Monday, August 22, 2016

Inside the Mind of Scott Kauffman

Lily:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Scott. We’ve really enjoyed reading Revenants - The Odyssey Home. First, we’d like to get to know you and your writing process before we dive into the book and the story behind it. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Scott:  Thank you so much. Music to this writer’s ear to know I have touched another heart. My one strange writing habit is that I spend the first five minutes of my writing day warming up by copying from another writer I greatly admire. I start at the beginning of the book and write out all the way to the end, which allows me to see how they work the magic they do. Can easily take me two years to get through an entire book but by the end I can see how they do what they do. Right now I am copying out Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. What I admire about McCarthy is his ability to write with the sparseness of Hemingway and at the same time the vividness of Faulkner. Seventeen more pages to go.
My other strange writing habit is that when I write, I listen to classical music, particularly sacred choral music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. [editor's note: you can check out some of that music here]
Lily: I’m definitely going to have to check out that book! I actually love reading to compare and contrast the different authors and their styles. I find it fascinating how even in the same genre you can find such a wide range. I absolutely love listening to classical and the old choral music, I think it’s great that it helps you write. Tell us, do you like to plan things out or go by the seat of your pants?
Scott:  Sometimes I just go for broke and write until I dead end and then go back to plan but usually I plan from the start because I only have the most basic idea of what my story is about in the beginning. I use a number of plotting devices before I actually begin writing but my most helpful is writing the Story Line in a problem/solution format. I start at the beginning with a problem in need of a solution followed by an apparent solution that leads to another problem that leads to another apparent solution that leads to another problem and so on to the end. I find it a great tool for writing a compelling drama and also to avoid writing myself into a corner that took me six months to get into.
Lily:  That’s a great idea. With anything you definitely don’t want to work yourself into a corner after putting in so much time! What’s your least favorite part of the publishing /writing process?
Scott:  Marketing. It is just plain tough to get the word out with so many great writers out there with great books. Book bloggers are a Godsend to me.
Lily:  I understand that – I get overwhelmed just trying to find new books, so getting referrals through my blog, friends, family, and other sites is a big help. Since marketing isn’t your secret talent, do you have any that you’d like to share?
Scott:  I am really good at annoying blog writers but that aside I’m really a pretty boring guy. I work, I write, I read (not as much as I would like), I still run some, and that’s pretty much my life. Oh yeah, and I annoy blog writers.
Lily:  Hehe I haven’t found you annoying at all so it must be all the other blog writers you’re out there annoying. Let’s turn back the clock. When and why did you begin writing?
Scott:  I knew I wanted to be a writer when I read Scott Fitzgerald’s Winter Dreams in my first fiction class in college. Fitzgerald’s prose is so seductive to young men in their early twenties. Trouble is I was one of those banal twenty-year olds who really didn’t have all that much to write about. It wasn’t until I defended my first murder case that I felt I had something worth saying, and I wrote my first novel, In Deepest Consequences, which I think remains available as an e-book.  Still it took me fifteen years to figure out how to tell the story.  I’m not the fastest plotter either.
Lily: Sometimes the best things in life take time. Like scotch. Are you working on anything new?
Scott: The Song of Deborah: Before a grief-stricken bounty hunter risks the wrath of the syndicate hiring him to track down their fifteen-year old runaway, he must come to grips with his culpability in the suicide of his teenage daughter. Will finish up revisions this weekend and send out for editing.
Lily: Sounds like it’s going to be a page turner. I hope you’ll let us know when it’s available! If you could send a letter back in time to when you first started writing ever, what advice would you give yourself?
Scott: You have probably heard of the ten-thousand-hour rule. To be proficient at anything – be it writing, the piano, or golf – you have to work at it for 10,000 hours. I would have told myself to start earlier and stop waiting for inspiration to slap me on the side of my thick skull.    
Lily: I have heard that. What’s the saying…jack of all trades, master of none? Although if the 10,000 hour rule is true I must be a master at reading! Sitting down to write, do you prefer to use a typewriter, computer, pen and paper, or dictate into a tape recorder?
