- Guest Author -
Today I welcome an author from La Verne, California - Scott Skipper. Welcome, Scott ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.
I am a cranky old man who lives in the foothills of southern California with a wife I probably don't deserve and two silly dogs that I'm sure I don't deserve. We also share our isolated home with a surprising menagerie of wild beasts. I offer a rather amazing slideshow of camera-trap photos that you can find on the "Bio" page of my website.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Perhaps I was fifteen when I first submitted a manuscript to a sci-fi magazine and was astonished to receive a letter saying they had sent it to an illustrator to prepare for publication. Then about two weeks later I opened another letter that said they had gotten a better offer and were returning the manuscript. That stifled my adolescent aspirations and I went looking for other means of sustenance. I continued to write from time to time, especially during a sabbatical from my career when I found a little success, but after a year I returned to more immediately lucrative pursuits. Now that I am retired I have once again attacked the beast and am writing full time with serious intent.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Finding le mot just—turning that phrase just the way you meant it and knowing that you can't improve it.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Finding le mot just.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I owned and operated J.L. Mallard, Inc. in Montclair, California, a metal fabrication business specializing in maintenance of heavy industry—not very glamorous, but somewhat rewarding.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Maybe being able to touch type.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am in the final phases of a fictionalized account of Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele's life in South America and the farce that was the effort to capture him. Not that I intend to glorify the Auschwitz Angel of Death, but I want to show him as a real person sans fangs and green saliva as he is usually portrayed.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Intriguing source material.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Generally historical fiction.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Never, never, never stoop to use a metaphor, try your damnedest to give every preposition an object and don't get too worried about a little passive voice.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I haven't yet. I see writing as work, and when it gets tough, I work harder.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
My days usually develop thus: yard work and chores in the morning, answer email and work on promotion until lunch, then write until the cocktail hour.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Getting a reader.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Hemingway. He had great luck at finding le mot just.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
J.T. Kalnay, who is also a writer, wrote a dialog between two characters in his excellent book, The Point, where they were telling who their favorite authors were. One said, "Oh, I like Faulkner and Scott Skipper." I nearly fainted when I read it.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I offer a macabre short story called the Stainless Steel Coffin—about an incident from my time in the metal business—for free to try to generate a little name recognition. Some knucklehead reviewed it and said it wasn't worth it.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Very much so; to some degree, everything I write is influenced by something that has happened to me or someone I knew. Many of my characters are based on people I have known.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Reading is probably second to writing—actually, some days it's first. Travel rates high on my list of favorite things to do. I also enjoy genealogy, cooking and peace and quiet.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
If you mean did I give somebody money to edit them, the answer is no. I look for like-minded writers who are willing to exchange editing services. This is something I encourage self-published authors to do. It improves our industry and builds networks. For the record, I am available for reciprocal editing in certain genres, no vampires, zombies, blue aliens or treacly romances, please.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
If I were to describe my perfect day, you would consider it too lurid to publish.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
See answer to question above.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
More of the same, more books, more trips—maybe a Mediterranean idyll next spring.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
It might be more important to have something to read in Hell, but let me think: Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, Tom Robbin's Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Norman Davie's History of Europe and Churchill's History of the Second World War. If you ask me that again tomorrow, I'll probably give five different titles.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
You bet, but if I divulge which ones I'll get in trouble with my wife.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Of course it does. Traditional publishing is akin to whipping yourself in the face with an axe handle and self-publishing is like being adrift in the Pacific. (Strike that answer from new writers' eyes. I don't want them to see the sappy metaphors.)
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I did quit but I started again and am glad that I did.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Family Traits; I love the personalities that I gave the Indians. Sometimes I go back to it and reread passages—it's a guilty pleasure, a little like masturbation.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
Well, it would be easy to define success as getting rich from writing but that probably has as much, if not more, to do with marketing. I would say that success as a writer is being happy with what you wrote.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
The glib answer is that they want to read another one, but more seriously, I'd like readers to feel that I told them the truth.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
It takes as much time as thought. There is a lot of trial and error involved. I'm fortunate that my wife is a Photoshop guru. She did an excellent job on the cover of In the Blood. I'm very pleased with that one. Now, having said all that, I don't worry about the covers overly much. I don't buy a book from its cover and I expect I'm not alone, especially when dealing with eBooks where the covers are usually viewed as thumbnails.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Well, I suppose I've achieved it, I have independence and am doing what I enjoy.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Marketing is voodoo. All the conventional wisdom about marketing leaves me cold and I question how effective it is. When I shop for a book I browse Smashwords. I'll download half a dozen free samples and read them until I either gag or return and buy the whole text. I never look at writers' blogs or websites—not even writers I admire. I hope that I am the exception because if I have to wait for readers to stumble across me at Smashwords I'm sure I'll be waiting a very long time.
It doesn't help that I don't care for social media. I do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. You might find me some days arguing with somebody on LinkedIn, but I tire quickly and hurry back to my splendid isolation here in the peaceful hills.
ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes, and I am militantly proud of it.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Only to thank you for inviting me to be interviewed. Your questions are stimulating and I have enjoyed answering them.
Link to book trailer:
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Scott. You didn't sound too cranky at all. Hey, great advice to world leaders ... but I wonder who would replace them. More of the same?