Scott Langston

Authoring Adventures

Tag: writing

On writing…

An exercise in writing to prompt – the aim being to write on themes or questions you might not usually write about. Feel free to respond to the questions yourself in the comments below.

1. How would it be to see snow for the first time?

Incomprehensible, assuming one were already an adult and had no conception of it from TV or similar exposure. That’s hard to imagine in this day and age though. Maybe it would even be frightening. Children see new things all the time, and would be completely unfazed.

2. Which would you choose if you had to: to be deaf or blind? Why?

I have always thought that being blind would be more frightening. Having considered it seriously in the light of a friend who is deaf and now going blind, however, I think I’d prefer (tough choice, I know) to be blind. If you are deaf you are truly cut off from other people, unable to communicate effectively, to appreciate music, to listen to speech. I think this form of isolation would, in the final analysis, scare me more.

3. Which job could you never do? Why?

Work in an abattoir. I’m a vegetarian.

4. Is there a book you have read and would actively persuade others NOT to read?

’Testament of Youth’ by Vera Brittain. I was supposed to read as part of my A-level English course and could never got more than half-way. It was just plain self-absorbed diatribe about the Second World War. Technically, it doesn’t count then, since I haven’t read it all. I spent a long time with the belief, after this, that one should never leave a book unfinished, however bad it may be. Having written a couple, I know the time and effort it takes, and as a reader, I owe at least that to the author. Nowadays, however, possibly as a nod to my own mortality. I’m increasingly of the opinion that life is just too short to spend on mediocrity. If it doesn’t grab me quickly, I’m unlikely to persevere in the absence of strong recommendations to do so, from those I respect.

5. ‘In 1990, compared to the two previous decades, The US saw the highest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes ever; teen arrests for forcible rape had doubled; teen murder rates quadrupled, mostly due to an increase in shooting. During those same decades, the suicide rate for teenagers tripled as did the number of children under fourteen who are murder victims.’

( ‘Emotional Intelligence’ Daniel Goleman Bloomsbury 1996.) Why would anyone want to bring children into this world?

Because of sunsets and sunrises. Because of the ocean. Because of the smell of the air after a storm. Because of a grandparent’s smile. Because of humanity’s inherent optimism. Because of the sound of laughter. Because of the dew on a rose on a spring morning. Because even if they fall in love just once, just fleetingly, just momentarily and have that feeling returned, then it is worthwhile.

An online author interview for ‘Is’

I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the years about ‘Is’, so here are the most common and my responses.

Tell us the book title and your author name.

Is cover imageMy name is Scott Langston and the title of the book is “Is”. Originally, I had intended to book to be called ‘The Domino Effect’ – one of the themes in the novel is how the actions of one character can have unforeseen impact on another – like falling dominoes. I even commissioned a Magritte-style cover page with this image. However, the novel became something a little different as it went through several edits, and ‘Is’ summed up better the overall message of the novel.

What inspired the book?

I started writing this book when I was twenty years old. Many of the themes were beyond my grasp, and it wasn’t until I ‘re-found’ the novel fifteen years after starting it that I had something approaching the maturity to do the book justice. If I had to pin it down to a precise moment, the novel was born after watching the film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, specifically the funeral scene. I found it very moving, and imagined having to write such a eulogy myself.

What makes this book special to you?

It has certainly been a labour of love! I have physically lost the book on two occasions – the first time requiring a re-write almost entirely from pencil notes in an old scrap book. From first putting pen to paper to finally seeing the book in print took twenty years. That’s a long time. The book has been a part of my life, and my continual tinkering with it represented my desire to be a writer.

What makes this a book that other people must read?

I think the book has a lot to say about the fundamentals of how life is. It’s spiritual, without being religious. It raises many questions and, I hope, answers a few too. It’s about perspective – another way of looking at life and death and God. If these questions do not interest you, then you probably shouldn’t bother reading the book!

What people need to read this book?

Nobody needs to read this book. Nobody needs to do anything. That’s one of the central messages of the book. There is no requirement – life just ‘is’.

What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

Writing is a muscle like any other. It needs exercising and flexing, otherwise it wastes away. I keep a blog, as well as trying to have more than one project ongoing at a time. When one dries up, I can try my hand at something completely different. That’s how ‘Benny and Binny’ was born – a children’s story I wrote with an illustrator friend.  Right now, I’m working on a novel set between Vietnam and France, dealing with roots and belonging. It’s the biggest project I’ve tackled so far. I’m also tinkering with a novel for teenagers about philosophy, tentatively called, ‘Henry Porter and the Stone Philosopher’ – although I cringe at the title now and it really hasn’t gotten off the ground yet.

What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

I took a year off work to ‘be an author’ full time at the same time as we had our baby daughter. I was under the impression that I could care for her and write at the same time. In short, children have been the biggest stumbling block for my writing. I need time and space to write, and kids don’t allow for much of either. That said, my life is considerably richer for having become a dad, and that can only come out in my writing eventually!

I guess another hurdle has been the management of distractions. When I turn on the computer, it’s all too easy to spend hours fiddling with stuff I’ve already written, updating my website, or simply surfing, rather than actually writing. I now have a dedicated laptop for writing which doesn’t have internet access.

What motivated you to become an author? What motivated you to get into this unusual industry?

I believe I write because I have to. If you simply want to write, then my advice would be: don’t bother. Find something else to do and save yourself a whole lot of trouble. Writing is a lonely and often demoralising business – except when the connection comes through and then it’s without equal. So, it wasn’t really a choice – I have to write.

Tell me about the most unusual things you have done as an author to promote any books?

Book promotion is my weakness. I have done the rounds of local bookshops where ‘Is’ was set, and a few copies have been sold that way. I’ve run book signings. I haven’t really done anything inspiring in the field of self-promotion. I know I ought to.

How did you decide on that setting and what you did to create a complete and vivid setting for your readers?

I grew up in Cornwall. It never crossed my mind to set my first novel anywhere else. It’s a truly magical and inspiring locale – even now as I write this |I can smell the sea air and hear the seagulls – though I’m thousands of kilometres away.

What inspires you about the hero or heroine in your book? What makes them memorable for the reader? 

I’m not sure Martin inspires me. He’s a protagonist, rather than a hero in the true sense of the word. Insomuch as everyone’s first novel is autobiographical, I guess Martin is in some respects me. His getting to grips with life and his enlightenment are ideals I would reach for.

Is there a villain or something that causes friction in your novel?

The conflict rests between expectations and risks, between safety and leaps of faith, between believing and knowing. Martin takes risks, when society would have him do otherwise. He trusts to himself, when society would have him do otherwise. He is prepared to love, not just another, but himself. This is perhaps one of the most difficult yet rewarding things we can achieve in life.

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