C A Scott [amaliamira]
How and why did you begin to be creative?
Probably began the moment I picked up a crayon. Creativity is innate.
What is your specialty?
Magazine and book design.
Where can we view your portfolio online?
You can see my magazine work here: www.bioprocessintl.com
You can see my book work here: http://web.mac.com/amaliamira/subVersive/Welcome.html
What made you interested in design?
I've been into art since I was a kid. I learned about design in journalism school. I have an affinity for the computer work -- it's like my own version of a videogame. I love to play with photos and words, etc. It's fun!
What has been your professional career path?
As resources devoted to production decrease in the publishing industry, editors find themselves doing more and more jobs. I found myself doing design work because I could and because there was no one else to do it. It needed to be done. I enjoy it. So there ya go.
Have you received any awards for your work in the field of design?
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I was a huge fan of Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" and "Island Stallion" books -- and everything else about horses I could get my hands on. "My Friend Flicka," "King of the Wind," etc. etc. and so on... Things changed when I saw "Star Wars" (the first film I ever saw in a theater) at age 8 -- and by 10 or 11 I was reading Harlan Ellison, Andre Norton, Alan Dean Foster, positively devouring science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively until a great teacher in high school got me into "Literature" w/a capital "L." In college, I focused more on classics out of necessity and discovered a love for Cervantes, Stephen Crane, Joseph Conrad, Anton Chekhov (my 4 C's) among others... I went through a phase of vampire fiction around the end of college, and my husband introduced me to comics and graphic novels by way of "The Crow" and "Sandman."
I was an artist as a kid -- used to draw horses and things so much everyone in the family figured that was my future and my big talent. At some point, I was making little illustrated storybooks -- and over time the text took up more and more space than the pictures did. When "Star Wars" came on HBO for the first time, I watched it numerous times and started writing scenes for Han Solo, my favorite character, because I didn't think he got enough screen time. Those scenes formed the basis of a science fiction story of my own, the character morphing into someone else. I finished it as a novel around age 19; it was as terrible as you'd expect. But I resurrected it about 10 years later and it became Racing History, my 5-volume series.
Of course my mother was probably the first person to read me. But I foisted my stuff off on friends and family as much as I could. I have a voracious appetite for feedback, love talking about the stories (as if they were something I'm reading rather than writing) with anyone who'll read them... I'm basically just a geeky "fan-girl" at heart.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
W/my background, it's probably not surprising that I don't really have a favorite genre. I'm very moody both in my reading and my writing. I never know what's going to take hold of me. I will say that I'm drawn to a certain frontier aspect of things -- westerns, new-world science fiction and space opera, fantasy that isn't the same old thing... I like a sense of adventure as well as compelling characters. And I love to read authors who are brilliant with words.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Music is the #1 essential. I need a soundtrack -- something that fits the scene I'm working on. Lyrics inspire me in strange ways. It probably comes from being a movie fanatic -- and from having been there the moment MTV first came on. I was a teenager during the heyday of music videos -- so my brain translates almost everything in musical terms. I wanted to be a musician for some time -- but discovered that I don't have the same stick-to-it-iveness for practicing music as for writing, so there ya go...
I also need familiar surroundings. If I'm in a cafe or on the beach or something, I'm far more interested in what's around me than what's in my head. I need my surroundings to be either really dull or so familiar I won't wander off. What's inside my thoughts has to be able to take precedence.
Those are really the only requirements. I can write w/a notebook or a computer -- often I'll do the first (terrible) draft by hand, then as I transcribe it I make it into something better. Later comes the rewriting, editing myself, etc. It's much harder for me to STOP doing that than to do it -- in fact, I quite enjoy reading my own stuff. Wouldn't have spent so much time w/it in the first place if I wasn't having fun!
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Research inspires me -- scientific, historical, whatever. I'm a nerd.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
#1: Character. He/she wants something but can't have it, that's the most basic storyline that everyone can relate to.
#2: Setting. This fullfills the escapist aspect of fiction. Take me somewhere I've never been -- or back to a place I miss. Just not here, where I am, in my life...
#3: Theme. I think a writer's got to have something to say -- a reason for the story beyond, "I just think this is neato." Something compels us in the dark of the night to tell a story -- it's been that way since the dawn of time. People didn't just tell stories around the fire to entertain one another; there was a reason for everything.
