FlashFlood

writing about writing

Hard to Want – The Interview

Posted by Flood on June 23, 2006

This week we sit down with Scott, author of the blog Hard To Want. Anyone who has read his entries can tell you he shares a lot of himself each day. A creative person in many a medium, Scott discusses his writing journey, and other vehicles of expression.

Thanks for agreeing to meet with us. You look great.

This old thing? Stop! I'm blushing.

When and why did you start writing with publishing in mind?

That is a good question. Probably when I was in eighth grade. Our school sponsored a writing contest. The winners of each grade were sent to Seattle for a writer's conference. I tied with a girl in my grade so the seventh graders got the shaft. I knew I wanted to be a published author then, but I never wrote another serious word until I rediscovered my passion over thirty years later.

What do you love and hate about it?

The worst part of writing is the ominous, soul-sucking void of the blank page. The best part is that first line, like the deft touch of an avaricious and tantalizing lover.

Ha. The brooding writer poetically rears his ugly head. You seem to love writing in images.

I'm trying to master the art of metaphor. My wife-editor pares them out of my writing ruthlessly.

What is your genre?

I'm still trying to figure that one out. The hardest part of being a writer for me is deciding just exactly what to write about. When I was kid, time travel fascinated me. And thus my eighth grade story focused around a child who goes back in time to save his father from an untimely demise. But today I am not so sure. A blogger friend of mine, Melinda Jane Harrington, has been helping me in my writing by trying to determine this very thing. And so I've been reading. I seem to have lost my appetite for fantasy worlds–you can thank Robert Jordan for that. In my early days I read Tolkien, Herbert, and any book with a dragon or wizard on the cover. I've toyed with the idea of being the next John Hughes, who practically created the high school genre. No matter my initial intention, however, my mind strolls down that old familiar avenue.

I've found your work to have dark themes, at the very least.

When I was a boy, my father packed up our family and fled from his creditors–the kind that send your wife's finger in a box as motivation to pay up. Normally you have to divide everything my father says by a bullshit factor of four, but on this I believe him. He made me tell my friends we moved to California to create a false trail, and I was forbidden any contact. I've written extensively about my father on my blog. I suppose it's no wonder that my characters are dark and edgy.

Fight Club is an example of a story I wish I had written, ditto the Ninth Configuration. The movie Memento floored me, the same with the early Tarantino stories–True Romance, Reservoir Dogs and of course Pulp Fiction. You can see that influence in my short stories–gritty characters, shuffled time sequences, fathers and sons.

Have you given any consideration to writing screenplays?

I've given it considerable thought. My thinking right now, if you will forgive the cliché, is to walk before I run.

Sometimes I worry my work reads more like a script than a story. Ever feel like that?

Not really. In fact, sometimes I think stories could benefit from thinking in terms of a script, providing visual cues to pull the reader into the fictive dream.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have rituals?

I have a pen in my back yard where I keep goats for ritual sacrifice to the writing gods. I went through a dozen in writing my most recent story. It usually takes two or three just to get started.

Your kids must love that!

You know the old adage: The family that slays together stays together.

My ritual is to come into work early, choke out a blog entry, reply to the responders of my previous day's effort, cruise everyone's blogs, then start doing work work when my office mates roll in around ten-ish. Then I pack the laptop, call in a sandwich, pick it up, go to Starbucks and tap keys on an actual story for half an hour. It's amazing I get anything done at all. Any other time I spend writing is late at night after the kids have gone to bed.

Do you do any writing by hand?

That would be a novel concept. The problem is that I can't read my writing later.

Chicken scrawls, eh? Do you know the story from beginning to end before you begin?

I'd like to say so, but that isn't always true. Sometimes I wake up with a bad feeling and rush it to print, letting it form itself. Sometimes I think of a killer ending and work backwards. Sometimes I know how it starts and how it ends. Most of the time I know nothing at all, and pray like a Hindu atop a mountain peak for inspiration. My recent effort was by the seat of my pants. I got tired of waiting for the whole thing to make sense and just foraged ahead.

