Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Robert Scott

Another serving of encouragment and inspiration - served piping hot each week on Fiction Matters. Dig into this great interview and find some hope for your writing journey!
ROBERT (Bob) SCOTT is an author and pastor. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada, with his wife, Shirley.
He is a member of Crimewriters of Canada, Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and The Word Guild.

Bob has been interested in writing since his early school days. He has written for radio and television and has edited several non-fiction books. He was privileged to have, among his university professors, the late Canadian author, Mordecai Richler.

Bob is presently working on his fourth and fifth novels, the 100th Anniversary history of his town, as well as a collection of his humorous short stories about the fictional town of Stevensborough. A non-fiction book about how Christians should relate to one another within the congregation is also in the works. The working title is Ostracize is Not What You Do With a Blender.
MURDER EXPRESS was released in December. It is the third in the Jack Elton mystery series.;

1) When did you know for certain being a writer was a goal you weren’t going to give up on?
I grew up as something of an attention-seeker. When I was in elementary school, some of my writing was singled out as exceptional. It made me want to write.
In high school, during the days of some of the great stand-up comedians, I wrote my own monologues and performed at various venues. I prepared articles for the school newspaper. I entered slogan contests. I won the grand prize in a safety slogan contest and received a decent cheque for my efforts.
In university, I became an announcer for the closed circuit radio station and wrote copy for the news and sports departments.
As a pastor, I was expected to write an exceptional, motivating, heart-grabbing message every seven days. Success in reaching all those goals in any single message was only occasional.
Throughout all of this history, I have loved telling stories. I have enjoyed entertaining or informing others through my writing.
The desire has always been there, in greater or lesser degree. It has never been driven by expectation of great material gain. Now that I am published, I realize that, had I been seeking riches, I would have been sorely disappointed.
I have always wanted to write. But writing as a career or regular activity became a real goal a few years ago when I found myself with more free time due to a career change. I had had stories I wanted to write and once I began to put them on paper, or into computer memory, I found that I was enjoying the exercise and did not want to stop.

2) Who believed in you the most? What role did they play in your ability to keep going?
Once I began writing manuscripts intended for publication, my wife Shirley was my greatest cheerleader. I had been the victim of attrition when my former congregation had amalgamated with another and the new church found that it did not have the finances to pay two pastors.
I continued pastoring, but to congregations in seniors’ homes where there was no salary available. I was temporarily out of paying work; I felt pressure to seek gainful employment. It was Shirley who said, “I’m working. You like writing. God will provide. You write. I’ll work to pay the bills.
While I did eventually get a ‘day job,’ it was my wife who continued to encourage me to continue with the activity I enjoyed most.
An able assist goes to the writing group I had joined. Week after week, as I shared portions of my developing manuscripts, they gave encouragement and advice.

3) When did you have to push hardest for your dream? How did you reach for the stars?
Every writer has to deal with rejection. Your friends and family will encourage you and will love your writing, or say they do, no matter how bad it may be.
In spite of being aware of this, when the rejections start coming in. you start to question whether you have the ability to produce anything that will grab the attention of the reading public.
When it happened to me, it was difficult to keep up the enthusiasm. The pressure of financial need, whether real or imagined, tended to move my motivation away from writing and toward job-seeking.
“Reaching for the stars” took the form of a personal challenge that I set for myself.
Each November, National Novel Writing Month places before would-be authors around the world the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. In 2003 I was in the midst of treatment for cancer when November began. I had to take things a little easier during that time and thought sitting and writing might be the solution.
I began with nothing more than an opening scene. At the end of the month I had a manuscript for a mystery novel, badly needing some editing.

4) Can you be tenacious and content at the same time?
Sometimes discontent is what leads to the tenacity. John Newton was not happy to go down with his ship. He prayed. God answered. He left the slave trade. He wrote to the glory of God. “Amazing Grace” is only one result of that tenacity in all of its hues.
Tenacity has its own rewards. I find that in holding on, I can be content with each small success. While I may be discontented with the progress of a project, I enjoy the challenge of solving the problem. As in the actual writing, you don’t have to be satisfied with the first draft. The result of discontent can be something far better than you first intended.

5) Tell us about your first sale.
The Surrey International Writer’s Conference <> is held every October, in British Columbia.
In 2004, I attended for the first time. I fell in love with the event. In my opinion, it is the best overall conference for the general writing community. Past presenters have included Ann Perry, Diana Gabaldon, Meg Tilley and Terry Brooks, to name only a few. I spent my first lunch talking about comedy writing with Jeff Arch, the screenwriter of ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’
I discovered that there was opportunity to ‘pitch’ ones manuscript during the conference. The next year, I went prepared with my edited National Novel Month manuscript from two years previous.
I abandoned my first inclination to speak to a representative from a major Canadian publisher and chose, instead, to talk up my book to the chief editor of an American company.
I only had five minutes to present my case and fully expected that, at the very most, I might be invited to send a synopsis and a few chapters for consideration.
Instead, I was asked to send the whole thing. “Here’s my card,” the editor said, and she signed it. “Put it in the package, on top of the manuscript. The intern who opens it in New York will know it is to be put on my desk right away.” And that was the end of the interview.
I did what I was told. And I waited.
Early one July morning, six months later, I received a phone call informing me that AVALON Books <> wanted to buy the manuscript. I had mentioned, in my covering letter, that I had two more novels in the works. They wanted those, as well. And they wanted first right of refusal on anything else I might produce in the same genre.
Results are not typical. Your mileage may vary.

6) Did you have a motto/saying/scripture/mantra that helped you through the tough times? What was it, and how did you use it?
Zechariah 4:6 - … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
God has taught me through experience that I am incapable of serving him in my own strength. What was true in ministry has proven to be true in writing.
Instead of pitching my book to a Canadian publisher, as I had intended, I was moved to cancel the appointment and talk to the representative from AVALON Books.
AVALON deals with the library trade. They have high moral standards because their books have to appeal to all ages from teen through adult readers. Not only does my style of writing appeal to them, I can likewise be assured that I am not being grouped among authors who, because of content, might not appeal to a Christian audience. It is a very satisfying arrangement.
7) What advice do you have for a writer who is facing “no” right now?
You are a writer. No one can take that away from you. Someone has said, “If you wake up in the morning and all you can think to do is write, you are a writer.” I might say, since some of us have to make a living; if you have a story to tell, tell it. If you find yourself working on some writing project just for fun, you are a writer.
Someone, somewhere, would like to read what you have written. It may take some time to find the channel that gets what you have created into the hands of that person. Don’t give up. Network with others. Writing can become a solitary endeavour, but writers need to interact with others for their sanity as well as for the sake of promotion.
Hone your craft. Work your network. Ask others in similar situations what they have done.
I love how everyone's story is different. We can read all the "how to get published" articles there are, but it seems to me that every author's journey is unique - this is truly a business about people!
I bid you good writing.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

You're right, every author's journey is different and it's the determined, 'tenacious' ones that succeed!
I love the title for his non-fiction book - I will be looking for that one!

L. Diane Wolfe

Joanna Mallory said...

Robert, it's good to meet you, and thanks for sharing some encouragement with us on the journey. I agree with Diane, that's a great non-fiction title.

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Wow, what an inspirational interview! Isn't it neat to see how God opens doors at the right time? And I love the book cover, BTW! :)

Avily Jerome said...

Thanks for that interview, Robert!
I'm still in the getting-rejected phase. Hoping to move past that eventually. :)

Thanks for having him in, Bonnie!

Robert Scott said...

Thanks to all who have posted so far.

I appreciate your comments.