Please welcome Ken to the blog.
M: Welcome Ken! I must say it is a great honor to have you by today. I’ve been a fan of your series since Lamentation released and it was a highlighted read over at Barnes & Nobles forums. Wow, I’m so glad I found it.
Congrats on your new release through Tor – Requiem.
KS: I’m glad you found it, too! And all of you over at the Barnes & Noble forum have been wonderful. I’ve really appreciated the support and am glad you’re enjoying the series. Thanks for having me over for an interview.
M: I’m mesmerized by the whole Li Tam family. They really have a strong hold in this world, in every corner possible. The creation of Vlad Li Tam and the Li Tam family. I hadn’t seen the network early on, but each book brings him more to the highlight. The Li Tam have all been molded, to a predictable action by each parent before them, and each parent back. How much planning has gone into the family and story?
KS: The discovery of House Li Tam has been a fun part of the project. Truth be told, there hasn’t been a lot of planning in general with any part of the Psalms of Isaak. I tend to discovery my characters and their problems and their world as I write the story, finding myself surprised along the way. Hopefully, the things that surprise me along the way also surprise my readers. Vlad’s storyline in the series has been particularly powerful, watching him brought down and then watching him unleash his wrath. When I started with the short story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise,” I had no clue of the importance of House Li Tam. And as the story unfolded, I was pleasantly surprised to learn their role as the secret crafters of history and their cult-like service to their father.
KS: Thank you…I’m glad it’s working. I’m told this is really complex. I’ve had fans ask me about the white boards and sticky notes that must surely line the walls of the Den of Ken as I connect up all the complexities of the series. But there aren’t any white boards or sticky notes. And from inside of it, it doesn’t feel very complex to me. Maybe in hindsight, when I’m finished with the series, I’ll be able to see how complicated and complex it all was. For now, I find myself in the “head” of whichever character I’m writing, working with what they don’t know and with what they do know, and moving them further down the line in solving the problems they face.
M: Do you find it easier to write the characters when closer together in the world, or further apart learning new pieces of information?
KS: Writing the new parts of the world is the challenging part for me. We noticed when I was drafting Requiem that in the new locations I’d not written before, I was distancing myself from the setting. So I paused, went back over the first five chapters and did some re-drafting with that in mind. I think separating the characters – Isaak from Charles, Neb from Winters, Jin Li Tam from Rudolfo – I get to show more of the world and use the separation as a part of the tension in the story. But on the other hand, I can get more mileage out of my scenes when I have multiple characters working in close proximity to one another. Some of the scenes that feel the most rich for me are the ones where my characters in close proximity move in and out of one another’s scenes, allowing us more perspectives on what is happening in the story. Sethbert’s trial in Lamentation and Petronus’s trail in Canticle both come to mind as good examples of that.
M: Do you write the individual characters straight through the book, or a large section, then switch to another character – fitting the pieces together afterward? Or do you write by time frame with the scenes that correspond with each character?
KS: I write it as it’s laid out in the published version for the most part. It goes through two revision processes, of course, but over the first four books, the only major revisions, post-draft, have been adding two chapters to Lamentation and one scene to Canticle.
When I sit down to write, I decide which characters will be in the chapter (I lay that all out in an Excel spreadsheet and make adjustments as the story unfolds.) Then, I pick a character to start with and I write their scene – usually between 1,200 and 2,000 words to keep the scenes short and the book moving forward. Once I have three POVs, I have a chapter. I started with this structure in the beginning of the series so it’s made sense to stay with it. But with future series, I may experiment with other structures and processes.
M: Now, we can’t talk about this series without talking about the metal men. They are a crucial part of this world creation.
KS: That’s true. Isaak kind of started this whole thing for me.
KS: Well, it goes back to the short story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise.” I had written the story in response to a call for tales featuring a mechanical oddity. I was feeling experimental and wrote a story about a Gypsy King and his scouts responding to a distress call only to find a desolated city and a weeping robot. I really thought little about it – none of the other characters were really fleshed out and the world had just enough detail in it to carry the 6,000 word story. I threw a bunch of stuff into the mix never imagining that someday I might be on the hook for explaining some of it.
Once I decided to tackle the expansion of the story into a series of novels, the story started to grow and other projects I’d been considering – like the yet unwritten The Ship that Sailed the Moon, Being the 100th Tale of Felip Carnelyin – were folded into the backstory and front story of the Psalms of Isaak. And I was blending in more than just science fiction and fantasy, there were elements of mystery and technothriller showing up and even some bits inspired by our own mythology and folklore.
M: The mechoservitors, metal men, seem to carry their own secrets. Almost like they have a conscience of their own… or maybe a master of their own they were to answer too?
KS: Well, they certainly have had some secrets. But I’ll never tell.
M: Bummer. Well, can't blame a fan for trying. ;)
M: Okay, time for some fun questions.
One question I ask all my visitors…If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
KS: The village of Scholes, near Leeds, in Yorkshire, England, to eat and drink for a week at the Barleycorn Pub and meet the residents of the town my family left in 1882.
M: Tea or Coffee?
KS: Hot coffee with French vanilla creamer by morning. Iced tea from time to time.
M: Favorite Color?
M: Favorite Childhood Fictional Creature?
KS: A tie between Batman and Winnie the Pooh.
M: Now as an adult, what’s your Favorite Fictional Creature?
KS: Still a tie between Batman and Winnie the Pooh. Wait. Threeway tie with George Bailey thrown into the mix.
M: Favorite word? (any word at all)
KS: Fucky. Used in a sentence: “I can’t get my kite in the air because the wind’s being all fucky.”
M: Thank you Ken for the wonderful interview, and some great information! I'll be looking forward to those short stories in the future. :) Here's wishing you all the best in words and pages.
Ken Scholes grew up in a trailer in the shadow of Mount Rainier just outside a small logging town in rural Washington. He fell in love with Story at a young age and consumed voracious amounts of it through television, movies, books and games. His major influences include Batman, Ray Bradbury, Star Wars, Speed Racer and TSR Role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Boot Hill, Gamma World and Top Secret. Ken has always read widely though science fiction and fantasy is the genre he calls home.
Ken started writing and submitting his own stories in high school before taking a long stretch of time to do other things. His eclectic background includes service in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, a degree in History from Western Washington University and time logged as a preacher, a musician, a non-profit community and economic development director, a public procurement analyst and a label gun repairman. One of Ken’s more interesting journeys is his transition from being a faith-based Baptist minister to a reason-based humanist and author.
Ken’s first story appeared in Talebones magazine in 2000. Since then, he’s gone on to publish over thirty short stories, three novels and two collections. In 2005, he won the Writers of the Future award and in 2007, Tor offered Ken a five book contract for his series, The Psalms of Isaak.
The first novel, Lamentation, won the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy. Lamentation went on to later win France’s Prix Imaginales award in 2010. To date, the series continues to pick up fans and critical acclaim internationally, published in France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Spain in addition to the US.
Ken is a frequent panelist, presenter and teacher at various conventions and workshops. He especially enjoys working with new writers. Ken is also a musician. He taught himself to play guitar as a teenager and learned how to perform on the streets of Stuttgart when he was a young soldier stationed overseas. Having written over sixty songs, Ken plays a wide range of music to diverse audiences, mixing familiar covers with his own original tunes. He lives in Saint Helens, Oregon, with his wife, Jen West Scholes, and his twin daughters Elizabeth and Rachel. Visit him on the web at www.kenscholes.com.
Site: Ken Scholes
Facebook: Ken Scholes
Twitter: @kenscholes (but you are better to look on Facebook first)
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