Interview with Aaron Cance

Sometimes happy accidents are the best ones. I needed a friendly bookstore that would help me with an author event. Having a small hoard of authors to ask opinions from, the overwhelming reply was that I had to get to know today’s guest, Aaron Cance, owner of the Printed Garden in Sandy, and all around awesome guy.

In fact, Aaron and I got on so well, I held my book release party in his store and we’ve buddied up at various events ever since.

I’d love to introduce all my lovely readers to him. On to the interview!

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

First things first, let’s start with a getting to know you question. Share a bit about yourself, including the two things you’d bring to a deserted island.

The easiest way to answer this will be to tie the two parts of the question together. With the exception of about fifteen years of my life that I was lucky to get out of alive, I’ve mostly been pretty introverted so I would probably take a couple books along with me.  They would have to be books that I’d want to spend a whole lot of time with. One would be my Holy Bible and the other would have to be something like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man or Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.  Books that defy a single read and must be reread and reread and untangled over time.

Those who know you, know of your passion for books and supporting local authors. What was the defining moment when you decided to own your own bookstore? 

Most of my life has revolved around books and reading.  Even when I was very young, we didn’t have very much money and not a whole lot of furniture, but there were always books in the house.  Outside of school, I started with a healthy addiction to comic books that transitioned right into the limited pool of young adult books that were available in the 1970s and then right into science fiction and horror.  Then a period of not reading very much for a while.  Simply put, after a while I realized that my life had some empty corners, that something really satisfying and meaningful was missing.  I eventually realized that it was the pleasure that I took from reading so pledged to start building a library for myself.

Then school.  That sense of something missing led to the realization that if I didn’t want to work on factory floors or in distribution centers my entire life, that I’d better go back to college.  I could chase a degree that would allow me to read for occupation, as well as for pleasure in the evenings.  This also led to my first bookstore job in 1996, and I’ve never done any other type of work since.  After working for Crossroad Books in Wisconsin, I started my own online business brokering the sale of rare and signed books, and did pretty well with that.  Eventually we moved to Utah for graduate school and I worked for Barnes and Noble, Ken Sanders Rare Books, and The King’s English.  I think it was at The King’s English that the seed to open my own shop germinated.  I was trying, for quite a while, to work my way into a management position there but hit a certain point where I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, so started plotting my own store, which was the logical alternative.

Of all the books you’ve encountered, what’s the one that impacted you the most?

I can probably trace different formative events in my life back to books.  I think the one that had the single most profound impact on me, an impact that has lasted to this very day, was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  I wont try to unpack all the reasons that Ellison had for writing it here, but it affected me on a number of different levels.  First and foremost, it’s a novel about the voyage of self-discovery.  I think a lot of people are not happy in life because they’re either not happy with who they are or they don’t know who they are or want to be.  Invisible Man plumbs the depths of these questions pretty seriously, including going so far as to consider what your place in and relationship to history is or will be.  It was a novel about black identity, but is, in the most basic sense, just a novel about identity in general.  On a mechanical level, it had a profound influence on the way I both appreciate writing and on how I write myself.  Ellison was a master word-smith.  It’s not an easy book, but I honestly think that anyone who’s serious about writing (in any genre) would do themselves an enormous service by working through Invisible Man.  Ellison was concerned with his narrative, but also with the way that words sounded together on the page, the way the worked together, the musicality and rhythm of language.  He was making music – but he was doing it with the written word.

Many might not know this about you, but you’re also working on writing a book. What can you tell us about it?

Right now, I’m finishing up what I think will be the last round of revision work on my second novel.  I’m pretty excited about it because my first took just over ten years and I think that it’s pretty much unpublishable.  I’m really proud of it, but having been in the book industry as long as I have, don’t really know that there’s a market for it.  The one that I’m finishing up now is much more straightforward, and just a terrific story with, i feel, really strong commercial potential.  As soon as I put the finishing touches on it, I’ll be looking about for an agent for it.  I have a couple leads, but those can come and go pretty quickly, so I’m probably looking at about another 6 months of finding a good agent.  If nothing happens with it within a year’s time of what I’d consider it’s completion, I’ll probably publish and market it myself because that a considerably more viable means of publication today than it ever has been before.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a cop-out answer, but my answer to this would be music.  I don’t really have sculptures, posters, luck-items, or anything like that around when I’m writing.  Like other writers, I’m heavily influenced by other writers, but don’t really have an inspirational object at my desk.  What I do use, however, is music.  Most every word I’ve ever written, whether part of one of the two novels, a short story, a poem, or an essay, was written to music.  In the back of my head I want my prose to play like music.  Not in a campy ‘it’s perfect as a song’ type of way, but I want it to have emotional impact, and rhythm and tone.  I always write to music that is similar in tone and emotional impact to the work on the screen in front of me.  It helps keep me in the game.

What’s next? What are you working on?

Right now I’m working on a short piece of horror fiction called “A Man of the Cloth.”  It’s  a three tiered short story in which my main character has three terrifying life experiences that come to be interconnected and exist structurally in the story like a Russian nesting doll.  I’ve also put down 6,000 words of a realistic fiction that’s written for a YA audience.  In a market that’s still hungry for YA fantasy and science fiction, I’m not really sure what’ll happen with this story, but it’s the next story that wants to come out.  So I’ll write it now and figure out what to do with it later.

Meet Aaron, the friendliest bookstore owner I know!

About today’s guest:

Aaron Cance holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and a M.A. in British and American Literature from the University of Utah.  His essays and reviews have appeared in Fiction Writers Review and 15 Bytes: A Utah Arts Journal, and a few of his poems have been published by Southern Minnesota State University’s Bare Root Review.  Some of his  poetry was collected for the chap book Nocturnal.  He has been selling books to people since 1996 and is the owner of The Printed Garden, Booksellers in Sandy’s historic Union Square.  He lives in Holladay with his wife, daughter, and two very eccentric cats.

Connect with Aaron:


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