Today I am sitting down with historical fiction and historical fantasy author Scott Oden for an interview. I will be asking him the important and hard hitting questions. Well you know me, they are questions at any rate.
1) Memnon was just re-released under a new publisher. What is different from the previous version?
Text-wise, there’s only a slight bit of difference – mainly to correct my criminal misuse of semi-colons. Otherwise, it’s simply a new cover and a newly formatted interior … and a chance to connect with a new generation of readers.
Memnon, you see, is a twelve year old book. It was my second novel, released in the summer of 2006 by a small publisher called Medallion Press. But, it debuted at a time when my previous editor left the company and my new editor didn’t have the same passion for it. Books like that are known as “orphans”, and the result is pretty typical: without a strong partisan, orphans tend to get left by the way-side. For Memnon that meant very few reviews, poor distribution, and no chance to reach the readership it deserved. This new release from Crossroad Press is my chance to rectify that.
2) Will Memnon be available as a physical book or audiobook? If so do you know when?
Right now, there are no plans beyond an e-book release. I’d love to see it in audio. That’s a medium I’ve had no luck getting translated into, so far.
3) If you could be any character from any book you have ever read who would you be? And Why?
Conan of Cimmeria, from the imagination of Robert E. Howard. It’s totally a mad teenage power fantasy that’s followed me deep into adulthood, but to be a footloose adventurer who lives by my wits and my sword? The wild barbarian in me lives for it – but luckily, the stodgy suburban armchair antiquarian in me is firmly in control.
4) Have you ever had a side character try to steal the show? Would you like to go back and make a spin off series or something for them? Or is there a theme or idea you’d love to be able to explore in more depth?
I’ve always wanted to further explore the lives and times of Alexander the Great’s three main adversaries: Memnon of Rhodes (who is the subject of my second novel from 2006, Memnon, which was recently re-released by Crossroad Press), Darius III of Persia, and Spitamenes, who led the Afghan campaign against Alexander (until his own wife betrayed him and sent his head to the young Macedonian).
I’m fascinated by the enemies of Alexander – especially those who knew him and still did not fall under his spell. As a novelist, I see untapped potential in all their stories.
5) If you could read any book again for the first-time, what book would it be?
The Lord of the Rings. Or the Conan short stories.
6) A 35-foot ladder is leaning against the side of a building and is positioned such that the base of the ladder is 21 feet from the base of the building. How far above the ground is the point where the ladder touches the building?
Purple, because of the aliens. I actually suffer from dyscalulia, so most math or numerical concepts are jibberish to me. My Dad did, however, teach me how to do basic economic math, such as counting back change.
7) How many books have you written, how many have you tried to publish, and how many are in print?
I’ve written five: Men of Bronze (2005), Memnon (2006), The Lion of Cairo (2010), A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus (2017; I was one of six writers on this collaborative novel), and A Gathering of Ravens (2017). I’m putting the finishing touches on my sixth, Twilight of the Gods (due 2018), and prepping for my seventh. I am lucky in that every novel I’ve ever endeavored to write has sold. No trunk novels, here. To date, all my novels are still in print, either physical or digital.
8) Have you found any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
I’ve been known to lose track of time and location while plotting or writing in my head. Suddenly, I look up and find myself across town or in a room in my house for no discernible reason. I also tend to mutter to myself as I piece together dialogue.
9) Would you rather do battle with one horse size chicken or 100 chicken sized horses?
A horse-sized chicken. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt 100 chicken-sized horses. That’d be, like, the cutest herd ever.
10) How many people have you killed over the course of your career? Real people first, then fictional.
No real people, at least as far as anyone can prove. But where fictional people are concerned, I’ve killed more of them than the plague. I mean, I write set piece, epic-scale battles in most of my books. Thousands of fighters to a side . . . yeah, Book Hades is filled with the victims of my characters’ bloodthirsty rampages.
Bonus answer to the unasked follow-up (“What is your favorite character death?”): I won’t go into specifics because of spoilers, but The Lion of Cairo has some of my favorite character deaths. I got a little bloody-minded in that one.
11) What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Did it end up helping? Or did we just count that person in question 10?
Tough criticism isn’t always a bad thing. The worst savaging I ever received was at the hands of my older half-brother, who was a newspaper editor. He took my first story apart like a butcher jointing a lamb. Blue editorial marks galore! But, it was also one of those Campbellian moments, a call to adventure. I was only fourteen at the time, so I could have put writing aside. Given up. Indeed, that would have been the path of least resistance. Somehow, from somewhere, I found the will to keep at it, to work on improving the problems at the heart of those blue squiggles. I sat down with stories I admired and took them apart, emulating word choices, pacing, even plots in my own stories. And I sent these embryonic tales out, garnering an impressive array of form rejections. This self-apprenticeship lasted nineteen years. In late 2000, I sat down in my squalid little apartment, a newly divorced mid-thirty year old, depressed and suicidal, and told myself I would write a novel or I would die. Those were my choices. So, I wrote. I wrote about a Conan-clone, who morphed into a Phoenician mercenary – first in pre-Islamic South Arabia, then 6th century BC Babylon, and finally 26th dynasty Egypt. Two years later, I’d finished my first novel, Men of Bronze. It took another year to find an agent, and sold to a small publisher soon after.
12) What has been the best compliment?
I was told not too long ago that, from among the great host of living authors, I was one of the few capable of emulating the style and tone of Robert E. Howard. As he’s one of my all-time favorite authors, I took this as a great compliment.
13) Do you have any advice to give a new writer?
Don’t quit. Finish what you start. Read every day.
14) What was the last book you read? Was it any good?
I just finished The Black Widow by Daniel Silva. It’s part of the Gabriel Allon series, and was as excellent as ever. Silva is my author-of-choice for good spy novels.
15) What one question do you think I should have asked you, but didn’t?
“Is it true you self-published one of the deadliest roleplaying games on the early RPG market?” Yes, that is true. It was the rare character, favored by the dice gods, who survived melee. Thankfully, character creation took about three minutes . . .
16) Do you have any questions for me?
What’s the best hobgoblin-related fiction on the market today?
The poor hobgoblins and goblins are rarely portrayed in a good light but there are a few good books. I would like to thank you though for having a goblin cousin, an Orc as a main character in A Gathering of Ravens. Although I’m not sure how good of a light Grimnir casts but he is one hell of a good character.
Thanks for being here Scott and Thank you for the copy of Memnon. I can’t wait to start reading it.
For more information about Scott Oden or to pick up a copy of his new book Memnon click the links below.