32: Aaron Starmer (author of Spontaneous)

Danielle Krage interviews writer Aaron Starmer, whose young adult and middle-grade novels you can find on so many best-of-year lists, from Time Magazine to the Wall Street Journal.  

He’s the author of Spontaneous, also adapted into a romantic black comedy horror film, produced and directed by Brian Duffield (Underwater, Love and Monsters, No One Will Save You).

Spontaneous was one of Danielle’s top picks in episode 30 (comedy horror for Halloween).

In the interview with Aaron, the conversation covers:

  • Humour and its relationship to tragedy and trauma.
  • Navigating the sensibilities of voice and humour.
  • Non-visual entrances into characters.
  • High concepts and hooks.
  • Writing humour for different age groups.
  • Characters as vessels for jokes.

You can find out more about Aaron Starmer and his work here:





Danielle (00:00.578)

Today, I am delighted to have Aaron Starmer with me, who is a wonderful author, one of my absolute favorites and whose young adults and middle grade books have made so many different best of year lists from Time Magazine to the Wall Street Journal to the School Library Journal. And you’ll know if you listen to the episode a couple of weeks with Zanandi and I, that I picked Aaron’s novel, Spontaneous, as one of my favorites.

So I’m so thrilled to be able to ask Aaron all the writing and humour based questions today. But before we dive in, is there anything else that you’d love people to know about you and your work?

Aaron Starmer (00:27.488)

Not really. I mean, I think you covered it. I write mostly for young people. But that’s a full range from about seven years old up to something like Spontaneous, which I would not recommend for seven year olds. It’s a book specifically for teenagers. But I hope that adults can enjoy my books as well. And a lot of the people that reach out to me are adults that are finding the books on their own.

Danielle (01:04.326)

Yeah, absolutely. And Spontaneous was one of those examples where I actually watched the film first, loved the film, and whenever I see a film where I think… that’s an interesting concept and I know that it’s based on a book, I always go back and read the book and absolutely loved it. I was so glad that I read it. So I highly recommend it.

And I actually wanted to start with the quote that’s at the beginning of your novel, Spontaneous. It says…’to the ones who feel like it could all come apart at any moment… and to the ones who comfort us, and keep us together.’ And I just wonder when you think about that concept of things coming apart and things that bring comfort, where does humour and writing fit in that picture for you?

Aaron Starmer (01:45.109)

I mean, I think humour is the most essential part of, you know, moving through grief or moving through difficult times. I mean, that’s always something that I’ve found. If you can’t laugh at the difficult things in life, then it’s going to be hard to confront them because you’re going to…you know, the themes of Spontaneous are obvious…that something can come out at you without warning and you’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.

The main character does use humour, but there are other ways she has to confront… to deal with it as well. But there were a lot of issues that I wanted to explore with Spontaneous, about being young but also about America in the 21st century And yeah humor was the way I had to attack it. I guess

Danielle (02:37.854)

Yeah. And, and that’s also, I mean, it’s reflected in Mara, the central character’s voice as well. Like she beautifully conveys, and I appreciate obviously that’s coming from you… that honest approach to shock and tragedy. And she talks about…sometimes crying, sometimes making really inappropriate jokes, sometimes going on as though nothing’s happened at all. So I actually wondered when, with that specific reference to inappropriate jokes, which is one of the real coping mechanisms of humans, whether there was any pushback at any point with that.  Because humour can be on the one hand… I find it frustrating because it is such a human thing to do. And knowing so many teens and adults, we all use it and it’s so relevant….But there can also be a lot of pushback in terms of sensitivity about what those jokes are made of. So I just wondered if you’d had any pushback at all on that front.

Aaron Starmer (03:10.849)

Sure, I mean, you know, certainly not from the publishing company or my editor agents. They all clung onto the voice immediately. And I think about my group of friends who have a similar dark sense of humor that I do. And we could make jokes like this amongst ourselves, but there are different people with different sensibilities that you couldn’t. And navigating that difference can be difficult for some and gets people into a lot of trouble.

