Interview with Stephen Schrum

Published 2013-08-26.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
As a child, I didn't have a lot of friends, so I spent a great deal of time reading. When I was too young to go to the adult area of the local community library, I tried hard to find interesting things to read in the children's wing. Two things that intrigued me were books of home science experiments, and books of mythology. I started reading the earliest stories of humankind a bit early, and I think those stories, along with a later study of Joseph Campbell, explains why there's a lot of myth and allegory in my writing.

In high school, I tried writing fiction, and also wrote out play versions of science fiction stories. The latter were never performed, but it did hard wire me for later playwrighting--seeing how those stories were structured, and how that might be performed.

Right after high school, when I didn't understand financial aid, and was stuck not going off to college for filmmaking, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I did this by writing a horrible novel. It was basically what really happened to me during the final weeks of high school, before and right after graduation. Write what you know? I didn't know much then, confined to that small town. Eventually, college got me out of that area and into the wider world.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I bought those Writer's Market books, and looked through them to see what publisher or magazine might publish my work. Ah, those rejection slips! It was clear that, if I wanted to be published, it had to be a full-time job. But being a college professor is my full-time job.

I heard a story on NPR that mentioned smashwords, and checked it out. Major publishers are nice, but apparently not for me, at least not yet. So why not dip a toe in the water of the modern world, and try an ebook?
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think many authors write because they have something to say. Writing is not necessarily a fun thing. Getting it to sound as brilliant as it sounded in your head in the shower can be incredibly difficult. So the process is not very joyful. But to hear a positive reaction from someone, who read it and "got" it, can be extremely joyful.
Who are your favorite authors?
For years, my favorite author was Thomas Pynchon. I loved the complexity of V and Gravity's Rainbow. But more recently I have become enamored of Neal Stephenson's writing. Not only the worlds he creates but the incredible details of the worlds and the way he tells the stories fascinate me. I don't think I could ever write like that, but it gives me a lofty goal to aspire to.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A few years ago, I had a retinal detachment. The sight in my left eye, except for some peripheral vision loss, was saved. But as I sat, or lay around recovering, I wondered what might change. Did I have to spend the rest of my life as if walking on eggs, waiting for the next dire event to happen? That was the only time I have felt despair, wondering about the future. Eventually, I thought, well, you know, I am who I am, and this is what I do, and how could I do anything different. And far from slowing me down, the event showed me that my time might be limited and I have to accomplish everything I can in the time allotted--that will be my legacy.

Or, to answer this question bluntly: what else would I do?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
During the school year, I spend time working, prepping for classes, watching TV/movies or playing a computer game (Guild Wars 2 is the latest fascination) for relaxation, or reading. Perhaps I get to jot a note or two now and then to spark some writing later. I don't teach in the summer, though (I am one of those academics who does truly have his summers off), and use it for research, and of course, for writing and creative projects.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I am not sure if it was the first story I ever wrote, but in high school I talked my teacher into allowing me to write a short story for an independent study project. (We were all required to do "IS projects" every semester.) The story dealt with a crew of astronauts who ventured into space, had some horrible calamity occur to them (sorry, don't recall what), but managed to return safely. They discovered they were safe when they came around the sun and saw Earth in the distance. I think I've always been interested in happier endings.
What do you read for pleasure?
I like books that deal with the history of the theatre, to discover new facts and facets of the art that I have been working in for over three decades. For sheer enjoyment, I prefer science fiction and fantasy, or what Neal Stephenson calls speculative fiction, of SF. I have begun the odyssey of Raymond Feist's works most recently.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an iPad. When I first saw a Kindle, my response was, "Is that it?" It seemed so small. Likewise for the Nook. My iPad is excellent for traveling, and with a bluetooth keyboard serves as a small laptop. And then I get to detach the keyboard and flip the pages of a good book.
Describe your desk
My desk is an L-shaped workstation, with another table at the other side. So it's a Big U. My wife says I fill every horizontal space I can--and I do. Others might describe my workspace as cluttered, but I have things in specific piles, so I can easily find them. There is a method to my clutter!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I like the fact that all of my books are in a single location, and are accessible by anyone. I had a monologue from my play Dog Assassin published in an anthology of monologues, and actors would email me to ask for the whole play, or they would read a synopsis of one of my one-acts that I had posted on the web. Now I needn't send search for the file and send it by email; I can just say, "Hey, it's on smashwords!" It's much more convenient.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on another book of poems that I have generated the past two years. My longer-running project is a graphic novel. I have found some collaborators to help me shape it, and will be talking more about that as things evolve.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Latest books by This Author

