Thursday, July 18, 2013

Talking Time Travel & Magic with Scott Spotson (#interview)

We have the good fortune today to welcome Scott Spotson to the ruins. An author, artist, and fellow Canuck, Scott currently has three titles in print, with a fourth - the creepy and unsettling thriller, Delusional - soon to come.


Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Scott. For those who haven't yet had a chance to give Seeking Dr. Magic or Life II a read, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, thank you as well for having me here! I’ll start off by saying I’m glad we’re both Canadian, as we do need a Canadian voice in this world of indie writers!  My book, “Life II,” is wholly set in Canada, except for side trips to Greece.  I work in tax, which many people would find to be a field which is a polar opposite to creative writing! Not to worry, there’s absolutely no discourse on taxes in any of my books!

Well, Stieg Larsson gave it a shot, but he abandoned the tax discourse after about 100 pages to write a murder mystery instead. I'd say the opportunity is still there!

Getting back to you for a moment, the journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in this era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I started writing as a young kid; these were all short stories of vivid imagination. For example, I once wrote about finding myself in a dream and seeing eyes at the back of my mother’s head (now I know how she was able to find out everything I did wrong!) and having to eat myself out of a mountain of ice cream when trapped in there.  I wrote a book in my early 20’s, a novel that is nowadays considered “new adult,” but had to shelve it as there was no electronic publishing back then. I started again in the summer of 2012 when I had too many stories in my head, and couldn’t resist trying again. This time, I pleasantly found out about the new digital publishing era.

Digital publishing has certainly opened doors, but it's only half the equation. Given that it must sometimes seem like a second job all on its own, how do you keep yourself excited about those self-promotion opportunities?

You’re right, in self-publishing on a digital platform, there’s no publisher, and there’s zillions of books out there, so you do have to promote yourself, or you’ll never be noticed. I resolved to myself at the beginning, to truly test my writing, not to involve my family or friends in reviewing my books. I’m glad I did it that way.  In fact, I’ve made many new friends, even if only on-line, among beginning authors.  I keep myself motivated through reviews that show how much people liked my books, and especially those that said the books made them think about what they’re doing.  

That's a fair approach. In terms of the writing itself, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

The creation of ideas if the easy part. I guess the hardest part is making the story stick together, although I pretty much know the story from beginning to end. It’s those gaps that can kill your story. For example, it’s easy to imagine a wizard fighting a monster. But what you need to set up are the background and the characters: where did the wizard come from? Why does he (or she) want to fight, what is he defending or asserting? Where does the monster come from, and how do they meet? These are very important details, and if you flesh them out, you’re beginning a solid book. So, to answer your question, it’s not really the first chapter or last chapter, it’s making the story consistent and compelling.  

Good point - those details make the difference between disposable and memorable. Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when writing about time travel and magic. Have there been any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

Yes, that happens many times, and I like it.  It makes your book more fresh.  For example, in Life II, I introduced a surprise fellow time traveler named Lucinda, who was absolutely nowhere in my initial concepts of the story. That choice was controversial, as some readers felt she threw off the balance of the story and didn’t belong there. But I felt she was essential to shake up the story, as Max (the main character) seemed to be coasting along too easily to the conclusion of the book at that point. And I felt it was important to return to the origins of Dr. Time, to wrap up the vital role she had at the beginning of the book.  

And in Seeking Dr. Magic, I originally planned to have Dr. Magic killed by the authorities, and to have the main character, a detective, grieve over what would have been a waste of extraordinary magic.  However, I kept Dr. Magic alive, and the ending of the book showcases their close relationship. 

And that, right there, is magic. 

Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

Interesting question. Is this common among writers?  I never thought of it, so I guess I’ll have to answer that I write in solitude.

In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

Yes, I was very surprised how readers loved my stories, but could not relate to the main characters (many could, but also many couldn’t).  For Life II, the readers felt the main character was very self-centered, and I didn’t intend him that way.  Maybe wanting to change your life a second time around requires a self-centered person, so maybe I can’t get around that, but I certainly can look at softening the edges of the choices he makes without losing the thrust of the story.  For Seeking Dr. Magic, the reader felt that the main character, a detective, was celebrity hungry and arrogant.  Naturally!  I did that on purpose, to set him up for belittling by an even more arrogant Dr. Magic. I thought it would be fun to have a battle of the super-egos.  Now I understand that even with that premise, arrogant characters are hard to like in a main role, so I’ll see about softening these edges as well.

Actually, I like the idea. To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Well, it’s very hard to say, because I read like osmosis, without seeking out certain authors.  My parents had their house very well-stocked with books, mainly adult books, so I would read a bit of this and that, without really reading the whole book through, as I was still young and didn’t think of myself as a student of reading, just grabbing what I thought interesting.  As a kid, I would sometimes read four children’s or geared-to-young-adult books in one day (back then, books weren’t so characterized as “young adult”). There’s been years where I hardly read any books, being so busy with college or raising kids. So you could say I’m eclectic in my tastes.  However, I love science fiction, some fantasy, and speculative fiction.  

Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

Yes! I have two books in the works, first coming up (September) is “Delusional” where a young woman in the center of a love triangle is experiencing delusions, but later one we find out that someone with paranormal abilities is causing these hallucinations to drive that woman away.  It’s bizarre as the main character isn’t sure what is real and what isn’t real.  Then she investigates these strange happenings and gets further caught up in the chaos.

The second book (hopefully scheduled for December) is “The Four Kings” whereby four well-meaning but arrogant wizards (all young adults) take over governing the world, introducing what they see are economic and political reforms to “kickstart” human civilization “by a hundred years.”  Thus, the book sets up a cultural clash between the wizards and the humans, as the wizards use the concept of “bread and circuses” to keep their subjects entertained through amazing games of challenge and skill that they put on. We see the story through the eyes of Amanda, who’s human and has been appointed by the wizards as “Supreme Liaison” to act as go-between the humans and the wizards. It should be a fun read! 

They sound like interesting stories - best of luck with them, and thanks for stopping by!

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Seeking Dr. Magic
by Scott Spotson

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title "Phantom Ninjas" by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch - and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who - or what - is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently retired from the FBI, who is accustomed to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress. Hetfield, seeking ever more celebrity to boost his profile, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist - in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past - and cruelly takes him up on his offer.


Life II
by Scott Spotson

Upon discovering a 1958 book titled "Account of Time Travel on Earth Using Wave Theory," 42-year-old Max Thorning's life is thrown into chaos. Seeking answers to the book's cryptic clues, he discovers Dr. Time, a seemingly benign alien who has control of the Time Weaver, a remarkable device that can command any scene from the Earth's past. Dr. Time offers him a choice to go back into Time, to any point in his lifespan that he can vividly recall. The catch: he can only bring his memories, and can only live the future one day at a time. Follow Max's dilemma as he goes back to his 16-year-old self and tries to forge his destiny into a new one called Life II.

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Scott Spotson is a Canadian novelist who excels in imagining scenes of intrigue and adventure within ordinary lives while daydreaming, then pulls together various plots to create a compelling story.

Scott has written three books: Life II, a time travel novel; Seeking Dr. Magic, a novel that imagines what happens when a powerful wizard comes of age as a young man, and wreaks his havoc on the world, which is yet unaware of his existence; and You Know You're Thin When..., a humor book using large single panel cartoons.

A fourth book, Delusional, will be published tentatively by July 2013.

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