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The Achievement School Interview
by Ashley Stock

(Scott's note: My friend Betsy Carson teaches at The Achievement School, a private school in Raleigh that focuses on small class sizes and individual attention. I was their guest for the day and was treated like a star. The students are so bright and creative, the energy practically radiates throughout the school, and they gave me a lot of good tips about my work. The atmosphere is nothing short of magical. Student Ashley Stock wrote a series of articles about me for the school paper, including this interview.) Left: Ashley and Scott at The Achievement School

1. I know you get a lot of your ideas from legends, but who did you come to hear the the stories from?

I heard a lot from my grandmother, who used to gather us on her porch in the North Carolina mountains. She’d tell stories about ghosts, panthers, caves, and other mysteries and it always seemed magical and believable. I love to hear old mountain tales and I sometimes use folklore in my stories.

2. Who or what first inspired you to write gothic mystery novels?

I wrote when I was a kid, making little comic books. In school I was always writing poetry or stories and won a few prizes. After college, I played music for about 10 years, and then I got interested in writing again. Somehow those old mountain tales came back to me. I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, and other types of stories but I like using ghosts for some reason.

3. When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?

Probably when I was just starting to write as a child. I liked spending time alone and putting down ideas. I always figured I’d be a writer someday and now I am. Though writing takes a lot of hard work, it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done.

4. Do you write at a certain time or place?

Usually at night, just before bedtime. I have a young daughter so I spend most of the evening with her. I try to write a little bit every day, always at my computer and my big desk in the living room.

5. How long did it take you to get your first short story published?

I wrote a lot of stories in high school that were published in the school paper. I wrote more in collge for different classes but after I started playing music, I wrote only songs. When I started writing fiction eight years ago, it took me a couple of years and 105 rejections before I sold a story. It was worth it, though.

6. How did you feel when you were compared to Stephen King?

I’m flattered because King is very popular, but I still have a long way to go. He’s a master and I’m just starting out and I’m learning new things all the time, most importantly to trust myself and what the story wants to be. I can’t write King’s stories but he can’t write mine. Each of us has our own story to tell.

7. Who are your favorite authors and bands?

I like Ira Levin (Stepford Wives), Neil Gaiman (Coraline), Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and some of the dead authors like John Steinbeck and Mark Twain that you guys probably study in English class. In music, I like The Cure, The Flaming Lips, David Bowie, Natalie Merhcant, The Strokes, and lately I’m listening to a lot of bluegrass and old-timey music on the radio. I know, I’m terribly out-of-date but that’s what happens when you get older!

8. What are your goals for yourself now that you have published three novels and a collection of short stories?

My goal is still the same: to continue to improve and tell stories that matter. I hope readers will learn something about themselves while enjoying the journey through my books. My novel “The Home” will be out next August and I’m now writing another one set in the mountains. I’m also planning a young adult series featuring two high school girls who are best friends, except one of them is a ghost!

9. Do you expect to be able to give up your day job and concentrate full time on your fiction writing?

That’s one of my dreams, and I appreciate all the readers who help make that dream come true. I like my reporting job but I also have a lot of story ideas I’d like to get down on paper and share with people.

10. Have you ever experienced writer’s block?

Some days I get stuck but I try to work on something else if that happens. Usually, though, if I open myself up to experiences or pay attention to what’s going on around me, I’ll find just the right idea that I need to help the story along. This happens so often that it’s almost spooky.

11. How did you get beyond it?

Sometimes I write parts that I know I’ll have to cut out later, or write for an hour or two and realize it just isn’t working. Sometimes the words come more slowly and it seems like a fight to get a sentence down on paper. Most of the time, though, I trust my instincts, because we are all born storytellers.

12. Do you have any advice for inspiring writers?

Try to write as often as possible, in different types of subjects. Write poetry, stories, articles, and essays. Even if you like one type of writing the best, you can always settle on that later, but in the beginning you need to learn all you can. You also gain confidence as you pile up the paragraphs and it gets easier over time. Of course, you also should read as much as possible, and not just the books that the teacher assigns you! Read something just for fun, just for yourself.

Copyright 2004 by Ashley Stock. Used with permission.

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