Ken Scholes is a new author releasing his first book in February, but that by no means means he is new to the industry.
Ken is responsible for writing dozens and dozens of short stories, many of which have been published in several reputable magazines. He also won the Writers of the Future contest a few years back. Ever quirky and always fun—as evidenced by any number of photos on his website—Ken was then dared by his friends to write a full-length novel based on one of those short stories.
Lamentation, released in mid-February 2009, is the fruits of that dare. I’ll let Ken describe the rest!
Here is Five Questions with Ken Scholes! Enjoy!
Unbound Worlds: When did you start writing? Why do you write?
Ken Scholes: I started writing pretty young. I was stapling together little books (self illustrated) when I was in the First Grade. I started writing short stories when I was about fourteen—I’d read Bradbury’s essay “How to Keep and Feed a Muse” and it had shown me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I tend to process my life through writing. Whatever my subconscious mind is processing tends to turn up, dressed as fiction, to be worked out on the page. I used to say that writing was a way of knowing myself. While that’s certainly still true, there’s also now a part of it that is just the love of telling a story that engages people, makes them think or feel, entertains them.
UW: Describe your writing day? How many words/pages do you write a day on average? Breaks? How much time do you spend editing and how do you go about it?
KS: My ideal writing day (and not all of them are ideal) starts at about 2:45AM. I get up and hit the road for a forty-five minute walk. This is a new thing but I’m finding it gives me back more energy and more energy give me a sense of more time. I’m usually dressed and at my keyboard until my first break at 5AM to have coffee with my wife (on workdays.) Then, I get back to it until we leave for our day jobs. I try to get 2-3k per day but the word count seems to flex based on where I am in the story and what else is happening in my life at the time. For instance, writing the first act of a novel takes me the longest. As I get further into a book, I speed up as the story grows and starts to drag me along. So when I write largely depends on how much I get done in the morning. If I’m behind, I often write on my lunch breaks or after work.
My first drafts tend to be quite clean and I’m what you’d call a “putter-inner.” In other words, I under-write and then spend my revision process polishing and wordsmithing and adding in bits that I left out. In Lamentation, I found after reading my first draft and looking over my reader notes that I’d left out two chapters with scenes that clarified and greatly strengthened the novel. On Canticle, I left out a key scene. The time it takes me to revise is also dependent on everything else going on. I revised Lamentation in about twenty days if I count from the time I starting reading the first draft to when I actually had it ready to send to my agent. Typically, my preferred revision process is to read the book, mark the changes, and then merge all the versions with comments from my readers into one document. I love Word’s Track Changes feature.
UW: How many books did you write before you signed your first book contract? How did you get that contract? Via agent? Industry friend? Writer’s retreat? Slushpile? Other?
KS: One book — LAMENTATION.
I had a very unusual path into my book contract. Of course, I’d been out building a small career in short fiction for years, convinced that I was a short story writer and not a novelist. I’d recently won Writers of the Future and had a lot of folks encouraging me to write a novel. Meanwhile, I had a short story about a metal man and a ruined city that was doing very well in Realms of Fantasy. Even Shawna McCarthy, the editor there, encouraged me to write a novel with those characters in that world.
Finally, Jay Lake and my wife Jen took me to dinner and dared me to tackle the project. The deal we made was that if I could get the first draft finished by World Fantasy (eight weeks away) Jay would introduce me to everyone he knew in publishing—agents, editors, etc. After he read the first five chapters, he upgraded the dare to getting me a sit down with his agent, Jennifer Jackson, because he felt the book was strong. She read the short story that the novel was based on and enjoyed it, then read the novel, and took me on as a client. Later, Jay introduced me to his Tor editor, Beth Meacham, and from there, I became a Tor author.
I’m really glad I listened and wrote the book.
UW: What advice would you give beginning writers? What is the best way to break into the industry?
KS: The best advice I can give is this: Write a lot. Write more. Finish it. Revise it. Submit it. Forget it and get on to the next one. Learn the habits of writing, revising, submitting. The more you practice, the better your skills and habits will become.
And check out the Writers of the Future contest. It has launched some good careers and the workshop is stunning. I tell folks “Write one story per month at least and then take the best each quarter and submit it to Writers of the Future… send the others out to other editors and just keep doing it until you either win or are disqualified by your publication credits.” I’m convinced it will work.
UW: What are you currently working on? When can we expect it?
KS: I’m working on volume three of the Psalms of Isaak, Antiphon. It should be out in the world around Spring 2010. I think readers will be glad to hear that the books will be coming out pretty fast. I’ll move into drafting Requiem this coming spring.
Be sure to visit Ken’s website at www.KenScholes.com! He will be touring in February 2009 for the release of Lamentation!
As a side note, the second book, Canticle, will be released in October 2009 and the third book, Antiphon, will come out in Spring 2010. Looks like Ken is a writer who can pump out quality work!