Manly Man July Blitz Author Interview – SCOTT REZER
“I write firstly and most importantly, because I love it; secondly–and this is where you the reader comes in–I write because I like to hear how much others enjoyed what I have written–not how wonderful or how talented you think I am as a writer.”
“I write about things I care about or that interest me, not to attract readers. I hope that attraction comes about because people like what I write.”
rem: I’d like to give a big welcome to Scott Rezer to my blog. Scott is a member of my street team; he’s a great encourager, and I’m glad to have him on my blog! Scott, thank you for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
SCOTT: I was born in Doylestown PA, but have lived in Tucson AZ where I met my wife since 1982.
rem: Tell us three things about yourself.
SCOTT: 1) I pretty much love anything historical; 2) I have a terrible fear of heights; 3) I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark probably about a hundred times, and I still love it!
rem: And that love of history shows up in your writing! Beer in a bottle or a can?
SCOTT: Beer in a bottle—Root Beer, that is—ice cold and in a frosty mug!
rem: That’s one thing I never did care for! Star Wars or Star Trek? Which character do you most resemble? Why?
SCOTT: Love them both, but definitely Star Wars! I would say I most resemble R2-D2 because I am quiet and prone to wander off on my own.
rem: I think all authors wander off, even if mentally (and that only when they can’t leave physically!) If you could have any super power what would it be?
SCOTT: Photographic memory—if I could remember everything I have ever read or seen it would be awesome, especially when it comes to writing. I have to go back and look up so much, and too often can’t remember where I saw it!
rem: That would be especially handy with historical factoids! What is your most treasured possession?
SCOTT: My most treasured possession is my great-great grandfather’s pocket watch. He was born in 1842 and served as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. It still runs perfectly.
rem: It’s obviously been well cared for! I can see why it’s so precious to you. What do you do as a hobby?
rem: oh, I dunno, historical research maybe? tee hee hee What do you most value in a friend? What quality do you most admire in a man or woman?
SCOTT: Loyalty—everything else pretty much flows from this one quality.
rem: Good answer, and one which keeps showing up to this question. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
SCOTT: A short, little-known book called The King of Elfland’s Daughter published by Lord Dunsany in 1924, considered by some as the most influential fantasy novel ever written. I have lost count how many times I have read it and it still entertains me.
rem: Well, I Googled it—and ordered it! Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
SCOTT: Brother Cadfael from Ellis Peters’ mystery series. He is a man who has seen the world, and its abuses, from both sides of the proverbial cloth, and yet, he remains devoted to God and his fellow man, even when his convictions and beliefs make his life more difficult. The PBS series starring Derek Jacobi makes the character even better.
rem: Another one that sounds intriguing. Which is more important: plot or characters?
SCOTT: Characters—well-written characters always drive a good plot.
rem: Tell us a little about your writing journey.
SCOTT: My writing journey has been very long and rewarding. I knew from the time I was twelve or thirteen I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I was around twenty-five that I actively began pursuing it. I once hoped, like most writers, to make it big one day as a traditionally published author. I tried for years to get my first manuscript into print, but found no success. I wrote another story, and still no success. I continued to write, even if only a few friends and family read my stories. When indie publishing became a viable alternative, several years ago I jumped at the chance. I will never look back. I realize now I could never confine myself to a contract with a traditional publisher where someone else makes all the decisions about my work. I would rather live in obscurity and enjoy the freedom of indie publishing than have my voice defined by someone else’s ideas. Oh, I just published my fifth novel in three years.
rem: I’ve teetered on the trad-indie wall, too, but in the long run, I agree—I want to make the critical decisions about my own stories! You are well versed in all things Civil War. What piqued this interest?
SCOTT: I grew up in a small town north of Philadelphia, surrounded by historical sites, particularly the American Revolution—places like Valley Forge and Washington’s Crossing—but my trips to Gettysburg and Fort Sumter on a summer vacation with my family one year had a huge impact on my interest with the Civil War. My interest in genealogy also began around the same time and the discovery that so many of my relatives fought and died in the war had a profound effect on me. It has only grown with me as I grew older. Now, that interest has found a voice in my writing.
rem: What’s the most interesting or fascinating thing you’ve discovered in your research?
