I am talking to author Dean Scott who is 34 and lives in Musselburgh, a small town just east of Edinburgh, in Scotland. He has written plays, short stories and novels and he is proud of his heritage and fascinated by Scottish history.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about your books “Druid’s Ruin” and “Headlong to the Devil”
Dean Scott: Druid’s Ruin is based on a failed invasion of ‘Scotland’ by the Romans. The starting point was to write a Roman novel from the point of view of the poor native ‘barbarians.’ I take several historical liberties in the plot, which for me is a part of the fun. A great deal of early Scots history comes back to us from Roman propaganda… dubious at best, so why not have a little fun with it? I portray the Romans as an ungraceful, even slightly backwards culture obsessed with wealth and destruction.
Headlong to the Devil is based around a failed attempt by the Scottish government to colonize Darién in Panama in the 17th century. The story follows Ben McMurdo, a painter, as he tries to build a life for himself in the New World. I enjoyed writing Ben. Over the years I’ve created dozens of characters. Some are a necessary part of the work, no more. Others are a pleasure. Also, the Darién Scheme was a fun backdrop to write. The Darién Scheme was an attempt by the parliament of Scotland to colonise Darién in Panama and set up a trading port. They did it because the nation was desperate, almost bankrupt, and the scheme turned out a bloody disaster. Hundreds of people died and the financial cost was brutal. A modern-day equivalent to the cost of the Darleen Scheme would be the Scottish government singlehandedly attempting a manned mission to Mars. Or something like that anyway.
It’s easy to label Druid’s Ruin and Headlong to the Devil as historical fiction, which in a sense they are, but they both have elements of adventure and even fantasy too. I like to think of it as adventure fiction, nothing more, or maybe Scottish adventure fiction.
Books & Writing: Where do you get your inspiration from to write?
Dean Scott: The first thing I wrote was a one-act play called ‘Time’s Up!’. Lochside Theatre Company in Castle Douglas performed it as part of a one-act play festival. A few weeks later the script came second in a Scottish writing completion. That gave me confidence and I’ve been writing ever since.
As for daily inspiration, the nuts and bolts of producing a story, the obvious answer is life: things you see, do, learn about, are all up for grabs. Another part of it is reading: the inspiration to write comes from reading good books. Also TV, films, theatre, music, and of course history. If you can’t find inspiration in any of this, give up.
It’s worth noting that inspiration isn’t enough. You also need motivation. The act of writing can be lonely, not least of all because you’re interacting with people who aren’t real, so an ability to sit down with little or no encouragement and get on with it is essential. An ability to hold on to your sanity while doing this is also beneficial.
Books & Writing: What got you interested in writing short stories and novellas as well as novels?
Dean Scott: I like to write shorts to give me a break from the novel I’m writing at the time, even if just for a couple hours a week. Writing in different genres keeps me motivated and challenged. I think digital technology like Kindle provides a unique marketplace for short stories. Traditional publishers rarely handle shorts unless they’re intended for an anthology or a magazine etc. Digital is different. People can download a short for $1 read it on the train home from work. That’s not to say I see digital technology replacing paper books. Well, not entirely, and maybe not for a while.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about the June Logan short stories?
Dean Scott: The Logan stories are episodic science fiction shorts about a church minister’s daughter going into space as a scientist. So far I’ve done the first two, with the third on its way. Like Ben McMurdo, June Logan is fun to write. The story is set a hundred years in the future. Logan is the young discoverer of a planet at the edge of the solar system. She leaves earth on a unique mission. Opinionated and headstrong, Logan is given the job of Chief of Science, managing a large staff. I’m a science fiction fan and a huge Treckie. I’m also a fan of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Stel Pavlou to name a few. For me, the challenge to a spaceship-type story is making the backdrop fresh and interesting.
Books & Writing: Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Dean Scott: I have three projects on the go: a novella about Occupied Paris in 1944, the third June Logan story and an illustrated book for children.
Books & Writing: What’s the last book you read?
Dean Scott: I just finished Tom Keneally’s ‘Schindler’s Ark’ for the fourth time, a powerful book and beautifully written… as I said above, the kind of prose that makes me want to write. Also, I’m listening to R.D. Wingfield’s ‘Night Frost’ and A.L. Kennedy’s ‘The Blue Boy’ on audiobook. I borrowed the Frost CDs from the town library. I love a library.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Dean Scott: My advice to aspiring writers is to ignore all advice… apart from this: the only way to write a story is to write it, by which I mean to sit down at a computer (or notepad if you prefer) and put one word after another after another after another…
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Dean Scott: My website… http://www.wix.com/deanscott5/deanscott
My Amazon page… http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B005VQYXHO
Books & Writing: Big thanks to Dean for answering my questions!
Below is an excerpt from a June Logan story!
by Dean Scott
June Logan gazed out at the lunar landscape formed by eons of cratering, volcanism and erosion. Sol and Earth were not visible because of the holding cell’s position. Occasional runabout tracks weaved across the ancient topography, but she saw no manmade structures, giving the moon an ancient, elegantly desolate impression. When the door-chime pierced her thoughts, she turned and crossed the small cell to open the door manually.
‘How do you do, ma’am? I am Lieutenant Commander DuPont,’ said a Frenchman in immaculate Service uniform. Logan put her hands on the doorframe and leant forward to gaze up into his ruggedly appealing face.
‘Me? Oh, I’m brand new, me. Wrestled from my ship by bawbags who couldn’t tell the difference between a manual landing manoeuvre and a bag of goldfish! Incarcerated for five hours by your comrade outside armed with an automatic weapon even though you invited me here in the first place!’ she said. ‘Lieutenant Commander, I demand an apology and an explanation.’
Unmoved, DuPont regarded the Scots scientist. He often struggled to understand civilians, could not predict them. This one was half his age, half his size, a moody adolescent with a mass of crimson curls: fiery, shrill, spoiled.
‘Ma’am, I apologise for your most appalling inconvenience. The reason is security,’ he said at once. ‘Lunar Base can ill afford the introduction of unknown agents, little dirty beasts that—’ looking Logan up and down, ‘sometimes slip through the cracks. I myself authorised your confinement. You caught us off guard when you came crashing up from Earth in a rental without undergoing the usual health clearance. I commend your flight skills, I truly do. The way you outran the patrol jet was masterful. No doubt it amused you to do so. I wonder they didn’t fire on you. We on the base were three seconds away from blasting you to atoms before you indentified yourself. Then there was your entrance. We aren’t used to manual landings here. Gave us a moment of excitement, I tell you. However, the damage has been repaired and you aren’t infectious and that’s the main thing. May I answer anymore questions at this time?’
His tone was perfect, courteous yet dismissive, but the effect was lost when he happened to glance past Logan and saw the book on her cot. Clearly Logan’s personal property, it was a King James’ Bible. Their eyes met, his with barely contained horror, hers with defiance.