#4: History. The laws of cause and effect apply even more in fiction than they do in real life. I need to know a character is the way he/she is because of experience, not just because he/she sprang that way from a writer's forehead. Setting requires history, too. Everything does -- or it's just one-dimensional and uninteresting.
#5: Plot will arise from all the above.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
First-person seems too easy to me, too self-indulgent. Any character who thinks I want to hear his/her story enough to tell it to me directly, well, that just implies arrogance to begin with, and after a few pages it seems self-centered and insular.
That said, a character telling you the story of another character (a la "The Great Gatsby") can feel wonderfully intimate. And you can't beat the power of a really distinctive voice, as in Raymond Chandler's stuff. There are some characters I'm afraid to let speak for themselves, they're so in-your-face.
I tend toward the third-person, probably because stepping outside one head allows you to bounce around more and show what's going on in different places. I even like going from one character's PoV to another in the same scene, but you gotta' be careful with that kind of acrobatics.
I have a few things told in first-person, not many cuz like I say the character's gotta be a certain kind of arrogant. But if it works for the story, it does. For a mystery, it would be cool because then the clues would be revealed to reader and character at the same time...
What well known writers do you admire most?
Classically speaking, I would say the 4 Cs of course (Cervantes, Chekhov, Conrad, Crane) as well as Jack London, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, James Michener...
Science fiction: Harlan Ellison is number one for short-form work. I lean toward the grandmasters... and I'm embarrassed to say I don't read enough modern stuff. I'm too easily intimidated by the competition, I guess...
Fantasy: Neil Gaiman without a doubt. He blows me away.
Others include Jonathan Letham (an absolute wizard with words), Alan Moore (a true mad genius), Kurt Vonnegut (I love him as much for his personality as his work), and yes I'll admit it Joss Whedon (the dialog king!)
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
History -- you just have to know what made a person who he/she is. It's not enough to say, "Jack's a criminal, but he loves his cat." That's BS. You better dang well know how he became a criminal after his parents died and he bounced through the foster-care system, and he loves his cat because the nicest foster family he ever had kept cats and taught him to appreciate them, blahblahblah. And that's just the beginning.
Characters come to me from within -- I find myself looking at the world through someone else's eyes all of a sudden. Mannerisms and emotions follow. Then I start to see the person from the outside, as though looking in a mirror. That'll lead to some information about who this person is. And I begin to learn his/her backstory -- what he/she wants out of life, what's standing in the way, etc.
Side characters, however, are often little more than names/faces/wardrobes/dialog. I have to be careful -- if I get to know them too well, they'll start to demand their own story!
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
Always have been. When I was a kid, my family says I used to play the part of a movie director when we played "let's pretend." I made up the story and for some reason other kids would go along with it.
I'm very animated, too, the classic storyteller who pretty much acts out the story as I tell it. When I did community theater, I was a very good "cold-reader" for auditioning. In college, I lived with a bunch of science majors. When we came back from a literature class, I'd retell the story we were studying in such as way as to help them get what was really going on.
I love to tell a story.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Me. Ultimately I'm entertaining myself. Writing is my form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Absolutely! I am just slightly obsessive-compulsive (count steps as i go up/downstairs, have an affinity for prime numbers, and I need symmetry around me) in regular life, and I think that's because I've managed to channel my most OCD tendencies into my writing. I joke that the only way to finish a novel is to obsess over it in an unhealthy way. But seriously, I write from a place of constant internal struggle, and that reflects itself in my characters and their situations. No doubt about it.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Yes! I had two friends reading "Racing History" behind me as I worked on it -- and a few others who'd just talk about the concepts and things with me or read bits when I asked -- and their desire to read more compelled me to keep going. It's hard to say no when someone's demanding more!
I'm fascinated by the magic of the written word: to transfer images and emotions from my head where they're born into someone else's... it's amazing if you think about it.
I would never be one of those authors who get annoyed with readers demanding more about a certain character or set in a particular world. In fact, I get a bit annoyed by those whiners. I'd give both my legs for that!
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I haven't. It's hard for me to write to order, and most competitions are based around a certain theme or type of story. I'm sorry to admit that I just don't have that much control over my creative process...
