I’d like to welcome back Scott Keen to Writing Room 101 today. Scott kindly agreed to answer a few questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Scott better; his background, writing techniques, and current projects. I’m certain you will too.
Interview with Scott Keen
I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting back in 2006. Currently, I am a stay-at-home dad of four daughters, ages 2, 4, 7, and 10. I homeschool my two older girls, and just play blocks and baby dolls with the little ones.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
Frankly, I write in the genre that I found the most interesting, which is fantasy. I didn’t necessarily set out to write a “young adult” book. It’s just that some of my characters happened to be teenagers, and with marketing, you must categorize it. I find YA books more appealing sometimes because of the lack of cynicism and interesting and innovative world-building.
What is your first memory of writing?
When I was younger, if I called my brother or sister a name, my parents would make me write lines as punishment. That was the earliest form of writing I can truly remember.
Now my earliest form of creative writing took place when I was in high school. I would usually write songs and poems. I spent a lot of my high school and college years in a band, so I spent a considerable amount of time writing lyrics. That was my first foray into creative writing.
How did you come up with the title?
The title was originally called Child of the Downers. Child was the name of my main character. Through the editing process, however, I changed the name of Child to Crik, who was actually a character I used to have in the story. The original character of Crik was written out, and I took his name.
As the story continued to develop, I realized the story was, in a way, bigger than Crik. It was about the scar that every Downer has branded on the arm. How do you escape something like that? Can you escape something like that? So, it almost seemed inevitable that the story would be called Scar of the Downers.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
I have two books that I’m currently working on. One, called The Cry of Kilhaven, is finished, and I’ve put it aside before I go back and start editing it. It follows a young man who lives in an idyllic village in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world. He finds himself involved in a mystery that could shatter everything around him.
The other book is the 2nd novel in the Downer series. The working title is called Rise of the Branded (or Rise of the Downers). Not sure which one yet. This sequel will follow the main characters from Scar of the Downers, and some of the creatures that were more side characters in the first book will play a more prominent role. What I can say about this book is that you see more of the world outside of Ungstah in which the Downers used to live.
I’m also working on a musical that I plan on putting up locally. I have a portion of the script and two songs completed, so we’ll see where that goes.
Is there any advice you’d like to share?
Don’t give up! If you want to write, you are going to have to ignore a lot of people’s whispers. And frankly, you may find you are your own worst enemy.
The reason people are successful in life is because they didn’t give up. In my opinion, perseverance has always trumped talent. You always have to keep going, keep pressing on. As soon as you stop, you fail.
Do you start with character or plot?
I usually start with plot, or at least a situation, and then I build from there. Sometimes I have a clear idea who I want the character to be, while other times, I discover the character’s true personality as I write and as the character makes their decisions.
Do you use an outline or just write?
When I begin writing, I usually form some type of outline, but it’s typically brief. I just wrote the first version of Scar of the Downers with no outline. I made it up as I wrote with no real plan or idea where I was going. Writing like that, however, forced me to do extreme editing. It took a long time.
For book two, I just wrote out the major points for the plots and subplots. That way, I have room for something to “spontaneously” grow as I write, while still having a map for the storyline. Sometimes, I will just write out a brief step outline, hitting all the major points I want to hit. It really just depends on the story and how much I’ve developed it in my mind before I actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
In your words, what defines a good story?
While there are many ideas out there about what makes a story great, in my opinion, it all centers on plot. You can have the most unique voice, the strongest character, the best writing, but if you don’t have an interesting plot, you don’t have a story. Dull voice and characters are far easier for me to tolerate. But if the plot is stagnant or all over the place it is difficult for me to get into the story.
What book are you reading now?
Currently, I am reading The Night Eternal by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro, finishing up The Strain series. After that, I plan on reading The Enemy by Charlie Higson.
Thanks for stopping by.