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Friday, 22 November 2013

Interview: Scott Zachary

Scott Zachary is an independent author from the US by way of Canada, the writer of the speculative fiction anthology ‘Gossamer Wings’. His newest work, ‘The Least of These’, was released on the 14th of November 2013. We Might Be Writers secured an interview with Scott over email the day after its release to mark this new book, conducted by Reece Bridger.

Reece: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Scott, especially so soon after your recent release.

Scott: My pleasure. Thanks so much for inviting me to chat with you about writerly things.

Reece: It’s not a problem! Now, let’s start this off with a nice, easy one: can you tell us a little about yourself?

Scott: I'm a father of three, an avid indoorsman, and a software developer by trade, although only because I have a knack for it and it pays the bills. My real passion is for the arts, but I was never all that romantic about the whole "starving artist" thing, so I code for cash. In the distant past I had all sorts of other gigs, mostly because I'm interested in everything and easily distracted. Also, I do a very respectable Wookiee impersonation.

Reece: The last one’s a real talent… I have to gargle something to do it well… So what sort of stuff do you write about?

Scott: Most of my writing tends to gravitate to darker things, things that make my parents wonder where they went wrong, and often it is in the vein of what some might call "speculative" fiction. I don't have a trademark genre, and frankly I'm not sure I'd want to be penned-in like that. I write about what interests me at the moment; the story that is clawing its way out of my overactive imagination, whatever story that might be. Frankly, I think genres are stupidly arbitrary, which might be one reason I've always loved YA—no fences—although that is starting to change unfortunately.

Reece: It does sound nice to not be fenced in by labels. So what can you tell us about your first publication, ‘Gossamer Wings’?

Scott: It's been called a "genre snack mix," which is a fairly accurate description. It's a collection of stories I wrote in 2012, mostly in response to short fiction challenges, and has a little bit of everything: ghosts, science fiction, magical realism, horror, murder, suicide, true love, revenge, hunchbacks, evil trees. It's not easy to pin down a category to put it in.

Reece: Some would argue that those are the best ones! And your newest work, ‘The Least of These’, is a different kind of piece altogether; different form, genre, time period, everything! Can you give us a little insight into this newest shelf stuffer?

Scott: Yes, my new book is completely different—so much so that I considered releasing it under a different name. I think people know me as a slightly irascible, irreverent guy with a dryly crass sense of humor, and 'The Least of These' doesn't really fit my online "brand". It's a simple story about an aging Irish Catholic woman during a period of intense oppression in the early 18th century. There aren't any explosions or ripped bodices, just an intense exploration of questioned faith, restored hope, and the true price of charity. It definitely didn't turn out how I expected, and I think I poured more of myself out onto the page than I planned to. Really, if you want to know who I truly am—beyond all my shenanigans on social media—you'll find me in the book.

Reece: Sounds pretty intense and fresh. If you could describe ‘Gossamer Wings’ in a ten word nibble, how would you describe it?

Scott: Stories for bathroom reading—some for #1, some for #2.

Reece: Pleasant…! And what about ‘The Least of These’?

Scott: A promise of hope, in a hopeless world.

Reece: Superb! So where exactly did you get your inspiration for these books?

Scott: The stories in 'Gossamer Wings' were almost all direct responses to Chuck Wendig's Friday Flash Fiction challenges, which probably goes a long way to explaining how weird some of them are. My novella, on the other hand, came out of an old song that's been kicking around in my skull for the last twenty years, about a poor woman in Ireland with a drunken, gadabout husband. The line that I wanted to explore was, "She never called it poverty: the doorstep was clean." The story just grew from there.

Reece: That’s an original way to get an idea; it’s one I’ve never heard before! And what sort of rituals do you have that allow you to write? Any lucky charms, a set workspace, a playlist, et cetera?

Scott: I've tried all sorts of things, but ritual ends up becoming a form of procrastination in of itself. It takes me forever to start something new, although once I get my butt in a chair and start writing it gets easier. So for me, that's the key: butt in chair, fingers on keyboard (or pen). The closest I probably come to ritual is that I often like to work on my zero draft in analog: typewriter or fountain pen and legal pad. I like analog things—maybe because I spend all day programming—but I really find the smell and sound and mess of ink and paper inspiring.

Reece: It is a pleasant scent… What do you believe is your ‘writing style’? What makes you notable as a writer?

Scott: To be honest I've never given it any thought whatsoever, but the one common bit of feedback that I get from readers is that my writing is lyrical and terse. I would have never considered myself a "lyrical" or "terse" writer, but that's what people tell me, and they seem to think it's a good thing, so that works for me.

Reece: And what do you believe to be the highest and lowest points of that style? Any massive helps or hindrances?

Scott: Sometimes I have to edit out metaphors that seemed clever in the first draft, but in revision are obviously too clever by half, and my paucity of words makes writing in long form somewhat challenging, to say the least. The highest point is that it's a style I admire in other writers, and I suppose I unconsciously aspire to it too; the lowest point is that it makes for painstakingly slow work, because I want every sentence to be perfect.

Reece: Ah, that never-ending quest… Do you ever suffer any writing problems, such as writer’s block, or perhaps something seemingly unique to you?

Scott: Writer's block is simply either fear, or distraction. I think it's a convenient excuse for slacking off that sounds romantic. I have long spells between writing stints, but I never call them "writer's block," because I know full well that either I don't want to write at the moment, or the story simply isn't ready to be told. Sometimes it needs to germinate in my brain for a while. My biggest problem probably is that I don't push myself hard enough. I'm not talking about daily word counts or anything, which work for some people, but sometimes I get so scared to start a new project that I let too much time pass before I get back on the wagon.

Reece: And if you were to meet anyone else suffering a similar problem, what would you tell them?

Scott: Forget all the advice. Just write. But only if it's fun. If you're not having fun, take a break and do something else. Professional writers like to crack the whip and talk smack about writing your fingers to the bone, but where's the fun in that? I work for a living doing something I can tolerate so that when I come home I can do something fun. I don't think I'd like being a professional writer. Then it would be work. Then it wouldn't be fun.

Reece: It certainly wouldn’t. Do you have any advice for any aspiring authors?

Scott: I dislike that term. It's a bit like calling someone an "aspiring parent," or an "aspiring gardener." You may not be a good writer, or a professional writer, or a published writer, but if you string words together for fun (or profit), you're a writer, right? So my advice would be to just do it. Just sit down and write. Give yourself permission to be horrible, and just get as much practice as you can. Writing is like painting or playing the piano or anything else. Practice, practice, practice.

Reece: That’s an interesting way to put it. I guess that’s why this is called ‘We Might Be Writers’… Nonetheless, thank you for joining us for the interview and for giving us this personal insight into your world and experiences!


Scott Zachary (in his own words):

Scott Zachary is the author of the dark speculative fiction collection, Gossamer Wings and Other Stories, and the historical novella, The Least of These. A builder of Internet-things, he lives with his wife on a small plot of poorly tamed wilderness in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by three delightfully unruly children and a menagerie of small animals. Set in Ireland during the turbulent spring of 1709, The Least of These is a haunting, yet inspiring story of questioned faith, restored hope, and the true price of charity.
'The Least of These' (Link in Image)

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