As for awards, I'm not well-known enough or read by enough people to ever get nominated, and I don't know if that will ever happen.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I do. I'm careful, though, not to talk about scenes before they're written; for some reason, that will almost inevitably kill them. Whether or not people show any interest in them, they'll never see the light of day. Strange... But I love to share my roughs -- just have to be careful to warn people that I'll very likely make a million changes to it and it'll be almost unrecognizable in the end. But I like to see what aspects of something stand out as good more than what people DON'T like. Not a feed-the-ego sort of thing. It's just that I'm my own worst critic, and I generally think it's all second-rate garbage until someone else points out what might be worthy of keeping or playing up or whatever.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I think I do have a fairly distinctive voice. I'm typically a little Hemingway-esque in my brevity -- no elaborate descriptions or flowery language. I like the flow of words, the way they feel and sound. But I'm usually pretty straightforward -- unless a scene/character demands otherwise. I'm kind of flippant in real life, too, so I guess that just comes through in my writing. There's very often a tongue in cheek sarcasm underlying things... Not to say always, mind you. Some characters, some worlds, some situations, some stories demand otherwise...
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
Not much. Writing, to me, is fun... escapism... my true avocation... Discipline is what gets me up in the morning and sends me to work at the "day job." Writing is my reward at the end of the day. I don't have to make myself write -- in fact, I sometimes feel guilty doing it when I should be cleaning house, working in the garden, whatever... Marketing my work is the real hard part -- I just can't seem to make myself do it much. It's not fun; it's grueling and painful. I have no talent for sales. If I'm ever going to get more notice, it's going to require that I learn how to do all that better. But it's a real challenge to spend my scant spare time outside work doing something so distasteful and unpleasant when I could be writing!
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Music. Books. Toys. Artwork. Knick-knacks. Something to eat/drink (usually a cup of tea). Sometimes my dog is lying around nearby. But the presence of other humans is a distraction and unacceptable.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
Yes -- many years of writing on the computer (and working w/one for the "day job") has given me serious lower-back trouble as well as nerve problems in my wrists... Sometimes I just can't face a glowing screen, and I scribble in a notebook instead. Inevitably, what I produce on paper isn't very good -- not until I transcribe it w/my internal editor in full gear. I don't print things out, hardly ever. And I do NOT correct on paper -- that's inefficient and annoying. It's one reason I get frustrated with writing workshops -- all those printouts, all those scribbled comments in the margins. Trying to make sense of them all, trying to keep track of them. Yuck! I'd do much better with a "virtual" workshop done electronically...
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I'm very sporadic w/my online presence. I should be better at it -- that would probably be one way to help me on the marketing side. But I spend so much time on the computer doing things that either pay my bills (the "day job") or actually make me happy (writing, research) that I seldom bother with anything else. Social networking seems too time-consuming (I find I can waste entirely too much time on Facebook if I go there) and distracting from productive things... I should learn some discipline in that arena, I'm sure...
What has been your experience with publishers?
Depressing. I work in publishing, I see a lot of the business aspects of these things from the inside. And I find them terribly distasteful. The entertainment industry only serves to make salespeople and businessmen rich by exploiting the creative output of a massive and perennially dissatisfied population.
My science fiction series is published in e-book form. But no one who sells it seems able to understand that it's a series (Volume and Episode numbers notwithstanding) that should be presented in its entirety if it's going to make any sense. What a mess out there -- and I can't seem to get it straightened out. Nor can I take it back and try to sell it in a more mainstream market. It's out there forever now, despite the fact that it's thus far seen only a tiny audience. Frustrating.
I understand the business reasons for why publishing companies treat unknown authors the way they do. That doesn't make it any easier to be on that side of table. I feel like I sell myself 8-10 hours a day for my real paycheck, and I find it very difficult to stomach the idea of further selling out the rest of my existence for the pittance that authors get... It's a constant intellectual struggle that's serving to keep me more or less paralyzed -- I didn't write at all in 2008 because I'd almost convinced myself that it wasn't worth trying. But now I'm writing again because I can't help it. Marketing my work, well, that's something else...
What are you working on now?
I'm always working on several projects at a time -- I have a Generation X-er's fleeting attention span, so I hop from one to the next and back. Currently I find myself most obsessed with a high-fantasy thing about pirates and princes, politics and geography. Building the world is so much fun! I'm also working on the first volume of a mystery series set in the Old West -- on the Oregon Trail, to be specific. And a theatrical play called "Armageddon Days Are Here Again" (named after a song by The The). Also a modern-day fantasy/horror thing about four characters who are embodiments of the Four Elements. On the back burner are more stories set in the Racing History universe and a couple of fantasies in an Asian/MiddleEastern setting.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
If you can look at them and not hate them, and if it bugs you that you've done nothing else with them, then show them to someone. Though I warn you, readers can be hard to find. You're asking someone to give you some of his/her time, after all.
