8-Ball: William Neil Scott

William Neil Scott was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but spent the majority of his life in Calgary, Alberta. Scott completed a BA Honours Degree in English, with a Concentration in Creative Writing, at the University of Calgary. Wonderfull is his debut novel, and winner of the Trade Fiction of the Year Award at the 2008 Alberta Book Publishing Awards, and the 2008-09 London Reads Competition. It was also shortlisted for the 2008 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Scott lives and writes in Calgary with his family, which includes a beautiful wife and two rambunctious little dogs who have little to no shame. He is hard at work on a number of projects, including The Illustrator, a magic realist account of the Great March of the North West Mounted Police in the late 19th century.

1. What do you want to talk about—which question do you wish interviewers would ask, and what is your answer?

The question I wish most interviewers would ask but don’t wouldn’t be to me. The thing I’d most like to see interviewers tackle is what’s important to readers. How they see stories. What moves them. I know what moves me. I know what I love about stories. But my view of the reader’s perspective is really uninformed. It can be great and informative to read an interview of a writer discussing their work, but I’d really like to dig into the people who read our books. What they think of all stuff we jabber about to ourselves. What their concerns are. It just seems to be a part of the discourse that’s poorly served.

2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take your writing seriously?

All the advice I wish I received I got. I just wish I’d taken it. Would have saved me time.

3. What is wrong with the publishing industry, and what are they getting right?

I’m not sure I pay enough attention to the mechanics of the publishing industry to comment on this with any authority, but what I’ve seen suggests that some houses are making a go of adapting to the changes brought by the Internet and some… aren’t. Personally I see a greater problem coming from authors who feel that this change doesn’t include them. Our job description has changed. Our parameters. We have to start doing more. And like the houses, some authors are doing that and some… aren’t.

4. How will technology change writing?

I think it’ll change writing in two ways. The first is in the delivery system. More ways to get writing quicker. The second is the short hand we use in description. I heard an author once give this great explanation of how language in description is contracting the further we go along because through television and the internet we have a much more comprehensive visual library. Back when Melville was writing Moby Dick nobody had seen a whale, so he had to describe that. Now you can cut that description off at the knees and get to the story. I assume that’ll become more and more prevalent the further we go along.

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication? (Give a specific example.)

I don’t really have one. I wish I did. Most of my energy is devoted to trying to get momentum going. Once that happens, if that happens, the work will eventually be finished. But it’s getting that first momentum. Sometimes it takes hours. Other times weeks or months. More often than not it doesn’t come at all. It’s something I’m working on.

6. What are your daily habits as a writer, and as a reader?

Again, I don’t really have any. That’s part of the problem. Trying to develop some now. Reading more, writing more. I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far no pattern is set in stone.


7. What is your ambition as a writer—what do you want to accomplish, personally and professionally?

I think we all want the same thing when it comes to what we want to accomplish. We want to do good-if-not-great work. We want to have that recognized and rewarded. We want it to matter. I go forward and back on which of these three things matter the most, but for the last long while it’s been the first. I want to do good-if-not-great work. I want to have an idea and I want to realize it as perfectly as I can. If it sells, it sells. But the perfectly realized idea is the goal right now, not the books sold.

8. Why don’t you quit?

Because I can’t. I could quit trying to write and trying to get published (sometimes that feels very attractive) but I can’t get away from wanting to tell stories. It’s in me. Doesn’t mean it’s award-winning or worth reading, but it’s there.

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