Archive for July 24th, 2010

Saturday, July 24th, 2010 by Ken Scholes
The Writing Life…From Another Point of View

Howdy folks.  Happy Saturday!

 We’ve had the last three weeks to get to know each other a bit and you’ve heard me go on about magic bullets and inner rednecks and how series are born.

Today, I thought I’d try something different. 

I’m just now getting underway in my fourth novel, Requiem, and I’m more mindful than ever that it takes a village to write a book.  I have a team of people that I lovingly refer to as Team 4J who keep me sane and producing, in addition to my agent, my editor and a host of other writing friends and colleagues.  Lamentation is dedicated to that team.  And the First Captain of Team 4J is my amazing wonder wife and partner, Jen West Scholes.

I thought it might be nice to introduce you to her this Saturday.  So, ladies and gentlemen, meet…The Wife.

Ken:  Hi Sweetie.  Thanks for doing this.  I know you’re pretty busy these days and I appreciate you taking the time to talk a bit about your experiences as the spouse of a working writer.  Would you tell our friends at a bit about yourself and how you came find yourself in this wacky life we’re living?

Jen:  I’m happy to.  In late 2002, I answered an IM from this little-known writer in one of the Portland chat rooms.  Ken wrote, “So, you’re a writer, huh?”  At that moment, I was at a crossroads in my life.  I was graduating from the University of Oregon, and I had grandiose plans for backpacking across Australia writing travel blogs and articles for very little money.  I’d write about the world and then “settle down” to have a family and an “ordinary life.”  

But I knew from that first chat that my plans were going to have to change.  So we started working on our “little empire” and now, with our castle (house), two heirs apparent (kids), two worthless minions (cats), obligatory revenue generators (full-time jobs) and the writing career, our life feels far from “settled” or “ordinary.”  We’re in the process of building something extraordinary. 

*Ken is now poking me to talk about some of the things I love to do.* I’m a Jen-of-all-trades and a Master-of-Puns.  I love experiences, and I’m constantly looking for new things to do or learn.  I tend a square-foot-garden, which usually ends up being an epic battle between me, the weeds, the slugs and the neighborhood cats who think my garden is world’s coolest cat box.  I recently took up rock climbing and softball (not at the same time).  I’m a scuba diver, a hiker, a backpacker, and a wannabe DIYer.  When not reading new material from Ken, I read urban fantasy/horror from authors like Carrie Vaughn, Kat Richardson, J.A. Pitts, Julie Kenner, C.E. Murphy and I have a stack of novels yet to read.  Most of my time is spent wrangling our 1-year-old twin girls.  They are entertainment enough by themselves.

Ken:  When we first partnered up in 2003, I had only published three short stories.  I was a pretty new kid on the block and relatively unknown.  Now, seven years later, I’m working on the fourth book of a series and am on the edge of my third novel (Antiphon) and my second short story collection (Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects) releasing into the world.  A lot has changed.  You’ve been an important part of that work from the start.  How do you see your role?  And as my career has unfolded, how has your role changed? 

Jen:  At one of the conventions we attended a few years back, I remember Ken had to rush to a panel leaving me to figure out badges and program books, etc.  When the woman in the Green Room asked who I was, I replied that I was the Chief Operating Officer of Ken Scholes, Inc.  And that title stuck.

In the beginning, I did things like help post flyers for readings at conventions, and I read Ken’s new stories.  But as he sold more stories, attended more writing events and then landed the book deal, I became the COO of the Ken Scholes writing business.  Now I keep track of income and expenses, work with our tax consultant, brainstorm web content and design with our “gypsy webscout”, manage the schedule of writing events, and make travel and lodging arrangements.  I’m also a first reader and copyedit/galley proofer, although that role has been limited during the last year because of the demands of having baby twins.

Ken:  Writers are whiny, insecure, and tricky critters for the most part.  What are the most challenging aspects of living with – and providing support to – a wacky working writer?

Jen:  The other roles I play are cheerleader and sounding board.  After Ken finished Lamentation, I remember saying that the experience was like witnessing someone live through a life-long relationship in the span of a few weeks.  There were births and deaths, celebrations and sorrows, failures and victories, and the emotional rollercoaster that goes with all of that — but in a super condensed time frame.  And that feeling has held true in the subsequent books.  

