Interview with author Scott Kaelen
As things sometimes happen, when I said I wanted to feature more authors on my blog in 2015, the chance meeting due to a comment a fellow author made on one of my posts led to my next author interview!
Today I’d like you to meet author Scott Kaelen. Like P.H. Solomon, Scott is working on his first full length novel release and he’s got great plans and strong direction for his writing. The quality he is working on really impresses me, especially having that insight as a new author! And with that, I’ll let him explain…
Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing.
I’m Scott Kaelen, and I’m a multi-genre writer and poet. I write in the genres of contemporary and speculative fiction, comic fantasy, epic fantasy, horror, urban science fiction and hard science fiction. And arguably a bit of slipstream.
You write in multiple genres/forms. Which do you prefer and why?
My preferred reading genres are naturally paralleled by the genres I prefer to write. Where you’ll find contemporary fiction I’ve written, there’ll probably be at least an edge (or a vignette within) which adds a splash of fantasy or horror. I was always a lover of hard sci-fi and space opera, especially authors such as Isaac Asimov, Alastair Reynolds, Arthur C Clarke, Iain Banks and Stephen Baxter, so that genre comes a close second on my favourites list. But the number one slot is taken leaps and bounds by epic fantasy. Whereas space opera is immersive and thought-provoking, epic fantasy is pure escapism; it’s a journey into the unknown, it’s a sense of being encased in a world of minuscule detail, with a cast of intriguing characters and interweaving plot-threads. But, most importantly, it’s an exploration of self, for both the reader and the writer.
What made me curious in your comment on my blog was that you realized you were tackling an immense fantasy series and actually held off publishing to work on it more and gain experience. Very few novice writers have the self knowledge to make that choice. What led you to that realization and decision? Was it hard?
I’ve never been one to take criticism badly, if it’s not given badly. Unfortunately, many writers can’t take criticism, and such writers will more often than not never be better than mediocre; their stories will likely always be riddled with weak grammar, with reams of exposition, with an abundance of unnecessary dialogue tags, punctuation errors, wrongly-used words, spelling mistakes, contradictory plot threads, plot holes, cliches, etc. Ignoring the advice of peers, of people more skilled, of those who have long since discovered they could better themselves, and who learned how to do so, climbed the mountain and achieved the goal…. Ignoring advice freely given by such people is pure folly, and yet the market is not only inundated by these people, it’s drowned by them like a sea filled with a million bloated corpses that only the lowest forms of sea-life are content to feast upon.
Yes, it was a tough climb from shambling about in the foot-hills amid a gaggle of like-minded beginners who couldn’t even see the mountain that loomed above them, to braving those steep slopes…. I’m far from the summit, in fact I may never reach it – only the true greats deserve to place their flags there, and there just isn’t enough room on those peaks, especially when the foot-hills just keep getting more and more crowded. But I climbed above thinking my prose was brilliant when it was really extremely flat and weak, I learned a plethora of golden guidelines that helped me turn my stories from being throwaway and forgettable to – hopefully – something quite the opposite.
My epic fantasy especially benefitted greatly from all the learning, and I was able to return to it and breathe fresh new life into the world and the characters, and inject the prose with all I had learned. My series is called The Verragos Tapestry, and my first release in the series is a mini introduction in the form of the short story Night of the Taking, available in Kindle and paperback formats, with exclusive content and a full chapter teaser of my upcoming novel in the Verragos Tapestry series entitled The Blighted City.
You indicated you didn’t write much before. What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been an avid reader since the age of seven when I received my first library tickets. So I’ve spent my life reading, mostly epic fantasy, but also much in the genres of science fiction and horror. I just never really made the connection between my love of reading and my interests in the English language and etymology (the history and origin of words and their meanings). Then, one day (and this is a true story, mostly) sometime in late 2011 I was lay in a soapy bath, having just put down the novel I was reading. As I lay there drowsing in the warm water, I started pondering my life, and I realised that although I was happy and content, still something was missing. So I asked myself, “What am I good at? Or what can I become good at?” and my mind drifted. For a surprisingly long time, no answer came. The water grew steadily cooler, until suddenly I had an epiphany.
“Eureka!” I would have exclaimed, had I realised the volume of an irregular solid could be calculated by placing it in water and measuring the water displacement. But I didn’t shout, “Eureka!” Instead, as the epiphanous seed in the misty forest of my brain grew, I whispered, “Ah,” and the first tendrils of my writing career were formed. Two and a bit years later, after the tough learning curve of how to become a good writer, after having my stories and poems rejected by myriad literary magazines, I decided to take the plunge into self-publishing and becoming an indie author. I’m now working on my sixth release, though most of what’s already out there is just short stories and collections. This sixth project will be the first true novel-length story I’ll have released.
How are you learning the ‘craft’ of writing?
I believe there’s always something new to learn, but here’s a few of the areas I’ve already battened down:
Show, don’t tell. Too many writers don’t understand this, and they think it’s fine to write flat prose, blissfully unaware (or just uncaring) of how their story could become better by degrees if they only learned how to ‘show’ rather than always ‘tell’.
Scenes and sequences. I won’t expound on this here, but anyone interested might want to read Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure, as well as similar works by Dwight Swain and others.
Exposition. Exposition is the comprehensive description of an idea. You know when you’ve landed in a steaming pile of exposition in the story you’re currently reading, because you’ll tend towards falling asleep from boredom because the author hasn’t learned how to weave subtle strands of exposition into the story rather than slapping you in the face with a stinking bucket of the stuff in one go.
