Interview with Scott Whitmore

Scott Whitmore

Interview Date: 4/17/2012


Who am I? Who are any of us, really?

OK, that’s pretty deep — too deep for an “about me” blog entry. Here’s who I think I am:

  • Fast approaching middle-aged, but like to think I’m still open-minded and (at least) partially aware of what’s going on in the world of pop culture.
  • Interested in the world and what’s going on outside of the United States. Politics? Try to avoid ‘em thank you very much. Opinions? Yep, got some of them but don’t give them out too easily.
  • Reader, mostly of non-fiction (history and current events) but lately I’ve gotten back into non-fiction: steampunk and mystery/thrillers like Jo Nesbo’s Inspector Harry Hole series.
  • I’d like to write novels (hmmm, wouldn’t we all?).
  • Former sportswriter and copy editor at a medium-sized daily newspaper. Covered auto racing and high school sports.
  • Sometime blogger for motorsports including IndyCar, NASCAR, F1 and NHRA.
  • Freelance writer.
  • Retired U.S. Navy officer; began military career as an enlisted Sailor.
  • Father, grandfather, uncle. All girls. Hmm, go figure.

1. When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I started a couple novels before getting into high school ... terrible, terrible stuff they were. I've always had an active imagination but at that time I lacked the discipline to actually see them through.

While serving in the U.S. Navy I found that focus. I did a lot of writing in the Navy, but it was very technical: reports, messages, correspondence, etc. After retiring from the service I worked as a copy editor and sportswriter at a newspaper, so I was again writing a lot but with very strict boundaries regarding creativity — fiction-writing at a newspaper gets you fired! :)

I read a lot of fiction up to my teenage years, but very little after until about a year ago. I still read a lot, but non-fiction — mostly history and politics. Last year I made contact by chance with a few novelists on Twitter, and that opened the door to my return to fiction. I was amazed at what I've been missing, but I also think I "came back" at a really pivotal time with self-publishing and the Indie Author movement, for lack of a better term.

Kev's response:  It's a good time for that, what with the explosion in e-reading devices in the last year and a half.

2. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful.")

I skipped this and went the rest of the way through, came back to it, but still can't think of anything. :/

Kev's response:  So ... super decision-making?  :)

3. Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

Spiderman was my favorite as a kid. Something about the nerdy guy having fantastic abilities but keeping them under wraps appealed to me (go figure!). Plus, his snappy one-liners and put downs to the bad guys and J. Jonah Jameson were awesome. I could never think of anything that smart on the spot; like so many other people the good line would come to me an hour later.

Kev's response:  I'm so there with you.  Which is also why most authors do numerous edit passes on our work....

4. Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

A lot of my ideas come to mind while walking my dog Maddie, a four-year-old Shetland Sheepdog. For some reason another great incubator is the shower. I think in both cases my active mind is at rest while I'm doing something more routine, and that lets my sub-conscious roam freely. I've taken to using the "voice recorder" app on my phone or sending myself emails from my phone to ensure I don't lose whatever idea I came up with. I also have a yellow legal pad on my desk that I jot stray ideas on.

Motivation? That's harder to nail down. As I said, I tried writing novels as a kid, so there was a huge sense of accomplishment for me being able to start and finish one. Telling the type of story I would want to read myself is another motivator. I enjoy books, TV shows, and movies that are complex and don't aim for the lowest common denominator (Car chases! Blow stuff up! Sexy leads!) and there is a challenge in trying to do that.

Kev's response:  Yup, that's a big motivator for me as well.  Well, by that I mean writing something that I'd enjoy reading.  Most of mine fit more into light reading, though.

5. Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

Pretty much seat of the pants, or as author O.M. Grey, who helped mentor me a bit, calls it "the discovery method." For Carpathia I knew I wanted to write a paranormal Steampunk story that featured a vehicle race. As a newspaper sportswriter and blogger, motorsports were my main subjects, so I used the idea of a race as a tent pole of sorts; something familiar to build around.

Several chapters in I began to see where the story was going to go. I actually wrote the prologue after getting about a third of the way through, and that prompted some on-the-fly edits to bring more elements introduced there into the narrative. By the one-third point I also knew exactly how I wanted the story to end; from there it was a matter of moving the characters toward that conclusion in ways that would be exciting and fun.

Some will say just to write, write, write and worry about all parts making sense during editing, but I didn't do that. I made a few major plot changes along the way — early ideas weren't working out later or would take too much emphasis away from the main plot — and always went back to re-write earlier sections parts for continuity. My mind is too-tidy, I guess.

66. Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I wrote most of Carpathia in the evening and on weekends. My 'day job' is freelance writer, so I write nearly every day. That's my "have to" writing, though, and I don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration for that. Perhaps because of that, I didn't spend all my free time after finishing Carpathia in front of a keyboard, working on my next novel. I began to get some ideas of possible stories, and wrote them down, but I've only recently begun to work on another novel-length project.

