We have author B.E. Scully on the Authour Showcase today.
1) Tell us about yourself.
Growing up in a military family instilled in me odd combinations: a respect for tradition and the need to question it; a love of chaotic freedom curbed by order and discipline; an awareness of the danger always lurking at the edges of safety. The military is a unique lifestyle that creates a kind of vagabond resilience in kids who grow up in it. That restless energy has stayed with me throughout my life, but the foundation has always been literature—studying it, teaching it, reading it, trying my own hand at writing it. After hopping around the globe for many years, I now live in a crumbling, gothic red manse without a foundation in the moss-covered woods of Oregon, moving forward on the path.
2) What do you do when you are not writing? Day job? I teach and slave away renovating and restoring the above-mentioned red house one crumbling inch at a time.
3) How did you choose the genre you write in? I don’t really write in any particular genre. My work reflects the dark shadows and murkier places that most interest me, but I can just as easily write about fantastic, supernatural subjects as the smaller, quieter stuff of everyday life. My first novel centered on a vampire’s diary, so I became associated with the horror genre, and I don’t have any problem with that. But I’ve also encountered a bewildering amount of narrowness in regard to this notion of genre—readers who automatically reject anything literary; others who won’t read novels with spaceships or the word romance attached—all kinds of strange biases and misconceptions that have nothing to do with the work’s merit. I’m not interested in any of that—I read what I like, and although it’s definitely not the most effective marketing approach, I only write about what grabs hold of my soul and won’t let go. That could be just about anything at any given point in time.
4) When did you start writing? Like most writers, I’ve always been writing in that secret, private place where words first come to life. I spent a fair number of my adult years in academia, where the writing is so dense and exhausting that there’s little left over for anything else. Writing fiction only happened in fits and spurts. Then my father’s sudden death some years ago upended everything almost overnight. As with many traumatic experiences, once my family got through the storm, the clouds finally parted and allowed in a strange, fragile new kind of light. I finally got the opportunity to devote the time and attention needed for writing a novel, and Verland: The Transformation was born.
5) Biggest influences as a reader/writer?
I’m a constant, eclectic reader, so that list is expanding all the time. I’ll read anything that catches my interest, but in general I apply the “you are what you eat” analogy—you can scarf down quick and easy junk food or savor more challenging, finely made dishes. As a writer and a thinker, what you send out reflects what you take in.
6) Is anything in your writing based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? Where do your ideas come from? All of my writing is based on my own experiences in that everything leaves behind deposits in one’s soul and psyche that come out on the page even if it’s unintended. Most of my ideas come from something that I’ve read about, experienced, or observed. That can mean something as small as a snatch of overhearing dialogue or as huge as, say, a scientific breakthrough or natural phenomenon that gets my brain going in some strange direction. The idea for my short story “The Suffering Other,” from my collection The Knife and the Wound It Deals, arose from a routine hospital visit. I starting thinking about the peculiar modern miracle of anesthesia, about what strange things might happen in this dislocated state where the body experiences pain but we’ve tricked the mind into not recognizing it. Ideas are everywhere, all the time; one just has to pay attention and then let the imagination wander somewhere interesting.
7) Planner or Panster? I had to look up the term “Panster” in order to answer this question! The answer, though, is both. Some stories pop out more or less fully formed, but most are little Frankenstein’s monsters that need stitched together and jolted to life. I think it’s a mistake to become too cemented to a narrative plan—some of my best ideas come from following an entirely new direction right in the middle of writing a story, or even after I think it’s finished. But I’ve also read a lot of pretty good stories that missed the chance to be great because the narrative was too sloppy and unformed. A story is like a pathway—it must keep readers moving along one well-placed stone at a time, and that rarely happens without some planning.
8) What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
When you’re as obsessively passionate about something as artists are with their creations, all criticism is tough, even the helpful, necessary kind. What’s tougher yet, though, is learning to pay attention to the right kind of criticism from the right kinds of sources, and ignoring the rest. That’s particularly important in the Internet age where people constantly comment upon and rate everything. It can create a crippling cacophony of voices drowning out the most essential part of the creative process: the artist’s own voice, flawed though it may be. It’s critical to find the balance between learning from your critics versus letting them determine your work, especially as you’ll never please everyone anyway. One critic or reader can praise the exact same element of a story that another hates. As for the best compliments, when readers tell me that my writing has touched them on some deep, personal level, that’s as good as it gets. Because Verland deals with such huge subjects—death, loss, survival, transformation—many readers have responded to it quite profoundly, and that’s worth a bookshelf full of bestsellers.
9) Tell us about your book (s). Favorite thing? Hardest issue to overcome? A lot of writers dislike revising, but I adore it! For me it’s the most enjoyable part of the process, whereas the most difficult part is staring at that blank page completely overwhelmed about how to get things rolling. For me writing is an extremely tedious, difficult, love/hate experience—I hate the endless solitary hours wrangling one unruly word onto the page at a time, yet I love the end result.
10) Advice for aspiring writers? Make sure that you really want to do it, take the time to acquire the skills needed to do it properly, and then do it for the only reason that matters—because you want to create the absolute best piece of writing that you can. The road to the bestseller and all that goes with it is a very long, very difficult one, and most writers don’t ever reach that pot of gold. But as long as you’re creating the most passionate, well-crafted, interesting story that you’re capable of writing, then if you sell a million books or twenty, if you end up with a major publisher, a smaller press, or self-published, you’ll be satisfied. You’ve created this amazing work of art and put it out to the world, and that’s a true, wonderful thing in of itself.
11) Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans? Buy good books; read, relish, and review them; then tell your friends about them. It sounds obvious, but that’s really what this entire writing thing is all about.
Links to the novel (s) that you would like to showcase:
Verland: The Transformation
The Knife and the Wound It Deals
Contact information: Published work, interviews, and other odd scribblings can be found at the author’s web site, bescully.com