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Interview with Michael Paul Scott

Michael Paul Scott

Freewilds: The Cult and the Constable

He works full-time as a Distribution Dispatcher for Central Hudson Gas & Electric, the local utility company. He lives among the apple orchards and vineyards of pastoral Upstate New York with his beloved wife, Christine, caring for his mother Regina and elder sister, Debora, and their adorable dog, Scrappy.

First-time author Michael Paul Scott wrote his debut novel, Freewilds - The Cult & the Constable, as an introduction to his original dark fantasy setting, with several further novels, short stories, and other writing projects just across the near horizon. 

The consensus among those who read early drafts of his debut novel, Michael Paul Scott establishes himself as a fantasy detective storyteller with an eye for detail and a focus on world-building, character development, and high intrigue.  

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I wear my heart right there on my sleeve, and I have been known in the past to be an over-sharer if anything. I don’t know that there is much about me that people don’t know. However, I am a new author, and people picking up my debut novel might want to know more about me. Hopefully, as we go through the rest of these questions, at some point someone will see something about me that they didn’t know, and that will answer this question for them.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I have several writing projects in the works, in fact! I began work on the sequel to my first book just this month. It is called Freewilds - The Lost & the Faithful, and I am aiming to have it finished by September of next year, with the final book in the trilogy hopefully coming a year thereafter. This trilogy serves as a big introduction to a world that I intend to write and publish stories within for years and years to come.

I am also working on a book called Escaping the Gray: Hindsight & 2020, a nonfiction book that is focused on my recovery from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I believe that all that I endured, and learned, during this journey could be of use to people who are going through similar troubles or have a friend or loved one that suffers from these all-too-common mental/emotional maladies. I hope to have finished and published within the next few months.

Finally, I am one of the authors selected to write a chapter in the collaborative novel By The Seat of Our Pants: Madness, which should be published sometime next year as well. I have been approached by a few other collaborative, multi-author projects and will likely dive into these as they come.

Q.3 What inspired you to write Freewilds: The Cult and the Constable?
Three things influenced my decision to start taking this whole writing thing seriously and inspired me to make Freewilds my first foray into authorship.

First, on my 43rd birthday, in March of 2020, a midlife crisis manifested in the form of a complete mental and emotional breakdown. I reflected upon my life and recognized things about myself that I had been burying, ignoring, and denying for decades, culminating in severe depression, suicidal ideations, and the desperate and unavoidable need to assert some measure of control over the trajectory of my life going forward. Writing became my most potent and powerful drug. My panacea.

Second, I had been writing short-form fiction based in an original dark fantasy setting for well over a decade at that point, and it seemed appropriate to make Freewilds the focus of my first major effort once I began taking myself more seriously as a writer.

Third, I saw that one of my favorite filmmakers was adopting a novel, and out of curiosity, I decided to read the book. I will not name this book, the film or the director… but it was the worst thing I had ever read, making for one of the worst films I have ever seen, and both novel and film became so successful financially that a sequel novel was released and the film adaptation to it is forthcoming. I resolved that if something that terrible can succeed, I can, too.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Remember that you will never please everyone. I try to be respectful and honest, to develop nuanced personalities in characters based upon their individual experiences leading up to the moment of their introduction to the story. The world of the Freewilds novels is very egalitarian when it comes to the sexes, especially compared to a lot of other fantasy settings. That was a conscious decision of mine, and I believe that anyone who reads the novel will understand that if someone is underestimated or overvalued in this world, it is rarely based upon whether they are a woman or a man.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
The overarching plot of the novel was decided before I began to write a single word. I didn’t know precisely how I was going to get there, but I knew how I wanted it to end and, for the most part, which characters I wanted to carry from one novel to the next in the series. I poured a lot of effort into my main protagonist, Lukarde Alfans, and my main antagonist, Elrick Castille, by putting myself in their shoes and asking myself what they want in life, why they want it, and how far they are willing to go to get it.

That all worked out great for me, but as I go into writing the second novel in the trilogy, I am trying to do so with a bit more emphasis on planning and structure. I essentially plan each character out in a similar vein to the way fandom wikis document characters from existing works of fiction. I keep a little profile for each character, now, and use it to document things like the way I have described them physically, their relationships with other characters, and where they were at different parts of the story.

Q.6 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Just the one, for now, but I am looking forward to seeing how things develop going forward. I am working on several projects, so by this time next year, I might be in a better position to play favorites. For now, though, I can only say that I am very proud of Freewilds - The Cult & the Constable.

Q.7 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
To be honest, the most important part of finishing this book and getting it into people's hands has been the fact that it proves to me that I am more than what I see in the mirror. The hardest part of writing this book was the depression I was fighting while writing it.

To use a fishing analogy, every time I tossed my line in the water, hoping to get a bite and drag something up I could be proud of catching, I had to concern myself with getting my hook caught on something dark and unseen beneath the water’s glassy surface.

Every time my fingers tapped on the keys and words appeared on my screen, I had to fight past the fears that I had of disappointing those who knew I was doing this and were showing me so much support. I had to keep writing, and when I hit a snag, find the strength, resolve, and tenacity to cut myself free and go right back in again.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I don’t like to think about it, since writing has become such a vital part of my journey. However, if I couldn’t write, I would tell stories in some other way. I would find another way to express ideas.

