Royal Flush: An Interview with Author Scott Bartlett

Exciting day here on Outlaw Mama!  I have had the pleasure of reading Royal Flush by Scott Bartlett, and he graciously agreed to let me interview him about his writing and the journey to publicationSo, I am taking a much-needed day off from my usual snark and self-obsession to bring you Barlett’s voice, which might be just the change of pace you were looking for.
Without further ado, here’s the interview:

How did you start writing?

I first began to write by attempting a novel in grade nine, about a ninth grader (surprise) who learned how to hack his classmates’ email accounts and then created social havoc by impersonating them. I got distracted halfway through Chapter Three, and it was never finished. I succeeded in completing my first book in grade twelve–an untitled science fiction novel that is too terrible to let anyone read!

How do you describe this work?

When I’m being concise, I call it a novel that asks the question: can a man who throws his dates in a dungeon succeed romantically?

When I’m being verbose, I say it’s a story about a man known only as the King, who rules a land known only as the Kingdom. The King searches for love repeatedly, and is duly kicked in the face by love, repeatedly. That’s sort of karmic, though. The King is the kind of guy who, when forced to defend his castle against a siege with only his royal fiddler, tries to steal his royal fiddler’s girlfriend.

What genre do you consider this work?

Good question. It’s similar in feel to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If I were to assign it a genre, I guess I would call it medieval comedy with a splash of fantasy. (There’s a zombie advisor, you see.) So it treads some of the same ground as Monty Python, as well as Terry Pratchett’s Discworldbooks.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I based the book on some short stories I wrote during high school and my first year of university. And those short stories were born from a single idea, which became the climax of the first one. That was a scene in which a man lies on the ground with his chest bared, demanding that a nearby woman, who has broken his heart, remove said heart with a scalpel. I knew right away that the scene would be both comedic and melodramatic. The man lying on the ground turned out to be the King–the main character in Royal Flush.

How long did it take you to write Royal Flush?

I wrote the first draft of Royal Flush in 18 days. But that didn’t mean I was finished! I’ve gone through 10 drafts since then. I’m a firm believer that editing and revising should make up at least 90% of the work!

Who are your major influences?

Douglas Adams (for his fast and loose play with the rules of fiction), Stephen King (for his big questions and big plots), Kurt Vonnegut (for his funny, bittersweet treatment of life’s tiny victories and inherent tragedies), Chuck Palahniuk (for his willingness to stride laughing into the dark), and Dave Eggers (for having the gumption to call a book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and to experiment as wildly as he did in that book).

As well, the poet Ted Hughes (specifically, his Crow collection) has been a huge influence on my latest novel, Taking Stock.

What scene was hardest to write?

It’s been so long that I really can’t say. I can tell you that I remember the writing of this book coming easier than anything I’ve ever written, with the exception of one short story that I wrote in high school.

Can you talk about your writing process?

Sure! It’s changed quite a lot over the years, and has also included several fallow periods. I’m pretty deadline-driven, and two of my three novel first drafts were written in a period leading up to a competition deadline–18 days for Royal Flush. (Make that 18 highly antisocial days. I spent large swaths of them in the computer chair.)

Lately, I try to do my creative work (i.e. writing fiction/editing/blogging) in the morning. I’ve found my creativity dwindles as the day wears on. In the afternoon I do writing-related things, like promote the book, go through my RSS to get ideas for my blog, read books, etc. And in the evening I’m usually ready to throw on a podcast and listen to it while I play a mindless video game.

What was your editing process like?

Long! I revised 10 times, like I said. Around the 3rd or 4th time through I grew weary of reading Royal Flush. But I continued. If you don’t edit properly, you risk yanking the reader unceremoniously from the story with grammar, spelling, or continuity errors.

How did you decide to e-publish?

Quite simply, I try to explore every available avenue of getting read, and it’s a major one! Authors worry about piracy, but honestly, I would consider getting pirated a compliment.

Is this writing your full-time gig?

Nope–not yet! In addition to my writing efforts, I’m currently a full-time youth care worker. I have been a full-time writer intermittently, however. In 2011 I received a grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, which, combined with my savings, allowed me to work on (and complete) a novel as well as various other projects, for the span of a year. And right now I’m saving money to do that again. I should have enough by January–can’t wait. (I’ll also be applying for another grant in March.)

Do you have a writing group?