But I also wanted to explore that with the character, because all these different kids are going through the same stuff, and they’re going to cope with it in different ways. So people that read the book…some people read it, and they relate to Mara. They have similar reactions, and other people are kind of disgusted, the readers. But I wanted it to be a different experience for each reader, depending on how they deal with a tragedy and trauma.

So yeah, that was an important way to get me started, was the voice of Mara. I thought at times to make it a young man, and I thought that he would come off a lot more harsh if it was a young man in a way. I don’t know if I was wrong about that, but you know, it just felt instinctually right if I was gonna tell this story and have this really wry and sardonic narrator that it had to be a young woman

Danielle (05:09.01)

Yeah, I really appreciate that. And I really appreciated the pairing with Dylan as well. And I watched a completely different film last night, which I won’t mention because I didn’t enjoy the dynamic as much. And it was so refreshing to me to see that male character too, that had that like sweetness and that different tone of voice. And I really appreciated that…that across the whole cast of characters, we have such a range of different responses and voices, which sounds obvious because we’re all different, but we don’t always have that in books.

And so I wanted to ask you specifically about the characters, because in the book it’s written in first person, Mara’s voice, and Mara is brilliant to my taste at describing characters… incredibly observant and aware and great at pinning them down in a sentence in a really quirky, but astute  way.

And so obviously by the magic of writing, that means it’s you, that’s brilliant at observing characters. So when you think about yourself and how you do observe characters, is there anything that you find particularly useful? Or is it just something that comes very naturally to you?

Aaron Starmer:

You know, I’m not really sure. There was recently on Twitter, or whatever you call it these days, there was a sort of thread of people talking about you know, being visual thinkers and you know, like you can close your eyes and picture an apple. And I’m not one of those people. I can’t picture things in my mind. So, a lot of people, you know, their entrance into characters is visual. And that’s never my entrance into characters. I have to cling on either to something emotional or something anecdotal about them, because a short little story about a character can tell you a lot about them. So I think in Spontaneous, rather than telling you exactly what the characters look like and things like that, it was let’s find little anecdotes or little unique quirks about each character that someone like Mara would hold onto and define the character through.

Now…Whether that’s the true definition of the character, you know, not necessarily, but it’s Mara’s entry into it. And I find, when you’re a young person in school and I went to a somewhat large school for high school for the US, there are plenty of people that you’re not going to know very well, and you have to have those little stories or those little ideas about them, which may be right or wrong. But they flavour how you view your student body.

Danielle (07:55.458)

That’s a really good way of describing it. And it works really well for me. I love it. And as you say, we know that there’s more to it, but it’s a great entry point for the reader in terms of how they’re introduced. It makes them really memorable. I can remember so many of the characters. I could be like, Brian, oh yeah, he was the one eating carrots, this funny little detail, but they do make them really specific too. I love it.

And I’ve seen a lot of comments from teachers who’ve really enjoyed your school visits and what you contribute to the students. And one of them talked about how much you help students understand the writing process and the decisions that authors make. And I know it’s a broad question, but either in relation to Spontaneous or in relation to any of your other books that particularly stick in your mind, what do you think are the things that you’ve come to that do help your process and do help particularly that decision-making process that can be… onerous makes it sound very negative… but it can be a lot. I think it wasn’t until I came to fiction writing that I understood just how many decisions there truly are and what happens if you change one in the stack.

Aaron Starmer (09:03.604)

Yeah, I mean, every book is somewhat different in terms of what your motivation is. And in Spontaneous, it was voice. I started with the voice, because I knew I needed that voice to tell this dark of a story that I also wanted to give a comedic edge. So once I got comfortable with Mara’s voice, that would let me drive the narrative forward to points I wanted it to be.

Whenever I’m writing a book, I don’t outline, but I have certain beats that I want to hit, or certain scenes that I want to get to. And so I use them as sort of…almost like, you know, like you’re running a race and there are different water stations along the way that you’ve got to get to. Or you’re on a road trip and there’s different sightseeing things that you want to get to along the way. So as long as I’ve got those mapped out in my mind, I know generally where the story is going.

