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Research Area - Behind the Words - Author Questionnaire

Research Area
"Behind the Words" - Author Questionnaire

1. Name the book (or books) that made you say, "I want to do this, I want to write."

OSC: What made me want to write was seeing a really bad play and thinking, If this can be produced, I can write. Good writing only makes me want to read.

2. Please name five books you would like to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island.

OSC: A one-volume collection of LDS scripture, a one-volume Shakespeare, a one-volume Lord of the Rings. I'd write the other two myself while I was there. What else would I have to do? Then I'd spend years editing them and second-guessing myself.

3. If you were a high school english teacher, what five books would you assign?

"I Am the Cheese" by Robert Cormier
"Eva" by Peter Dickinson
"Singularity" by William Sleator
"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman
"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

4. Name three magazines that you read regularly.

OSC: Commentary, Atlantic, Poetry

5. What CD's get you in the mood to write?

OSC: I have a jukebox of two hundred that cycle me through country, folk, classical, Brazilian, pop, soundtrack, Broadway. I always have something happening musically when I write -- except when I have the TV on.

6. What do you read for fun?

OSC: Biography, history, mysteries, science, contemporary politics, philosophy and commentary. I read for fun precisely what I read for research; I do my research in precisely the books I read for joy.

7. How did you first get started writing?

OSC: When I doctored bad scripts as an undergraduate in a theatre program and then rewrote amateur articles as an editor at the LDS Church's official magazine, I learned how to structure stories and make them work. Fixing other people's bad writing is the best school for writers.

8. How did you first get published?

OSC: I submitted a story, revised it slightly at the editor's request, and it sold. I'm not aware of any other pattern, except for the rare case of successful self-publishing.

9. How often do you write?

OSC: Whenever the bank account approaches zero. This is a great improvement over my old system, which was to write only after the checks started bouncing.

10. What are your three favorite forms of procrastination?

OSC: Playing Civilization II on the computer, watching the Fox News Channel (the only news outlet where the commentators aren't all toadies to power or mental slaves to a predetermined orthodoxy), and working cryptic crosswords.

11. Where do you write?

OSC: In a room in our attic, with a window that looks out on trees and the peak of the neighbor's roof. Occasional wasps' nests and spider webs over the years have enlivened the view. Years' worth of clutter show great promise for excavation by some future archaeologist.

12. Is writing an excruciating process for you or a cathartic one?

OSC: I don't know. I try not to remain conscious during the writing process. Like surgery, it is best suffered unawares.

13. What would you be doing if you couldn't be a writer?

OSC: Whatever somebody would pay me to do. Alas, that isn't a very long list, since I'm lazy and virtually skill-free. This practically dooms me to teaching at a university until they deny me tenure.

14. How do you know when you've written something good?

OSC: I never know. I can come up with an infinite variety of definitions of "good" that can include or exclude anything I write, at will. So it all depends on whether I'm depressed or a bit jaunty on any given day, whether I think something I've written is good or not.

15. What other titles were you considering for your book [Shadow of the Hegemon]?

OSC: I never considered another one for this book. The book immediately after it, however, has gone through several -- Shadow of Death, Valley of the Shadow -- before I finally settled on the much better title "Shadow Puppets."

16. Is writing your day job? If not, what do you do to make a living?

OSC: Sometimes I feel as though signing books and talking on the phone is what I do for a living -- that's what feels most like a day job, mostly because I have to do it at times determined by others. Writing is my sole source of income, but I only sometimes do it during the day ...

17. What was the most unusual job you've ever held?

OSC: I was pretty good as a part-time employee of the scenery shop at BYU, building scenery for plays. I got fired, though, because I didn't always show up for work. Other employers have mentioned this as a point of contention, too.

18. Writers are known to have quirky personality traits. What are yours?

OSC: Everything I do seems perfectly ordinary and understandable to me. I'm afraid you'll have to ask others in order to find out which things seem weird to them.

19. Do you have pets? If yes, what are their names?

OSC: My office is infested by the occasional spider, but I avoid naming them.

20. Please name your five favorite movies.

OSC: This week, the list is:
Far from the Madding Crowd
Nobody's Fool
Sixth Sense
All of Me
Grand Canyon

Date of Birth: 24 August 1951

Place of Birth: Richland, Washington

Literary Awards: Hugo, Nebula, John W. Campbell, Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, others

Education: Undergraduate: BA, theatre, 1975, Brigham Young University, Post-Graduate: MA, English, 1981, University of Utah

Some additional studies at Notre Dame and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Current Home: Greensboro NC, USA

Influences: As far as I know, I haven't influenced anybody.


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