But remember, there are people who throw away hours and hours of their lives playing stupid video games. Even if no one ever reads what you wrote, you've done more than that and entertained yourself in the process. Understand that writers are a dime a dozen. There are millions of us out here scribbling away, and the chances that you'll ever make a dime off that hard work are miniscule. So you'd better be making yourself happy with it -- and if you're not, if writing seems like hard work to you, then just don't bother.
Which actor would you like to be?
It would be awesome to be Angelina Jolie or Salma Hayak for a day -- just to find out what it's like to be so universally considered "hot."
A simple pleasure that for you is quite big or important.
What is the greatest loss you have had in your life?
I owned a horse for 19 years, and in the end she had to be put down. It was the most painful thing I ever had to do. I honor her every day with the "Amaliamira" username for everything I do online. That was her name. She was and remains the best friend I ever had.
How do you respond to telemarketing calls?
I've been known to hang up the moment I realize that's what it is. I don't answer them. I spent a few months in 1988 doing that sort of work; it was horrible, and the only job I was ever fired from. I had credit problems at the end of college and just after, and that pretty much ruined telephones for me entirely.
It is 5 pm on a typical Sunday: what are you doing?
Summer: puttering in the garden
Spring/Fall/Winter: starting to make dinner
Something in which you are completely incompetent.
Marketing myself. "Networking."
You have nine wins in a row in a game of roulette: do you continue because you are on a good run, or abandon the game because statistically, it is your turn to lose?
I probably wouldn't have made it to 9. I'm not a gambler. My sole experience w/slot machines was in the Las Vegas airport -- I put in a quarter and waited, it did nothing, I thought "maybe this is a two-coin machine" and put in another quarter, then remembered I'm suppose to pull the stupid handle, so I did and the little wheels turned and then stopped and that was it, what a waste of money, I could've played a videogame for 15 minutes on that 50 cents!
I have anti-winning mojo. If you're gambling and I'm standing too close, you will lose. I don't win door prizes or contests or anything. If I made it to 9 wins in roulette, the world would probably end in a fiery explosion of Planet Earth.
What toy gave you the best moments of your childhood?
Breyer horse models
How did you meet your current boy/girlfriend?
My friend Kim met Chris at a party while I was away at college. She instantly thought we'd be perfect for each other, and she spent a few weeks telling me about him (and him about me) before I came home for the summer. She set us up to meet. We met and clicked instantly. She was right! That was in 1992, and he and I have lived together since 1993.
What was your first vehicle?
1981 Datsun 210, a sort of brown/orange color, we called it "the Terminator" because it could not be killed
Your New Year resolutions.
This past year I resolved to get in better shape and to reconnect w/friends and stay in touch better than I have in the past... I'm doing all right (but not great) in both arenas.
Is there any superstition that makes you change your behaviour?
In your lifetime, what is the best news you have ever seen printed?
Barack Obama elected president -- a year before I said it would never happen.
To which other place in the world would you move without hesitation?
Australia, probably, or New Zealand. Maybe Spain.
A word or expression that you love.
"Pot, this is kettle. You're black!"
A word or expression that you detest.
"It just pops!"
"We need to get on the same page with this."
There are many more.
What do you imagine yourself doing for your retirement?
Traveling, being a "park host" at some state or national park... or maybe running a bed and breakfast somewhere and writing every day!
Did God create the world in seven days, or do you believe in the theory of evolution?
Oh my god you must be kidding me. The Universe is ancient and complex. This pathetic image of god the father is an insult to its greatness. Evolution describes how species adapt, change, and diverge over time -- it's got nothing to do w/the so-called "creation" of the world. It is one of the ways in which the Universe works. Get over it.
What do you think of the squatter "movement"?
I'm impressed by anyone who can pull it off. And anyone who owns property and abandons it deserves to lose it.
Does brand name influence your buying habits?
Sometimes, if I've tried something and liked it before. But sales influence my habits far more -- the store puts something on sale, I'm far more likely to buy it than the non-sale item next to it.
Do you think tipping is a good custom?
It's necessary when there are some people who can legally be paid less than the official minimum wage!
