Having had the pleasure of interviewing Scott a few years ago, we thought it was about time that we caught up with him to see how things have changed alongside how he has adapted as a writer.
What better time to do it than with the release of a new novel? So here, for your reading pleasure, Scott Oden, laid bare about lifes little addictions, which of his "babies" he loves most and author superstitions...
Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?
Scott Oden: After three books, I think I’m more confident about where I stand in the publishing food chain. I am by no means a “major player”, but a track record even as marginal as mine fosters a certain sense of self-worth: I can deliver a manuscript of publishable quality and a segment of the reading population will purchase it. For a raging neurotic like me that’s an awesome feeling.
FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?
SO: As an historical fantasist. I write books that I hope will bridge the gap between pure historical fiction and 30’s style pulp fantasy—bloody, rollicking action set in a historically accurate milieu with just a touch of sorcery and mysticism.
FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your methods of writing?
SO: I wish I could say it has made me faster and more effective, but I remain a very slow—and somewhat chaotic—writer. And, oddly enough, the very act of publishing has bolstered rather than banished some of the fears I had as an unpublished writer. Namely, the fear the words will stop, dry up, vanish. With every book, devilish little voices in my head try to convince me that this will be the book that reveals my true colors: an untalented hick with literary pretensions. It is rough going, sometimes, but I’ve always been adept at ignoring naysayers . . . even when the naysayers reside in my own skull.
FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?
SO: I would have told myself to fight tooth-and-nail to hang on to the subsidiary rights for my first two books. Subsidiary rights have the potential of being a very lucrative stream of income for otherwise impoverished writers, and some publishers tend to rely on said writers being desperate or uninformed. It’s almost predatory. Publishers are purveyors of books; why on earth do they need merchandising rights, video game rights, or movie rights? I wish someone would have told me to fight harder to keep them . . .
FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?
SO: All three of my protagonists possess decisiveness and an absolute clarity of purpose. I think I wrote them that way because I’m the polar opposite. I’m wishy-washy. I dither. Hell, even something as simple as answering these questions fills me with a fearful sense that I might answer them improperly. No, if I could have any of their traits, it would be the ability to decide and follow through on the decision without a second thought.
Though I wouldn’t mind the ability to fight like the Devil, himself, either . . .
FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?
SO: Callisthenes from MEN OF BRONZE is probably most like me: he’s bookish and timid, though he possesses a surprising core of strength with a temper that’s slow to boil. I like to think I have a similar core, and his temper is in every way my own.
FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?
SO: My fiancé, though one could argue my addiction to her is in no way a little thing. Honestly, though, it’s probably my addiction to pen-and-paper role playing games. I am a dice-rolling, goblin-killing junkie. I love sitting around a table with my friends, telling interactive stories of times and places that never were. And when the fate of a beloved character rests on a single throw of a twenty-sided dice . . . that’s the definition of drama, my friend!
FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?
SO: I don’t travel much, but when I do I make sure and pack a little makeshift tea set; I love nothing more than to relax in my room with a good cup of Earl Grey (with a dollop of honey and no milk, please!). It’s hard to find good tea here in the States. Oh, and if it’s a hot evening, I pour the Earl Grey over ice! A facet of my Southern upbringing is an affinity for sweet iced tea . . .
FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have criticized your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?
SO: I’ve not changed in that regard. But it’s not legitimate criticism—from those well-versed in the art and who have read the book—that bugs me. It’s the Amazon-style opinion bits from people who, in fact, haven’t even read the book which truly irritate me. For example: one Amazon reviewer took me to task on my second novel, MEMNON, for changing Memnon of Rhodes to a Caucasian! This so-called reviewer hadn’t even bothered to read—or perhaps didn’t understand—the basic synopsis of the story. He assumed I’d appropriated the mythical king of Ethiopia, Memnon, for my own nefarious and anti-African purposes. Luckily, other reviewers thrashed him soundly.
FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?
SO: I always pack ample reading material in my carry-on: Mary Renault’s THE PRAISE SINGER or THE MASK OF APOLLO; Steven Pressfield’s GATES OF FIRE, or a compilation of Robert E. Howard’s CONAN tales. If I’m in a non-fiction frame of mind, I always have with me my dog-eared copy of THE HISTORIES by Herodotus.
FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?
SO: I’m fond of them all, for different reasons: MEN OF BRONZE because it was my first-born; MEMNON because it was the book of my heart. But, as I write this, I have to say I’m proudest of THE LION OF CAIRO. It’s written in a more mature voice, with a better sense of pacing and structure; I wove little homages to Robert E. Howard into the narrative—my way of saying thank you for all the inspiration he’s given me over the years.
FT: With everyone having their own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protagonists and why?
SO: I cast the various roles in my mind as I write, so I have a pretty good idea of who I’d like to play the protagonists, were I given the opportunity. Hasdrabal Barca from MEN OF BRONZE reminds me quite strongly of Oded Fehr (with Rufus Sewell as Phanes of Halicarnassus); from MEMNON, Eric Bana would make a fine Memnon of Rhodes. And Assad, the protagonist from THE LION OF CAIRO, I based on Mido Hamada, after his turn as the Afghan hero, Ahmed Shah Massoud, in “The Road to 9/11”.
FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?
SO: I actually wrote a blog post about this very subject earlier this year (15 April 2010). If you’ll allow me to quote myself:
“I am a superstitious writer. Like an ancient Roman haruspex, I begin every writing day by reading the omens in my sacrificial toast and egg-substitute; is the pulp in my orange juice trying to tell me something? Can I divine the arc of my day by observing the movements of my folks, just as the ancients observed flights of birds? Yet, regardless of the omens, I always start work by burning a little cone of incense in front of my collection of writing totems.
“Like I said: superstitious. But, I’m not alone in this. Especially in the collecting of totems. Steven Pressfield enumerates his in the opening paragraph of THE WAR OF ART; agent and author Betsy Lerner lays out hers on her blog. These totems are to writers what the tiny figurines of his family were to Maximus in “Gladiator”. Little household gods that channel creative energy (if you believe that sort of thing). For me, at least, these totems give me a tangible link to the worlds I write about.
“Some of my totems are pictures clipped from books or magazines; some are postcards or geegaws picked up by tourists. For MEN OF BRONZE, it was a little stone skull (representing mortality), a picture of an Eye of Horus amulet, and a Corinthian helmet. Nor do I discard these after a particular book is done. I add to them. For MEMNON, I added a vial of sand from a beach on Rhodes, a postcard of Santorini at twilight, a replica coin of Alexander, and a high-res copy of an Egyptian wall fragment depicting Alexander as pharaoh. With THE LION OF CAIRO, I added an Afghan salawar (not a replica, but the real thing), a watercolor postcard showing a desert oasis, and a David Roberts print (‘Boulak’).”
FT: What was your impression of an author’s lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?
SO: I’ve never really harbored any illusions about the lifestyle or status of authors, perhaps because I’ve known several who “hit the big time” before I ever published. Most authors I know, both published and not, live their lives more internally than externally; everything we experience becomes fodder for a story. I didn’t realize to what extent I did this myself until I happened to be interviewed by a local newspaper. What most struck the reporter was the starkness of the walls in my workspace. They were, and remain, a bland, featureless white, like an empty canvas. And though I might stare at them for hours upon hours, I don’t see what that reporter saw. To my eyes those white walls become vistas of ancient grandeur, pyramids and sand-scoured ruins, or bustling markets that reek of the mysterious East . . .
As for status, authors remain a curiosity, as envied as the scribes of ancient Egypt. I do wish strangers would stop asking me how much money I make, though.
FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?
SO: Patience is less a virtue than it is a necessity. Cultivate patience, as well as professionalism and grace in the face of adversity. As a newly-published writer, I believed the hardest part of the process lay behind me once I typed “the End”; in reality, a finished manuscript is but the first step in a journey that’s just as likely to make one swear off this business of books as it is to inspire confidence.
Oh, and get a good agent. A well-connected agent is worth his weight in gold . . .
To keep up to date with all of Scott's Books please visit his website: HERE
To keep up to date with news and titbits of information please visit his blog: HERE