If you love the sci-fi genre, then this Author Spotlight is for you. If you love books set in a dystopian future, then you’ll love Scott T. Barsotti’s upcoming novel called SINGLE VERSION.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Scott, a Pittsburgh-born and raised author and playwright who recently moved back to the ‘Burgh after living in Chicago for many years. In this Author Spotlight, Scott tells us all about his upcoming novel and the relatively new route he’s taking to get it published. Plus, he gives some great advice about what you need to do to finally finish writing a book.
My novel SINGLE VERSION is a sci-fi novel with horror elements set in a dystopian Chicago. In this world, C.U.R.E., a massive private paramilitary company, has effectively replaced the police force in all major cities, and the general public is almost fully armed. At the same time, the population of cockroaches has exploded worldwide. The story is told through the eyes of a young man whom we’ll know only as “Palazzo,” a willfully unarmed pacifist. Unprotected in an increasingly perilous world, Palazzo is also severely entomophobic, making the very ecosystem that surrounds him a source of creeping, crawling dread.
The book begins with Palazzo taking us through what is a typical day for him in this Chicago. He goes to work as a counselor, has unnerving encounters on the train, survives run-ins with groups of armed businessmen, and kills some cockroaches along the way (just a few of the quadrillions). He goes to the bank. He feeds his cat. But this day, there are some strange differences: a woman he meets in the afternoon is gunned down in front of him and hundreds of bystanders later that day, and a stranger gives him a flyer for a clandestine group that call themselves “Unarmed Citizens.” Meanwhile, the news becomes more haunting and unreliable by the minute, and C.U.R.E.’s influence expands rapidly into all aspects of daily life. In the days, weeks, and months that follow, Palazzo tries to maintain some shred of sanity and normalcy as society erodes around him. He loses family. His co-workers disappear. And if he listens closely enough, he hears increasingly ominous sounds emanating from unknown sources; at times, it seems as though the sky is screaming.
Palazzo soon learns that his neighbor, Simon, is a member of “Unarmed Citizens.” He attends a meeting with Simon, which sets into motion a series of events that will put him in the unlikely position to change C.U.R.E., and therefore society, from the inside out.
What about this sci-fi genre appeals to you?
Sci-fi and horror are both genres that are about possibilities, and that’s very exciting to me. As a reader I’m drawn to these speculative genres as well. These genres can really ignite the imagination for both author and reader, but they also have a unique ability to peer into the human condition. No matter how high the concept gets, a good story is always honest and accessible. Sometimes adding a layer of the fantastical helps us dive deeper into a difficult topic.
How and why did you make the transition from being a playwright to a novel writer?
I actually started out writing fiction, mostly short stories. What I consistently got the best feedback on was the dialogue in my stories and the way I built character through conversation and interaction. That feedback led to trying playwriting, which then has become an entire career for me. When I was in grad school I tried twice to write novels but didn’t push through to completion on either of them. I had more success with plays, finishing them as well as finding an audience for them. So this novel is, in a sense, a return to my writing roots. I still primarily consider myself a playwright, though.
Tell us about Inkshares and why you chose this route for publishing your novel.
Inkshares is a relatively new publishing enterprise that operates in a manner similar to Kickstarter. You kick off a campaign for your book and then try to attract pre-orders through a combination of appealing to your own network as well as building a following through Inkshares social features. If you hit your pre-order goal, the book is published. Inkshares has the production, distribution, marketing, and editorial capabilities you’d expect from any publisher, they just democratize the process of how they select/publish works. Traditional publishing works for some people but a lot of authors have trouble making connections there (even writers with an MFA like myself) and desire to connect more with readers before publication. That’s a big reason I went this way. I want to share the book with readers immediately (after a few more rounds of editing of course); this process seems to me to offer more active engagement with the people who will be reading my book in its first run, rather than dealing exclusively with folks in the publishing world. It requires you to put yourself out there in a different way that’s scary and exciting.
What was your writing process like for this book?
I like to have big blocks of time with which to write, somewhere in the range of 3-6 hours in a sitting. If I can’t set that aside, I’ll instead read something I recently wrote, or sketch something out, maybe do some research. When I’m sitting down and writing something new I like to make an event of it and have those big chunks of time, that’s when my creative energy gets to flow. I have kids, but even before they were in the picture, I’d do a lot of writing on weekends, or after 9pm. I’m most productive after the sun goes down. One thing I did differently with this book is I wrote it out of order. When I’m writing a play I often write scenes more or less in order. With the book I jumped all over the place.
What advice do you have for other writers who are hoping to write a book?
KEEP WRITING. The hardest part of finishing a book is finishing the book. I generally am not a writer who writes every day–which is the approach of many writers–but I do interact with my writing in some way every single day. If I’m not generating or editing I’m researching or promoting. I’m always doing something. I read a lot of articles and essays to keep my mind awake.
Writing a book takes a long time and you have to be patient with yourself. Don’t edit it to death before it’s done. A lot of a first draft won’t be very good but once you have it all down, even in skeletal form, it’s easier to work with it, rewrite, supplement, trim down, revise. When you have a complete draft, you learn so much about your characters and the world you’re creating, you really get a sense of your story’s shape and scope, what elements you need, what you don’t need. For me that whole process is infinitely smoother when the ideas are out of my head and down on paper. But you gotta finish the first draft, the fun really begins once you crawl out of that swamp.
Any last thoughts or words that you’d like to express?
PLEASE consider pre-ordering SINGLE VERSION. I’m currently entered in a contest through Inkshares that’s sponsored by the media brand Nerdist and ends on September 30. I’m in the top 10 in the contest (out of over 300 entries) but it’s massively beneficial to me to finish in the top 5. Basically, it fast-tracks the publication of my book and opens it up to other cool opportunities. Visit my project page, and consider pre-ordering today!
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