Why did you start blogging?

My creative writing teacher at Solano Community College, Dr. Laurie Duesing, forced us to keep a journal. I wasn't keeping up. Then class ended and nobody was around to make me do it. So I started the blog as a means to keep writing. My first inclination was to write about all the shitty things I did to people over the years, in perfect anonymity. What I found from my readers was quite the opposite of what I expected.

What is your blogging style?

I'd like to say there is a theme, but there really isn't. I do whatever moves me in the moment. I blog five times a week if I can find it within me, but sometimes I'm emptier than a gutted fish. But overall, my blog is my creative outlet. Lately it's been about my journey, and a place to get critical feedback and support.

I can tell it's a haven for you. Do you have an inner editor that drives you mad?

Not one that drives me mad, but one that doesn't cooperate with the conventional wisdom of write first, edit later. I tend to belabor over introductory paragraphs. For now though, I'm good with that. We all have our own style.

What is your favourite entry on your blog?

My memories are slowly fading, as new ones replace the old. Going back through my archives sometimes yields a pleasant surprise. This is a very short piece I wrote, when Mrs. T. was my only reader.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

The connection. Those moments when you've written something that have touched someone else profoundly. And of course there is always the reverse. I remember a post from my inestimable friend Mr. Schprock called A Little God Talk that really struck a chord with me. After our exchange in that post, I hoped sincerely that he and I would be friends. In the blogosphere there is a connection that transcends all social boundaries. We get to know one another on another level on our own terms, dispensing personal information at our own pace.

What advice do you have for new writers? New bloggers? For new writers?

That's easy. Write. And write often. Write about what you know, which is a lot more than you think. The most successful writers make great witnesses at the scene of a crime. They see everything. And they're honest. In Tobias Wolff's Old School, Ernest Hemingway advised that true writing is bound to piss somebody off. I say shed your metaphorical clothing and skinny dip. Tell it like it is, especially if it would embarrass your subject–even if that subject is you. You'll be surprised at how alone you are not.

For new bloggers I would add this. If you don't like who you are, then try a new hat for size. Out here, there is no better place to start. Find other bloggers whose vibrations give you a cool gentle buzz and let them know. If they feel it too, then you've made a new friend.

That is so true. After I read Hard Love on Jason Evans' Two Lights contest, I knew I had check out your blog.

You will find the theme of Hard Love scattered throughout the archives of my blog. Hard Love is fictional only in sequence. My step-mother actually told me once that it was hard to love me, but that she had managed it despite. How magnanimous. Hmmm.

Hard to love, hard to want…

Did something click just now? Why "Hard To Want"?

The title comes from an old Andrew Dice Clay line, "I don't play hard to get, I play hard to want." He wasn't kidding. Most jokes have an anchor in reality. I found myself in a repeating pattern, be it with women I found interesting or with boys I wanted to be friends with. My childhood was all about transition. I had three step-mothers. The first was a beater and a hater, the second was dad's barroom boy toy, and the third was white trash–and so were we for that matter–with a foul mouth and a fiery temper. The only love I knew came in the form of apologies after violent outbursts, and the occasional summer trip to see my real mom, whose expression of affection was a set of keys and lavish gifts, but never what I really needed. I had trouble in every school I attended. My need was clear, and so I sifted to the lower ranks. And I resented it. I became increasingly angry with my life, and angry with a world that didn't love me as much as I deserved. Quite the opposite. As I progressed through high school, the in crowd acquired a disdain for me that gained traction. Or so I believed. My whole identity was wrapped by the disregard of an elite few. The friends I did have and the girls that showed an interest in me I regarded with suspicion. Who could love someone like me? I did what I could to get rid of anyone who tried to get close. For the most part I was successful. I was literally hard to want.

