Interview with Scott Kaelen

What are some of the challenges of your work?
The human life is so short that a day can’t go by when we don’t learn something new. Even seventy good years of living only amount to six hundred thousand hours. And so when you want to craft a story – any story – there is always research to be done, there’s always characterisation to be pondered over. Even the darkest and dirtiest story needs a literary shine, and to achieve that you need to do two things. The first is to learn how to write, not just to vomit words onto a manuscript and consider it a piece of art when it’s really a steaming mess. The second is to delve right into the heart of your story, be it a piece of flash fiction or the world setting of an epic fantasy series. Time is short, and mastering an art not only takes a lot of time, but it’s also something that very few writers can lay claim to achieving. Me, I’ve barely bested the foot-hills of the moutain, so far.

For the Verragos Tapestry, and the ongoing creation of world and story, it’s been a huge exploration of self and an incredible journey into languages and etymology, geography and geology, human society through the ages, cosmology, and a whole host of other interesting areas of research.

My short story When Gods Awaken is less than 5000 words long, but there’s a lot to be found in those words, between the humour. I researched physics, the Big Bang and other astronomical phenomena, the book of Genesis and the creation myth, Earth history from the time when neanderthals and gigantopithecus were still around, and much more. But people don’t see all that on a conscious level when they read it, though hopefully it shows on a subconscious level, or a further read-through, and adds to the overall experience.
What compelled you to write your first book?
2011 was the year I realised I wanted to be a writer. It was a long-overdue realisation, after having been an avid reader of fantasy, science fiction and horror novels from the age of seven until the age of thirty … (mumble) … until today. At the time, I was studying Tolkien’s Arda, which is to Middle Earth what Earth is to Europe; people don’t realise how much richly-detailed lore they’re missing out on when they only know about The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

I remember thinking to myself, “I love this. This is world-building at its finest. I want to do that.” So I began. And boy did I not realise how steep a learning curve it would be to become not just a writer, but a good writer. So while I’d received my catalyst to write, those first attempts at creating stories were appalling, because I hadn’t learned how to polish and tighten my prose. I know when a story is polished enough to be shared with the world, and my time for sharing came in 2014 when I began releasing my short stories and poems between September and January.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m simultaneously juggling with my current work-in-progress, which will be the first novel-length story of my Verragos Tapestry series; updating the Encyclopedia Verragos and adding all its spoiler-free content to my brand new author website; putting the final touches to the German-language edition of my short story, Bleak ‘93; and also thinking ahead to future planned instalments of the Verragos Tapestry and other projects, both fiction and non-fiction.

The novel I’m working on now is called The Blighted City, and is currently half-finished. I’m really excited about this one since it will be my first published novel.
If you could live in one of your books, which one would you live in?
I don’t have to think about this at all. I’d live on Verragos, the world of my epic fantasy series, the Verragos Tapestry. Verragos is undoubtedly the most richly detailed setting I’ve created, and the best part is that I know some of its juiciest and darkest secrets, which the reader won’t be privy to until future instalments (unless they pick up some of the subtle breadcrumbs I’ll be dropping throughout, not only in the Verragos Tapestry entries, but also in some of my other releases.) To quote my website: The world of Verragos is rich and colourful, dark and bleak. From the lush and verdant Palominos Pastures to the magnificent Bleeding Falls. From the snowscapes of Thylea to the treacherous Stone Jungles at the farthest reaches of the world. There are places on Verragos to please the fairest of souls, and the cruelest of hearts.

That being said, I would also love to visit the Earth of 200,000 years ago to witness Cosmos descend from the stormy skies, and listen to his hilarious conversations with his First Man. Many of the worlds of my short stories I would not like to visit, as they are often bleak, dystopic, rotting horror-filled nightmares, either literally or psychologically. Even the story When Gods Awaken would be my idea of hell, which is precisely why I decided to parody the creation myth in the first place.
Where you have lived and what you have experienced can influence your writing in many ways. Are there any specific locations or experiences that have popped up in your books?
Absolutely. There’s always at least a grain of my own personal experiences in each of my stories.

Bleak ‘93 is set in what was a polarising year for me personally – at once both devastating and fantastically unforgettable. As for the story’s characters and setting, throughout my life I have witnessed too many people to whom the parents in Bleak ‘93 are far too reminiscent.

The short story Falling, featured in From Grains To Galaxies, is based on a dream I had when I was four or five years old. At least, my adult brain tells me it was a dream now. Perhaps it wasn’t!

Island in the Sands is also loosely based on a dream I had, this one being when I was about seven or eight years old.

Moses Garrett and Angerland are strongly based (in foundation) on the town in England I used to live in until several years ago, and a particular moment in a specific alleyway. The character of Moses is also loosely based on certain elements of myself.

Not many of the characters in my stories are moulded from people I’ve known, but many of their characteristics are of course based on people whose lives have brushed past my own, or affected me in some other way, be it for good or bad.
Published 2015-02-26.
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