Second Chat With Aeryn Rudel
Aeryn offers insight into death metal's value as a writing tool, keeping up your daily word count, seven stages to reacting to literary rejection, and developing a process for querying novel agents.
Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, On Spec, and Pseudopod, among others. He occasionally offers dubious advice on writing and rejection at rejectomancy.com or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel. Last month he published his baseball horror novella, Effectively Wild, now available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Aeryn is also the author of “When Gods Walk” from Radon issue 4, “Hunting Snowmen” from Radon issue 2, and “Fertilizer” from Radon issue 1.
How has your debut novella, Effectively Wild, done since we last spoke in 2022?
It’s been well reviewed, and folks seem to be enjoying it, often to their surprise! I get a lot of “I don’t like baseball, but I liked this” reviews, which is validating. If I can make non-sports fans read and enjoy a book that is chock-full of baseball jargon, then I guess I’ve done something right? I’m working on the next novella in the series, which will feature another classic monster involved in America’s Pastime.
What is your process for finding the right agent to query your novel, Second Dawn?
I’m fairly new to querying agents, so my process is a work in progress. Right now, I largely rely on recommendations from other authors and make heavy use of QueryTracker, a database of agents with tons of information. After that, it’s just good old-fashioned research. Whenever I find a promising agent on QueryTracker or through a recommendation, I look at their manuscript wish lists, the books and authors they represent, read their bios, all that stuff. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that’ll convince me an agent might be a good fit. For example, recently, I wasn’t sure if an agent I was researching would be a good match, and then she said in her bio how much she loves stories that deal with the moral challenges of being a monster. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s pretty much exactly what my book is about. So, I fired off the query, and crossed my fingers.
Do you feel that the American Northwest where you reside and write offers a condensed and conducive area for creatives to thrive in and connect with one another?
Absolutely. I moved up here from California when I was offered a job as magazine editor for No Quarter, Privateer Press’s inhouse magazine. So I stepped right into a ready-made community of other creatives, many of whom are still part of a close circle of friends and colleagues. In addition, my job as magazine editor and then fiction editor allowed me to create even more relationships with authors and artists, again, many of which are still going strong today.
But the Seattle area is overflowing with creative folks. A lot of that has to do with the video game and tabletop gaming companies that operate out of the Pacific Northwest. My personal theory, though, is that gloom attracts creative folks (or maybe it creates them), and we have that in abundance up here.
Your latest flash fiction with us, "When Gods Walk" makes great commentary on religion and its followers. How do you regard religion in your personal life?
Oh, wow, is that a good question. I’ll try to be brief. So, religious themes, especially those that involve Christian theology, are very common in my work. That has a lot to do with the fact that I was brought up evangelical Christian (a doctrine I have long since abandoned), and being that my formative years were filled with fire and brimstone, it’s only natural it would show up in my work. I like to subvert established Christian assumptions, flip them around, and ask questions. For example, “When Gods Walk” asks if there was a god, an ineffable all-powerful being, would you really want it to notice you? And if it did, is it possible it might not actually be the answer to your prayers?
As for my own religious beliefs, I have none. I’ve been an atheist for the better part of twenty-five years, and thus far, I haven’t seen any evidence to change my mind on that score.
What bands make you geek out the most about heavy metal? And why are you drawn to heavy and death metal over other subgenres of metal such as metalcore, prog metal, etc.?
I really like old-school death metal, and my favorite bands are Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Obituary, Entombed, and a few other bands that kind of kicked off the genre. I also like thrash metal, and Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura are in heavy rotation in my playlists. I occasionally listen to other metal genres, but as a rule, I don’t like clean vocals in my metal, so that means certain genres are just not to my taste.
I think I’m drawn to death metal, and even its more aggressive subgenres like brutal death metal, because it has a droning quality that I find weirdly soothing. The guttural vocals and sludgy guitars all come together to form a sort of white noise that helps me focus when I’m writing.
On your Rejectomancy site, you created a leveling system for authors in a skill called Rejectomancy. Each rejection awards writers with 1 experience (xp) point, and 3,550 xp is needed to reach max level 20 with adamantium resistance. Have you achieved this level?
Hah! I’ve got to be getting close. It’s a dubious achievement, of course, but it’s a fun way to keep track of my progress. I’m gonna need to update the rules on that thing pretty soon to include agent queries. Those have gotta be worth TONS of Rejectomancer points, right?
Rejectomacy recently celebrated its eighth birthday! How do you feel about the long journey you began? Similar to Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom? Or only halfway to the mountain? Or perhaps already on the return journey?
On good days, I look back and think, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” On bad days, I feel a little like Sisyphus pushing that big ‘ol rock up that hill. I think the most rewarding thing about the blog, though, is when folks send me a personal note or leave a comment to tell me that my blunt appraisal of my own writing journey has helped them with their own. If the blog helps other writers, even a little, then then the effort has been well worth it.
Your site’s second post from 2015 noted that you aimed to write 2,000 words of fiction a day along with 1,000 words of blogging copy. Do you still aim for those metrics? Or have you found that your time is more divided among multiple forms now—such as short stories, novellas, novels, blogs, D&D campaigns?
When I’m drafting long form fiction, I definitely still shoot for 2,000 words a day. That still leaves me plenty of time to work on other things, like blog posts, the odd bit of freelance work, and, most recently, researching and querying agents.
Do you still believe there are a full seven stages to reacting to a literary rejection?
Oh, definitely. I made the post as kind of a joke, but the emotions around rejection are very similar to grief. I believe those emotions are strongest when you’re new to submitting your work and having it objectively and honestly reviewed. It lacks the same bite after a few hundred rejections, and the stages happen quicker. I can get over a tough rejection or a bad review in a few hours, whereas it would haunt me for days or even weeks ten years ago.
Have you found yourself relying on your blogging audience now that Twitter is imploding and its writing community fracturing among multiple platforms?
Like many authors, I’m treading social media water and waiting to see how things are gonna shake out. I’m still active on Twitter (or X or whatever), as it seems the majority of the writing and reading community are still there. I’m of course looking into other platforms. I’m on BlueSky, for example, (@aerynrudel.bsky.social), but I’ve so far avoided Threads. I opened a Mastodon account, but I never use it. I’m definitely looking into ways to make the blog content more prominent, and it’s likely time I started a newsletter. Throw that on the pile of stuff I really need to do but haven’t gotten to yet. 😊