3 Succubi
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 4,360. Language: English. Published: December 18, 2017. Categories: Plays » American / African American
A trio of monologues that present the stories of three men who had been through some sort of abduction experience, but not always an abduction by aliens. We read of a Shaman who encountered a Water Spirit, an Internet Surfer with a Cyberlover, and an Average Man with (well, there had to be some in there somewhere!) a host of Grey Aliens. Each man discusses his experience and its result.
Price: Free! Words: 780. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Graphic novels & comics » Horror
(5.00 from 1 review)
In a small town, a coma patient is believed to be a conduit to the afterlife. When someone makes a wish, it comes true. People start lining up to make their wishes—until Hell begins to pave its way to the town with a portal and an occupying demon force. Who can stop them? Martin Lightborn, demon hunter, who left the priesthood after he was ordained, but never left the service of God.
Watchers of the Dawn (A Steampunk Adventure)
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 81,480. Language: English. Published: January 1, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk
(5.00 from 1 review)
While searching for the First Vampyre, whose minions destroyed her hometown, Aemelja Umber encounters Stephano Alchimi, an immortal alchemist. She joins him and his order, the Vigilum Aurorae (the Watchers of the Dawn), who seek to end the source of ultimate evil in the world. WOTD is also an allegory: of corporate America, the promises/pitfalls of science and technology, and consumer culture.
Unchanging Chameleon
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 5,660. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2014. Categories: Poetry » Themes & motifs » General
Come stand in the center of the spark tornado, and enjoy this collection of poems and songs by performance poet Stephen A. Schrum.
Buttcracks and Willful Ignorance
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 23,910. Language: English. Published: June 29, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
(5.00 from 1 review)
In answer to your question, “What’s with the title??” it comes from Schrum’s answer to the Bernard Pivot Personality Profile question, "What turns you off?" ("Buttcracks and willful ignorance!”) The volume contains a representative sampling of Schrum’s fiction and nonfiction writing from 1977 to (almost) the present.
Dog Assassin: The Musical
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 16,790. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2013. Categories: Plays » American / African American
A young grocery bagger makes extra cash on the side—but when he meets a young woman, his world turns upside down. A tale of spiritual redemption and love.
Dog Assassin
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,770. Language: English. Published: May 9, 2013. Categories: Plays » American / African American
A young grocery bagger makes extra cash on the side—but when he meets a young woman, his world turns upside down. A tale of spiritual redemption and love.
The Future's Passed
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,220. Language: English. Published: May 5, 2013. Categories: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
(5.00 from 1 review)
A collection of poems by Phorkyad Acropolis, the performance poet avatar of Stephen A. Schrum.
The Silent Oracle
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,360. Language: English. Published: May 3, 2013. Categories: Poetry » American poetry » Native American
A collection of poems by Phorkyad Acropolis, the performance poet avatar of Stephen A. Schrum.
Two Plays About Aliens
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,370. Language: English. Published: April 23, 2013. Categories: Plays » American / African American
This book contains "Aliens! 3 Miles, Turn Left," a monologue by a man who, one night, found aliens in his backyard, and "Abducted!" a one-act play about the investigation into the disappearance of two children, whose mother claims they were adbucted by an alien spacecraft.
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