Born in Virginia, author and screenwriter Aaron Denius Garcia spent his childhood splitting time between Venezuela and the United States. After a disagreement with his baseball coach, Aaron opted to forgo that season and instead try out for the spring play at Annandale High School. Bitten by the acting bug, Aaron attended Virginia Tech and, after graduation, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television.
After some early success as an actor left him feeling unfilfilled, Garcia took a screenwriting class at Santa Monica college and realized that storytelling was his true passion. He eventually found a home writing for Leverage on TNT, writing for the show for two years before moving on to pursue other ventures, including writing and directing the acclaimed In Sickness and In Health and penning the children’s holiday book Santa’s Plight.
In October of 2014, Garcia released his first novel, Gene. Sys., a dystopian tale of action, courage and survival.
To learn more about Garcia and his work, visit www.aarondeniusgarcia.com.
What was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?
My upbringing was interesting to say the least. I always felt like I was a bit of an outcast. I was born in Virginia but my family moved down to Venezuela when I was very young. So I spent my early childhood being the only gringo. I had great friends, but I felt I was different. Then, when my mom moved my sister and I back to Virginia, I was one of the only Latin kids in school and I was small as hell. I wasn’t even 5 ft. tall going into high school. Though I had many friends, I was picked on constantly. It wasn’t until the last couple of years of college that I truly found my voice. I had been boxing for a couple of years and gained a lot of confidence. This helped me realize that I wasn’t different, I was unique. My childhood definitely helped toughen my skin which is a strong asset to have in an industry where “no” is the most common word.
Growing up, who were your biggest creative influences?
My biggest influence was probably Jim Henson. I grew up watching The Muppets and Sesame Street. Later in life, other influences would come, like Salvador Dali, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and so forth. But as a kid I watched all of Jim Henson’s creations with intense admiration. I wanted to be Kermit, still kind of do. I have a Kermit quote tattoo. But above all I wanted to do what Henson did. Create something that would make kids happy and affect people for centuries. He was a pioneer.
How did the opportunity to work on Leverage come about?
I had been writing for a while but it wasn’t paying the bills at the time, so I was working as an after-school golf instructor. I started teaching one kid privately and his father happened to be a television writer. Over the course of a year, we talked and he read my work. He then asked if I would be interested in interviewing for Leverage and I jumped at the chance. Thankfully I had never stopped writing and they liked the samples I had, so I was well-prepared when the opportunity came.
What inspired the story of Gene. Sys.?
I have always been fascinated with dystopian novels. Some of my favorites growing up were 1984 and Brave New World. About ten years ago I was doing something mindless when a Flaming Lips song came on and due to mishearing the lyrics, I began thinking about what the world would be like in the year 3021. It was during this train of thought that a Talking Heads song came on that centered on Adam and Eve, but in a post-apocalyptic-like event. The difference was that this time, Adam and Eve remembered all the technology that existed. Lyrics like, “We used to microwave, now we just eat nuts and berries,” had me wondering about what if we had to start over. Ten years of mental outlining later, Gene. Sys. was created.
When writing a novel such as Gene. Sys., what is your writing process? Do you start with a structured outline and work chronologically, or is your process more haphazard?
When writing anything, I always write methodically. I map out the scenes that I know I want to have happen and put them on notecards on my wall at home. Then I arrange them into the order I would like to see them, creating a more visual outline. Once the writing actually starts, however, it is more haphazard. I let the story and my instincts lead the way. Often times, I actually feel like I am reading it instead of writing it and I just jot down what I would like to see happen next.
How does the process of writing a novel such as Gene. Sys. differ from that of the other projects you’ve worked on over the years?
This is actually a question I get asked quite a lot. I like to tell people that writing anything is like taking a boat from the U.S. to Europe. It’s a long and treacherous process. The difference is the vessel you are on. Writing on a TV show is like having a crew of ten people rowing together. You have to learn to work in unison, but it will be a much easier trip once you’ve started. A novel, however, is just you and your kayak. You have to do all the work, you have to make sure that you are navigating correctly and if trouble arises, you have to figure it out on your own. You learn a lot about yourself in the process. When you write a novel you are taking two journeys. One into the pages you produce and the other into the deepest parts of your soul.
What’s the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The most useful piece of advice seems like the most obvious: “Write.” If you are a writer, you write. You don’t think about writing, you don’t tell people what you are planning to write, you just write. Simple as that. Don’t try to make it perfect, that’s what editing is for. I was introduced to the concept of the “Shit Draft,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Just write and finish that first draft. It’s going to be shit regardless of how much time you spend working on it. What you will have, however, is a finished draft. Too many people are stuck halfway through their project because they are trying to make it perfect on the first try, therefore they are not writing.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
I’m actually going to go back to 2013 for this one. 2014 was a mediocre year at best. Spike Jones movie Her was probably one of the best films I have seen in years. It was a wonderful piece of narrative that really dug deep into human emotions and gave a scary glimpse at what might be in store for us in the not-too-distant future. As a people, we are slowly transferring all our human interactions to technology. We express our feelings through texts and status updates more than we do in person. Our computers and phones have become the intermediary to our relationships. This movie just took it one step further. It was a classic piece of science fiction with a good dose of emotion sewn in.
Which professional baseball players do you most enjoy watching these days?
Interesting you should ask this question. I’m a big fan of Miguel Cabrera because he and I used to play baseball together back in Venezuela. I actually had no clue about that until my mom was watching a game and recognized his name. I still don’t really remember any of it, but he is fun to root for.
If you could only eat at one Los Angeles-area restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Oooh. Tough question. Instinctively I say In-N-Out, but they don’t have much of a variety, so if I had to choose, I would go with Bossa Nova. It’s Cuban food and they have an amazing variety of food. Plus, I love me some fried plantains.
What are you working on next?
For my next project I opted to write another TV drama pilot. It follows the lives of three siblings in a third world country. I wish I could reveal more than that, but my reps have warned me about oversharing. Once that is done, I will be writing the next part of the Gene. Sys. series, which will be a small novella on the character 80. I wanted to take a quick break from writing books before jumping back into another one.