Scott:  I find I am more creative if I write the first draft longhand with a Waterman fountain pen. Then I revise with a fine-point pen until the draft is barely legible and then I type it into the computer, which for some reason will give me new insights into my story that I did not see when it was it has still handwritten.
Lily:  I love that you have a favorite pen and start off writing everything out on paper. Everything I’ve ever written always started the same way. It’s funny how when you transcribe from paper to computer you find things you missed before. Ok, lets switch gears and learn more about the man behind the story. If you could only eat three foods and drink three things for the next month, what would they be?
Scott:  I am not much of a foodie. So long as it’s nutritious and easy, I’m a happy guy. So my three foods would be broccoli, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt (I told you I was boring). My three beverages would be coffee, V-8, and (to be a little adventuresome) Irish whiskey.
Lily:  You’d definitely come out healthier at the end of the month than I would! (I may or may not have a sugar addiction and if I thought I could survive I would try to on strawberries alone). What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Scott:  I became a lawyer not to earn a ton of money but because my heart has always gone out to lost dogs and stray cats. Any day I can give someone a second chance (which is also the title of an unpublished short story of mine) is a perfect day.
Lily:  That’s awesome! Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty. What inspired you to write Revenants - The Odyssey Home?
Scott: Like most adolescent boys, I daydreamed about running away from my mundane life and finding adventure. A story as old as Tom Sawyer and Homer’s Odyssey. Most of us re-channel our dreams but some do not and thereby become cannon fodder for unethical politicians and their generals.
I was also inspired by my late wife’s stories of her and her Uncle Bunkle who she saw as an older brother and may have been the last combat death in Viet Nam. Think of the tragedy. Not only being the last to die in a war but being the last to die in a war lost. While he may have been the last combat death, he was not the last to die. I read somewhere that as many Viet Nam veterans have died from suicide as died in combat. I expect we will be seeing similar numbers from the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.    
Lily: War always seems to have many casualties, long after it’s ‘over’. Even if the physical war is done, many people seem to forget that veterans still have mental wars of their own to fight. Out of all the characters, who is your favorite?
Scott:  My protagonist, Betsy. Sixteen-year old girls crack me up. They want so much to be sophisticated but don’t quite have the panache yet to pull it off. Then before Betsy can pull it off, she not only loses her brother in a senseless war but sees the lies in the world around her that she had no idea existed and somehow has to make her place in that world while being true to herself.
Lily: I try to forget that awkward time at sixteen versus what I was aspiring to! I loved the cover, did you design it?
Scott:  I’m not that talented but Tom Bentley of Bentley Printing very much is. I found on Google and forwarded to him a dozen World War I images that Tom used as inspiration.
Lily:  That’s great! Are any of the characters based on you or people you know?
Scott:  No. I am not an outside-in but more of an inside-out character writer. My characters are really just different parts of me, even, or perhaps especially, the nasty characters. I begin my characters by sketching them out followed by their back story followed by writing a dream for each of my major characters because dreams are a great tool for understanding my character’s personality. Finally, I will write a dressing scene for each of my major characters because how we dress is how we reveal our personalities to the world.
Lily:  Very true. I know what I wear day to day varies on my mood that day. How long did it take you to write Revenants - The Odyssey Home?
Scott:  Embarrassingly, nine years, fourteen major rewrites and lots of minor one. The first two-thirds of the books has not changed that much, it was the landing I couldn’t stick. I finally got it when I wrote a short-short story that I saw as a possible new chapter one (that it became) that the ending of Revenants finally gelled.
Lily:  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking your time. Better to get the story where you want it to be than to release it too soon and regret it! If you could bring one character to life from this book, who would it be?
Scott:  Jamie Hamilton, pre-war injury. What an adventure.
Lily:  I’d love to meet him! Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Scott:  I think we’re good. Very thoughtful, thorough questions. Thank you for the opportunity to reach out to your readers, but if any readers have additional questions or thoughts, please contact me through my website.
Lily: Thank you so much! Glad you didn’t find the interview boring, I try to keep things interesting. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Scott: I can be found on my website, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Revenants - The Odyssey Home can be purchased here.

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