Q.9 If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Great question! My main protagonist, Lukarde Alfans, is a man in his mid-40s. The thing about Lukarde was that he was content with his life up until recently. Comfortable. He is a brilliant detective and an outgoing, affable constable who took pride in building great relationships with people who generally disliked and mistrusted the other constables in his city. Things changed for him quite abruptly, quite profoundly, and the effect these changes have had upon him are reflected in his demeanor, his body language, and even in his voice.

I like the character actor Rufus Sewell for him. He has the right voice and exudes a lot of the same energy and temperament that I picture from Lukarde. He also is both a very talented actor and a relative unknown compared to some of the other choices that might have seemed more obvious. I believe that if that moment ever comes (exceedingly unlikely, but a writer can dream), Lukarde could be a defining character for him, like Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
In a word, insufficient. This is the key to being a successful author, but marketing is the aspect of this craft that I find to be the most daunting and terrifying. I am well outside my comfort zone when I approach publicity. However, I am trying to embrace change and adapt to this new role, uncomfortable as I am with it all. If I had my druthers, I would focus on the writing, because that is where I find the most benefits to my sense of mental and emotional wellbeing.

I took some advice from a few people with a lot more experience in marketing and the business side of things, creating a presence for myself on just about every major social media site, starting a website of my own, and even recording a podcast.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
As an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, I always gravitated toward humans, elves, and half-elves for my characters’ races. I think they are more adjacent to my experience and, thus, I was able to more ably place myself in their lives. However, there is also something to be said about playing a character of a race wholly alien to my own life experience.

A Hamadryad comes to mind. They are nymphs, born from a single tree, and their lives are tied to that specific tree. They grow as it grows, mature as it matures, experience the seasons in similar ways, and die when the tree dies. I always thought that such a character would have an amazing story to tell. I imagine it would be pretty amazing, being the face, voice, and roaming will of a wizened tree, solitary and stalwart in some hidden, mystical glade.

Q.12 What is one stereotype about fantasy writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
Fantasy writers are often confronted by the preconception that they are simply regurgitating Tolkien. I think this is very inaccurate and speaks more to how prolific the Lord of the Rings is as a cultural influence in general than it does to the fantasy genre, itself. So many amazing ideas are conceived of by talented writers in fantasy, and I actually find it rare to see works that flagrantly emulate the works of Tolkien.

As for an accurate stereotype… we are all nerds. Some of us might not want to admit it, but that is a carryover to a past that was harsher than those of our ilk. The nice thing is that being a nerd no longer carries the same stigma as it once did.

Q.13 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write whenever you can, as much as you can, and save everything. I can’t tell you how many times I recall having written something a long time ago that might only just now become useful or pertinent, but because it seemed superfluous or shoddy at the time I decided to just delete it outright. Don’t do that. There is no such thing as a waste of time when you are writing. Even if you aren’t getting any use out of what you wrote, you are flushing out that part of you that is filling with those ideas, you are getting practice, learning, and growing into the role. Let the future decide its value when the time comes.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you?
I can’t pick just one, but I will narrow it down to a top three. First is Myles Gaspard, whose idealism endears him to me greatly. Second is Diena Goff, whose personal struggles and desperate need for validation and acceptance make her someone I care a great deal about. Third, but only last because I don’t want to write twenty names, here, is Dain Corlin.
He is special to me because of what he represents not only as a good man who rises to the occasion but as an influence upon the development of the main protagonist, Lukarde Alfans, as a formative element of his mental and emotional journey.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
A. Robert Williams
is the artist I hired to design the book cover. I designed the Freewilds logo and did some of the placement of different elements myself, but Robert is the one who created the background image of the book’s hero standing in silhouette, looking out across the Freewilds. 

I found Robert, as well as my Developmental Editor and my Copy Editor/Proofreader on I chose Robert because I saw something special in the samples he shared of his previous work.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I like to choose names that fit the setting of the novel. The Freewilds exists in an original dark fantasy setting. There are parallels with our own world, specifically southern Europe and northern Africa during the early middle ages, but for the most part, I wanted characters’ names to exude a feeling that they were denizens of their own world, not ours. That said, the naming conventions of each region of their world do coincide, at least in part, with different nations in our own world.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Thus far, I have not received many reviews of my book, and the few I have received have been positive. I will read them all, however, good or bad. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I dread the bad ones.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. There are a few, but it is more about what one does with their fame that appeals to me, rather than the fame, itself. Gary Sinise, for example, seems like such a great person, inside and out. He is the kind of man I would like to shake hands with and thank for all the good things he has done with his fame. Keanu Reeves is another one. Those who let their fame become their defining trait miss the point of having it, I think. Denzel Washington… he’s another great one. Unafraid to be honest. Unafraid to be a person and remember who he is.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
A. Wizard and Glass
by Stephen King. A part of the Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass change the pace and tone of the series by focusing on the heartbreaking backstory of Roland Deschain of Gilead. Read on its own, it is one of the best books Stephen King has ever written, in my opinion. It brings to the Dark Tower series some of the sentimentality and emotional weight of works like Rita Heyworth and Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
I cannot express how grateful I am to have had an opportunity to become a published author. It has been life-changing in all the best ways, and I am truly blessed to have been surrounded by so many supportive, encouraging people who believed in me even when it was impossible for me to believe in myself. This journey is only just beginning, for me, but so far it has far exceeded my expectations.

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