Wednesday, August 11, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Michael Dillon Scott

He might be one of Ireland's favorite sons, but international bestselling author Michael Dillon Scott has become a worldwide phenomenon. With over 100 titles in print over the past two decades, he has managed to garner a readership that expands the young and old, male and female, and it's obvious that in the process he is loving it just as must as those who buy his books. While in the states promoting his latest release, Scott took out some time to answer some questions from Conversations' Cyrus Webb discussing not only his beginnings as a writer, how he has kept himself going over the years and also gives advice for aspiring writers. This interview truly has something for everyone.

Michael, first of all thank you for taking out time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. You have been a piece of the world's literature for over two decades. Are you surprised at the body of work you have amassed over the years?

It constantly surprises me.  I never set out to create a body of work.  It sort of crept up on me over the years.  Twenty-five years ago I wanted to tell a series of Irish folklore and legends which had not been told for a very long time.  That collection became Irish Folk & Fairy Tales.  It led to a second collection and then a third. I think all my work has flowed naturally from the previous books.  Folklore leading to fantasy fiction, then  into historical fiction and horror, before ultimately leading to the new series which is a mixture of just about everything I've read and studied over the past twenty-five years.

Your journey as an author began in the early 80s. What was it that first drew you into writing in the first place?

There were really three factors.  I was working as a bookseller in Dublin, Ireland.  Every day boxes of books arrived, most of them by authors people never hear of.  It was those writers, who did book after book, year after year, who really brought it home to me that it was possible to write successfully for a living. 

The second reason was that I had become aware of a vast body of Irish folklore that was either not available or only available in out-of-print Victorian collections.  I wanted to bring those stories to a modern audience.  In my rather youthful ignorance (or maybe arrogance), I thought I could do that.  I mean – how hard could it be?  I discovered just how hard very quickly!

Thirdly, I was a reader, a voracious reader and if you are a reader, then sooner or later, you will want to try to tell your own stories.

At the time when you started writing there were still a number of people especially in the states that believed you couldn't achieve real success as a writer until after you were dead. Did you have people telling you in the beginning that it wouldn't work out well for you, and if so, what kept you going?

People said that all the time, indeed, some still say it.  Really it is how you define success.  I would suggest that getting one book published is a success.  For others, it can be just completing a book.

However, it did take me a long time to make the huge leap into earning my living as a writer.  That's the big step.  That is when the safety net is removed and suddenly not only do you HAVE to write, it has to sell.  It changes how you write and I do believe it even changes what you write.

When you are writing, there will always be people who tell you that it is an impossible dream, but every day, every week, every month, more and more books are published.  And someone has to write them.  The trick is to ignore the nay-sayers and keep writing.

One of the problems some writers grapple with, Michael, is that of staying relevant. Do you believe that your writing in various genres has kept you in front of fresh eyes and your loyal readers coming back for more?

Absolutely.  I have always fought against being categorized as particular type of writer.  The problem is, of course, that some publishers want you to write in a particular genre, especially if your last book sold well. Then you become a "horror" writer or a "romance" writer, and once that label is applied, it becomes difficult to remove it.

I've written across several genres - folklore, fantasy, horror, romance, both adult and young adult.  I've published both fiction and non-fiction.  I tend to write what interests me and lots of things interest me.  Often there is no cross-over between readers of my work, though it is true that readers of my Young Adult fantasy writing will move onto my adult fantasy.

I was introduced to your work last year, but I just began following you regularly this year because of the social networking site Twitter. Have sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter help you connect with fans and prospective readers?

Yes, absolutely.  I am of the generation of writers who have instant access to their readers – in exactly the same way that readers have access to their favourite authors.  Previously writers would have waited weeks or months for reviews and comments about their books to arrive.  Now, it happens within hours of publication.  If you write to me on Twitter or Facebook or through the fan site, there is a very good chance I will respond – especially if you're asking me an interesting question.

On the fan site, for example, readers spend a lot of time dissecting the stories and doing their own research into the characters.  That is incredibly gratifying, but also a little bit scary: if I get it wrong or make a mistake, then they'll tell me!

Also, because I write everything to music and I often tweet about the music I'm listening to (right now it's Stream of Passion's album, Embrace the Storm), readers recommend music to me all the time.  I've been introduced to music I would never have encountered through my fans online.

There is a downside of course.  If is often very frustrating to find full synopses of the books on Wikipedia, revealing all of the carefully placed revelations and clues. 

The latest book in your new series is The Necromancer. Tell us about it and what readers can expect.

This is the fourth book in the six book sequence.  I really recommend that you read the first three, which sets up the story, because this is really a book where everything you've learned thus far is turned on its head.  As in the rest of the series, the only two created characters are Sophie and Josh, two ordinary fifteen year old American twins.  All the other characters are drawn from history and all the creatures from mythology.

You are read all around the world now, and in the eyes of many you have a successful career. I'm curious how after 20-plus years in business you measure success for yourself.

Very simply: being able to earn my living as a writer.  For most of my writing life I had other jobs, which was the safety net, but now there is no safety net.

I also believe you are only as good as your last book.  Every book I write has to be better than the last.  As a bookseller one of the most interesting lessons you learn is about the often short writing careers of many writers.  Authors who were huge even ten years ago, are unknown now.

Along the line of the last question, Michael, what is it like to have readers tell you how much your work as meant to them? Has it really sunk in the influence you have on some just doing what you love?

Having someone tell you that your book inspired them to be a writer is an incredible tribute.  When people write and tell me that one of my books encouraged them to read again is also extraordinary.  It is one of the great advantages of being a Young Adult writer: fans write.  And I try and answer them all.

Writing is an incredibly private job.  You spent six or nine or twelve months sitting staring at a screen, with no idea (or very little idea) of what's happening to your books in the real world.  And then, for a few weeks you go on tour, and suddenly you realize what's been happening to that book.

Two weeks ago I had the honor to be a guest at the 100th Boy Scouts Jamboree.  Young men lined up for two hours to get their books signed and many had brought all their books for signing.  Now, given that they were carrying their tents, clothes, boots and kit, it was an huge compliment to discover that they'd also carried 3 or 4 heavy hardbacks with them.

There are aspiring writers who look to authors like you for guidance. What would you say to someone who loves to write but hasn't taken any steps to see themselves in print?

The rules are very simple.  You have to read.  Then read some more and then, do a little more reading.  I have never met a writer who was not a reader.

You have to write.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if you throw it away the following day, but you have to write.  Start with something small – a short story.  And finish it.  So many writers never progress because they fail to finish a piece.  I always find it's incredibly useful to write the ending first.  That gives you a destination.  Once you've completed a short piece, then begin a longer piece – a novella – then a novel.

Do your research.  Find out how long a novel should be (The Necromancer is 90,000 words for example, The Sorceress a little bigger at 100,000).  See who is publishing your type of book.  Do not, for example, send a romance novel to a science fiction publisher. 

And be patient and persevere.  Every writer is rejected.  Some have been rejected many, many times.  If one publisher rejects your work, it just means it was not right for that house at that particular time.

I always add that you should get a really comfortably chair – you're going to spent a long time sitting in it!

Thanks again, Michael, and we wish you continued success. How can our readers stay in contact with you.

Thank you so much.  My website is a good jumping off place: I post on Twitter just about every day as @flamelauthor and I'm on Facebook with the same name.  But the best place for information about me and the books (and they often have information even before I have it) is the official fan forum: Flamel's Secret:  and the portal site:  Flamel's Immortal Portal: I'm on the fan site just about every day and I usually answer the questions posted there.

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