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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Edgar Scott about his novel, 418 I Am A Teapot, what inspires him, and the creative process that went into writing it.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I see myself as a fairly ordinary person. I’ve had a number of different jobs, re-invented my work, and career life a number of times. Like most of us, I’d spent a lot of my working life trying to make ends meet, dreaming of a day when I could stop doing work that I didn’t like. I’d spent much of my life changing jobs, trying to figure out what would make me more than a subsistence wage. Finally, I came to realize that I was rather good at managing databases, so I decided to specialize, and financial prosperity finally found me.

Edgar Scott, author of 418 I Am Teapot, interview on The Table Read
Edgar Scott, author of 418 I Am Teapot

Unfortunately, while I was very good with data, networks, and figuring out how programs worked, it wasn’t work that I enjoyed. My formal education is in Economics, which I have found to be a great advantage. Computer Science graduates often have trouble speaking to upper management. They get excited explaining complicated technical details. People aren’t looking for that much context. I found my advantage being able to describe things that implied great precision in water soluble terms.

I was born in Houston Texas, my father, a doctor, was working there. We moved to Toronto when I was an infant. Thirty-five years later I returned to manage a server farm and I really love living in South Florida, so I’ve stayed. I’m enjoying being part of the community and finding pleasure in warm days, rolling surf and sunsets.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

Growing up, I lived in a house with bookshelves in almost every room. Being a writer was always presented as a laudable occupation. Writers give something back to the world. The first time that I sat down to write anything that looked like a book was when I was about twenty-five (1995). The details of it escape me now, but I do remember it was rather self-exploratory; something I had to write. But the itch, the one that can only be scratched by writing the story forming in your imagination, had manifested itself.

When did you take a step to start writing?

Last year of college at Dalhousie University (1993) I submitted 2 editorials for an editorial writing competition. I spent two months writing one, and the second I wrote the night before submission deadline. Well, one of those two editorials won second or third prize; not sure which prize I won, but I got twenty-five bucks! More importantly, I had learned a lesson about over writing and just writing to express a thought, there is a happy middle ground.

Sadly, I graduated, and had to get on with making a living. Writing went deep into the background of all the things that I was doing, but never worked on.

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How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I wrote a book in 2009 because I was working for a company that paid me so badly, I was desperate, that took nine months. I didn’t know any writers, so I made lots of mistakes that cost me a lot of time and effort; didn’t know any agents or editors, so I literally did everything myself including finding a local printer. That book is not for sale, but I still have copies. I may revisit the story again, but I find that reading it takes me back to the way I felt when I wrote that book, I don’t like feeling that way.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

“418: I am a Teapot” took five months to write. But once again, I had the same problem as 2009 in that I knew no writers, no publication agents, no editors. The process to find editors and people to help me promote the book took another fifteen months. I have met some excellent people and now have a better understanding of the profession of writing. I feel future novels will be faster, better designed, now that I understand what I must do and what I need not do.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write 418 I Am A Teapot?

I love technology, but my years of working in IT have taught me to see things without rose colored glasses. Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s good. As an IT manager I always had to ask of any new technology, “what am I getting and what is the cost of it?”

I had been thinking of the immersive internet for a while, full sensory immersion seems like an eventuality, but what would it look like and what would it mean? How would people interact with it and how would they work? Would they ever come offline? If they never came offline, how would they pay for their upkeep? There would need to be a social structure in place to allow them not to ever come offline, and so I present to you the world of 418.

Augmented intelligence or simply intelligence that could be loaded and unloaded to facilitate the performance of tasks seems to be a natural goal of AI. The problem is, if you are just the vessel that does the tasks but don’t know how to do those tasks, what would you be paid? You would have become a commodity in —what economists refer to as— a perfectly competitive market. In perfect competition, no-one makes any long-term profits, everyone makes just enough to stay alive and come back to work tomorrow; work or die.

In 418: I am a Teapot, the staff class is effectively unpaid. Unpaid labor? I sarcastically ask, what could be better for business? Especially if that labor was programmable. It would alter the overall macro-economic production function of the economy; technology would stall itself as costs were cut by using labor-based solutions not technology-based solutions. The knock-on effects of a collapsing working class would start to pull others into the new staff class.