Are there too many holidays in the work calendar?
There aren't enough.
Do you think the catastrophism about climate change has been exaggerated?
Nope. The Earth will go on no matter what; whether we'll be there or not, and in what numbers, that's something else entirely. If you care about human beings, you should be very very worried about the climate.
Do you boycott brands if you learn they employ children in third-world countries or harm the environment?
Not obsessively, but it will certainly make a difference when there's a choice. The thing is... I doubt there's a single company anywhere that's truly ethical and deserving of my money.
Do you defend animal experimentation for the development of medicine that can save human lives?
Pretty much. Exploitation is the name of the game in Nature. We're only doing what's natural for any dominant species.
What is your opinion of the rise in popularity of plastic surgery and implants?
Absolutely pathetic. I think plastic surgeons should be considered just as criminal as illegal drug dealers.
Do extraterrestrials exist?
Considering the size of the Universe, there are most likely hundreds, thousands, even millions of other intelligents. Other forms of life (rather than civilizations) are going to be far more widespread. Microorganisms are all but ubiquitous wherever the conditions are right, guaranteed. Life is just as inevitable a form of chemistry as vulcanism, clouds and weather, etc.
What do you currently have in your MP3 player?
About 30 gigs of music.
What books are you currently reading?
Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" Something called "The Traveler" Joy Chant's "The High Kings" and "The Strand" magazine
Places in the world that you have visited recently.
Most recently, Seattle. Well, not counting places here in Lane County... Outside the US, the most recent was, um... Singapore.
What is that special film you never tire of watching?
What do you use: Mac or PC and why?
Mac because it never frustrates me or makes me want to throw it through a window... My iMac is 6 years old and going strong; my PowerBook is 4 years old and no problems! I love Apple stuff in general!
Do you find the saturation of advertising in the media excessive?
Yes, it drives me insane.
What were your favourite subjects when you were in primary/secondary school?
History, literature, science
Do you think video games, chat rooms, etc. have a dangerous addictive
effect on teenagers?
I'm sure they do.
Have you ever bought works of art? What type of art? What compels you to purchase art?
I've bought quite a bit from friends who are artists, and others. Something communicates real emotion to me, and I enjoy the feeling, I'm very likely to buy it. Mostly paintings but also photography.
Do you defend urban graffiti?
When it's more than just stupid tags, yes. If it's art.
Where have you thought of going for your next holiday?
The Oregon Cascades or eastern Oregon. Possibly Glacier National Park.
What matters more in deciding your vote: the party, the candidate, or the ideas?
They tend to dovetail. But it all comes down to ideas.
Two-party systems are on the rise: is this good for politics?
It's human nature to divide things into equal-opposities: black/white, good/evil, right/wrong, straight/crooked, hot/cold, etc. etc. It may not be good for politics, or it may be. But it's inevitable.
Are we witnessing the end of the American empire?
I suspect that we are.
Why did the economies of communist countries fail?
In the end, greed will out.
Are there too many taxes?
To be honest, there probably aren't enough.
Should a maximum limit of permissible personal fortune exist; and thereby, place limits on individual wealth?
As unlikely as it is ever to be, I think so. There is a level of wealth that goes far beyond comfort or even luxury and becomes obscene. No one should have that, and I'm sick of hearing people say that they worked hard for their money. Lots of people work their asses off and can barely pay their bills.
Do you defend the ecotaxes?
It's a start.
Should consensual offenses such as drug use or prostitution be legalized?
I think so.
Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Choice. If life were precious, we wouldn't have wars.
Are you in favor of or against the death penalty?
In favor -- as time goes on, scientific progress is making it less and less likely that innocent people will be put to death. And human life isn't half as precious to us as we like to pretend it is. Lots of innocent people die undeserved and horrible deaths all the time.
Should homosexual couples have the same right to adopt as heterosexual couples?
Absolutely and without question. If you think you want to "protect the sanctity of marriage," you might consider outlawing divorce. Otherwise, shut up and get out of the way of people's happiness.
Do you believe that the world crisis can bring positive changes to social values?
It will have to. Either that or usher in a new Dark Ages.
What significant changes do you think Obama can bring about along his presidential term?
I just don't know. But I admire greatly his willingness to try.
What is God?
The Universe itself is god. We all play the roles of cells in this great organism. Light is its thought. Evil is cancer and must be destroyed.
C A Scott
Springfield, OR, USA