Q: All right Scott, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is the real Scott Zachary?
A: Funny you should ask. I am not really Scott Zachary. My name is Ryan; I inherited the pseudonym from the previous Scott Zachary. The man I inherited the name from is not really Scott Zachary either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Scott Zachary has been retired 15 years and living like a king in Patagonia.
Before inheriting the pen name, I had been building Internet-thing for fun and profit for about fifteen years; currently I am just another cog in a great software-producing machine based out of Redmond, WA. You know the one. I have also dabbled in professional graphic design, acting, soldiering, the lay ministry, and a bunch of other odd gigs. I am interested in everything, and get distracted easily.
Q: What made you decide to pursue your writing?
A: I was an avid writer when I was younger, but frankly I was really, really bad. One day I realized that I was trying to write about things I had no business writing about: I had zero life experience. I was always a bit of a shut-in, reading while the other kids were out playing, and I decided to shelve my crummy stories and get out a bit. So I joined the Army. I was seventeen.
After that, and a bunch of other interesting adventures, I carved out a career, had a family, and I sort of forgot about my writing. Then a couple of years ago I read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and remembered the passion I used to have for writing. So in September of 2012, I fired up szwrites.com
and started posting shiny new stories. It has been a slow process, but I am chugging along and loving every minute of it.
Q: The Least of These and your short story collection Gossamer Wings are both self-published. Did you have a hard time choosing to go that route as opposed to traditional publishing?
A: Gossamer Wings was just an experiment to test the waters. I had compiled an eBook of some of the first shorts I wrote in 2012 for friends and family who wanted to read my stories, and then I thought, “Well, since I have already done the formatting, I might as well throw it up on the Kindle Store and play around with marketing and stuff.” It has been a great learning experience, and I have had to do a lot of course-correction, but people seem to like the stories. It was never about money, which is one reason I decided to donate all the royalties from that anthology to charity. I just enjoy hearing from people who like my stories; if I can help out a world-class literacy program in the process, bonus!
My decision to self-publish The Least of These was a lot harder. It is a serious story, and it is something I am really proud of. That’s hard for me to say—that I’m proud—because I’m Canadian, but I think it is the best thing I have written so far. I had two separate offers for publication, but I wasn’t comfortable with the terms of the contracts. I politely declined both of them and decided to release it myself.
Q: So what is this story about?
A: The Least of These is a 10,000-word novelette set in Ireland, during a period of extreme unrest and oppression in the early 18th century, and follows the story of an aging Catholic woman named Molly Gregor and her life-changing encounter with a band of Irish Travelers (often mistakenly referred to as “gypsies”). She is already an outcast in her town, for various sociopolitical reasons, and quickly finds herself in direct opposition with the xenophobic prejudices of her neighbors, which is a risky place to be. Fundamentally, this is a story about questioned faith, restored hope, and the true price of charity. I have been going through a long-drawn crisis of faith over the last several years myself, and I think a lot of that comes out in the story.
Q: I know there are two opposing viewpoints in the story. Do you find it hard to write believable characters opposite of the fence?
A: I was worried about writing Molly, since the story focuses entirely on her and really gets inside her head. I am not a woman, nor late-middle-aged, nor Catholic, so there was a lot of trepidation at first to get her voice right and make her believable. I am somewhat of a “method writer” though, and have a background in acting, so once I got into the character it came surprisingly naturally. Writing the antagonist, on the other hand, was tricky, because it was so easy just to make him a cardboard caricature. If I ever write a novelization of the story, I think I will want to spend some time telling his story and giving a little more context for why he is the way he is. For a novelette though, there’s really only enough space to get into one character’s head without randomizing things too much.
Q: If a gaggle of Cthulus (Yes, there are more than one. Don’t question me, I’ve met at least three, maybe four) ascended from the depths of the Earth and named you the most interesting human being on the planet and as holder of this title they required you to name one movie, two books, and three albums that signify humanity’s awesomeness, what are your choices?
A: Assuming the Elder Gods are staring at me, and I might be a wee bit nervous, and probably soiled myself, I’m just going to rattle off the first titles that come to mind.
Movie: The Princess Bride
Books: Good Omens and A Movable Feast
Albums: Hoodoo Man Blues, Rattle and Hum, Blue Train
Q: Okay, last one. In 12 syllables or less, tell the world why they should buy your book.
A: It is a promise of hope, in a hopeless world.