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America beckons Aidan for his novel-writing debut

Author Aidan Scott and a copy of his novel The Garden, which took him eight years to complete. Photo: Katarina Lloyd Jones

Canberra author Aidan Scott’s first novel, The Garden, was published in America on March 7 by Chicago-based publishing house Anxiety Press, reports KATARINA LLOYD JONES.  

It all began with a copy of JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit, says Aidan Scott. 

He was gifted it by his grandfather when he was five, he says, and it sparked a love for novels that would ultimately see ther Narrabundah local becoming an internationally published author at only 24 years old.

“I read it, and I was sort of like, I don’t really know what this is, but I want to do it, and, from there I just sort of fell in love with stories,” says Aidan.

“I progressively read more and more until I was 13 or 14 and I realised that the world of books was so much bigger than I thought it was.

“I started reading people like Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, people like that, and again, I thought, I don’t know if I can do this, but this is what I’d like to do.”

Aidan’s first novel, The Garden, was published in America on March 7 by Chicago-based publishing house Anxiety Press. 

Set in 1847, against the backdrop of the Mexico-America war, Aidan says it is a historical period that many people seem to dismiss. 

“I think those particular years, the late 1840s, is something that people don’t really think about as meaning anything, but I think it’s so hugely impactful to the way that America is now,” says Aidan.

While it feels “insane” to be a published author, Aidan says getting to this point was no easy feat, with The Garden taking eight years to complete.

“It began when I was 16, I wrote it in about a year and a half, the first draft, at the back of class when I should have been listening. 

“I put it away for a while, and it became the process of just whittling away at it, rewriting, working on other things and coming back to it, and, you know, thinking that it was never gonna pan out to anything.

“You end up with stacks and stacks of paper, and books, and I’d say 90 per cent of it you throw away, because it’s not good.”

Aidan says he knew Cody Sexton, founder of Anxiety Press, from previously having a short story published by their online magazine, A Thin Slice of Anxiety. 

Aidan says he initially reached out just looking for feedback.

“I very tentatively was like, ‘this is slightly presumptuous, but do you reckon you could, just read this and tell me if it’s good?’ and he got back to me and was like, ‘this is great, can I please publish it?’” says Aidan.

“Writing this, and having an American publisher saying this is good and we want to publish it and then having, at 24, other authors whose writing I really respect and love deeply telling me that it’s genuinely an incredible piece of work, that is pretty crazy.”

Aidan says that in simple terms, The Garden follows two people, trying to maintain their humanity and “basic moral compass” in the face of human evil during 1840s America, with a slight thematic undercurrent of the supernatural. 

“I suppose in retrospect, the reason why I wanted to write the book, is because I think there’s a lot of films and novels and everything that explores dark subjects, like this is pre-Civil War, so there’s slavery, there’s all these horrible things, they explore all that, but then at the end they’re like, ‘oh, but don’t worry because everything’s fine, don’t worry about it’, sort of this unnecessary little ending, and to me, that’s really dishonest,” he says.

“There’s a proliferation of hope in those stories that I don’t think has any place there, because I think that the future’s only going to be hopeful if we actively try to make it hopeful. 

“And that’s kind of what the book is about, it’s quite a tough read.”

Without giving too much away, Aidan says he is currently working on a second book, set in Canberra, a place he never thought he would write about.

He says this second novel will focus more on the way unsolved mysteries, particularly ones centred on graphic murders, linger in society’s consciousness.

The Garden, available to order on Amazon.com 

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Katarina Lloyd Jones

Katarina Lloyd Jones

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