And then the voice is going to drive me in some cases. And some of my other books, it’s the hook of the story. I’ve got a series of books for younger people called Locker 37, which is about a magical locker that gives kids solutions to their problems. And when I wrote that series, I mapped it out that each book would come in sort of four acts. And it wouldn’t necessarily be your typica narrative arc, but I needed to accomplish something in each act. And I knew I wanted the stakes to get higher and higher. So it’s sort of like reaching each of those points and having something, whether it’s voice, whether it’s a gimmick, whether it’s a character, that’s going to push you to each one. I don’t ever write ahead. I don’t do parts and then…You know in the editorial process I might move stuff around But it’s all about maintaining that momentum

Danielle (11:20.174)

Yeah, that’s really helpful. And again, I think sometimes the word gimmick can have a slightly pejorative context to it, but I don’t think it is in terms of that hook and that concept. For example, like the Math Mystery is the triple threat. As soon as I saw that and read the first sections of it, I was like, this is such a strong, unifying concept that then you can have so much fun with. So you seem to be particularly good at doing that.

Aaron Starmer (11:47.717)

Yeah, I mean, you know, that’s a lot of what gets me excited about writing things is I want to be able to write something that if someone asked me what it is, I can give them that typical elevator pitch. Now, I want it to be more than that. I want it to explore other things. But as a reader or  someone watching a movie, I like high concept. I like hooks. I like gimmicky things. Just like I like that in music as well, because I want it to hold me. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy other things that might be slow or burn or take a bit longer to get into, but as a reader and a writer, those are both things that excite me and at least can get me readers that might not necessarily be interested before.

Danielle (12:41.494)

Yeah, I agree. I love it. I’m with you on that one. And it’s a broad question, but are there things when you think about humour that you do find different because you do write across so many different ages? Because I think to my taste in a really good way, a lot of the themes are still respectfully dark. When I think about books like The Riverman and also think about the characters in them, like the Fiona character isn’t patronized at all in a way that does sometimes happen. She does have this really keen awareness and humour that comes through that’s beyond some of the kinds of humour that gets used for those age groups. For example, there’s a comment that she makes that really sticks in my head about… an observation about not having any pictures of her as a baby, and being the third child, and she makes a comment in quite an aware way about, maybe we’re vampires, we don’t show up kind of thing, but it’s better phrased than that. So I’m just curious because I think a lot of the humor is respectfully appropriate and doesn’t underestimate. But I’m sure when you are within the context of publishing, there are different guidelines that you have to think about. So it’s a difficult broad question, but just for the different ages that you write, do you feel quite solid now in terms of how far you can push in each of those, or is it still sometimes something that has to be negotiated in editorial?

Aaron Starmer (14:01.543)

Yeah, I mean, a lot of the publishing divisions are certainly, you know, you could view it by just the age of the characters. And certainly you can write an adult book about eight-year-olds, but the voice you’re gonna use on that is gonna be an adult voice looking back. And so, you know, in children’s books, you know, certainly in a book for seven and eight-year-olds, you’re not gonna fill it full of swears that’s not gonna get published. But those…types of things are part of those kids’ lives. So you don’t shy away from the fact that there are, that there is darkness, there is, you know, there is this adult society that they don’t have full access to, but they have some access. And I think that’s important because when you’re at whatever age you’re at, you don’t really think of yourself necessarily getting more mature or getting smarter.

Say you’ve got a limited vocabulary, but there are big words in that vocabulary, even when you’re young. So if you’re just writing for kids as if, all right, I’m only gonna use these 250 words and I’m not going to touch these dark subjects at all, you are underestimating what a kid is absorbing during the day. Now, you’re not going to present something that is just going to scar children, hopefully. But children are also very good at self-regulating. I’ve got kids. There are books and movies that they’re just not interested in because they’re just saying… that seems too scary for me. That seems too much for me.

And when they’re ready, they will be ready to confront it. So even if there are books or things designed for kids…I tried to show my…10 year old daughter Raiders of the Lost Ark. And the beginning, she likes all sorts of adventure and things like that, but just all the skeletons and stuff like that. She just said…no, I don’t wanna watch this. And that’s a movie for kids, but she knew what she was into and she knew what she could handle. So yeah, I think there are definitely divisions that you learn when you’re writing for children of what’s going to get published, but I don’t think there’s really many subjects out of bounds is just how you confront them.

