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A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ian Bott: Author Interview



TC: Today I’m welcoming Scifi author, Ian Bott who recently published his debut novel: “Ghosts of Innocence”. Welcome, Ian. Thanks for sharing some time with us!

IB: Thanks, Teresa, it's great to be here.

TC: First, I want to share this with you. As you know, I write scifi/romance and some fantasy. My daughter remarked to me a while back while I was considering using a pen name rather than my real name, Cypher,  that “Cypher” is a really cool name for a scifi author. I mulled it over and decided that she’s right. No pen name was needed; it was the best scifi author name possible. That was… until our paths crossed. “Ian Bott” might be the all-time, best-ever, scifi author’s name, even if it is a pen name.

IB: Well, I've always wondered about the "Cypher". Believe me, you are streets ahead in the cool names business - and even cooler that it's your real name!

TC: Thank you. I’ll be sure to send my daughter the link to this post!

I’ve read Ghosts of Innocence—and it’s a great story. It has a tough and smart main character, Shayla Carver. It has other worlds, space travel, political agendas, and a brewing revolt. All the things that add page-turning conflict and tension. Where did the story came from?

IB: Thanks! And glad to hear about the conflict. I was getting critiques on a different story - my first attempt at a novel - and it was clear that I didn't have enough (read "any") action or conflict early on. I struggled with how to achieve this, and got frustrated.

"Action?" I thought, "I'll give you action!" and I dashed off an opening scene with a crashing starship. There - enough action for you?

The first two chapters came easily, then I realized I had to actually turn it into a story. What was Shayla doing there? Why was she toasting a starship? What did she plan to do? What happened next? You get the picture.

TC: “Action? I’ll give you action!” Yes indeed, and you did. You put your characters in a situation and they took off. Then, for the first two chapters, you had to keep up with them and write down what was going on—you were a pantser. After that, you were a plotter?   Are you usually a plotter or pantser?

IB: Both. Or neither. I like to have a high level plot, and then flesh out bits here and there. The story emerges like a ship in the fog, a shadow, then details coming clear as you get closer. Sometimes I'll write scenes with only a vague idea how they fit into the overall picture.

One thing I can say with certainty is that I don't start at the beginning and write to the end like a true pantser. I write until I get stuck, then leap ahead to a section that interests me. Eventually I'll come back and fill in the gaps.

TC: It’s always interesting to learn the way writers approach each project. You must be very organized to be able to jump to other parts of your story. Now that the book is finished, looking back, what do you think was the best moment while writing this book?

IB: The whole thing was fun, but the best moment was writing "The End." Knowing that I could say "I've written a novel." That was the goal I'd set myself at the outset. Thoughts of publication didn't come until later.

Next best moment I think was unwrapping the package from the printers and holding my first paperback in my hands - and seeing my own artwork on the cover. That was another long-standing goal of mine.


TC:  Your artwork is simply beautiful! I posted it in a x-large format so it could better appreciated. Your attention to detail is outstanding, yet the details don’t take away from the visual grandeur of the scenes. Stunning…

“The End” Such a proud moment! And the other side of the spectrum—what was the most difficult part of writing this book?



IB: Coming up with the plot, and with plot twists. I envy writers who have endless ideas for "what happens" bubbling out of their heads. I can see setting, characters, dialogue, but struggle with "what happens." I find it especially difficult to get my characters into enough trouble to liven things up - and then out again. Some writers excel at getting their characters into trouble, and then deeper and deeper.



TC: What was your solution?

IB: Hmmm...I'm not convinced I've really solved it. I brainstorm a lot. This is where the "plotting" side of me comes out. I map things out in diagrams - timelines, swimlanes, cause and effect networks. I work out where I need to be and thrash out creative ways to get there. It's hard work.

One thing I've learned to pay attention to, which helps sometimes, is what happens to the characters off stage? They're not sitting in a dressing room waiting for their next turn in the spotlight. They have their own lives to lead and their own motivations for aiding or interfering with the protagonist's plans. What are they up to? That can lead to some interesting twists.

TC: A good thing to remember—what’s happening when the characters aren’t front and center.  If you could offer one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

IB: Treat all advice with a mixture of caution and respect.

There's a lot of advice out there, some consistent, some conflicting. It's worth paying attention to - there's a reason why people say to limit adverbs, get rid of needless words, show don't tell - but slavishly following even the best advice can kill your voice and suck the soul out of your writing.

There is a place for adverbs. Sometimes showing can slow the pace and a quick tell is what's required. Don't be intimidated by critiquers waging war on every tiny violation of "the rules". Choose carefully when to follow advice and when to set it aside.

TC: I think that’s sage advice. Well said!  Now, one silly question before we’re done. If you could have a bulldozer or a helicopter to play with for one day, which would it be?

IB: Helicopter. No hesitation. I've always wanted to fly in one. But while we're in fantasy mode let's go the whole hog and make it a Bell Huey with a 1000W sound system hanging off each side belting out Ride of the Valkyries...

TC: A true writer you are! I got the visual—along with the sound. Nicely done!  I want to thank you again for sharing not only your time but your experience and knowledge with me and my readers.

IB: It's been great visiting, Teresa, thanks for having me.

Ian is celebrating his book release by giving away three ecopies to three lucky (randomly chosen) commentors on this interview post.  All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment here. 

And to better your chances of winning a copy, head on over to goodreads where Ian is running a giveaway. You could win one of three paperback copies! 


