SPFBO Interview with Scott Kaelen


One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition as an advisor for Fantasy Book Review’s judging team. I decided to offer a spot to the authors in our group and will post them throughout the year. To see all of our content regarding the competition, check out my SPFBO page!

Scott Kaelen

Scott Kaelen writes in the genres of fantasy, poetry, sci fi and horror. His latest published work is the novel The Blighted City. His current project is a second novel in the Fractured Tapestry series. Scott’s interests include etymology, psychology, prehistoric Earth, the Universe, cRPGs, and reading and watching sci-fi, fantasy and horror. His favourite shows are Stargate, Farscape, Star Trek and Red Dwarf.

Welcome to the Asylum! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice and tell me something about yourself!

Thanks, Timy. *pours a tumbler of whisky and cola and settles into an armchair* Let’s see. I’m quirky and a bit geeky, I have an apparently abysmal taste in music, but a good taste in TV shows. I’m a hermit and I hate crowds. I’m legally blind, which adds a whole extra depth of difficulty to being a writer, especially with marketing and social media. Um… I’m not very good at introducing myself. Save me with another question.

Say you can live in the fantasy house/lair of your dreams. What would it look like?

I’d settle for a small, simple house in the middle of a beautiful and expansive garden, something that requires very little upkeep but is still a pleasure to live in. But beneath the house and garden and surrounding it would be portals to various places, underground networks of caves and ancient tunnels, fantasy worlds I’d love to physically visit like Vanadiel from Final Fantasy XI Online, Brian Lumley’s Vampire World, various planets in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Robots series, Tad Williams’ Otherland, the world of Spira from Final Fantasy X, a few portals leading to various eras of prehistoric Earth, a Stargate leading to Stargate Command (so I could use theirs to travel to all others), and of course I’d want several portals leading to the world of my own creation, Verragos. But, yeah, my house would be quite boring because I don’t care about unnecessary possessions or creating extra housework.

What is your favorite fantasy creature and why?

The Chocobo! Because they’re cute, fun and friendly, and they dig for treasure and there’s always quirky music playing whenever you’re riding one.

Why did you decide to become an author and how did you end up choosing self-publishing?

I’d say that becoming a writer was a natural progression after being an avid reader since a young age, but really the decision was born out of a need to inject some direction into my life. I asked myself what I enjoyed the most, and the answer was reading and watching fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I’ve always had a passion for words, languages and etymology, so deciding to work towards becoming an author made the most sense. I only wish I’d reached the realisation years earlier, before the market became so congested. I looked into the possibility of traditional publishing, but the word count for the finished manuscript of The Blighted City was 167,000 and every agent and publishing house I checked were asking for word counts of epic fantasy between 80–100k, 120k as an absolute maximum in rare cases, so, to avoid years of auto-rejections, I decided to self-publish.

Which author would you say is your greatest influence as a writer?

Difficult to say. In the fantasy genre, my favourite author from a young age was David Gemmell. I also enjoy Tad Williams, Joe Abercrombie, Raymond E Feist and plenty more. Plus I’m inspired by the vast world-building of Tolkien, Weis & Hickman, and various other epic fantasy authors. Maybe some of those influences show in my writing, but that’s up to the reader to decide. With the horror genre, the main  influences for me are probably James Herbert and Brian Lumley.

If you could go back in time and offer any advice to a younger Scott prior to releasing The Blighted City what would it be?

Ha! Hindsight’s a beautiful thing, right? I’d tell him to just get on with it, to stop dithering over trying to perfect the opening chapters, to push on and complete a rough first draft. I’d probably also tell him that it’s okay to add any story and character elements rather than leave them out for the sake of trimming. For instance, one character in The Blighted City could have and probably should have played a more vital role, especially in a large battle sequence, and a couple of other characters were equally under-used. There’s a lot of advice I could give to the younger Scott, but I’m not sure if he’d be ready or willing to listen to it. At least the current me can benefit from it in future writing projects.

What SPFBO means to you? What do you hope to gain (fame and wealth aside)?

The contest has helped me to connect with other self-published fantasy authors and also some book bloggers, and I hope I can continue to meet new people with similar interests to myself. It’s been a pleasure to make new friends on social media, engage with them in writing and non-writing discussions, and show some support for their endeavours. Sure, it would be amazing to win SPFBO or at least make it to the semi-finals, but I think the greatest reward is in connecting with so many friendly and talented individuals. That being said, new fans, sales and reviews would all be very welcome bonuses.

What inspires you/your world?

The inspiration for the world of Verragos (in which The Blighted City and the short story Night Of The Taking are set) is probably a mixture of various authors. Trying to avoid spoilers, I will say that authors such as Raymond E Feist, Tad Williams, Michael Moorcock, Brian Lumley, and perhaps also Stephen King, have inspired me with their particular styles of world-craft.The two stories so far in the Fractured Tapestry series are quite self-contained, only hinting at more of the world through brief mentions, but the next entry will open the world up considerably more and weave the threads of Night Of The Taking and The Blighted City closer together. I spent a full year creating elements of Verragos before writing Night Of The Taking, and I’ve created much more since, most of which is yet to be featured in a story.

Which character of your book do you identify with the most and why? Who would you like to live with in an asylum?

I guess the character that reflects me the most from The Blighted City would be Oriken, but in some ways he’s also nothing like me. On the one hand, he and I share a similar outlook on life and similar beliefs, but on the other hand he’s tall while I’m a bit of a short-arse. The character of Maros – the half-human, half-jotunn tavernaster and leader of Alder’s Folly Freeblades Guild – has diminishing eyesight (a by-product of his halfblood lineage) which I added as a nod to my own sight impairment. If I could choose one of The Blighted City’s characters to live with in an asylum, it would probably have to be Jalis, but let’s not get into the reasons for that decision!

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good or the bad ones?

Absolutely I do. I read every review I receive, but that might be because I still have so few. The Blighted City has no negative reviews (yet!), but all novels get them eventually, and when it happens I’ll either do my best to shrug it off or I’ll take any constructive criticism and, if valid, I’ll try to learn from it. As for the positive reviews, especially the most glowing, I do use snippets of them for marketing purposes, especially those that name-drop positive comparisons to Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, and a few other well-known authors.

While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you one book – what would you choose?

That’s an impossible decision to make, but it’d probably have to be a David Gemmell novel. Maybe Waylander, after which my character of Wayland in The Blighted City was named.

Well then, we hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? *locks door*

Just please don’t put me in a straitjacket. I need my hands free so I can keep writing. Oh, and thanks for the whisky. Will Jalis be here soon?

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If you’d like to get in contact with Scott Kaelen, you can find him on social media:

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Get The Blighted City by clicking on the cover!

The Blighted City

For more SPFBO content from the whole Fantasy Book Review team, check out my page!