SCOTT: I write historical fiction, so I discover things all the time. I usually research more in depth as I write, so it is amazing how many things I find, after I start a novel, that fall right into my storyline, things I never intended. While writing Love Abideth Still: A Novel of the Civil War, we weren’t sure how or when my great-grandfather was captured during the war so I tried to make an guess based on the available records, but half way through the manuscript we discovered the truth, and it fit so much better with the story I wanted to tell. I also learned that during his time as a paroled prisoner of war, the commanding officer of the camp was Union General Lew Wallace who later wrote Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which happens to be one of my favorite books! It is times like those that it makes you feel as if your story is meant to be told!
rem: I love when the story aka facts, sneak up on you like that! What is your Writing Routine? Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
SCOTT: Routine?! Are you kidding me? I wish I had one—and a place to write. Unfortunately, my muse hits me when I have absolutely nothing on which to write it all down and I have to try to remember my ideas until I can get down on paper! I write everything out longhand first, usually on small notepads or scraps of paper. Filling up a small piece of paper with words just feels so empowering in some way. Once I transfer all those “notes” to a composition notebook, I type it into my laptop as the first rough draft. A final draft comes much, much later after I have read and reread it far too many times.
rem: I hear ya! I guess that’s why we always [should] have pen and paper with us! What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
SCOTT: I struggle with two things: acceptance and perfection. I have overcome both to some degree, however, by accepting that both can actually make me a better writer. Struggling to find acceptance makes me determined to write my best. If someone still finds fault, it is their problem, not mine. Of course, having two novels selected as an Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society has certainly boosted my confidence in my abilities. As for perfection, it does much the same thing. It makes me take the extra step to insure that what I write is as accurate as can be, although there are times you just have to pray you are right when you cannot find the answer. I have spent hours—did I say hours; I meant days or weeks—pouring through old records, or books, or online, searching for the smallest detail. I recently spent three days scanning through soldier’s records online trying to verify a single crucial detail that will be critical for my current novel. The beauty of writing historical fiction is that in the end, yes, the story is historical, but you still have the luxury of tweaking the facts if necessary. It is a story based on history; it is not history—it is a novel.
rem: oh, perfection is a wicked task master! I realized this years ago and now strive for excellence instead! Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
SCOTT: Without a doubt, creating. I hate editing with a passion, although I am learning to accept it. Every word seems precious to me, so it is hard to cut the excess, even when I know it makes the story better. The fun I try to have with editing is finding a way to rewrite something using the least amount of words and still have it sound wonderfully poetic or moving. My problem sometimes is trying to be too clever and it falls flat! Usually by then, I have to walk away for a while and come back later. Editing is hard work, but it’s worth the effort.
rem: I know! Those words are my babies and now I have to cut them from the story??? I do at least, save the more lengthy passages to a file to use later if I should need it. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
SCOTT: The best part of writing is looking at things in ways most people never think about and creating a unique story to match. For instance, in my current novel, I could have simply described a battle scene from my protagonist’s point of view; instead, I chose to write about the smaller, seemingly insignificant incidents leading up to and around the battle—and how those things affected my character, his fears, his longings, his sorrows. Again, it is a character vs. plot thing. Developing the character has defined the plot. Creating memorable characters will stick with a reader long after the story has ended, and that is the joy—or frustration—of writing.
rem: We definitely see things differently. I like what you say about events defining your characters, I think that’s so true. What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
SCOTT: Hardest: a good cover. Easiest: Knowing I only have to please myself with what I write! Everything else is just gravy.
rem: Your covers are amazing! What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer? What 3 things would you recommend not doing?
