Interns Tyler Fields and Nakkia Patrick Interview Andrew Scott About His New Book, Naked Summer

Last year, editor, author, and BSU English professor Andrew Scott released a brand new book, Naked Summer: Stories. In honor of this wonderful achievement, interns Tyler Fields and Nakkia Patrick interview him to discuss various aspects of his new book as well as his publishing process, future plans, and his writing inspirations. See the interview and Andrew’s short bio below.

*Photo provided by Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is the author of Naked Summer, a story collection, and the editor of a forthcoming anthology, 24 Bar Blues: Two Dozen Tales of Bars, Booze, and the Blues. He holds writing degrees from Purdue University and New Mexico State University, where he was twice awarded a Frank Waters Fiction Fellowship. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, Ninth Letter, The Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Glimmer Train Stories, The Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. With his wife, writer Victoria Barrett, he edits Freight Stories, an online fiction journal. He teaches at Ball State University and lives in Indianapolis.

Tell us a little bit about your book, Naked Summer.

Naked Summer is a collection of nine short stories. The longest is the title story, which closes the book. The shortest is the opening story, “Living Guilt-Free in These United States,” which was solicited by Esquire magazine for its Napkin Fiction project a few years ago. The story was literally written on a napkin. In between are stories of all sizes that explore the private lives of Hoosiers in or around Tippecanoe County. There’s a monster truck and a lot of drinking on the first page, and a game of drunken, pre-dawn basketball on the last page. Oops: Spoiler alert.

We understand that this question comes up often, but we think many readers (students especially) would love to hear about your publication process. Specifically with this book.

Simply drafting a book requires a certain level of obsession. Revising the manuscript until it’s good is even more work. Publishing, in some ways, isn’t up to writers. Writers can only control how often and seriously we attempt to improve.

Because the creative writing program I attended became an M.F.A. while I was there, my thesis, which eventually became Naked Summer, was first drafted in 2001. But then I was given an extra year to finish the degree and keep working on it.

The published book is different in several ways. I removed a couple of stories from the earliest drafts. One became Modern Love, a stand-alone chapbook published in 2006, which was my first published story, despite a lot of close calls with journals and magazines. I didn’t know how to feel about it for several years. A chapbook clearly isn’t a full-size book—I’m tempted to say “real” book—but it’s more significant than a story published in a literary journal. A chapbook lives inside publishing limbo. Having someone I didn’t know and had never met tell me that my fiction was worth the time and money it would cost to bring into the world was the kind of support I needed then.

The other story I pulled from that manuscript is now the centerpiece of a novel-in-stories I hope to finish by the end of the school year.

I submitted the manuscript to first-book contests, which is always a crapshoot. I finally approached agents, who were far more responsive to my work, during the end of 2008, when the economy began its freefall and publishers took an even more conservative turn. Bad timing is my hallmark. Agents all wanted a novel, too. Finally I queried Press 53 the day I learned they had accepted a book by a writer I know and whose work I had edited. The story collection was accepted about six weeks later. Six months after that, I held the book in my hands.

Can you talk a little bit about your writing process for this collection? Do you have experience with “the rush” to publish or have advice for students or new writers beginning to send out their work?

I worked on other projects during that decade. I worked on a novel and wrote a few graphic novel manuscripts for artists. I received grants in support of my fiction. I taught myself how to write screenplays and adapted one of my stories into a feature-length script. What I didn’t know when I started is that I am the kind of writer who needs several projects going at once. Getting away from one manuscript to work on another is essential to my process. Several seemingly abandoned ideas are now lurching forward. But I had to spend years laying the tracks so that train could roll.

In general, I think most writers crave publication too soon, because that’s how we reach readers. In retrospect, I’m glad my work wasn’t published right away.

My advice for students isn’t to submit early and often, though developing a thick skin is important—and that’s one way to grow a leathery hide. I learned about writing and publishing by working as an editor for literary magazines. I was an intern for Sycamore Review as an undergraduate at Purdue, and worked for Puerto del Sol during graduate school. Then I co-founded an online literary journal called Freight Stories. I’m still learning about writing through my work as an editor. I hope that’s always a part of my creative life.

New writers should write their favorite literary journals and/or small presses and volunteer to work for them in some capacity. Eventually, they’ll probably let you read manuscripts and make editorial decisions. At Ball State, students can enroll in the literary editing class and get involved with The Broken Plate.

If at all, how does the content of Naked Summer differ from your past work?

Naked Summer is my past work. I revised the stories many times between 2001 and 2010, when the book was accepted. The stories felt like my past work then, and certainly do now. But I couldn’t give up on those stories. They needed to appear in book form for me to fully move on.

My past work differs from my current and future work in several ways. I’m now more interested in longer forms, in genres that aren’t literary fiction, and in risking melodrama in the pursuit of an engaging narrative. I took to heart William Trevor’s idea that the short story is “the art of the glimpse,” but I’m now interested in fuller examinations. Naked Summer is a quiet book, despite a bar fight in the first story. But in the novel I’m writing, a family is murdered by page seven.

In general how do you draw inspiration? From where did you draw inspiration for Naked Summer?

I’m inspired by my creative friends, including musicians, comic book artists, and other writers. I like learning how things are made. Good books inspire me, once I get past my awe and remember that the writer is another human being who has used the same alphabet I use to write fiction. Indiana’s people, who are not often portrayed in contemporary fiction, also inspired me while writing Naked Summer. A great Indiana novel—perhaps my favorite novel—is South of the Big Four by Don Kurtz, which helped me understand that people in our neck of the woods are certainly story-worthy. Don generously let Victoria and I look through all of his notebooks and older drafts of South of the Big Four. He brought out a few boxes to his kitchen table and left us alone for a few hours while he went back to his study to write.

If you’d like to, can you talk a little bit about any future projects you might have in the works?

I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t blab about the details of in-progress work. I’m working on both a novel and a novel-in-stories. Both are set in Indiana, which is normal for me, though other projects in development are not. This year, I finished writing a graphic novel with Bryan Furuness, a novelist who teaches at Butler University. And an anthology I edited, 24 Bar Blues: Two Dozen Tales of Bars, Booze, and the Blues, will be published next year, featuring work by Holly Goddard Jones, Lee K. Abbott, Roxane Gay, Richard Yañez, Robert Boswell, and nineteen other writers.

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