I’m joined today by author Aaron Mullins who is here to tell us all about himself and his collection of short stories Mysteries and Misadventures: Tales from the Highlands. You can order a copy of the book by clicking here.
Welcome Aaron. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I live by the beach in Troon, on the west coast of Scotland. I was previously an award-winning, internationally published psychologist and started Birdtree Books Publishing, where I worked as Editor-in-Chief. I partnered with World Reader Charity and sponsored English lessons in an under-tree school in India, before deciding to quite the high-flying academic and business world, to devote my time to charity work. I now work for a national charity and spend my spare time writing. I like to explore the darker side of psychology in my work.
What inspired you to start writing?
I grew up in Wick, in Caithness, near John O’ Groats in the far north of Scotland. Wick and the surrounding areas have an interesting heritage – from the iron ages to the Norse pagan period. It’s believed Wick was originally named from the Norse word vik, meaning bay. So it’s a Viking town with an enormous sense of history, adventure, mystery and wonder in its beaches, forests and ruins. Endless inspiration for stories and characters, which my younger self began writing about. I took this further with a Creative Writing Module at University, then carried on writing every year since.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I had nearly completed one story before we entered lockdown for COVID-19. I suddenly had a lot of free time and used it to write for twelve hours a day until the book was complete. Self-publishing made sense because all the book festivals are cancelled, traditional publishers aren’t in their offices, I don’t particularly want to go to the Post Office to mail out manuscripts, and some of the stories are about hope and overcoming difficult odds, apt to the current world situation. So now was the right time to release it.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
It’s ten short stories based in the Highlands of Scotland. A mix of mystery thrillers, with a hint of horror, followed by ten true revelations in my semi-autobiographical Story Behind the Stories section, which details the childhood experiences that inspired each story.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Each character is on an adventure that goes wrong, so that’s where misadventure comes from. Mysteries was a sign post for the genre. Tales from the Highlands lets people know that it’s short stories and that its based in Scotland. I like informative titles for short story collections, as you immediately know what you are getting.
How did you celebrate publication day?
It’s been a surreal few days. An article was posted on a popular Caithness website. Which lead to the local newspaper running an article about the book. Which has snowballed into doing telephone interviews with other local press, magazines and a national newspaper. Plus a national autism magazine are interested in featuring the short story with a main character on the spectrum. So I haven’t had time to digest it all yet, but (as we are still currently in lockdown) will likely celebrate with a self-isolated walk on the beach!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes I have about a third of a novel finished. It’s a psychological thriller featuring a strong female lead. A detective whose last case is taking place while the world as we know it is ending. It has a working title of Fear the Reaper: A Detective Ellie Harper Thriller. The blurb for the book is:
Detective Ellie Harper was investigating a grisly murder scene, when the victim’s body stood up.
Charlie loves to kill and he’s itching to do it again. When his police escorts are murdered, he sees his chance to escape.
Hannah’s parents are dead and there is a stranger in her house.
Summoned to an emergency meeting, Ellie learns that the world faces a new threat. A virus unleashed. With the world in lockdown, Ellie barely escapes with her life when her train home crashes. The passengers are attacked as they attempt to flee the wreckage.
Alone and afraid, Ellie seeks out other survivors. Together they must fight their way across a ruined city to rescue Ellie’s sister. But with the power out and danger lurking around every corner, this group of strangers are running out of time.
Forced to kill and on the run, can Ellie survive the horrors of this deadly new world? With a killer hidden in their group, will they even survive each other?
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
My entire reading collection now comes from Kindle Unlimited. After reading Ready Player One, I discovered the LitRPG and GameLit genres. I recently read Downfall And Rise (Challenger’s Call Book 1) by Nathan Thompson, followed by quickly reading the entire series as it was so enthralling. A boy who becomes disabled by a freak accident gets a new life inside an immersive VR game.
What are you reading just now?
