About Richard Aaron

I was born on January 19, 1960, in a home that sat on the south side of the Rotterdam docks. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the loading and unloading of ocean-going vessels. These ships also led to some of my earliest daydreams, imaginings, and fantasies. When I was 9, my family took me from the shipyards and moved to Canada, eventually settling down in Vancouver (the most beautiful city in the world). As a new immigrant, and a little kid in a whole new world, the most difficult thing for me was learning the English language … something that my critics still bring to my attention from time to time (with my absolute support, of course).

For this reason, among others, the possibility of becoming a writer was never within the orbit of my thoughts. I entered university at 17 years of age, and was awarded a degree in mathematics from the University of British Columbia. Like most college graduates, I found myself lacking direction after graduation, and so enrolled in a masters program in mathematics to give myself more time. Shortly before the start of the new academic year, some of my friends invited me to attend the LSAT’s with them the next day, as a joke. Having had more than a couple beers, I agreed to go, for a lark.

As it turned out, without any preparation, and still slightly inebriated, I did very well. So well that I was in fact admitted to law school at the same university. Through some quirk known only to the IT guys running the system at the time, I managed to enroll in both the masters program in mathematics and first year law school. Since I couldn’t very well complete both degrees, I chose the masters in mathematics. The next three months were hell. I didn’t get along with my professors, and held the personal opinion that the other students in the program suffered from deviant personality disorders.

In addition, the anxiety of the program weighed heavily on my mind, and I quickly developed the unsettled feeling that I was going to crash and burn at any moment.

One rainy day in November, I made a decision. I walked to the law building on campus and approached the front desk.

“My name Richard Aaron,” I told them. “I think I may be registered here as a first year law student. Could you confirm that for me?”

They did; astoundingly, I was still on the list of entering students. I was told that I’d (somehow) enrolled in a class entitled Elementary Constitutional Law, and that I was very late.

The first few years in law school were a little difficult, but after a while I developed some expertise in the field, and even came to enjoy it. I received a scholarship to read Private International Law at the London School of Economics, and then went to work with a large law firm in London that dealt in International Marine Law. Missing home, I returned to Vancouver and set up a small Maritime firm of my own. For several years I struggled, living mostly on macaroni and spam, and scratching by. But then the firm began to win most of its cases and develop a reputation for success.

During the next 15 years, I guided my little firm to a prominent position in the industry, winning some of the biggest cases ever recorded in that jurisdiction and building a stellar list of clientele. Then one day my wife announced that she wanted a divorce. I hadn’t even realized that she was unhappy. As the dust from the separation settled, and I realized that the divorce had left me almost bankrupt, it became obvious that the man who had been a rising star (me) was now falling prey to depression and disillusionment. Rather than being my bright, crisp self, ready for work every morning at 6AM, I started showing up at 7. To my own shock, it then became 8, and then 9.

I started to leave work earlier and take longer lunches. The quality of my work began to suffer. And I was making mistakes; files were getting screwed up, undertakings were being blown, and limitation periods were being missed. Any lawyer knows that these are the foundations of the job; messing them up was not a realistic option.

Luckily, I had a few friends who could read the signs. They knew that I was messed up, suffering from anxiety and depression. They began to tell me that I needed help. After a few months I finally started to listen to them. I signed up for a live-in clinic in Kansas, where they specialized in helping over-achieving obsessive/compulsive professionals. I was not one who believed in these things; frankly, I had scoffed at things like that in the past. But magic happens at such places, and I ended up staying for three months. I came out of it with a different vision for the future.

I went home to Vancouver with a plan: a staff of 35, all of whom would work a little bit harder, giving me the personal time that I so desperately needed. But this led to another problem; I became bored and restless, and was faced with another decision. It was wonderful to see my kids and second wife, to spend time with the dogs and cats and to have a more regular life. Those were all good things. But when the day slows down, and your mind refuses to, what do you do?

Then I remembered something. At the clinic in Kansas, I had gone through days and days of psychometric testing. It had provided me with some very interesting glimpses of myself, and had led one of the psychologists to observe that I had considerable writing ability. The psychologist went on to say that I should start thinking about doing that. Professionally.

I, of course, thought the psychologist was off his nut.

But then I considered the facts. To be honest, I thought, I had been writing fiction all my life. It had started with my imaginings about the ships, back in Amsterdam. In my professional life, it had taken the form of pleadings, briefs, motions, factums, and all the other everyday minutiae of a legal career. It was all fiction, when you came down to it. I actually had decades of experience in writing fiction.

So I gave it a shot, and the first draft of Gauntlet was born. It started out as a dung heap of ungrammatical run-on sentences, non-sequitors, mismatched prepositions, and bits of plot that spun out to nowhere. Then I met an editor – Carrie White (now Managing Editor at Glass House Press) – and things changed. I still don’t know what motivated her to sign on for a project like Gauntlet, but will be eternally grateful that she did. Ultimately, the book came together. It will be released by Glass House in the spring of 2009.

Two sequels are presently in the works, under Glass House’s umbrella, and most of my time is now taken up with writing and promotions. I still practice law 35 hours a week, but hope to cut that down in the future, and make writing my permanent career. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’ve found my way.