The Accidental Author

Jack Scott is an accidental author. When Jack and his partner Liam parachuted into paradise, they intended to put their feet up and watch the pansies grow. But when they crashed into what Jack infamously described as the mad, the bad, the sad and the glad of expatland, Jack had to write it all down.

The result was Jack’s debut book, Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey - a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy recalling the first year of a gay couple in a Muslim land.

Jack Scott is an accidental author. When Jack and his partner Liam parachuted into paradise, they intended to put their feet up and watch the pansies grow.

The Beginning

Jack starts off, ‘Our first year in Turkey was like living in Midsomer without the murders. But then there was the murder. Suburban life in London was never so eventful. Liam and I would wake up each morning thinking ‘What next?’ In effect, the book wrote itself. 

Perking the Pansies unveils an alternative view of Turkey. While most books cover Turkey’s dramatic history, rich culture and majestic landscape, I wanted to write something quite different – something about the reality of expat life in a Muslim land from a unique perspective as a gay man. 

It’s something no one has done before, and why would they? There aren’t many openly gay expats living the dream in Turkey. 

The book became a critically acclaimed, award-winning bestseller and its success has opened up a whole new career for me as an author and freelance writer. We decided to end our Anatolian adventure and paddle back to Britain on the evening tide. We now live in Norwich, a beautiful cathedral city in eastern England.’

An Author’s Day

So what’s a typical day like for you Jack? ‘I call my day ‘the 3Rs’ – responding, reacting and writing. My daily routine starts with my ‘admin,’ – a merry-go-round of emails, social media engagement, blog management and book promotion. A minor irritant is the number of spam emails I get, urging me to buy slimming pills or Viagra, neither of which I need (well, perhaps I could drop a few pounds). 

Once the chores are done and dusted I get down to the proper job, whether it’s blog posts, writing articles or ideas for the next big thing. 

Blogging is a good apprenticeship for creative writing and great fun too. My blog began as a candid, tongue-in-cheek narrative of the Turkey years but now reflects our changed circumstances. I thought that moving the goal posts might result in plummeting ratings, like a spent sit-com past it sell-by date. 

If anything, the transition from expat to repat has seen the blog blossom, attracting a broader-based international audience.

Now that our sweeping Anatolian adventures are behind us, I’ve just published the best of the blog as a two volume e-book – Turkey, the Raw Guide and Turkey, Surviving the Expats. The uncensored director's cut includes previously unpublished material and some solid home-spun practical advice about the extraordinary country we called home for four years.'

A Solid Relationship

‘Working with your nearest and dearest isn’t always a recipe for success. My partner Liam is my greatest fan and fiercest critic. He cracks the whip, damns my sloppy words and flabby grammar, but lavishes praise on me when I get it right. We’ve had a few creative skirmishes along the way. 

A solid, grounded and rounded relationship is a key component of any partnership. Crucially, neither of us stays in the naughty corner for long.’

He Did It Himself

Jack continues, ‘I like to be functional as well as decorative. This DIY effort has taught me an enormous amount about the burgeoning e-book trade – designing, formatting, publishing, distribution, pricing, marketing and engagement. I’ve acquired new skills that simply wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t abandoned the wicked world of the waged. Back in the pay day, I used to be big in local government. 

This bean-counter had a fat salary, a kiss-my-backside boss and an over-bloated service to mismanage. These days, writing provides slimmer pickings but the snack is more satisfying and keeps my blood pressure in check. Writing may never make me rich but it is making me happy.'

Biggest Challenge

Jack reflects on the downside to home working. ‘Working alone has its drawbacks. I’m naturally gregarious and outgoing and this writing lark can be a lonely and isolating journey. Also, Liam and I have had to cut our cloth to make it possible – exotic holidays to faraway places and city breaks on a whim are off the agenda (unless, of course, the film deal drops on the mat).’

What Makes It All Worthwhile?

‘I’m always touched and a little humbled when I receive messages from people who take the time to tell me how much they enjoyed my book. It makes the constant typing and rapidly developing RSI worth all the effort.’

What Treats Do You Offer Yourself?

It sounds like Jack makes sure he has a good work/life balance; and having ‘Me Moments’ is something that we at iHubbub think is very important.

‘Liam and I never need an excuse to have a bit of fun. We’re lucky to live in a city with a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and more good bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. It’s all within minutes of home and we take full advantage of its riches.’

And The Award Goes To…

‘Perking the Pansies was listed for the 2012 Polari First Book Prize at London’s Royal Festival Hall; it was amazing and a total surprise. I was equally delighted when I received two Rainbow Awards for ‘Best LGBT Biographies and Memoirs’ and ‘Best Gay Debut Novel/Book.’’

Inspiration

‘Anyone who stands up for equality and fairness and against bigotry and hatred gets my vote.’

Future Plans

‘Now the e-books are out, I’m focusing all my energies on writing the sequel to Perking the Pansies to tie up the fraying loose ends and conclude the tale with a flourish. There are twists and surprises in store. I’m also up for freelance writing gigs and if anyone needs help getting their e-books on the virtual shelf, I’m up for that too.’ 

Advice For Others

‘I’m a novice writer. For most of my meandering expedition, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. A blend of trial, error, luck and intuition turned an uncoordinated series of chess moves into a well-received book that I am proud to have created.

My probation was illuminating and rewarding in equal measures but, as the new kid on the block, I’m hardly qualified to advise others on their own paths to literary glory. What follows should be taken with a large pinch of salt (and shouldn’t upset the old pros too much).’

Just Write

Okay, there are some amazingly talented writers out there. Every word, every sentence and every nuance is perfect and beautiful. There’s no way you can compete, right? Wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s imperfect. You have to begin somewhere. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

Be Yourself, Be Unique

Think carefully about what will make your writing stand out from the crowd. How is your message different? What’s distinctive about your angle? Who will your writing appeal to? Are you prepared to reveal the real you? 

Think About ‘Form’

This is one of the biggest lessons I learned when turning my blog into a book. A story, even a real-life story, needs order, pace, plot, a compelling blend of highs and lows and a sense of purpose. 

Think Visually

Set the scene and describe your characters and situations colourfully. Help your readers visualise your story in their mind’s eye. Use dialogue to underscore the narrative and keep the speech realistic. 

Edit, Edit, Edit - And When You’re Done, Edit Some More

Be bold and decisive. If something adds nothing to the plot or message, cut it. 

Share Your Writing

Sharing something you’ve just written is a brave thing to do. If you’re a new writer, as I am, it’s the only way of getting a real feel for how you are doing.  Ask for feedback. Then take a deep breath. Take the comments on board. Some of them will be rubbish but some won’t. Try not to take things personally. 

The gamble paid off for me. Within months of publication I had a solid set of good reviews. I knew I’d made my mark in Turkey when Time Out Istanbul did a double page spread about the book. And I quote:

“Jack is something of a miracle-worker in that he’s managed to persuade a non-Turkish publisher that there’s a market for a story about life abroad in somewhere that’s neither Tuscany nor Provence.” 

Miracles can happen.’

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