 4. Multi generational readership (very, very rare).
Longshot: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Ahern: No. Writing a decent poem won’t get me into heaven or improve my ethics. It might make me a little better writer.
Longshot: How many hours a day do you write?
Ahern: Three-four hours writing and revising, two hours authoring-submitting, doing interviews, etc. With days off for fishing and other slug-like activities like reading.
Longshot: How do you select the names of your characters?
Ahern: Random, but I do like to pick on writing friends for first names.
Longshot: What was your hardest scene to write?
Ahern: Sex scenes are hard for me to do well, although I’m told I have a suitably dirty mind.
Ahern: Longshot: What is your favorite childhood book?
The Tarzan books.
Longshot: What is the most difficult part of the artistic process?
Ahern: No difficulty at all with art, I ignore it and focus on craft. If I write something profound it birthed by accident.
Longshot: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Ahern: I believe a fear of inadequacy can freeze up a writer. If I bog down I switch to writing a poem or a flash fiction. By the time it’s a first draft I’m usually reset. Kind of like turning my phone on and off to resolve a problem.