Danielle (16:52.478)

I think that’s a perfect way of answering. And I really appreciate the way that you do that and the way that you don’t shy away from using all kinds of humour to create that lens as well.

So this is a bit of a side turn, but I did see in my research that before you were a full-time writer, you were in New York and you were an editor for a travel bookseller and also an operations director for an African safari company. So I was just super curious whether there was anything from that time in your learnings or experience that you do think you’ve carried forward into your writing. Maybe the answer is no, which is fine.

Aaron Starmer (17:30.186)

I mean from the time at the…the bookseller was named Longitude Books and I was there for nearly 10 years and basically what we did is we worked with travel companies that organize cruises or tours of Europe or, you know I live in Vermont right now and I see some of my old clients leading fall foliage tours.

So what my job was when people would go on these trips is I would create a reading list for them of…it might be a guidebook and a map, but then you would also have novels, histories, art histories depending on what sort of trip they would go on. And then at our at our store which was mainly an online store, but you could come in in New York and buy books, we would ship out and we would curate.

Danielle (18:04.936)

Oh wow.

Aaron Starmer (18:26.293)

So it became my job over 10 years to know a lot of geography and a lot of different type of books And at least have general knowledge of the books if I hadn’t read them But it did expose me to a lot of different types of books and different parts of the world, that I wasn’t necessarily traveling to but I was doing a lot of research about and that eventually led me into getting a job for a safari company where my job was preparing people for their safaris. I wasn’t going out on safari with them, but was telling them what they needed to do and documentation and gear and things like that. And then as I got into writing novels, I was also freelancing as a guidebook editor and writer so I did a bit of that for a number of years but world has changed a lot. So it was this sort of slow.. I was always in books and it’s sort of this slow process until all I was doing was writing.

Danielle (19:33.482)

Yeah. Wow. What a lovely way of adding to people’s trips. II’d only thought about the logistics side, but yeah, that’s wonderful.

And for you now as a reader or a viewer, sometimes it’s hard to think on the spot, but are there any people’s work or examples that you really love in terms of the way that they use humour, whether that is film, series, novels, poems, whatever media.

Aaron Starmer (19:39.879)

Yeah. I mean, when you asked me to do this interview, I was thinking of stuff that had influenced me. And I think like a lot of people of my age, you know, in their mid forties, we grew up on a lot of British humour. And that’s what we reacted to. So Monty Python and Douglas Adams. And that sort of dry, irreverent, absurdist stuff that we weren’t getting in America, which was…there was some of that in Saturday Live, but not to the degree that the British were doing it. And so, you know, that was scratching an itch that young people with a dark sense of humor weren’t getting from here. So I remember, I would stay up late and try to catch Monty Python on the public broadcasting. I never knew when it was going to come on, but sometimes it would come on, sometimes it wouldn’t. I watched all the movies on videotape. I think that was a pretty common thing for my age.

Then I would say in the late 90s and early 2000s, that sort of humour was coming into America in a more indie way. You see that with a lot of comedians. Things like…The State and Mr. Show and all those sort of sketch comedy shows that were much more absurd. And they remained underground shows in a certain way. They were successful, but they weren’t big hits. But everyone who came out of that became a sort of well-known name in comedy. So I would say that was sort of my biggest influence on my comedic sensibilities. But you know…lots of things, a lot of things from osmosis, but that was the one thing I was thinking about.

Danielle (22:00.946)

Yeah, you pinning it down as dry, irreverent and absurd. It’s like, yeah, no wonder I love your work. Because again….absurdity can be such a big word in terms of what we apply it to, but the…in Spontaneous, the way things are dealt with is both very real and just enough distance. Like I think if it had not had that it would be harder to read and also harder to watch in the movie. Because I am quite sensitive and squeamish to some things. I don’t actually watch a lot of horror, for example. And it’s not that the events aren’t horrific in the way that there’s horrific things happen in the world and tragedy, but there’s enough distance with the concept and the way that it’s framed and the way that you deal with the humour and the full emotional scope of the characters to be able to watch it without it just being excruciating. It’s actually enjoyable, even though it feels a bit funny to say it,  because it’s an inviting way in for someone like me to be able to engage with those really, you know, what can be dark or messy topics. I do appreciate that.