I have in the past–I attended a few meetings of Under the Bed, which was a writing group comprised of WANL (Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador) members. I took excerpts of Royal Flush along with me to the meetings, and the feedback they provided was very useful. I mentioned them in the book’s Acknowledgments!

I’ve also taken a few writing classes in the past that had a writing-group sort of format.

Tips for aspiring writers?

The only thing that will improve your writing is writing (a lot). Reading the sort of thing you want to write, reading about the craft or the business of writing, taking writing classes, joining writing groups, thinking about writing–all these things will supplement your writing, and may help you figure some things out faster than you would have otherwise. Indeed, I encourage aspiring writers to do all those things, a lot. But only actual writing will bring you closer to getting read, winning an award, getting an agent, getting a book deal, or whatever your writing goals may be.

Advice for readers sitting with their own manuscripts?

First off, edit them quite a lot! Hemingway had some choice words for first drafts, which I shan’t repeat here, but the upshot was that they stink.

Second, seek the feedback of others–whether it’s the members of your writing group, an instructor, a writer-in-residence, competition judges (sometimes they give feedback), your coworkers, your friends, or even your mother! My Mom is one of my best editors. What I’m getting at is that it’s important to cultivate a small group of contacts to whom you’re comfortable sending drafts for review. They will catch so much that you won’t. (Mind you, you shouldn’t take every piece of feedback to heart. But if you’re hearing a suggestion repeatedly, pay attention!)

Third, if you’re confident your manuscript has been edited to a professional standard, start submitting it!

Or you could self-publish it–that’s what I did! Be warned that doing that well will rob hundreds and hundreds of hours from whatever else you might like to do.

Do you have an agent?

I don’t–I am an indie author in every sense of the term.

Contact Information:
Please visit Scott Bartlett’s website to find out more about Royal Flush.
If you have heard enough and are ready to buy a copy, click here for Amazon’s link.

Scott Bartlett, Author

Read this man’s book, people! Only a few weeks left to complete your summer reading list.

17 thoughts on “Royal Flush: An Interview with Author Scott Bartlett

      • I still marvel at the fact you had your first draft in 18 day. It inspired me to write last night. New characters are popping into my book all the time. It’s fun as long as I keep my judgey self out of the way.

        I forgot to ask you, Scott– how do you deal with self doubt? Do you love what you write? I ask because I get plagued with thoughts that my writing is blah or boring or just not good enough.

        How do you deal with that?

      • Not sure where this comment will end up in the thread, but I’m replying to yours, Christie.

        I’m so pleased to hear I helped inspire you to write! That’s, like, the best possible outcome 🙂

        I don’t always love what I write. But if I’m having fun and cracking myself up, then that’s a good sign that whatever I’m writing is working.

        That doesn’t happen all the time, though. I suffer from ample self doubt. The truth is, writing frightens me, especially when it’s a project I care about a lot. Like you, I’m afraid that when I finally sit down to write it, it will come out lame and trite. In fact, that’s what caused many of my fallow periods–I kept putting off projects I was otherwise very excited to work on.

        And the only thing that works for me is to just suck it up, sit down, and write. I’m not sure how useful that advice is. But for me, it’s a matter of talking myself out of creative stagnation. I keep reminding myself that I can always edit later; that If I don’t write I won’t get anything done, crap or not; that famous authors like Hemingway have talked about how bad first drafts usually end up being, so who cares if it’s bad at first anyway.

        I find that the more I practise getting over my insecurities and just writing, the easier it gets to do that. Just focus on how excited you are about the story idea. Remind yourself how hard you’re willing to work on it—by writing, rewriting, editing, revising—until you’re satisfied with it.

      • That’s so helpful. So maybe this morning instead of staring out the window I could just write. Commit to one sentence even though it feels so hard and taxing. The only way to get unstuck is to unstuck myself.

  1. Pingback: Hoping and Dreaming and Doing « moments of exhilaration

  2. Bought Scott’s book because the judgmental me only reads books recommended by my smart friends & I think Christie is a smart gal. And I would love to be Indie if I weren’t so mainstream.

    • I’m so indie that my shirt don’t fit! (That’s a line from a MC Frontalot song, who’s so indie you probably haven’t heard of him!)

      Thank you for buying the book, Alyson! If you could rate it when you finish it, I would be grateful–that’s how indie authors get publicity 🙂

  3. Pingback: Royal Flush Blog Tour Week #2 « BATSHITE

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