10 Questions with Ken Scholes

Interviews with Contest judges, past winners, current winners, and entrants
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Brad R. Torgersen
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10 Questions with Ken Scholes

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:49 pm

"... After a long break away from writing, Ken [Scholes]returned to it after logging time as a sailor, soldier, preacher, musician, label gun repairman, retail manager and nonprofit director. He sold his first story to Talebones Magazine in 2000 and won the Writers of the Future contest in 2004. His quirky, offbeat fiction continues to show up in various magazines and anthologies like Polyphony 6, Weird Tales and Clarkesworld Magazine.

In 2006, his short story "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise" appeared in the August issue of Realms of Fantasy. Later that year, inspired by Allen Douglas's uncanny painting of Isaak and taunted by his friends and family to finally write a novel, Ken extended that story and Lamentation was born. Lamentation is the first in a five book series from Tor Books called The Psalms of Isaak.

Ken lives near Portland, Oregon, with his amazing wonder-wife Jen West Scholes and invites readers to contact him through the website or through his blog. When he's not writing, Ken loses himself in Story elsewhere or sings Paul Simon songs to his immoveable cats.

Contrary to popular belief, he no longer lives in a trailer.

In July 2009, Ken and Jen welcomed their twin daughters: Elizabeth Kathleen and Rachel Ann Scholes."


Brad R. Torgersen wrote:1. How much writing did you put in, either in hours spent or words accumulated, before you won Writers of the Future?

Ken Scholes wrote:I think I'd written about 500,000 words. I started young -- around 14 -- gave it up for a while, then came back to it.

2. Do you feel like winning Writers of the Future boosted your visibility with editors elsewhere, after your story came out in the WOTF anthology?

Ken Scholes wrote:Actually, it started boosting my visibiliyt before the anthology even came out. I listed it in my cover letter for submissions and the pro-level sales starting hitting shortly after. And one of my judges, a few months before the workshop, was discussing my story at a convention party. One of the people who overheard was an editor with Del Rey, who asked me to submit a novel when I had one ready.

3. Do you feel like you learned anything unique or valuable at the WOTF workshop when you went?

Ken Scholes wrote:Absolutely. Tim and K.D. are brilliant instructors. A lot of what they talked about came back to me as I wrote my first novel. And the 24-hour story was a remarkable experience. Theres a ton of solid, practical information on both craft and business crammed into that short period of time.

4. What do you think is the biggest key to becoming a successful, professional writer after winning Writers of the Future?

Ken Scholes wrote:The only key really is doing the work. Writers have to keep writing, revising, submitting.

5. What do you think is hardest about transitioning from writing short work, like that which appears in WOTF, to long work, such as your novels?

Ken Scholes wrote:I think the hardest part for me was working up the courage to try it. I was really afraid of writing anything longer. I didn't think I could pull it off and I hated the idea of how much time it would take. I was used to the somewhat instant gratification of writing short stories, where you're in and out after a few days of work. Novels would take months. But once I was finally convinced, it ended up working out just fine.

6. What's been the biggest surprise for you, as a working novelist after your having won the Contest?

Ken Scholes wrote:The whole thing has surprised me quite a bit. I wrote my first novel just a year after winning the contest. I had a five book contract a year after that. And since then, the first three novels have come out to pretty solid critical acclaim. Right now, Lamentation (volume one of the Psalms of Isaak) is picking up a lot of nice praise in France and Germany right now. I had no idea back in 2005 that five years later, I'd be where I am.

7. Do you have a "five year plan" or anything mapped out for the future?

Ken Scholes wrote:I do. For now, it's finish the Psalms of Isaak, which should take me about a year. After, I'd like to think about my next project for a bit. I'm considering a more traditional fantasy trilogy or something that stands alone before returning to the world my series is set in. I've set this up so that there are stories before and after and during...all tales I hope to tell. I also have a trilogy in my short story "Invisible Empire of Ascending Light." Once I've established my foundation and can write full time, I'll branch out into other venues. I have interest in doing some mainstream writing along with screenplays and comic books. I've also just recently written a Dungeons and Dragons short story for Wizards of the Coast and I'm hoping that if that does well, I'll get an opportunity to do more there.

8. What do you think are the five biggest mistakes beginning writers make?

Ken Scholes wrote:Not writing, over-revising, not submitting, having unrealistic expectations, and not getting feedback on their work.

9. What five pieces of advice would you give to new entrants to the Contest, or those unable to get much more than an Honorable Mention after successive tries?

Ken Scholes wrote:The opposite of what I said in number 8. And an unsolicited sixth piece of advice: Study the contest - read the anthologies and the articles, prowl the internet for the workshop notes of past winners. It'll help.

10. Do you feel like the Contest has had other benefits, beyond simply providing you with exposure and prize money?

Ken Scholes wrote:Absolutely. The network of people I met through the contest -- both my co-winners and the judges and instructors -- have been invaluable to me as a writer. The workshop was also an amazing amount of helpful information and experience.

HUGE thanks to Ken for providing our latest 10 questions! Best of luck for 2011 Ken!!

Coming up: "Life Flight," in Analog magazine
Coming up: "The Chaplain's War," from Baen Books
Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell nominee.

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