Scott B. Pruden wrote his first novel after a long career as a journalist. That novel, Immaculate Deception, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Scott, can you give us a brief rundown of your journalism career?
I worked at eight newspapers between 1989 and 2004, starting as a writer, columnist and editor at my school paper at the University of South Carolina, then moving on to jobs after graduation as a reporter, columnist, copy editor and news editor at newspapers in South Carolina, Arizona, southcentral Pennsylvania and Philadelphia . Since 2004 I’ve freelanced for a number of Delaware Valley magazines.
Russell Lynes, the critic and editor of Harper’s Magazine, once said “Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.” You’ve beaten the odds by producing a good novel. What’s your secret?
Lots of journalists do indeed have what would probably be a good novel in them, but I feel like many can’t get past the “making stuff up” part. As journalists, we’re so steeped in truth, verifiable fact and objectivity that creating something out of pure imagination somehow seems dirty. As a result, a lot of journalists get bogged down in the fact vs. fiction element of things rather than using their usually diverse factual experiences to inform the fiction and make it feel more genuine.
I’m not sure if there’s a secret to getting that novel out, other than the old adage of ass+chair=words. My first novel emerged from two short story ideas that fizzled, but I somehow thought would combine to make not necessarily a “great” novel, but the sort I’d enjoy reading. I was initially a little concerned that I’d be the only one, but during the 20 years I was working on it, writers like Christopher Moore and Neil Gaiman gained more popularity. That’s when I realized there was already an audience for the sort of weird-ass novel Immaculate Deception was becoming.
As far as the journalist aspect is concerned, I think one of the things that makes me good at journalism is a skill that also makes a good novelist, and that’s the ability to closely observe, internalize and then regurgitate elements of what goes on around us. Unrelated to journalism, I’ve also been an amateur actor since my high school days, and that’s helped me both with crafting dialogue that sounds natural and digging up emotions to convey them accurately on the page. I always encourage aspiring writers to be both their own Sherlock Holmes, noticing tiny little details that others wouldn’t, and a method actor, digging into their own pasts to mine emotions to make character relationships and interactions in their work feel true.
You and Wayne Lockwood are now micro-publishers. Tell us about Codorus Press.
Not to sound like a complete boozer, but Codorus Press is a great example of the amazing things that can happen when journalists get together to drink. The initial idea came from Wayne when we worked together at the York Daily Record in York, Pa., in the late 1990s. One night during after-deadline beers I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t get traction from traditional agents or publishers on an earlier draft of Immaculate Deception, and he noted how easy it would be for a room full of writers, editors and designers to start our own indie publishing house. Ten years later, with a much-improved draft of my novel, we did just that. Since then we’ve been gradually building up our stable of writers, focusing on keeping things small and among friends. It might not be the most capitalist of business models, but our focus is really on helping each other get our work out there rather than becoming rich and famous.
Finally, what’s next? A new novel?
Yes. In addition to working on some short stories and getting those submitted to different markets, I’m hammering away at the follow-up to Immaculate Deception. This time around, the weirdness is more paranormal than metaphysical and set in the present day. In it, a fresh-out-of-college newspaper reporter struggles to deal with a rash of ghost sightings that seem to lead to a broader conspiracy among the living. I’m describing it as The X Files meets Ghostbusters meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Thank you. You can follow Scott B. Pruden on social media, at his website, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.