On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, Mark Scott describes the story of his new book, Drunk Log, and his creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Mark Scott about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the work that went into his new book, Drunk Log.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Loaded question. I used to know, or thought I used to know. Lemme think on this one.
Ok – I’ve thought on this and decided that, at the moment, I’m a guy who is a banker by day and a writer by night. I’m also a father and significant other to some wonderful children and a wonderful lady, respectively.
Beyond that, I’m waiting to see what the future holds and what I can make of it. I’m thinking I’ve got at least another forty years for that, so I plan to keep things interesting in the meantime.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
This is easier than the last question! I remember wanting to write a book as early as age 13. I was reading things like Brave New World, 1984, and the Lord of the Rings series. I found it all very inspiring, and frightening. All those books affect my attitudes and point of view to this day. I wanted to write a book, but didn’t know what to do with that desire.
Finally, around age 15, my buddy Andy and I tried writing a book called “They Were Too Young.” The book was derivative (read: rip off) of Lord of the Flies. I think we completed less than twenty pages before other 15-year-old boy things took precedence.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When I was eight. There was a class assignment to create a journal. My class made them out of folded-over sheets of paper with staples as binding and a construction paper as the cover. I couldn’t stop writing in it. I remember stopping to write in it on my way home. Mostly ridiculous crap about how I didn’t like this person but I liked that one. I was eight, after all. But, I entered a writing competition and did well. After that it was off to the races.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Well, my first and second completed books have not been published, although my publisher has now purchased the rights to my first one, named King of Peru. I self-published my third book, Burning Buildings. But if we’re focused on the first book I ever completed, King of Peru, the time frame from idea to release will translate into…29 years?
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Much shorter than King of Peru! I started writing Drunk Log in 2018, completed it in 2020, and signed a publishing contract in early summer 2021. It was published seven months later, in March of this year. So, first word to publication was about three years. From now on, I expect the cycle to speed up!
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Drunk Log?
Burning Buildings failed to find a publisher. After twenty-plus rejections, my agent told me it was time to write another book. Earlier in the year I’d been on a hike with an astrophysicist friend who told me a story about how she went out drinking one night and, like a scientist might, kept a log of everything she felt and thought about with every successive drink. I loved the idea and she told me I could have it, gratis. That was the beginning.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Drunk Log?
Time. Time. Time. I have a demanding day job, family, friends. I have my own drinking to do. Sometimes it’s hard to partition time to write, which requires me to shut out the world.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I asked a writer friend of mine what he thought about the idea of Drunk Log, and he loved it. However, he felt it needed a framework for why one might keep such a log, other than rampant alcoholism. That’s when I created Jack and gave him a reason to keep the log.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
I don’t think I’ve got a straight-up antagonist. More like a revolving set of antagonists, beginning with those who annoy Jack whenever he is trying to write in his log. I suppose Jack could also be the antagonist, given he intends to do harm to himself. But maybe I’m stretching
What is the inciting incident of Drunk Log?
My friend telling me about how she created her own Drunk Log. It immediately struck me as a great book idea. I knew it would be the next book I’d write.
What is the main conflict of Drunk Log?
Jack’s internal conflict with himself. He’s overwhelmed with guilt about the death of his nephew. In his mind, the only way to escape that guilt is through his own self-destruction. And not the slow kind of self-destruction, like with drugs or alcohol or bad hygiene. He’s going to be quick about it.
Did you plot Drunk Log in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
So far, I’ve never started writing a book until I know the beginning and the end. I do some light structuring for everything that happens between those two moments, but only to make sure the characters get to where I planned them to be. Otherwise, everything in the middle tends to happen organically. It gives me the chance to incorporate things on which I hadn’t planned, ideas that might not have occurred to me if I mapped out the story first. Doesn’t always work!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Drunk Log need?
Answer for the first part: God, yes. Answer to the second part: Not as much as I thought. I have a very good editor named David Tabatsky, and a group of writers who are, at times, perhaps too anxious to tell me how I can improve. I take their edits in equal measure, but have learned to trust my instincts. However, if I hear the same critique more than once, I definitely listen.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Get a team of beta readers, even if they’re not writers. Maybe even better if they’re not writers. I hate to admit it, but when I wrote my first novel I knew, I really knew, that every word was a gift from Heaven. I knew it was perfect. It was so stupid. My writing is better now because people I trust help me be better.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Yikes! Aren’t all writers afraid of others stealing their ideas? Or is it just me? Suffice to say, then, yes. I have half a book I set aside when I signed the contract for the Drunk Log series, which took precedence. And I have an incredibly amazing, super-duper, ultra-fantastic idea for another three-book series. Give me two years to finish all four of them.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
What a wonderful question. I’m (surprisingly) happy with Drunk Log. It turned out in an unexpected way. I fell in love with Jack and Aria and hope others have. And, yes, worth every ounce of effort. Every damn moment of doubt and struggle. Every damn moment.
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FB Mark E. Scott, Author
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