Steven Scaffardi's debut novel The Drought is out now.
Can you tell us a little about your
average writing day?
I try to write something –
anything! – at least once a day. Whether it is blogging, jotting down ideas, or
working on a novel, I will write! I call this keeping myself ‘match fit’ (to
use a typical boy sports analogy).This takes many forms from sitting at home at
the laptop to being squashed on a packed train on my way to work trying to tap
notes into my iPhone, which is very useful for when those great ideas just
happen to spring to mind! I remember when I was writing The Drought, my
girlfriend made me go to Oxford Street to go shopping, and I practically wrote
a whole chapter on my phone as I followed her around Topshop! I managed to
capture all of those wonderful thoughts and emotions that guys can relate to
when you are being forced to look at yet another
pair of shoes. (You can actually read the chapter here).
When I get ideas like that, I have to write them down there and then.
When you are writing, do you use any
celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
The Drought is very much based on
a combination of personal experiences, and stories told to me by others. I
always use my friends and family for inspiration, especially my mates as they
have some seriously funny – if not slightly concerning – experiences with the
opposite sex! I write about relationships, dating disasters, and all the funny
things that go with that. I listen to stories that my friends tell me about
their love life’s and I steal their stories and put them down on the page! And
when it comes to characters, I will always use someone I know as a starting
point and then add my own creative tweaks to make that character work in the
story. This way I find that I already know the character, and I already have an
understanding of how they might react in a certain situation. However, this
does have its downsides in that people I know always then try to spot who I
have written about. An ex-girlfriend of mine read the book and I had forgotten
that I had used a couple of our experiences together (and then massively
exaggerated them for comedy value) and I don’t think she was best pleased to
say the least!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction
book of all time and why?
I haven’t read many, I have to
admit! The reason I wrote The Drought is because I would flick through the
pages of my girlfriends Sophie Kinsella or Louise Bagshawe books and moan that
the men in these books were unrealistic. She then challenged me to try and
write something better! I did read Bridget Jones Diary as a bit of ‘research’,
and although I would never admit this to my girlfriend, I did enjoy it – but
just a little bit though!
What is your writing process? Do you
plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I have to have lots of ideas
before I can start. I don’t need to specifically know exactly how the book
starts and ends, but if I don’t have enough ideas I really struggle. And the
ideas could range from a simple dialogue to the way a character might act in a
certain situation. Every time I think of an idea, I will make a note of it on
my phone. When I started work on my second novel, I already had 20,000 words
worth of ideas before I had even written the first chapter. With The Drought I
must have written over 20 drafts by the time I had finished it. I was actually
sick of reading it that many times, but it was well worth it in the end.
What was your journey to being a
It was hard! But it never seemed
like a struggle because – and this probably sounds a bit strange – I never set
out to be a published author! What I mean by that is when I started writing The
Drought, it was just because I wanted to do it. The job I had at the time was
working for a website that served the print community and I blogged about my
experience, and from that I got my book published. Since then I have learned
that the writing bit is easy – it’s trying to promote the book which is tough!
I’m writing a genre dominated by great female writers, with stories written
predominately from the woman’s point of view. The Drought isn’t your typical
chick-lit book (I didn’t even think it was chick-lit until people started
calling it chick-lit for men!), but the response so far from readers on places
like Amazon and Goodreads has been fantastic. Two women in Australia even
offered to start up my fan club Down Under!
What do you think is the biggest myth
about being a novelist?
The obvious one – that it will
bring fame and fortune! But that is just the nature of the celebrity culture
that we live in. When an author makes it to the top of the tree – like a J.K.
Rowling as a perfect example – they are given huge exposure you read how much
they earn. It is the same when I was doing stand-up comedy. You would see
plenty of frustrated comics out on the comedy circuit who were hoping to get rich
quick by telling a few bad jokes. And believe me when I say I heard a lot of
bad jokes! I suppose the problem with being an indie author is that there are
quite a lot of bad authors out there, due to the nature that anyone can publish
a book these days. The hardest part is getting noticed. I think some authors
think that it will happen overnight, but I have learned very quickly that you
need to have a little patience (to steal a line from Take That!).
What advice can you give to our
readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just do it (and no I’m not
sponsored by Nike!), but do it for yourself. If you do it for any other reason
than because you’ve always wanted to do it, then you are doing it for all the
wrong reasons. And don’t be too harsh on yourself. I try not to re-read
anything I have written until I am a good third of the way into the story. If
you don’t give the story a chance to grow, then you will never be able to see
the real potential of that story.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my
second novel which is a follow-up to The Drought. The working title is The One
That Got Away (although I am thinking about calling it The Flood as that is a
nice follow on to The Drought!), and it deals with that moment when you realise
that you let someone get away who was really special in your life, and you
didn’t even realise it. Of course, with the nature of my characters, there are
plenty of hilarious and cringe-worthy moments along the way!
What are your top five writing tips?
Always carry a notepad
Every time you think of an idea,
write it down. I find the best ideas always come to me when I'm not sitting in
front of the laptop. Every idea I think of, I write everything down. After I
completed my first draft of The Drought I still had 10,000 words worth of ideas
that I hadn't even used. Referring back to your notes is a great help when you
hit a wall or have writers block. In The Drought there is a whole chapter about
how much the main character hates going clothes shopping with girls. The
majority of this chapter was written on the notepad on my iPhone while my
girlfriend was dragging me around Top Shop in Oxford Street.
Try to pick a soundtrack to your book.
Like a film, choose songs that represent the tone of your book and create a
playlist and listen to it. Let your imagination wander. Some of my best ideas
came when I was listening to my iPod on the way home, or when I was out
jogging. Music can also jog your memory of real-life events that have happened
in your past and can help you come up with ideas for your novel.
Don't be too critical
If you have decided to write a
novel, you are starting out on a process which can easily take over a year
before you will be fully satisfied with your work. Mike Gayle, best-selling
author of My Legendary Girlfriend, offers some great advice on his website. He
says the first draft doesn't have to be perfect, and that the proudest moment
of his career was completing that first draft. Your first draft will always be
the one that needs the most work, but as Mike Gayle says, by finishing that
first draft you have done something that most people only ever talk about. I
finished my first draft in September 2009, and I was still making changes right
up until it got published in August 2011!
Give your novel to friends… and their friends, and their friends…
Choose people who you trust will
give you an honest opinion. Take their comments on board and then go back and
start the second draft of the novel. Ask your friends to give it to their
friends, and to their friends, and so on and so forth. The more feedback you
can get the better. You will be surprised how similar the feedback is, and this
can be invaluable in terms of telling you what works and what doesn't.
If you don't enjoy the whole
process, then maybe writing a novel is not for you. You have to have a real
passion for writing, and you more than anyone must believe in yourself. Writing
a novel should fill you with a huge sense of achievement. That is what makes
all the hard work worthwhile.
For more information about Steven Scaffardi or his debut novel The Drought please visit his site.
As a special Christmas
treat, Steven is offering an free download of The Drought to the readers of Novelicious. Simply go here and enter the code ‘YW44J’ prior to
checking out to download the ebook for free.