Whose blog do you use most as a writing resource?

I'm sorry to say that I don't really have a blog I use as a writing resource. I've only just begun my writers journey in earnest and haven't given publishing a serious thought. For now, I'm only interested in becoming a better writer. My constant companion when writing anything is Dictionary.com, and its bookend Thesaurus.com. I've found some interesting links on your own blog lately, as you seem to be tapped in to a larger world than I am currently.

What blogger would you like know more about?

There is more than one, and I don't want to play favorites. But I will choose Mr. Schprock. He has a radiance that shines in his writings. Lately he has started his own comic strip called The Schprocks, that showcases his wit and artistic flare. I am quite sure that someday he will be published in some form or another. He has a loyal following that adores him, myself among them. What he decides to do is completely up to him. Schprock is also very supportive of you and your work. His opinion is very important to me. I sent him Damned Carnival before I sent it to Deathlings, to which he offered constructive criticism along with aplause. It's crucial for writers to have someone who isn't afraid to point out the parts that don't work.

Who else in your life most supports your writing?

My wife. And that is asking a lot from a woman who manages our life at home with two high-maintenance boys and a fecal-brained puppy. At the end of a work day she needs a break. I have to give special mention to my friend Toni from my writers group in California, whose belief in my ability may even eclipse my wife's. She always tells me that I will not be a writer someday. I already am.

I agree. The simple act of putting pen to paper with the intention of asking one reader to suspend reality makes you a writer. I like to think that it's more than that. A writer is a complex combination of introspection and angst, with an ability to make it known. A writer assures us that we are not alone.

Scott, you use your blog to work through personal issues as well your writing struggles. You've been very naked in your emotions. Has that been cathartic for you?

My blog saves me a fortune in therapy. In my early days, I took some vicious swipes at my mother and father, and at my family during the events surrounding my mothers funeral. I liken the experience to shouting into a paper bag, or Dumbledore's Pensieve.

Do you currently have a major project?

No. I haven't started working on a novel length work just yet. I have a few ideas, but nothing strong enough to support such a large effort. I am content to study the works of those I admire, to overload the dam until it bursts. There is so much for me to learn. When I hit the ground, my feet will be a blur. There is a world of turmoil whistling steam from my ears.

You have a great sense of humour and quirkiness, while still coming across as caring and sensitive. One minute you could be making poopy jokes, the next you tell of a moving scene in your family.

Like I said, I write about whatever is on my mind at the time. I have two young kids–and boys to boot–and men never really grow up. Poop = Funny as Phil Harman's Ed McMahon would say. My blog doesn't require one of those mood meters you sometimes see. Just read the post and you will know. I am reflective, and the mind wanders across the years, searching for the answers to the riddle of me.

You do such a great job of expressing daily goings on.

That's nice of you to say. Some days are better than others. I try to frame everything as a story that has history and resolution, and sometimes I leave off and let the reader guess. In other words, I try to make it interesting. There is an art to non-fiction.

Anything can be interesting if written well.

The trick is finding the right camera angle.

You've recently declared Tobias Wolff your favourite author.

We all have our muse. I've been listening to Old School on audio for the fourth time now. You have to understand that this has never happened to me before. He's teaching me how to breath in a single moment of time, how to put words to my thoughts. We are not exactly the same kind of person, he and I. He is a studied master of the classics, of that there is no doubt. While I was reading Stephen King, he was studying Hemingway and Frost. But still, on a human level we are so much alike. He writes about time spent at school with such vivid clarity that I am humbled. The most important lesson I am learning from him is to paint with a smaller brush, one that can get into the corners without crossing the edge. I tend to rush to the end, like a boy with his first lover. Wolff's characters are achingly real, and so believable.

What else inspires you or makes you want to write?