Ghosts of Innocence is available for Kindle and in paperback at Amazon It's also available in major e-book formats (Apple, Nook, Kobo) at online stores listed on Ian's blogs: Views From the Bald Patch and Ian S. Bott, Artist and Writer



 

32 comments:

  1. Good interview T! I entered the contest.

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    1. Glad to have you on board. The odds are looking pretty good so far :)

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    2. Thanks, Marsy! Ian, Marsy can be reached on facebook--I have her contact information.

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  2. Great interview, might have to look this book up. Love the scie-fi adventures.

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  3. Teresa I do not do not have an account to post so only way to do is anonymous, This is your baby sister. You asked all the right questions and sounds like a very good read.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, and good luck in the draw. I guess Teresa knows how to find you :)

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    2. Ian, anonymous above is my youngest sister, Betty Robinson. :-)

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  4. If I jumped ahead in a story, I would be so lost!
    There is a ton of advice out there and it can freeze you into not writing at all. Know what to ignore.
    Congratulations, Ian.

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    1. Alex, everyone has a different approach to writing. If I didn't jump ahead I'd be so stuck :) Each to his own.

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    2. Me too, Alex. Ian must be super organized. :-)

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  5. Love hearing about other writers' processes! Thanks so much. : )

    ~Debbie

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    1. I love hearing how other people approach the process, too. Sometimes there are new ideas to try out, but it's always important to remember that what works for one won't necessarily work for another.

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    2. Thanks for visiting, Debbie :-)

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  6. great interview! and I couldn't agree more with: "slavishly following even the best advice can kill your voice and suck the soul out of your writing." Congratulations Ian, I'm getting a copy of your book: if your writing is half as good as your art work, I'm sure you are on the track for success. :-)

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    1. Thanks! I'd like to hope so :)

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    2. I agree, EE. That is some of the best advice I've ever read from an author! Thanks for visiting. :-)

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  7. Great interview. Thanks for the advice on thinking about what characters are doing "off screen" to help advance plot. You both have excellent Sci-Fi names, too :)

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    1. Thanks, Shell! I still think "Ian Bott" takes top prize for a scifi name! ;-)

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  8. LOL! Thanks Shell :) And I found a lot of crucial action in Ghosts takes place off screen, and is never seen but only implied by the POV characters.

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  9. Hi Teresa! This is Denise (Angel) using anon because it never seems to let me log in under Wordpress profile. I stopped by via the link on your facebook page and I'm glad that I did. I really enjoyed the interview ! Smiled as I read some of the questions.

    Ian I love that you jump around in your writing and to hear you say you can see the characters, scenes, dialog.. but not always the "what happens next". I'm not a writer but I enjoy writing. I'm typically gung ho out of the gate but a few chapters into the process I tend to remember that characters and stories only visit me in snipits. These stubborn characters of mine love the dance and seduction but have no interest in a real commitment! They're all about being defined and developed but when it comes to assembling an orderly story with sustained action, well... they'll have no part of that. Knowing there is a writer out there who sometimes jumps around and isn't contained tightly within the structure and the process is somewhat delightful to me since I've always imagined that I should be able to tell the story from beginning to end. I rather like the idea of taking a more scenic route. Wishing you (both of you) much success and many more stories!

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    1. Hi Denise, there is no "should" in writing. Everyone's process is unique and the only rule is "do what works". The only thing that counts is the end product, and once you have that, nobody cares (and nobody has any right to judge) how you got there. If you like scenic, the go scenic :)

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    2. I'm so glad you stopped by! I keep holding hope that one day when your life calms down...that you'll write. I'll be there for you when the day comes. Lord knows, you've been there for me so many times.

      And, if you could just step back and absorb the words you wrote to Ian, you'd see that you're a natural writer.

      I still recall the intro to your time/travel love story. It's waiting for you!

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  10. I love that advice on heeding/not heeding critiquer's advice. We too often second guess ourselves and cave to what everyone else says the book should be. We definitely have to know where to draw the line.

    Loved this interview, both of you!

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    1. Yeah, I got myself tied up in knots a few times before I twigged that little gem :)

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    2. Yeah, and all that second guessing can lead to insecurity--as if we (writers) aren't already insecure enough... Thanks for visiting, Crystal!

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  11. You guys need to write a scifi book together - come on, a book by Cypher and Bott??? How perfect is that? I would read it!

    This was a fun interview, definitely original and intriguing. Congrats, Ian!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Liz. Teresa asked some great questions!

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    2. Haha! I like it! lol Maybe down the road I'll convince Ian to give it a try. ;-) Thanks for visiting, Liz!

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  12. Great interview! I wish I was more of a brainstormer. I basically just put off writing until the next scene hits me and then start writing!

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    1. I hear ya, Stephanie. I have to write when the muse is talking. As bad as this might sound, logic/method have little place in my writing process. Thanks for visiting!

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    2. That's why I like jumping ahead, Stephanie. I can't write a scene until it hits me, but I keep getting hit by later parts of the story. Thanks for visiting!

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  13. OK, the original plan was to draw three lucky winners, but in the end with such great comments I figured that EVERYONE'S A WINNER.

    Teresa and I are contacting everyone we can find contact information for. If you hear nothing in the next day or so please email me at the following address (with the usual spam-bot-baffling substitutions): admin (at) iansbott (dot) com.

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