Redundant words. There are lots of words in every story that could easily be chopped to tighten the prose and beef up the reading experience. Even in George RR Martin’s prologue of A Game of Thrones, there are about seven uses of the word ‘that’ which could have been axed and the reader would have been none the wiser.
Bad grammar. Don’t just rely on your word processor to sort the grammar out for you, because it won’t. And don’t put all your faith into an editor to do so, either, because nobody’s infallible. Do a bit of studying about how to strengthen your grammar; there are plenty of free instructions to be found on the internet, you don’t have to pay for any of these things if you can’t afford to.
There are more ‘golden guidelines’ as I call them, but I’m probably boring you to death already, so moving on…
As you are working to publish the first book in your fantasy series, what are you doing now to promote it and your writing?
Unfortunately, finding a potentially interested readership for epic fantasy is a lot harder than I imagined it might be. The biggest reason for this is the market being flooded. And, of course, there’s the fact that my first release in the series is more of a ‘showcase’ of my prose, since The Verragos Tapestry: Night of the Taking consists only of a short story and the first chapter of my upcoming novel, plus a couple of maps, a character sheet and two creature sheets, and an introduction to the series by way of the first five planned releases’ blurbs. Oh, and a glossary to Night of the Taking. I love me some glossaries! But what am I doing to promote it?
Well, I first gave it a sneak release as part of my short stories and poems collection, From Grains To Galaxies, but since the official single release with exclusive content I’ve advertised on my Facebook profile, author page and Verragos Tapestry page, plus in quite a number of Facebook groups; on my Twitter profile; on my WordPress blog; my Google+ profile and page; in the Absolute Write forums; certain fantasy forums; Goodreads; About.me (only just created), and various other places.
I released Night of the Taking on Createspace as paperback, and in all Amazon stores worldwide on Kindle. The Kindle edition is only 99c, and the paperback is $5.49 from Createspace. I designed the cover myself, as I have done with all my covers, and I have to say it looks great … almost as good as the cover of my upcoming novel, The Blighted City, which I’ve already created and looks gorgeous! But still, finding a reader-base / fan-base is extremely difficult for an indie author, and I have to often drop hints to the few fans I do have that I would strongly benefit from them spreading the word, sharing and liking my posts, even rating and reviewing the releases of mine they’ve read on Goodreads, Amazon and elsewhere. Things are creeping forward, but still very slowly.
What keeps you writing? Do you ever get writer’s block?
Oh, yes! Often. And I sometimes suffer from a resurgence of my Procrastination Syndrome, too. Luckily, when I’ve got writer’s block or when I’m dithering over my manuscript, I tend to shift focus on expanding the world lore of Verragos, adding elements to characters back stories, sketching something (which could be a Verragos character, or a famous person, or maybe a zombie – I like zombies), or creating or improving a cover for one of my books, either released or upcoming. But when it’s hard-core writer’s block, I might just take a couple of weeks off, maybe start playing a computer RPG (which I rarely do nowadays), and it might take me a couple of weeks to finish, by which time I can return to the writing with renewed fervour.
What are your hopes once you publish and your goals as an author?
I’d like to think my epic fantasy series will gain recognition and start growing a fan-base. My goal is to put most of my focus on the Verragos Tapestry series, but meanwhile still produce stories in my other genres, plus churn out more poetry as and when the muse takes me, and work on a collection of non-fiction essays I plan to eventually publish. It would be great if, when it comes time to release The Blighted City, I am able to get the attention of a traditional publisher and get it out there mass-market. We can but dream.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
For me, it’s the immersion into an intriguing story. It’s being able to craft that story myself. It’s getting intimate with my characters in a way that is impossible with real people; you can’t dip inside a real person’s head and rummage around in their past, present and future, in all their alternate or as-yet-unrealised versions and realities, in all their potentials.
Witnessing first-hand the creation of a world and its peoples, right down to the mountains and forests and seas, to the ages and seasons, to the nations, the rulers and commoners, and the special individuals to whom your focus is drawn…. I suppose it’s a bit like being a god. And that brings to mind my short story comic fantasy creationism parody, When Gods Awaken. What’s the best thing about being a writer? Tackling not just the tough themes, or the big stories, but also tackling the very birth of the universe and the emergence of a cosmically deluded entity. Being a mult-genre writer has its perks, and its quirks.
I hear you have an event this weekend? Could you tell me more about it?
Yes, I do! It’s quite an exciting event, actually. The Kindle edition of my biggest release so far – the 150-page short stories and poetry collection, From Grains To Galaxies – is being GIVEN AWAY for the full day of Saturday, January 31st from Amazon stores the world over. My Facebook Giveaway Event is a way of bringing the people together for the day and for the experience. What I’m hoping for from holding this event and giving my book away to potentially thousands of people (and gaining not a cent nor a penny from doing so) is to gain something perhaps more precious than money at this early stage in my emerging career – exposure. It’s my hope that people will download my book, read it, love it, share it, talk about it, review it… But let’s not jinx the day before it’s even happened! Anyone interested in taking part and snagging a FREE copy of my book should head on over to the event page and click on ‘Going’, share the event and invite their friends to join, too! The more, the merrier.
The Facebook event, plus all relevant links to where you can download for free From Grains To Galaxies, is here: GIVEAWAY! From Grains To Galaxies FREE! See you there, hopefully!
For anyone whose interest we’ve piqued here, they can find my paperback and Kindle releases by clicking on the following links:
My Amazon Author Page (global link)
Other than that, have a great day! And Autumn, thank you, it’s been a pleasure!