Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Scott D. Southard, the author of the new A Jane Austen Daydream, also the author of the award-winning novels, My Problem With Doors, Megan, and 3 Days in Rome. His eclectic writing has also found its way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production.
Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via this very writing blog where he writes on topics ranging from writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site (recently, his experimental novel Permanent Spring Showers).
Hi Scott, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background? What were you like at school? Were you good at English? What are your ambitions for your writing career? Which writers inspire you? Or something that you feel you need to share.
Books always have been an obsession of mine. Even as a kid I would collect books. I remember the first time I saw a friend fold a corner of a page as a bookmark, I was appalled and judged him harshly in my mind. There is a chance I might have even said something; whatever the case, I know I never lent him any of my books to read!
So when I started writing books it was really not a surprise for anyone. I got my degree in English from Aquinas College (in Grand Rapids, Michigan) first, and then worked for my MA in English Literature for a time at Michigan State University, but I quickly realized I wanted to write books, not study them only; so I went on to the University of Southern California to get an MFA in writing.
Originally, my dream was to write for film and TV, and while I love the scripts I created at USC (and still hope they will get made someday), it feels more natural to work on novels for me. I love the “completeness” of it, if that makes sense.
The funny thing is that while I walked away from the PhD path in English Lit., I can still see the influence of classic writers in my work. An easy example is my new novel A Jane Austen Daydream. It is very much a tribute to Jane Austen and her novels, since in the book I am trying to give her a better adventure than what she actually experienced. A daydream for another writer.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
My mom loves to tell this story of a road trip when I was 5 or 6 and I made up an entire story for the family. She claimed it was so good she had to write the idea down when she got home.
I don’t remember it, per se, but I think it had something to do with ghosts and love. Whatever the case, it was not a typical story for a kid that age to come up with. I wrote my first book when I was 16, even had my first agent then for it, if you can believe.
Wow, that feels like ages ago…
- Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
I pity anyone who attempts to read my yellow notepads. Because I usually get a few ideas at a time when I am working on a story and things mesh together on the page. I write sideways, upside down, I use squiggly lines to link ideas as they arrive. So, in a way, I am saying that once I have latched onto an idea everything comes together quickly. Kind of like an accident in a snowstorm. It starts with one car sliding and soon there is this pileup.
Many of my ideas come from images to start with or an absent thought that grows. My most recent novel A Jane Austen Daydream started as a thought and a giggle. The thought was the idea of doing something for Jane, give her something that might make her laugh. The giggle part is the twist in the book, and I don’t want to ruin it here. I’ve done some research after writing this book, and there is a very good chance it might be the first time such a twist was attempted.
- Why do you write?
The fact is I find writing fun. At the end of the day it has always been that for me. It’s a thrill to see where an idea might take me and to watch a plot or story develop. I laugh at my own jokes. I have even been known to make myself cry. I read my work out loud, acting the dialogue. The entire process is very satisfying to me. It scratches that itch for me.
Usually, when I work with new writers, I recommend first and foremost that they write for themselves. Then anything that happens after that is a bonus. I still stand by that.
- So, what have you written?
Most recently there is my novel A Jane Austen Daydream. It was published by Madison Street Publishing this year. In the book, I am re-imagining Jane’s life as one of her novels, giving her an adventure and a romance like she would give her own characters (and sadly, probably never had). It is a fun book with a lot of surprises and wit. It is available in print and as an eBook via Amazon.com.
Other than A Jane Austen Daydream, there is Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare (a twisted post-modern piece pretending to be a Victorian mystery), My Problem With Doors (a time travel adventure), and Megan (a dark contemporary fantasy).
I also have a blog that I write on about three times a week. It is called “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard.” I write on a lot of different topics on it, whatever catches my fancy at the time. You can check it out at sdsouthard.com.
- Where people can buy or see them?
However, if you would like the eBooks:
My Problem With Doors and Megan, they are only available via Google Play, but they will still work on your Kindle.
- Give me an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Where to begin when you are talking about Jane Austen?
Well, in the past whenever Jane has appeared in popular fiction or shows many have painted her as something akin to a wise aunt. Giving sage advice about love with a knowing wink. Yet, if people were to dig deeper into the real Jane, read her letters, look closely at her books, Jane is a little more… dare I say dangerous?
She was witty, almost too witty; she had probably gotten in trouble with her family for her tongue on a few occasions. She had a bold personality, probably very bold and intimidating for her time. She was smart, easily the smartest in her family.
So when I imagine Jane I don’t see her delicately shutting a door when she leaves a room, I imagine her always slamming it.
Over the course of the book, using her own novels as a basis, we watch her grow into the author we know and see my imagined ideas around the inspiration for her stories and characters. For the Jane Austen fans it can be considered a treasure hunt, for those who only know her work in passing it is still a fun and surprising tale. If I did my job right, there should be something for every reader in it… Well, except horror fans, I can’t help them there.
- What sparked the idea for your book?
Jane died at 41. She was not honored as one of the great literary minds of her time. Her books were published anonymously, and her later years were spent in a small cottage in a small village with only her sister and mother for company. There was no Mr. Darcy waiting for her, for example. No legions of fans to mourn her passing (or at least know that she had died). When I learned all of this it really depressed me.
There is so much life and love in her books, why was none spared for her?
So A Jane Austen Daydream, at its heart, is my attempt to fix a wrong. Correct the fates. Give Jane an adventure and a romance she might have dreamed about. And, like I said, there is that twist in the book that always gets a reaction from the readers.
- How do you market your book?
My publisher and I coordinate our work around this.
Sometimes things fall my way and I run with them; other times my publisher will schedule something for me.
It’s a good working relationship.
I’m really lucky and I hope more find my book. I’m really proud of it.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
It is a very congested market out there, with new writers adding to the fray every day. So the trick for a writer is to make themselves stand out from the crowd. You can’t expect readers to just find you on amazon by happenstance. You have got to get out there.
What has worked for me is my blog (“The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” at sdsouthard.com). More people have found my writing via my blog and the posts I put up there than anything else I have tried in the past. People get to know me, and that sometimes moves on to book sales.
- What do you do to get book reviews?
To be honest, I don’t do anything really around that. If someone asks to review my book for their site or magazine, I will give them my publisher’s e-mail. If a reader decides to review my book for their site or Amazon or Good Reads, I am always very appreciative and sometimes will share quotes on my site.
I always enjoy book reviews. I actually do the book reviews for my local NPR station, WKAR, on their radio show Current State. I appear every other week. It’s a lot of fun.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
First, don’t rush the process. Take the time to create a very solid draft. Edit until you believe it is perfect, than edit again. Only after you feel the work is perfect do you then reach out to agents and publishers. (Of course, once you line up an agent or publisher, be prepared for more editing).
Second, read a lot. Read everything (not just the genres and authors you enjoy). Never stop reading. Writing is an art form and books are like the paintings in the museum. You need to always be present in the art.
- Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I think you hit everything about my book and writing. 🙂
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The best place to start is my site at sdsouthard.com. There you can check out my posts, learn more about my books, read excerpts, interviews, reviews, etc.
My latest novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, can be found on Amazon.com here- http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU
Thanks a lot!
- Website: http://sdsouthard.com/
- Blog: http://sdsouthard.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScottDSouthard
- Twitter: @sdsouthard
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Scott-D.-Southard/e/B002EDX5VC/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SDSouthard
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Scott Southard, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Scott!!! Good Luck with everything!