Any great movie. Most recently I was stunned by Match Point, written and directed by Woody Allen. He normally doesn't inspire so much as a rental, but my wife slipped this one into the Netflix queue. I didn't know the movie was his until the opening credits. Groan! The ending was so amazing. Woody Allen basically had his way with my emotions. He played me like an instrument, and made me root for a despicable character. I was stretched and released, pounded and pulled. When it was over, the bar had been set to an impossible height.

Late last year, you attended a writer's workshop.

Would you recommend that sort of thing to other writers? I would highly recommend any kind of public forum to share your writing. I took a creative writing course a couple years back, where I presented a short story called the Tin Man. The ending had a twist, revealing the purpose of the title. I didn't need to look at the last line to read it. It was memorized. I watched the faces of my classmates as I recited. The payoff was the Oh! face I inflicted upon a young woman in my class, who nodded with satisfaction. I'll never forget it.

You are also a bit of an artist.

Here is a picture I drew a while back. This is not Pluto by the way, although he most likely served as inspiration. I drew this from an instructional book, and surprised myself to even come close to the original artist's rendition. Cartoons like this one are composed of basic shapes. The torso is just a lima bean, the head two circles like a snowman, the eyes are eggs, and the feet some other shape whose name I can't remember. You could say I'm a pragmatist. If there is a step-by-step method, there's a good chance I can learn it.

You've recently entered another contest?

Thank you by the way for turning me on to deathlings.com. I wouldn't have finished Damned Carnival without that goal set ahead of me. This contest was a particular challenge, to finish a story whose ending I could not envision. It was an evolutionary process, a story that came to life by filling in details of previously written the sections. It's hard to explain. Before, I always knew where I was going. Because of that need to know it all up front, I was intimidated from writing larger pieces. Now I am writing another short story, and may even submit this to the next contest on deathlings.com, if they ever acknowledge receipt of my first. It was only a nascent feeling, a germinal thought, and it feels good to flounder. I wouldn't have bothered to start before; and I have Damned Carnival to thank.

You once wrote that you should 'dare to suck.' I've adopted that as my personal mantra.

I can't tell you how proud I am to have inspired such that you would turn a random utterance of mine into a way of life. That hearkens back to that whole connection thing I was talking about earlier. But the advice is sound. Fear of failure prevents most people from getting up in the morning, much less to put themselves in a position to be judged. It can be paralyzing. Some writers would sooner die than let you read a single word of their writing. Daring to suck allowed me to start on the journey without Mapquest. I suppose I've always had a bit of a thick skin. Not that I like criticism. On the contrary. But I can take it. I was in a country band called Silver Spur years ago in California. Daring to suck got me up on stage–and kept me there I should add.

What do you play?

I played rhythm guitar and sang part time lead, harmonies for the rest. I have a low range, doing much better with old country than with vocally gifted talents like Vince Gill and Garth Brooks. That never stopped me from trying though. Many times I found myself reaching on stage for songs I couldn't even sing in the shower. Something about the bright lights induced my sincerest effort. It's interesting how writers have a tendency to be all-around creative people.

What's next for you?

Who can say for sure? I can't. Even if I ventured a guess, a warm current of wind could sweep me in a totally different direction. I tend to live life on a whim. I'm not a spiritual man per se, but sometimes I believe in the causality of what happens before me. I saw a music store the other day and wandered in, and met a man who teaches country-style guitar, mandolin, pedal-steel and Dobro. Wow. I've been thinking about picking it back up lately… The one constant though, no matter where life leads me, will be my writing. Come what may, I will be published some day. Maybe that is why we met.

Scott, thank you for opening up today. I think readers will see some of themselves in your thoughts.

If that's true, then they should be scared. Very scared! Thanks for having me, Flood. This has been a introspective experience for me, similar to my early days of blogging. Invite me to talk about myself any time.

*

Next Week: Forrest Landry

Weekly, FlashFlood interviews writers who blog. Any writer at any stage of publication is interesting. If you would like to know more about your favourite blogger or want to be interviewed yourself, email me.