When the whim strikes me, I also write about my Navy days, usually after seeing something in the news that reminds me of an event or person from the service. I post most of those "sea stories" as I call them on my blog.

77. Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

I like the idea of Steampunk for a lot of reasons. First, The Wild, Wild West was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid and it was essentially Steampunk before anyone thought of calling it that.

II've always enjoyed Sci-Fi, but didn't feel capable myself of creating a unique and interesting "universe" to play around in. I am very jealous/envious of a writer like Steven Montano who can. But with Steampunk, at least the way I practice it, the setting is familiar but the chance is there to make some neat "what-if" ideas come to life. Add in a few vampires and werewolves — no sparkles, please! — and you touch another genre I enjoy, Horror.

I'll read just about anything in fiction except Romance of the bodice-ripping-damsel-kidnapped-by-a-handsome-pirate variety. Police procedurals, mystery, thrillers, adventure, war, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, comedy. If there are elements of romance in those other genres, I'm all for it. I still also read non-fiction, and I like to mix genres up in my "To-Read" list so I don't get too much of any one. My most recent sequence started with a horror novella followed by a 1940s-era noir mystery, a fantasy/sci-fi novel, a police procedural, and now I'm reading a non-fiction book about Formula 1 racing in the 1960s.

Kev's response:  Steampunk has the potential for wonderful visuals as well.  Some renaissance faires are beginning to carry more steampunk-style items.  Very cool stuff.  I'd have bought a bunch if I both had the money, and a huge house to put cool stuff.

8. What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Bringing to life with words something that exists as an image in my mind is very satisfying, although there are others who do the same for their own ideas so much better than I do. As I said above, as a reader I like a story that makes me work a little and then rewards me for doing so; as a writer I strive to tell those kinds of stories.

9. Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Editing. Going back over the same passage four or five or six times, looking for typos, syntax problems and continuity errors. Necessary work, but at the same time it dulls the story, makes it less magical and more ... real.

Kev's response:  Aye, it makes it ... work.

10. Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I am legally blind in my left eye, and actually lied during my enlistment physical to get into the Navy. The interior structure of both my eyes is different, has been since birth, producing two very different visual "signals." My brain decided the right eye had the best picture, so that is what I see. The left eye does "see" when the right one is covered, but it is very poor.

Kev's response:  Bummer!  Interesting about having different structures, however.  The snarky side of me must ask this, however:  "Are those who are illegally blind on a wanted list?"

11. Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

One novel at a time, thank you very much. I have a few smaller things on the fire right now (see answer below) but I couldn't imagine myself doing more than one large-scale project at the same time.

12. Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I think paper books will always exist, but as time goes by they will become more conversation pieces and artwork. Like many others, I scoffed at the idea of getting an eReader and said "I love the feel of a book in my hands." Although true, I do love the feel of a book, once I broke down and bought a Kindle I realized what a great thing it was for readers and writers.

TThe "Age of the Indie Author" as I like to call this moment in time, resulted from the Kindle, Nook and iPad. No longer do I have to sweat and slave over a manuscript and then hope (mostly in vain) to find an agent and/or publisher, who — let's admit it — were mostly loathe to read anything unusual, fresh, or from an unknown. With social media like Twitter and Facebook, I can do my own marketing, too.

As someone who likes to read, I can't imagine a more exciting time than right now. There are so many interesting books to choose from, and the lower cost of eBooks means I can be freer to explore and take chances on a new or new-to-me author. I usually add four or five books at a time to my Kindle, paying for all less than I would to buy a hardback of Grisham's newest. And I can be reading any of them within moments of searching/finding/buying.

Kev's response:  Well, I do love having a copy of each of my novels, but then, that's more of an accomplishment type deal than wanting physical copies of every book I read.  Fits right into your conversation piece thing.

13. What are your current projects?

I've started on a new novel-length story set in the Carpathia universe, but thirty years later. No more details than that, or when it will be completed. Also, I'm excited to be a contributing writer for the Grim5Next anthology, a mixed-media project riffing on the Mayan prophecy of the world ending in 2012. AND I've been asked to take author Paul Anthony's challenge to write a short story in a different genre than I'm used to. Finally, I'd like to write about five more "sea stories" and publish an eBook memoir about my Navy days, hopefully sometime later this year.

Kev's response:  You might want to push that Mayan thing out asap.  It'd be a little silly releasing it next year...!

14. Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

The most basic thing I could say is "you can do it." It isn't hard or expensive to get your work out into the world where others can find it and appreciate it. There are many, many, many, many people who are willing and able to help you to self-publish, some for a fee but many more for free. The only limitation is your willingness to do it.

115. Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

My personal blog is at  . I'm on Twitter @ScottWhitmore.

Kev's response:  Scott, I appreciate you joining me.  Good luck on the new Carpathia novel!

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