Understanding the emotional toll is important.  Each writer is different, but I think what helps Ken is all the talking we do about our friends in the Named Lands.  I know he is a verbal processor, so I ask him questions – the investigative reporter at work. I also remind the CHMs (Chattering Head Monkeys) that they are just poo-flinging amoeba brains who wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them on their big, floppy ears.  Sometimes they need to be reminded that they don’t get a vote.

Ken:  You’ve had times where you were very involved in the public aspects of the writing life – conventions, signings, workshops and other events.  What have been some of your favorite parts? 

Jen:  I would have to say that the people I’ve met have been the best part of the public aspects.  I’ve gotten to meet authors I’ve admired for years, practice asking for autographs without turning into a drooling fan girl (until their back is turned), and can even count some of them as friends.  How cool is it to go have a meal or drinks with someone you admire and get to ask them behind-the-scenes questions about their characters or their worlds or their process or their influences?  It’s also why I love conducting interviews.  And the contacts I’ve made through the writing world have made it possible for me to tell other people’s stories.

Ken:  Since “East of Eden and Just a Bit South” back in 2003, red-headed and re-imagined projections of you have shown up in various short stories and certainly in the series.  What is that experience like for you?  Do you have any favorites?  How is Jen West Scholes like and not like Jin Li Tam?

Jen: Well, first, I’m too short to be Jin Li Tam.  We definitely have similar temperaments, though she is much deadlier with knives than I am.  Jin Li Tam is probably my favorite, and I do get a little protective of her when a reviewer doesn’t like her or compares her to a high class prostitute.  She’s a spy.  A femme-fatal.  A female James Bond!  

Occasionally, I’ll read something of Ken’s and realize he’s slipped in some little thing I’ve said or some little quirk I have that no one else would know about but him. There have been a couple of times when I’ve said, “I can’t believe you put that in there!”  But I’ve always found it amusing and endearing.  It reminds me of the coded “conversations” between Jin Li Tam and Rudolfo right under the noses of the other characters.

Ken:  Of course, you’re a writer as well.  What are some the highlights in your own writing life and what projects do you hope to tackle down the road?

Jen:  Like I mentioned before, I love telling other people’s stories.  And everyone has a unique story; you just have to know the right questions to ask.  I enjoy interviewing writers, because their imaginations and ideas touch and influence so many people.  I would even go so far as to say they are the original agents of social change.  Learning about what makes them tick and how they’ve honed their craft is a real treat for me.  Some of the people I’ve gotten to interview have included Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, Cory Doctorow, Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for Shimmer Magazine, J.A. Pitts, and several of the 2007 Nebula Award winners.  And then at Radcon last February, I got to conduct a live interview with seasoned novelist C.J. Cherryh.  Larry Niven happened to be in the audience, and since we had some extra time, I got to conduct a surprise mini-interview with him, too.

Future projects?  I’d like to do more interviews and at some point, I’d like to tackle a down-to-earth but humorous book about having twins.

Ken:  There are a lot of partners out there wanting to support their writers.  Do you have any advice for them?  Is there anything you wish someone had told you about this wacky road we’re on?  

Jen:  If their writer is serious about writing as a career, then both partners have to treat it like a serious career.  The moment you compromise on that, the writing becomes a time-consuming hobby and little resentments can build from the sacrifices that have to be made in order to be successful – and success is far from guaranteed.  Many writers have to have full-time jobs, and their partners have to have full-time jobs.  Yet, there are still kids to rear, a house and yard to maintain, friendships to maintain, family obligations, a whole list of demands on our time and life events that will try to get in the way of writing.  It takes a concerted effort to stay the course and strike a balance, not just for the writer, but for the writer’s partner, too.  The job of the writer’s partner is to help keep the world off the writer’s head so the writer can write.  We are equally invested in this business. We are a team – a dynamic duo. I don’t think we’d be as successful in writing or in life if we didn’t have each other’s backs.

Ken:  Thanks for joining me here today, love.  And thanks for all you do.  I couldn’t do it without your love and support. 

Jen:  You’re welcome, Sweetie.  I got your back.

The West Scholes Tribe

And I’ve got yours.  There you have it folks.  A little bit more on the writing life from another point of view.

I’ll see you all next week!