Aaron Starmer (22:58.409)

Yeah. And that was the intent. And, you know, that’s easier to get across in a book. And I remember when the movie was going to come out, a lot of people were like, well, I don’t know if I can watch, you know, a movie of that book because of what it might entail. You know, you can just say something in a book, and people can picture it however. But the director, Brian Duffield, and he wrote the script as well, he understood that as well. And he knew, partly for budget reasons, he needed to tone it back. But also he often refers to it as baby’s first horror movie. It’s like, he said, if you can get through the first minute, you can get through the rest of it. That’s the thing. And I liked that approach because some people could read that book and it could just be the most gruesome thing you’ve ever seen in the world. And I didn’t want it to be that because that was never my intention.

Danielle (24:16.834)

Hmm. Yeah. And though I don’t have the vocabulary for how he managed to achieve that, I did think that was achieved in the film too. I thought tonally, it was absolutely brilliant. And someone like myself, who’s not a big horror fan could watch it and really appreciate the brilliant characterization and such a great match to the voice of the book as well in terms of how that came through.

Aaron Starmer (24:21.617)

Thank you.

Danielle (24:43.498)

And one of the best uses, to my tastes, of voiceover narration that I’ve seen. Really skillfully done, loved it. So I wanted to ask you another broad question, but what do you specifically love about writing? So I’m sure some days there’s all the challenges, but what is it that keeps bringing you back to it as your vocation?

Aaron Starmer (24:47.802)

Sometimes I picture it almost fully formed and it’s that sort of quest to get as close to that ideal as possible. And when I was younger the act of writing was a lot more fun because I was I was sort of discovering my voice, and trying different things out. And I hated revision. And these days I probably prefer revision a bit more. I’m not someone that revises a lot unless it’s totally necessary. And if you get to that point, then you’ve got to question whether, or at least for me, I’ve got to question whether the idea was good in the first place. But right now I just love honing little parts, and I love just getting in deep with it after I’ve done the main architecture, and making every bit as good as I can.

And that’s… when I work with editors, I often tell them that’s what I want from an editor. I want an editor who will tell me… this isn’t good enough. This is fine, but it isn’t good enough. You know, if I think the whole thing needs a restructure, then I’m worried that the whole thing might not work. But you know, those little minute details are the part that I enjoy the most now. And that usually comes in the revision process.

Danielle (26:44.678)

Yeah. And at this point in your career, is it only once you finish something that you then get feedback on it? And is that from…because it seems to be different for all writers, whether that’s from agent as well as editor, or just editor, or a wider group. How do you like to work?

Aaron Starmer (27:01.897)

Yeah, I don’t share with a lot of people just because I don’t like to have a lot of different voices.  Because some people are really good at critiquing and giving feedback, but some people, you know, they try to micromanage your ideas before they’re fully formed. My agent obviously reads anything before it goes out and there are times when he’s like… well, you know, before we send this out, you should rework this part. And he’s always right about those things. But he’s not a micromanager. So he realizes that’s going to happen with an editor. And then, yes,  an editor will read it. I’ve sold a number of books on like 50 pages before. So often it’s the opening that will catch someone’s eye and they’ll trust me to finish it, for better or worse. I mean, I guess I’ve proven for a lot of things that I can do it, so they trust me to finish it. And I’m also at a point in my career where it’s difficult to just sit down and write a whole thing without any idea it’s going to go anywhere. I still do that occasionally. And there are things that I’ve written that are still sitting in the bottom of a drawer. But there are also things that I started years ago that I picked back up and then they become books. So yeah, I don’t share a lot because I like to have a good relationship with a few people that I trust and I think that’s usually enough. Otherwise, I feel there’s just too many voices in my ear.

Danielle (28:49.566)

Yeah, that totally makes sense. And are there things that you use to keep a book fresh for you, or keep a book funny for you, or keep a book engaging for you once you are at that point where, like you say you’ve got the architecture and you’re reworking things. Does it ever become stale and you need to reinvigorate it, or is it like a craftsperson at this point that doesn’t get that sensation?