I felt I had to say something.

What were your biggest challenges with writing 418 I Am A Teapot?

My biggest challenge was dealing with my own insecurities about my own talent. In the both the literary and genre fiction worlds, there are many books. It is easy to become overwhelmed with doubt because you might think you are not as good as this person or don’t describe things a nicely as that author. So, my real problem was common, comparing myself to others. I found freedom in simply worrying about writing a good book.

418 I Am Teapot by Edgar Scott

I’d like to point out that if you compare yourself to others, you will always find someone who is better than you in some aspect; that creates a negative inner monolog which will damage your writing.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

The protagonist is a composite person. He is supposed to be an archetype of a large section of society who work in order to return to work tomorrow. Sadly, many of us use food, drugs (prescription or street), alcohol and entertainment to distract ourselves from the pain we feel for the work that does not satisfy us. 418 —or George as he refers to himself— is anyone who has found themselves in an exploitive system that they may have been unaware of, may not know how to get out of or simply find their lives burning away with little to no meaning or purpose.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The antagonist, Brian is paralyzed by fear. He sees the societal system, and he lives off it, but he doesn’t know how to better himself and fears taking any action; lest he should slip down the social ladder. Because he takes no real action to improve, he begins to see his worst fears materializing; he is then motivated to act, and that starts by helping the protagonist.

What I find amusing and interesting about Brian is that he projects his desired self-image of being a powerful, King-like figure. But, since he takes no action, he is not. Even when asks people to call him King, they do not, with the sole exclusion of 418.

What is the inciting incident of 418 I Am A Teapot?

The superficial incident, because we know it will never happen, is a self-driving car accident. But that’s the physical incident. The more meaningful incitement is that 418 is little more than an account online, which can be erased, and he was. 418 is forced to realize that nothing that he has ever done, cherished, or held to be real, has any meaning.

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What is the main conflict of 418 I Am A Teapot?

This is a story of re-humanization. I have presented a system where people are dehumanized, turned into staff so we don’t know who they are. The main conflict of this book is how to break out of this systemic trap that dehumanizes the poor, the innocent, the violent and the foolish to drive the economy. 418 and Brian must rehumanize themselves to become free.

Did you plot 418 I Am A Teapot in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I kept a spreadsheet to keep track of all the things in the novel. Characters, places, serial numbers, locations, addresses. For the plot, I have a spreadsheet page where I would list the chapter, the purpose of it and any notes about it. Many of these summaries were written before I started any work on the novel. However, some could only be completed as the story evolved. If there was something missing, and I’d revisit the outline and adjust, insert, or delete. At no point did I ever write any chapter without first planning what I was going to write first.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did 418 I Am A Teapot need?

I found and paid editors. There are now marketplaces where one can go and look for them. In all, I’ve used five different editors, some of which were helpful and some of which —while I still had to pay them— I’ve ignored almost entirely.

I also must thank my friends, many of which have no connection to the literary world for beta reading the novel.

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What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

If you are inspired, the most important thing to do is to write it. Don’t stop, do it. Do not be afraid to write prose that you know you are going to throw away —I call it scaffolding writing— because you can’t build a cathedral without some scaffolding. Get the idea down, even if you don’t really understand it. If your pen is hot or your keyboard is burning, get going!

Finally, remember that it won’t be perfect the first pass through, this is what editing is for. Edit ruthlessly! But remember, you can’t edit out something you didn’t put it, so just write!

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’d like to write a murder mystery. The mystery is, will the reader be cheering for the murder?

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am proud of my product. I wrote it to be a good story that contributed some ideas and I think it does.

Was it worth the effort? I can’t answer that, maybe in a few years’ time I can.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

My website and blog are at: edgarscottwrites.com

Instagram: @edgarscottwrites

Twitter: Escott_Writes

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/418-Am-Teapot-Edgar-Scott/dp/0981819710/ Please note, resellers will buy a copy from me and mark it up to sell to you, buy a new copy for $12.99, it will be cheaper and faster. Or buy the e-book for $4.18. This book is also available on most other major book seller sites like Barnes and Noble, Google, Kobo, pretty much anywhere.

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