SCOTT: Recommendations: 1) Be a reader! 2) Be a writer! 3) Be yourself and never give up. Avoidances: 1) Worrying about whether you’ll make it big as an author. If you do, you do; if you don’t, you don’t. It’s that simple. 2) Writing to please a critic. Just don’t. 3) The desire to do it alone. Seek out help if necessary—and accept it.
rem: All very good and valid points! Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
SCOTT: I would say my best story ideas come from the things that interest me most—things that fire my imagination, not what I think readers will read. It may not always inspire a great number of readers, but it keeps me interested in writing! Many times, I will hear or see something and an idea of a story just pops into my thoughts full-blown. Rarely have I ever had to think about what I wanted to write. The trouble is having too many ideas. I will never write all the stories swimming around in my head!
rem: Historical fiction is my favourite genre, Biblical fiction especially! Makes history so much more real and personal. As authors we sometimes give our characters one or more of our personal traits. Have you ever taken on a trait of your character that you didn’t have before?
SCOTT: Actually, in Shadow of the Mountain: A Novel of the Flood, my Biblical story of Noah, I found I based a lot of the interaction between Noah and his wife on my relationship between my wife and me. Although I cannot say I have taken on any Noah’s personal traits (much to my wife’s disappointment!), I have become more aware of the things I based his character on in myself. Does that make sense?
rem: Makes perfect sense! Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
SCOTT: Although it was neither the most fun to write nor the most difficult, I have to say Love Abideth Still: A Novel of the Civil War was the most inspiring and rewarding. I based the story on the lives on my third-great grandparents, Taylor and Sarah Rezer, so to write about them, to breathe life into them again, was an unbelievably different kind of experience. They are my flesh and blood. I never knew them, but I feel as though I know them intimately now. As a military veteran, I can appreciate the sacrifices they made—whether on the battle lines and on the home front—and it fills me with pride. At times, I felt a little uncomfortable recording their story, as though I was listening in on their private conversations and thoughts, or reading their letters to each other. But to experience their joys and their sorrows—of which there were many—even in a fictional novel was a deeply humbling privilege, and one I am glad I shared with them.
rem: Wow! Scott, that’s fascinating—and makes me want to delve into some family history! Which character in the story is most like/least like you?
SCOTT: As you said, a bit of a writer’s personality invariably finds its way into the characters they create. I could not agree more. After all, we do write about the things we know. In the case of Love Abideth Still, I would have to say I feel most like Taylor. In the story, he has trouble expressing himself verbally to his wife Sarah, but in his letters, the words just seem to flow like poetry, whether he is describing the hardships he endured, the regrets of his mistakes in life, or the love he feels towards her. My wife has often told me much the same about myself; I can write a beautiful poem or letter to her, but when it comes to simply expressing my thoughts and feelings aloud, I too can stumble.
rem: Maybe that’s a difficulty for all writers? I know it is for me. Tell us a little about your latest book? What is your current project?
SCOTT: I just published the second book in my Biblical series (The Children of Ararat) called, Land of the Two Rivers: A Novel of Shinar. It continues the story of Noah’s descendants as they rebuild a new civilization from the flooded remnants of the old. My current writing project, Love Remembreth Not, is another Civil War novel (Letters from War series) about my ancestors due out next year—hopefully. It tells the story of Henry and Geneva, my second-great grandparents. Henry is a young man orphaned as a child in Charleston, South Carolina, who enlists in the Confederate army, not because he believes in the war effort, but because he has no other choice. The experience of losing friends and loved ones through four long years of war has left him broken and alone. After the war, weary and suffering from sickness and malnutrition, he meets a young woman in Maryland who, in her determination to discover the secrets he keeps, becomes the balm to heal his wounded heart.
rem: Can’t wait to read it! Can’t wait to read all of your books! What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?
SCOTT: At the heart of each of my novels is a story of sacrifice. It is my hope that readers will identify with the sacrifice my characters make for the sake of others. We all endure hardship and trials; it is only when we put others first that we have the ability to overcome those burdens to experience true triumph.
rem: Very true and very profound. Scott, thank you so much for joining us today! It has been my pleasure to have you here!
“If you are a reader, be patient (at least with me!). Sometimes, great stories just take time to percolate in the writer’s mind—or the writer is just busy trying to enjoy their craft!”
Facebook Author Page: http://on.fb.me/1ngMVgE
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1IJ7H7n
Scott Rezer, Chat Thursday, Author Interview, Historical Fiction, Biblical Fiction, Love Abideth Still, The Leper King, The Pawns of Sion, Shadow of the Mountain, The Children of Ararat