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One Response to “Hard to Want – The Interview”

  1. Flood said

    Great interview, Jason and Flood! I love this line: “The family that slays together stays together.” Funny stuff.
    Jaye Wells | Homepage | 06.18.06 – 11:20 pm | #

    Gravatar Yes! A great interview, Scott.
    Thank you both.
    But I LIKE your metaphors, she whined.
    “Dare to suck,” is the best advice yet.
    Bernita | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 7:51 am | #

    Gravatar Flood – Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I had a good time. Now I have to get to my blog and let people know it’s here. The alarm didn’t go off this morning, and I’m way behind…

    Jaye – Yeah, I slay myself. Oops, there I go again.

    Bernita – Thanks. I’ll have to solicit a second opionion before I cut them out next time.
    Scott | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 8:44 am | #

    Gravatar Wonderful, just wonderful! This interview took an intriguing path. I’m glad you both followed where it led.
    Jason Evans | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 9:15 am | #

    Gravatar SCOTT, not Jason. Jeez. Sorry, that will learn me not to post late at night after getting off an airplane. Feel free to slay me now.
    Jaye Wells | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 9:38 am | #

    Great Interview Scott and Flood.

    ‘Dare to Suck’ sounds like the perfect motto when writing. I could go off on a tangent there but I’ll be good

    Amazing how our childhood affects everything else we do and how we either let life suck us down or learn to fly. I think Scott has learned to fly
    Toni | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 9:44 am | #

    Very informative interview! Good job, Scott and Flood.
    fringes | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 10:10 am | #

    Gravatar Jason – Yeah, we had a good time going back and forth on this one. I think Flood tried something new on this one.

    Jaye – Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just have Jason on the brain. The execution order has been belayed.

    Toni – Now now. Methinks you are being a little naughty. Thanks for the compliment.

    Fringes – Thanks, we had fun.
    Scott | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 10:25 am | #

    Gravatar Scott was a great subject. I had a lot of fun working on the interview with him, and I definately saw some of myself in his words.

    These interviews are great because I am learning a lot, not only about writing and how people work, but about the interview process itself.

    Thanks, again Scott!
    Flood | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 11:50 am | #

    Gravatar This really was a wonderful interview. I will now have to go and read everything this man has ever written, so thanks to you both.
    Rebecca | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 1:10 pm | #

    Gravatar This is one of the best damn interviews I have ever read — and I include the legendary 1970 Tiger Beat interview of David Cassidy when I say this. Flood, you didn’t ask Scott what kind of tree he would be, but I consider that only a minor slip. If I wasn’t already a loyal reader of Scott’s blog, I would be now.

    After this, I would recommend he change the name of his blog from “Hard to Want” to “Dare to Suck.”
    mr. schprock | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 1:38 pm | #

    Gravatar Rebecca – Then I hope to see you soon. Thanks!

    Mr. Schprock – Oh man. Warn me next time! David Cassidy. You kill me. I never really thought about having a blog called Dare to Suck. However, I am leaving that for my new friend to use. It’s not really mine after all. I only thought of it.
    Scott | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 1:47 pm | #

    Gravatar You know, with a few tweaks, you could use Schprock’s comment as a blurb on your blog.

    “best damn…read…legendary…I consider…Scott…loyal…Hard to Suck/Dare to Want!”
    Flood | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 2:22 pm | #

    Gravatar What a remarkable interview! Honest, insightful, and positively inspiring. Thanks for sharing your journey, as a writer and as a person, Scott.

    And Flood, you are such a sensitive and thorough interviewer. You sure know how to bring out the best from your subjects. Good show, once again .
    Bhaswati | Homepage | 06.19.06 – 3:49 pm | #

    Gravatar Great interview, Scott. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world.

    Nice job once again, Flood.
    Jeff | Homepage | 06.20.06 – 7:43 pm | #

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