If you’ve recently encountered Phantom Ninjas or wanted to indulged in the temptation to travel back in time to visit your 16-year-old self, then you’ve probably already met Scott Spotson. One of many hardworking indie authors producing great fiction under the radar, Scott’s novels include Life II and Seeking Dr. Magic.
In early September, Scott sent Delusional to Isotropic Fiction and answered these questions for us. Enjoy this Q&A and when you’re done, be sure to check out Delusional on Amazon.com.
Isotropic Fiction: Do you think every story has essentially been told before and that today’s writers must juxtapose old ideas and stories in new ways rather than worry about originality? If no, what recent speculative fiction story did you find refreshingly original?
Scott Spotson: I don’t think every story has been told before. If it has, then we would probably have tuned out long ago and relied on re-runs (including old novels!) While there are common themes for story-telling, such as road trip, heist, love story, discovery, or physical or personal challenge and its resolution, the way they’re told can be in many different ways. For example, my book, “Life II,” tells of how a 42-year-old man goes back to his 16-year-old self and tries to alter his past life, which is now the future for him. I was told by several reviewers who hadn’t yet started my book that the concept of “time travel” was overdone. Yet when they read it, they were astonished that it was so different from what they expected.
To date, I have only found one relatively famous work that closely resembles what my book was about, and that’s “Replay” by Ken Grimwood. Even with that, our books are different as my character chooses to back into his past, and only goes through it once, not losing control over the timing of his beginning and death like Ken Grimwood’s character does.
IF: Now that touchscreens and space vessels are becoming things of science fact, what makes Science Fiction unique?
SS: Science fiction has never been about solely the technology or the fact that we’re in space but rather how stories of fascination, discovery, and interactions with alien cultures play out. In a sense, I think the sense of wonder and discovery will always pervade science fiction. As Star Trek says, “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
In a way, I think all these aliens (even strange animals and beasts which cannot communicate with one other) bring about compelling stories. If they’re beings with high intelligence, it challenges us to consider how to treat others that are “different” from us. Do we consider them threats? Why? Do they have anything to add value to our way of life? Do we even want to adopt these paradigm shifts, as these may have a double-edged sword? If they’re beings which cannot speak for themselves, do we disturb their way of life, and thus comply with the “Prime Directive?” Since they’re aliens, we can project any superior power (e.g. telepathy) or any evil motive (e.g. destroy Earth) they may have.
The possibilities are endless.
IF: What are books for?
SS: Books are to inspire. This is different from a textbook that you were assigned in university. This is a book that you felt you had to read in order to achieve your life’s goals.
However, for works of fiction, these books must inspire the reader, and get him to say, “I want to read this!” It could be the reader is interested in fantasy. Or the reader is interested in being scared or wants the adrenalin-pumping experience of reading a thriller. The reader may be seeking passion that he may or may not be having in his life at the moment.
It is not just enough to give the reader what he wants. The story must be well told, in a style that the reader enjoys. Sometimes, the story should be long, and drawn out, so the reader can lap up fascinating detail on the main characters. Sometimes the story should be chopped up into many action scenes, to entice the reader to finish the book and find out what happened.
In most simple terms, a book meets the need of a reader to experience and savor something important to him personally.
SS: I think the hardest part is being invisible, when it comes to the bulk of the reading public’s attention. You mean what I speak of. Writers like Stephen King, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, and Dan Brown get all the attention. They’ve worked very hard. They’re talented. They deserve their fame and fortune. It’s just that you want a piece of it too. With indie publishing, you’ve got your foot in the door. But you’re always waiting for that big breakthrough where your books become household names.
You always know it probably won’t happen. But our unlimited capacity for hope always lead us to savor the thought.
IF: What’s the one question that you always want people to ask you about writing that they never do? What’s your answer?
SS: I think it’s more of me asking them. I want my readers to tell me their favorite scene in a book. Their favorite conversation in a book. What moments in the book makes the reader go “Yes! That’s perfect!” and feel completely in tune with the book, as if the world stood still.
I sometimes feel that way too when reading other books. If I feel that way only a few times during a book, then that means the book is okay. But if I feel that way several times in most of the chapters, then that book is likely to last as a favorite of mine. These don’t have to be scenes of surprise or death-defying action, although these work pretty well. These can be small scenes of characterization that are important to me, like the way a character rests her hands on her face in a certain way when listening to something vitally important.
The readers’ replies may not necessarily be enlightening to me as a writer, but they always will make me feel proud.
Isotropic Fiction’s Author Interviews provides writers with the chance to discuss their inspiration, craft, and process with readers. Find new interviews on Isotropic Fiction every week.