Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Self Publishing Spotlight: Seven Days on the Mountain by Scott Whitaker

Welcome to my Self Publishing Spotlight!

This month I'm very pleased to say my spotlight has landed on author Scott Whitaker and his gripping survival thriller Seven Days on the Mountain.

Callie Grady wakes in the middle of the night to explosions and screams. It’s her birthday, but the only present she receives is the end of the world.

Or so she thinks. The world is on fire and Callie and her family flee their rural town and head to the mountains where they hope to hide out in the cabin that’s been in her family for generations.

Only there is a new civil war and US soldiers massacre fleeing citizens on the highway. War planes skewer the skies above. Chased into the hills, her family is attacked and her mother is killed. Helped by friends from her childhood, Callie and the surviving members of her family attempt to rebuild a life while the world rages about them.

Taken to “Uncle” Jessup’s mountain home, everyone must adjust to life in the new America, where the country reels from a new civil war. The survivors rely on solar power, elbow grease, and old fashioned hard work as they try to recover from loss.

However, isolation from the world isn’t all bad, as “Uncle” Jessup teaches them to hunt, fish, and scout the mountain and Callie wrestles with idea that she may be attracted to her childhood friend Alex Jessup, or Johnny Penny, or even worse, both of them.

It isn’t long before danger threatens and Callie, Alex, and Johnny are forced into the wilderness by marauding soldiers bent on establishing control of the mountain. They leave behind a dying “Uncle” Jess, his wife, and Callie’s father and brother. The last thing they see before they leave is the steady approach of deserted soldiers. Deep in the woods, the fate of their loved ones weighs upon them and soon Callie, Alex, and Johnny decide to return to either save their family and friends or die trying.

However the mountain has other things in mind.

Winter hurls snow and ice upon them. A deranged madman holds up in a fire watch post and sets a trap for the unsuspecting heroes; an aging actress holds court in the mysterious ruins of an apple orchard, a haunted cabin and insane bear bar the way up mountain while the back roads teem with bands of bored soldiers with itchy trigger fingers.

Will Callie and her friends survive the journey up the mountain?

Seven Days on the Mountain is a gritty survival thriller, a modern re-telling of The Odyssey, and you can read my full review of the book here.

For now, Scott has kindly written me a guest post about Seven Days on the Mountain and his experiences in self publishing, with a few wise words to boot!

Seven Days on the Mountain was my second complete novel1 and my first crack at Young Adult Fiction. I wrote it in 2006 in three months and revised it later that fall. An experiment; I wanted to see if I could replicate and thus learn YA pacing. YA fiction is gritty, realistic, and pushes boundaries. Some of the best sci-fi written today is YA, and I wanted to see if I could work within its boundaries. What resulted is a story of a fierce young woman who must rely on more than strength and savagery to survive a series of trials. Odysseus is a character known for his brain as much as his brawn, and I wanted a young girl who was naive, but emotionally stable, forced to become something more than a teenager; she's forced to develop a killer instinct to survive, she's forced to face death, she's forced to learn how to take care of herself.

I liberally adapted the the trials of Odysseus. The cyclops is a gross toad of a man who has taken residency in a watchtower. Circe and Calypso are merged into the life of an eternal fallen woman who lives in a mysterious ruined orchard, the Scylla and Charybdis are an insane bear and a haunted cabin.

This was my first self published work. I had a brief flirtation with landing a top agent. She was interested in Seven Days, but ultimately passed on my manuscript, encouraging me to look elsewhere because it was marketable. My first and only rejection by an agent and I remained encouraged. I knew what the business was like, a by product of Emerson College2 and Boston University's writing programs, I had worked with literary rising stars and veterans alike; I'd heard it all.

Persistence. Patience.

Business is business. When Kindle and Nook exploded I decided to try self-publishing. On my terms. I didn't want to pay for my book to see the light of day, even though I continue to seek mainstream publication for all my projects3. I get paid more often than not these days, and that's fine by me4. But most of all I love playing with language, and the music of words. Sure I'd love a fat contract and a chance to indulge my talent.

Maybe I'll land one.

Persistence. Patience.

To do it on your own adds to the thrill. An experiment of its own. My voice is what matters. And how I explore it.

Persistence. Go on your nerve. Write against your grain. Be mindful of the craft, the collective sound of syllables as they play under your typing fingers.

I published my first chapbook of poetry in 2005. The Barleyhouse Letters is a narrative lyrical half tale of two sisters whose life is full of mysteries. I left holes in the story so the reader would make their own deductions. The North Street Playhouse performed a reading of it that following winter, and it was thrilling to hear other people read my words.

My second chapbook of poetry, Field Recordings, was more of a unified collection of poems about the Delmarva Peninsula, a place invigorated with pioneering spirit, where we5 live. It won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize6 in 2006, and went on to win the Delaware Press Association for best verse.

My latest chapbook of poems, News From the Front, was published by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. It's a collection of war themed poetry. Many of the poems discovered life elsewhere: The Delaware Poetry Review, Anderbo, Xanadu, & Winning Writers: War Poetry.

Currently I'm working on a free verse YA novel about juvenile delinquents, a YA magical realism epic7, and short stories that all take place in various end of the world scenarios.

Follow me on Twitter, Posterous, and Blogger.

1 There's a redneck drug dealer magical realism 890 page whopper in my attic, a ghost story about a haunted house and marsh that's almost done - once I realized I was re-writing The Shining I didn't complete it, and a YA flood dystopian end of the world magical realism steampunk adventure that I'm putting the final touches on.

2 It was a chilly September afternoon when I sat in on my first creative writing workshops, led by poet Martin Espada, at Emerson College in the fall of 1992. We were on Tremont St. in Boston, and Andre Dubus held a graduate workshop across from the narrow office where our class met. I don't remember what we discussed in that first workshop, but Espada captured my imagination and I was hooked. At first came structured assignments and then... a free for all. Everyone brought their slice of the lit pie to class each week and I discovered new authors, rediscovered classics, picked up remainders out of the trash on Charles Street. Each new author was like a door into another room. Every new reading experience gave me permission to try similar techniques, content, style, or theme. This is true for film, theater, and television, observations on the 57 bus, or the Green line, or at the grocery store. People are everywhere. And they all have stories.

3 Persistence. Patience.

4 Currently I'm an associate editor and reviewer for The Broadkill Review. I've had the pleasure of reviewing large publishing house books, indie books, and self-published books.

5 Between college and grad school I met my love, Michele, whose own voice of poet and playwright influenced my own. Her influences became my influences and vice-versa. We both published occasionally back in those days, poor, living in the city. Then as many stories go, we moved to the country, to rural Virginia, and had a family.

6 The prize includes a giant check, two cases of Dogfish Head Beer, and a reading in the beautiful small town of Milton, DE. It's worth the B&B if you go in for that sort of thing. The beer is particularly tasty.

7 See footnote 1

So there you have it! A huge thanks to Scott for participating in the Self Publishing Spotlight, his book Seven Days on the Mountain is available now - and I highly recommend it - from:

To find out more about the Self Publishing Spotlight feature or to submit a book, click here. I'm especially interested to hear from authors planning to publish in the new year.

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