Let’s give a big welcome to the fabulous Scott Wilbanks.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Well, let me see here, what do I say? If you take a scoop of ADD, stir it up into a bowl of OCD, give birth to it in Louisiana, raise it in Texas, boot it out the door to California, then marry it off to a frustratingly perfect kiwi (His name is Mike, by the way) and ship off it to New Zealand, you’ll come up with something that’s a pretty accurate reflection of me.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others? Do you remember the scene in Funny Girl where the stage manager asks Barbra Streisand if she can roller skate? I’m picturing myself giving the exact same eye-roll as I repeat the question. “Did I read much as a child…” I’d practically pitch a tent in the Sci Fi/Fantasy section of B Dalton Bookstore in the mall, and I wouldn’t leave until I had a stack in hand. In my heart, I’m every bit as much a reader today, but I’ve given over a lot of that time to writing, instead. As for genre, I would only read Sci Fi/Fantasy for years and years. They were my escape. Today, I’m a hodge podge reader. Who knows what will strike my fancy next. I certainly don’t.
Are you self-published or traditionally published? Traditionally
Which genre do you write in and why? Holy cow, not even my publishing house seems to be able to answer this question. My debut is a big-time genre hopper and has elements of women’s, mystery, thriller, fantasy, and LGBTQ. My sophomore effort is going to be Southern Gothic (is that even a thing?) with a dollop of magical realism. The bigger question seems to be “why” I write what I do. I wrote Lemoncholy from the outside in. I relied on visuals, the first being of a young woman who steps out her back door in contemporary San Francisco’s museum district and into a turn-of-the-century Kansas wheat field. I watch as the cup of tea in her hand slowly slips from the saucer to fall onto a pathway and break into three pieces.
I started there, and pieced together a book as it progressed from one visual to another, then went back in and developed my characters.
This time around, I’m doing it from the inside out, developing my characters, their flaws, misbeliefs, etc., then creating external events that expose those misbeliefs so that they can grow from them. I like this approach. It allows me to still make use of my off-the-wall imagination, but seems to create a stronger internal logic.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing? Hands down, it’s Tolkien. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy so many times I’ve lost count. That was the first time I could remember my brain synchronizing with the protagonist in a story. I was Frodo Baggins, and I lived in Middle Earth. It was I who was assigned the task of destroying the One Ring.
We don’t read books to escape, we read to become. Our brains crave that connection where we live inside the protagonist’s head. It took my several years of floundering about with drafts to figure that out, and I want to offer that to the next person.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing? Yes, absolutely. It’s my lens. My current work-in-progress is based in Lafayette, Louisiana, the city where I was born. And though my dad packed us up and we moved to Houston when I was in first grade, the impressions of bayous, dilapidated plantation-style homes choked out by oaks, gators, slow talk, etc. have stuck with me all my life.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it? I hate to put crummy words on the page. It has something to do with my obsessive streak. As a result, launching a scene can feel oddly traumatic for me, and I’ve been known to stare at a screen for an entire day before doing so. I used to sweat it out, let the tension build to the point that I couldn’t stand it any longer, and then would spray words all over the place. Now I tend to ask myself questions. What is the objective of this scene? What is the character feeling at this moment? I find that asking myself those pretty basic questions loosens me up.