Aaron Starmer (29:20.193)

Yeah, I mean, it’s almost like, you know, every writer has crutches they fall back on, whether it’s, tropes or just the way they confront dialogue or a certain aspect of writing. And I’m trying to identify those things myself, even if an editor isn’t identifying it, if I know I’m falling back on something that’s too easy. And so, you know what I find exciting is to sort of break myself of habits, or try to go through and spot my weak points that I might not have spotted in earlier books. And you know, I can’t read most books that I’ve written because I’ve moved on from them and I will spot all the things that now I would never, never put in a book. So that part excites me in a way. I mean, it frustrates me too, but it excites me in that it’s something tangible that I can do to improve a book.

Danielle (30:27.51)

That makes sense. And another teacher who’d had one of your workshops mentioned that the students had really enjoyed your presentation, the link to storytelling and memories, and that may have been because it was picking up themes from the specific book of the visit. I just wondered whether you do go back intentionally and mine memories and transmute them into something else, or if it’s a much more unconscious process of things that do just come through,

in your subconscious. And I’m asking because so many things feel so well grounded, even though they do have, you know, they may have the absurdity or the dryness or things that help to create remove too. They feel very emotionally real.

Aaron Starmer (31:00.737)

Yeah, I mean certain books are more tied to my history than others. I mean, the River Man trilogy is, I would say, more personal than some of my other books because it’s set very much in the time that I grew up, in the place I grew up, and is emotionally connected to what I was feeling at the time. Now the plot is completely different than anything that I confronted.

But also things like secondary characters. I rarely base characters on people that I knew, but I will take aspects of people I knew or people that I knew about. And like we were talking about before, those little anecdotes that you might know a little bit about some person and you say, okay, I’m gonna take that little bit and this is gonna be how I create this other character.

It’s going to be completely different from that person that you remember but it is drawing specifically from those memories. So there are scenes and an anecdote, stories that were told, rumours at school all that sort of stuff. So it is it is pulling directly in a fashion, but it’s like a sample and music. You use it to just kick things off and to be an extra bit of background that adds to this tapestry and hopefully, like you said, makes it feel realistic because it is coming from something real.

Danielle (32:48.51)

Yeah, totally. And at this point, because there is so much humour used so expertly in your books…I think, for example, that Spontaneous is a really technical feat, as well as an emotional feat. Do you have a working vocabulary for how you think about the kinds of humour that you’re using, or is it much more intuitive than that, that you just know that this is what you enjoy?

Aaron Starmer (33:19.085)

I mean, a lot of it is intuitive, but it’s almost always drawn from the characters. So you have to have characters, whether you’re going to have a straight man and you have to set up the characters to be vessels for these jokes. So there are certain jokes, like in my Locker 37 series, there are four very distinct characters and each one has a different type of joke that is going to work with them. You can’t use some of the jokes for other characters. And in the case of Mara, there’s so many jokes in that, that would not fly if it’s a third person narrative, it’s not gonna fly with another character. And she does have a best friend Tess who is sort of her straight man. And then her romantic interest, Dylan serves another function. And so yeah, the only way to comedy I find is, you do have situational comedy obviously, but you need the characters to ground it and give it that punch.

Danielle (34:38.942)

Yeah, that’s a brilliant way of explaining it. And again, I think that’s why I enjoy your work so much because it is so rooted in character, which is my favorite because I am the kind of person where if I can hear the joke, but I don’t feel like it fits in the character, I can just hear it as a clever joke or a clever pun, but it’s not fitting the character of the situation…it pulls me out and I often don’t find it funny. So I think that’s one of the things that I really appreciate in your work is it always feels like it does come from that.

And then you get to explore so many different styles because then it can be goofy or it can be snarky or it can be word-based or there’s one of the characters in one of your books who I thought was so sweet and true and interesting as a humour tactic for young people, that he’s given a nickname and then puts it on a t-shirt. Like that’s the way to kind of beat them with humour. You’re so good at like identifying all these different ways because it comes from character. It gives it just such a rich tapestry. I love it. So just a couple more questions before we wrap up.

I’d love to know whether there’s any parting advice that you have for other people who’d like to get a little bit more confident, or at least trying out some humour in their fiction, whether they’re writing for middle grade or young adults.

