Posted on 12/26/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
With the self-publishing revolution, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writers have joined the ranks of creatives who can practice — and monetize — their craft independently.
But it hadn’t occurred to us, until we chatted with screenwriter-turned-author Joshua Rutherford, that the digital revolution hasn’t hit all segments of the artistic population.
Rutherford studied film and digital media in college with the hope of bringing a script to life.
He wrote several feature-film screenplays and television pilots, but none of them were picked up by a producer.
Rutherford, of course, understood the reality of the screenwriting world. He was willing to work within the craft’s rigid format, and he recognized the limited size of a script’s audience.
Finally, though, Rutherford received the answer he needed from a producer, albeit not in the form he expected.
They’d been emailing for months about his script, giving Rutherford logical hope that this was the winner.
Instead, the producer declined the project, adding pages upon pages of critical notes to the rejection.
It stung. But it also brought an epiphany.
“That’s when it hit me: I was never going to find validation of my writing from agents and producers, almost all of whom are too burned out at reading scripts to ever give a novice like me a shot,” he says.
Instead, he realized, why not find an audience that actively wanted to read, that viewed it as a pleasure and not a chore.
And he has: fantasy fiction readers, who have responded warmly to his first three novels.
Here’s what Rutherford has to say, looking back on his journey so far and toward the future.
SADYE: Was there a big adjustment going from screenplays to novels?
JOSHUA: Yes, there was, and a welcome one I might add. ...
Bear in mind that almost all screenplays are between ninety and a hundred-and-twenty pages, with much of those pages consisting of white space due to the limited margins of written dialogue.
Each page is about equal to one minute of screen time, so there is little incentive to make it too short or too long, lest an agent take a look at its length alone and conclude the writer has no idea what he or she is doing.
By contrast, a novel can be tens of thousands of words more than a standard screenplay. Therefore, I found myself facing an audacious goal.
But the benefits soon made themselves known, for a novel has none of the restrictions of structure that a script does.
For the first time, unleashed from those constructs, I could just write. It soon became apparent that the prospect of writing a long project would be easier than I imagined.
SADYE: You’ve said that writing can be a “not-so-fun” business. What are the most challenging parts for you, and how do you pull yourself through?
JOSHUA: The “not-so-fun” part of the business is just that — the business side.
While the image of the “starving artist” toiling for hours in a coffee shop and rejecting commercial success has been maligned in the media, the hard truth is that many of us would love to make a living from our work.
That just isn’t the case.
I struggle to post on social media, pinch my pennies to save for an advertising budget, and jump through other hoops just to get one person at a time to read my work.
That’s the reality of the business for myself and the other ninety-nine percent of writers. It’s a nearly constant thankless job.
The light at the end of the tunnel, though, is realizing that your writing is a creation no one can ever take away from you.
SADYE: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
JOSHUA: Ironically, the best writing advice I’ve ever received came before I started my passion in earnest.
In college, I had a T.A. who had no filter. In one of our class sessions in which he reviewed a number of mind-numbing papers with neutral arguments, he said, “The point of having a thesis is that someone, somewhere, says, ‘This is bullshit!’”
In the years that have followed, the idea of having others rebuff my work has stayed with me. Initially, I bristled at the thought.
So my work at that period of my life reflected a middle-of-the-road, I-want-everyone-to-like-it tonality.
Only when I became more confident in my voice as a writer did I grow to accept not having to please everybody. In turn, my work became edgier.
I went on to write things that would have embarrassed my younger self.
Now, when I consider the idea of my writings only being appreciated by a limited audience, I embrace it.
For true growth as both a writer and an individual involves taking chances and making choices others may deem foolish and unworthy.
SADYE: What has been the most rewarding or proudest moment so far?
JOSHUA: About six months after I released my first novel, Sons of Chenia, I received an email from a friend. We had met five or six years earlier at a screenwriting conference. ...
It had been some time since we last spoke when he reached out to me after my book release, so naturally, I opened his email with a heightened sense of curiosity.
With earnest, genuine affection, that friend wrote praise of my novel. He thoroughly enjoyed it and was so gracious as to label me a great writer.
I’ve never forgotten that email, nor the friend who wrote it. It inspires me to provide, in equal measure, the same degree of support to my fellow scribes.
SADYE: Where do you find your inspiration for creating fantasy worlds and cultures?
JOSHUA: I kid you not, my inspiration comes from having worked the most mundane, uninspiring jobs in the world.
You know, the kind tied to the Monday morning blues. In environments of such tedium and boredom, my mind drifts away to create anything but reality.
I take all my interests — from other fantasy series, from history, from movies — and dream up impossible and fantastic realms which couldn’t be farther from the world of cubicles I inhabit Monday through Friday.
I daydream. I imagine. I flex all of my creative muscles.
My wandering thoughts are escapism in its purest form, which I then mold and break, recast and forge, into something I can only hope is artistic.
* * *
Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!
Categories: Author Interview