Monday, May 28, 2012

Fantasy author Scott Fitzgerald Gray interviewed

1.) For those who don't know, Scott, can you tell us a little about your writing and your path to becoming a writer?

I've been writing professionally (as in, miraculously getting paid for it) since the mid-90s, mostly working as a screenwriter in Canada, but mostly doing "real work" on the side to make ends meet. I abandoned the last of the real jobs in about 2002, at about the same time I backed off from screenwriting and started to focus more on novels, which is what I'd always wanted to be doing while I was screenwriting. I love fiction and narrative in just about any form, but as a writer, I'm drawn first and foremost to speculative fiction and fantasy built around a solid core of character story. I like the challenge of making fantastic worlds and making characters resonate with the core experience of being alive -- applying to fantasy and speculative fiction what William Faulkner famously called "the human heart in conflict with itself."

My creative work never followed anything like a conscious career path, but in the course of accidentally tripping into opportunities at different times, I've managed to accidentally become the writer I'd tried and failed to be early on. Like a lot of people, I had dreams of being a novelist in my 20s, only to discover that though I had some serious skill as a wordsmith at that age, I had no idea how to tell a story or even what stories I wanted to tell. I got into film essentially by accident at about that time, and stayed there because I was making money at it. But in the course of working constantly to make myself a better screenwriter, I was surprised to realize that I'd managed to teach myself a certain mastery of story structure and narrative. I was then able to turn that understanding toward prose fiction, and I haven't looked back.

2.) Besides fiction, you also work freelance for the gaming industry. What relation is there between gaming and fiction writing? Or is there one?

The obvious answer is imagination, though that point's been made by people smarter than me. More specifically, although the "stories" told in the course of roleplaying gaming are very different than "real" fiction, the narrative lessons of fiction and gaming have strong internal connections. For me, one of the most important lessons one can draw from gaming is the idea that what makes a story memorable is what makes it personal. Gaming is a fictional enterprise in which everything has meaning to the "reader" because the reader is one of the collective writers of the story. And this reminds us that the best fiction (and specifically the best fantasy and speculative fiction) is that which allows the reader to draw meaning from a narrative regardless of how far removed that narrative might be from real life.

3.) What are your future writing plans?

To dig into the large number of books that have been building up in my mind and on my hard drive as notes and ideas demanding to be brought to life. I'm just finishing a final proof on a semi-autobiographical contemporary-SF teenage-gamer coming-of-age novel (We Can Be Heroes) that'll be out this month, after which it's back to more of the epic fantasy that accounts for most of what I've written over the last few years. The followup to my novel Clearwater Dawn (book two of three, titled Three Coins for Confession) is next up, but I'm also trying to keep active writing short fiction at the same time that I focus on the longer works.

My writer's mind works in ways that lend themselves to Big Story, such that I often find it easier to outline and play around with longer works than to dig in with the brevity and focus needed to write a really good short story. I'm a firm believer that as writers, we need to constantly challenge ourselves, and that not simply falling back on what we're comfortably good at is the best way to do that. (Feeling like the challenge was flagging is a large part of why I moved away from screenwriting, though I still work a lot as a story editor on other people's scripts and film projects.) Because I find it difficult to write short fiction, every short story I write teaches me something new about my process and makes me a better writer.

4.) Beer or wine? Or something else?

Coke Zero in unhealthy quantities.

5.) Which is your favorite of the Three Stooges? And why?

Moe, because he's an evil genius and i've always aspired to that job.

6.) You wake to find yourself on a deserted island. You have on and with you whatever you have at the moment of reading this. What do you do?

If "on and with you" implies being able to grab hold of the laptop before teleporting away, I'd try to find a power outlet and keep working. After struggling for a number of years to get to the point where I can write anything and everything that I want to write, I now have a lot of stories to get caught up on. However, assuming it's just a clothes-on-my-back kind of scenario, probably the only thing I'd be able to do is starve to death in short order. I know how to catch and clean a fish, but that's about the extent of my wilderness survival skills.

For more about Scott Fitzgerald Gray, check out his ...
Website: Insane Angel Studios
Amazon page
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Charles Gramlich said...

I've thought of trying a screenplay at some point myself, but they seem to take out all the stuff I actually want to read, and write, for.

sfgray said...

Charles, it’s a wholly different form, to be sure. Even a well-written third-person non-omniscient longish novella (which approximates the length and style of a feature screenplay) isn’t the same thing as writing a screenplay. It’s a much sparser, much more visual and auditory creative process.