And we’re back! I am happy to say that I’m returning to author interviews with some force. To those who don’t know, I recently got into Mark Lawrence’s annual Self Published Fantasy Blog Off event, where 300 books are whittled down to one through judging and loads of other intimidating sounding things. Based on all the incredible authors and books in there, I don’t really have much chance, but this is a great moment for everyone involved.
So, onto the cool stuff! I will be interviewing as many entrants into SPFBO as possible. I doubt I’ll be able to interview all 299 entries, but I’ll try and get as many out there as I can. Today’s unfortunate victim (wait, I said that? I meant to say, wonderful volunteer…*cough*) is Scott Kaelen, whose entry “The Blighted City” is a brilliant addition to this year. To pick it up, simply click on the awesome looking book cover down below.
- First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write? So far, I’ve written an epic fantasy novel, an essays book, a poetry book, and half a dozen short stories.
- How do you develop your plots and characters? I spent over a year chipping away at world-building, preparing for way more than the first novel in The Fractured Tapestry series. After giving various important characters some back-story, a couple of those insisted on becoming the first novel, The Blighted City. But really it’s during the writing process of an actual story that the characters flesh themselves out to the fullest.
- Tell us about your current project. It’s a follow-up novel set chronologically one year after the end of The Blighted City and several hundred years after Night Of The Taking, which is a short story in The Fractured Tapestry series (and free on Amazon).
- Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them! I suppose it would have to be fair to say that, although there are three main characters in The Blighted City, Jalis does take a bit of a backseat compared to Oriken and Dagra. The two guys are the closest of friends and, along with Jalis, part of a team of freeblades (sellswords). The contrast between Oriken and Dagra was interesting for me to write, with Dagra being very much religious and Oriken being scornful of religion. Either despite or because of their differences, the two stayed friends since childhood, but events in The Blighted City are enough to make both men question their faith (or lack thereof). It’s not all about that, of course; there’s plenty of bickering and black comedy and drama and heartfelt moments between the two, plus Jalis, and various other characters in the story. Hey, I know it’s taking a gamble at $2.99, but give it a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised or even blown away, depending on your tastes. Sure, you might also be disappointed, but even the best of books out there has disappointed someone at some time.
- What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction? The best advice I can give is DON’T spend all your time trying to perfect the first chapter or first few chapters. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I did it myself. An author says, “Please read my first chapter and tell me what you think. I don’t have the rest of the book written yet and I haven’t really figured out much about the character…” NO. Just get on with it and complete the entire first draft. Let it be shitty. That’s okay, you’ll improve on it with future revisions. More importantly, find your AUTHOR VOICE. Chances are, you haven’t found it yet. An author’s ‘voice’ is like the layers of an onion – it gets clearer the more you peel away. And to peel those layers away, you need to cut your teeth on short stories (perfect these as much as possible, and experiment with your style), test scenes (which probably won’t end up in a novel), and of course the first novel itself. You want to perfect something before you’ve gained your author voice, make it short stories, not a novel.
- What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book? The vastness of Tolkien’s entire world of Arda was much more of an inspiration for me than his actual stories. As for the world of Verragos (a small portion of which The Blighted City is set), I very loosely based the geography on Earth, but an Earth as it might have been if the flow of continents had differed somewhat, aswell as the flow of civilisation. There’s a race of beings called ‘jotunn’ in the novel (which many of you will know of from Earth mythology) which is based on what the extinct species Gigantopithecus might be like if they’d A) had human-equivalent intelligence, and B) survived to the ‘present day’ (of Verragos) along with humanity.
- What inspires you to write? Escapism. Adding light, colour and darkness to a world I can see in my mind, while in reality not being able to see much of the real world (I’m legally blind).
- What was the hardest part of writing this book? Perhaps the hardest part of writing The Blighted City was how the story kept unfolding of its own accord, forcing me to rewrite scenes, scrap scenes, and revise the personalities of various characters. For a first novel, it was a steep learning curve. I know I hit some pitfalls in the process, and I know I didn’t achieve perfection. There are elements I would like to have changed a bit, and elements I hinted at but just couldn’t expand upon for reasons of pacing and not wanting to throw too many types of herb into the soup. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from writing The Blighted City, and you really need to develop a thick skin and absorb any criticism you receive. An author who can’t do that, is not a good writer.
- What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? Oh, hell, I enjoyed writing every scene! But seriously, some of my favourite chapters/scenes were also some of the hardest to write. Some of those gave me writer’s block for a month or more at a time, gave me serious stress and sleepless nights. Again, it’s all part of the learning process. I enjoy edthe poignancy of certain death scenes, and I also enjoyed a sword battle between a main character and a cameo but prominent character. Over and above specifics, I’d say the most enjoyable aspect for me is writing the dialogue. You’ll see what I mean if you read the book. 😉
- Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? I did. I learned that if a story insists on evolving, and even if you let that happen and trim it down in the final revision by over 10,000 words, you’re still going to be way above the word-count limit which agents and traditional publishers are seeking in modern times. 167,000 words would likely have achieved me 10 years of auto-rejections, if I’d gone that route. So, here I am in the self-publishing world and taking part in SPFBO 2018. Fingers crossed!
- It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it? In part, you have to become the character, much as a detective might be able to ‘become’ the killer they’re pursuing. In part, you have to let that character dictate their own evolution, much as a parent has, at times, to allow a child to figure things out for themselves. The more you write a character, the clearer they become. The clearer they become, the more obvious their voice becomes (in dialogue, internal thought, and POV narration).
- What are your future project(s)? My current project is the next novel in The Fractured Tapestry series, and I do have further books planned, as well as possible short stories set in the same series. I might also finish a half-completed second book of poetry, or I might just add the completed poems to my website.
- If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do? Let’s suppose for a moment that I had decent eyesight, I always wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a boy. Not a boring archaeologist, but an adventurous one like Indiana Jones. I would love to discover a long-lost catacombs or something equally mysterious and fascinating.
Finally, What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Anyone is welcome to follow my blog on my WordPress website and/or have a browse around the top menus and submenus there. The address is https://authorscottkaelen.wordpress.com/
Equally, by all means follow me on Twitter, Goodreads or Facebook. Here’s the links to those:
The absolute best way to get in touch me, for anyone who has read The Blighted City or any of my short stories, is to be so kind as to give them a review on Amazon and Goodreads, mention them to their friends, etc. Some authors have a mystical ability to gain hundreds or thousands of reviews. I’m not one of those. I would love to be. You could help me get one step closer. Spread the love! 🙂
Blog Author’s witty final words: I fully agree with that, Scott! That was a great interview.