I am currently in May 2020 reading Towers of Heaven: A LitRPG Adventure (Book 1) by Cameron Milan. The world as we know it has ended due to six giant towers appearing on Earth. I’m enjoying it so far.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I would take The Hobbit. I was given the book at far too young an age to read it properly, but I struggled my way through and the story and images it conjured stuck with me.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey. The Sunday Times said it was “The next Hunger Games” and they were close, it’s better than that. I would want unknown actors and actresses playing each role, so that it didn’t detract from the fabulous storytelling, but they then went on to become household names in their breakout roles. Kind of like how the Harry Potter and Twilight cast will always be associated with those films.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Book promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6RBgThM7yU
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Am I allowed to say I would like to be the Jeff Bezos character from the book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon? I mean, I know it they say that money changes you, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take. Failing that, I would like to be John Oldman from Richard Schenkman’s novel adaptation of the film The Man from Earth. Granted, I would be 14,000 years old, but give me immortality or give me death, right?
On a serious note, I wouldn’t mind going on the adventure Atreyu has in The Neverending Story. The idea of a book transporting you to a fantastical world is obviously one that authors (and readers) think about a lot, regardless of genre. It’s what we do, create worlds, characters and adventures, or transport ourselves to them. Battling fantastical creatures across a magical land also gives you stories to tell the grandkids.
From the back of the book
Ten mystery short stories set in the Highlands of Scotland. True secrets revealed in this short story collection.
The Road Trip
A couple make a surprise stop on a road trip. They receive a strange welcome at an isolated guesthouse, where not everything is as it seems. Unaware of its deadly history, can the couple escape and unlock its buried secrets? Or will they become its next victims?
Secrets of the River
An unopened box dragged from the river. A hastily scrawled message from the past. The young woman who stole these is being hunted. Now cornered, time is running out. Will she ignore the dead man’s warning? What did he hide inside his mysterious box? And can she survive its secrets?
Equal To and Greater Than
James has a 1 in 54 condition. Attacked and humiliated, he turns to his only friend and a little-known superhero. Can he harness the gifts his condition has given him? Can he stand against his tormentors and become the hero he needs to be?
The Gala Queen
Halloween night. A prank gone wrong. A young girl dies and the boy responsible has got away with it. Until the annual town gala, where he spots a familiar costume in the crowd. And a face that shouldn’t be there. Lost and afraid, will he survive the vengeance of the gala queen?
Revenge of the Green Man
It’s 1995. Charlie is convinced that Big Donny Mackay has stolen his CD. Plotting revenge, his friend Jamie is dragged into his ever-crazier schemes. Will they be able to scare him into returning it? Or will they be caught and face the wrath of Big Donny Mackay? A dark comedy with Scots dialogue.
The House on Lovers’ Lane
It’s the late nineties. A town is in mourning for a missing boy. Lyndsay and Cheriee’s parents think they are having a sleepover at each other’s house. Armed with alcohol, they have decided to spend the night in a field behind lover’s lane. As the rest of the town goes to sleep, Cheriee dares Lyndsay to sneak through the garden of a nearby house and touch the door, avoiding setting off the security light. But when Lyndsay peers through the living room window she realises the danger they are in.
Call of the Nuckelavee
A woman stalks the sandy dunes, following the voice of her drowned father. Her mind full of questions, she spies a dog ahead that appears to be beckoning her to follow. She realises it’s her father’s dog, missing since the day of his death. Launching herself into the sea, she comes face to face with the creature that has haunted her nightmares. She must decide quickly how far she is willing to go to get answers.
Black Dog in the Devil’s Bothy
A woman plans a hike in the Highlands to aid her recovery from depression and anxiety. Unprepared for the trials of the trip, she strays from the mountain path to shelter from a storm but loses her way in the forest. At her lowest point, she finds a bothy but soon discovers that her darkest fears have followed her to this place. Can she solve the black dog’s riddle and find her way back to the light? Or will she be trapped alone forever in the darkness of the devil’s bothy?
Last Train South
A woman boards the last train of the day from Wick to Inverness. Her heavy suitcase contains a dark secret. Evidence she must dispose of. Will her friends back out now? Or will they stick to the plan and help her erase the mistakes of her past?
A nuclear biologist just wants to spend his final days camping in the woods and reading his book. Unfortunately, the trained killers searching for him have other ideas. They want him to return the item he stole. Will he be given the peace to read? Or will he have to become what he fears the most?
A Scottish Short Stories Collection filled with Mystery Thrillers