Aaron Starmer (36:06.085)

Certainly on the younger end, kids are learning humour. So you can use sort of, you know, use cliche jokes or tropes and things like that, that they haven’t confronted them yet. And they’re going to find them funny because they’re confronting them for the first time. They’re not seeing this from Groucho Marx or from, you know, even from Will Ferrell or something. There is this comedy that is this sort of passing down through generations. And then whoever you’re getting this bit of comedy from, you’re getting it at a young age.

But anyone that’s writing it, think about what makes you laugh. And certainly when you’re writing for young people, they’re going to be confronting it for the first time. So you’ve got to give them a certain amount of access. They’re not going to necessarily have the full comedic range that you do at a certain young age. But as you get older, you can stretch that out. And that’s why I would say the humour in my younger books is a bit broader, while as I get older, it’s more satirical and more pointed.

But don’t try to copy jokes or just throw in a joke just because you’ve heard that it’s funny. It has to be funny to you. Finally, there’s going to be half the world that’s going to hate your book If it’s if it’s pitched as a funny book And that’s just the nature of comedy and you have to get over that. You can write a tragedy and most people aren’t going to comment on whether something’s devastating or not because we all sort of have the same entry into some things that are devastating. But we don’t have all the same entry point into what’s funny. So you can’t try to please everyone, obviously. You’ve got to please yourself first, and then that will please a certain subset of people that have a similar sense of humor.

Danielle (38:13.638)

Yeah. And that’s such a great way of putting it, because it is so subjective. And I know that about myself, it’s just one of those weird things that there’s some things I find funny and some things I don’t that I literally will see the person next to me thoroughly enjoying that they’re watching or reading. So it is so subjective and knowing that about ourselves as readers, hopefully we can know that as writers too, though I imagine it must be harder in terms of the judgment because not everyone holds that full picture. If I read something and I don’t find it funny, I don’t think it’s a bad book, it’s just not my particular style of humour, whereas Spontaneous is a great match for how I’m interested in engaging with the world and thinking about the world and appreciating those characters. So that’s awesome. That’s a great qualifier. Thank you. And lastly, where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

Aaron Starmer (39:32.713)

Well, X, everyone knows what happened to that lately. It’s kind of a cesspool now, so I try to avoid that. I do have a Blue Sky account. I’ve played around with a little bit, but I don’t know. I’m getting a little bit away from those things. They’re massive time sucks and take away from productivity and hopefully that will mean I can put out more books. I will have a few more in the next few years at least. And so you can keep an eye out for those. And yeah, that’s about it.

Danielle (40:07.966)

So I do have to ask you one sneaky last question, which is… how far ahead are you working? Like when you look at your calendar, are you like…I know what’s happening for the next year, two years, three years, or is it hard to say.

Aaron Starmer (40:24.365)

Yeah, I mean I have another one of those math mystery books coming out next year which is basically completely done and ready to go. And those are just sort of fun books, comedic mysteries for kids where they solve math problems, sort of an updated Encyclopedia Brown type of thing that a publisher approached me about writing and I said, sure, it sounds like fun. And then I have two books coming out in 2025, which are, one is a middle grade book and one is a young adult book. In a way, they’re both possibly the weirdest things that I’ve ever written, both of them. They take some big swings, but I hope that…

The young adult is definitely my most personal young adult book, but it’s got a strange hook to it. And then the middle grade is just, I don’t know if they really are going to let me get away with it, but we’ll see. It’s formally wild and thematically wild, but I’m at a point where I just want to write what excites me. And both of these are things that excited me, and they’re not straightforward comedies, either of them, but I can’t write anything without comedic elements. And even my most dark and tragic books, I view as dark comedies, even if other people don’t.

Danielle (41:58.046)

My goodness, I am so excited now. So I won’t be one of those annoying people that’s asking you…is it done yet? Is it done yet? But that’s something to really look forward to. And I will definitely, definitely keep my eyes out for those. So thank you so much today for having this conversation and thank you for all your books. They’re such a treat.

Aaron Starmer (42:11.009)

Thank you for all your questions. I really had fun.