Today’s featured debut author is Victor Giannini. His novel, Scott Too—which was inspired by events from Victor’s own life—was published in December and is available in paperback and as an eBook.
Name of book: Scott Too
Book genre: Magical realism or speculative fiction, depending on your cup of tea.
Date published: December 2012
Publisher: Silverthought Press
What is your day job? The last few years, I’ve been teaching with YAWP, The Young American Writer’s Project. They send me into schools, grade 7-12, to teach playwriting or creative writing for a semester.
What is your book about? Being in direct conflict with yourself. Being forced to look at your own lackluster life and take responsibility for it. Thirty is the new 20, and this odd decade of extended teenage years can be a curse, so what do you do when it goes wrong? What do you do when another creature steals your life and lives it the way you wished you could?
Why did you want to write this book? I wanted to write a dark comedy for a novella class I was taking at the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Writing and Literature. What started as a “multiplicity style wacky sitcom” with super violent jokes and gore quickly turned into an absolutely different project. I saw my generation around me, where our twenties are different than previous generations’. Scott Alvin became a representative for this new generation. So I pit him against himself, a more aggressive, bitter, unrestricted self, to see what would happen. I wasn’t sure, I wanted to find out. And I did! And in all honesty, as I got inside Scott’s head, it was not what I expected at all …
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Finishing the first draft. And caring enough to sacrifice a lot of comforts to do so. I think most writers, myself included, want everything to be perfect as you move along—from the first sentence to the next. And while that is vital, it has to come later. I believe true writing is rewriting. A lot. And there’s no point to it if there isn’t a full story there to rewrite, even if it’s RADICALLY different from your first draft. For me, only when the first draft is finished, can I rewrite, get precise, use tools and skills.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book? My memories. I lived the “better” part of Scott Alvin’s life, the part that’s long past when the novella begins. I’ve been every aspect of every character in here, with the exception of Trish (unless you count her hating her day job). Even the apartment is reminiscent of my past life. Strangely, I am not Scott Alvin—we have very different personalities—yet it was easy to take the memories of ages 17 to 27 and make an avatar representing myself and many people I love.
What motivates you to write? Stories, in all forms, kept me alive from day to day, to this very day. It was especially important pre-college. So I want to give back. And to do that, I want to get all these insane, fantastical, painful, fun, bizarre ideas out of my head. I am constantly thinking of themes, characters, settings… it’s all a bit too much. But ultimately I’ve been fortunate enough to receive training to hit my own high white note, so that I’m not just doing this for myself. If it feels selfish, I feel sick. My true motivation is to be happy, and that means making a living through writing where I can support a family in the near future.
Did you experience writer’s block? At the risk of extreme hatred from many colleagues, no, I do not suffer writer’s block. I have too many ideas. I sometimes go crazy with my inability to work on all of them, all of the time. My “idea stack,” which is works I actually have in progress, is too high. Sorry, I’m one of those weirdos.
Tell me about the publishing process. Was it easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? Both. When I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing back in 2005, we were still in the days of pen and paper submissions, and every magazine wanted the same story in a different format. I’d be lucky to hear about a rejection within a year, if ever. I was told never to publish online, but I got sick of it, and found the Silverthought site. They were publishing stories in line with my own work at the time and had a strong community and desire to become a small press. I took a chance on them. Now, publishing and submitting online has changed the game completely. While once it was painful as hell, things like submishmash and duotrope make it fun and addictive. And once one thing is published, it’s like a snowball. There are still many rejections, but my acceptances come more often.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That there is a final draft! Even when it’s published and on the shelves, every time you read it, you find something you want to change. It’s hilarious. I know so many artists, and we all hate our work, from writing to printmaking and painting, and don’t realize our audiences never see the work we envisioned in our own heads. A second misconception is that anyone can write a book. It’s a painful process, and I think you have to be somewhat masochistic to sit down and finish a draft, then do dozens more, then suffer through rejection and self-doubt.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? The way I wrote this book was unlike any of my others. My professor asked us to write six pages every week for class, and not stop until we were done. I did so, making sure that the sixth page made my classmates want to get the seventh each week. This created a different flow that I’m used to, forcing me to use my odd style in a very conservative way, to keep the pacing really tight. And it created the need for fewer revisions when it was finished. It’s a type of routine I plan on continuing.
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? I’m a stat-whore. If I had access to the information, I would be checking every day. I keep a log of everything I’ve ever submitted everywhere since 1998, I check my Klout score every few days (I hate it, but it’s worth it). At this stage, every sale is a wonderful bonus, but it’s the readership that addicts me. Every sale means a new mind is taking a risk and letting me lead them into a weird new world, and that means more than anything to me. And hopefully an agent and book deal in the future.
My favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I have to agree. Luck exists—we’ve all seen it happen. Preparation means working to the bone, literally bleeding for your work, because if you do not, you feel guilty, empty, sick to your stomach. Then when the opportunity comes, the email from nowhere, the editor with a dream that you believe in, you’ll have the goods and some experience to pounce.