About Sam Sackett:
California born and raised, then most of my life on the Great Plains. Professor of English at Fort Hays (KS) State University for 23 years before burnout; then into newspaper, advertising agency, and public relations work. Having decided I was an expert on career change, I went into career management for 15 years. Retired in 2003 and moved to Thailand with my Thai-born wife; returned to the US in 2009 to live in Oklahoma near one of her sons by a previous marriage. Writing is to me what swimming is to a fish. My early book publications included a collection of Kansas folklore, a children’s book of cowboy songs, a translation of a Flemish novel, and a critical study of a Kansas writer. Since 2009 I’ve published five novels and three collections of short stories.
What inspires you to write?
My mother read to me when I was a child and early bought me books to read. I wanted to write because I loved to read. I wrote my first book when I was in kindergarten. Now I write largely because I want to try to convince people to see things as I see them: the ballad “Sweet Betsy from Pike” has a message to girls hidden in it; this is what Robin Hood was really like, good will always win out over evil, this is what Huck Finn would have been like if Twain had written about him growing up, this is what Jesus was really like.
Tell us about your writing process.
Let me limit this to my novels, because I work differently in nonfiction. Most of my novels are to some extent historical, and I start out with a question: What was it really like? Then comes the research. And then I start writing, usually without a plan in my head. “Sweet Betsy from Pike” obviously is based on the folk ballad, and that gave me some structure to follow; “The Robin Hood Chronicles” is based on the ballads, but I had to arrange them in chronological order and invent bridges between them; “Rabbi Yeshua” is based on the canonical gospels, and that involved me in reconciling contradictions (for instance, when did Jesus drive the moneychangers out of the Temple?). But I remember that while I was writing “Adolf Hitler in Oz” — which started with wanting to dramatize the idea that good will always triumph over evil — and “Huckleberry Finn Grows Up” I was continually thinking “How am I going to end this?” I make no outlines or character sketches; I write by the blind grope method.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I visualize my characters in my mind, and I watch them act out the story. My job is to describe what I see them do and hear them say. For “Huckleberry Finn Grows Up” I just listened to Huck talk and wrote down what he told me. When I’m not actually writing, of course, I’m thinking about what I’m going to write the next time I sit down at the computer. And in that way I have input into the story. But when I’m actually writing, the characters are in charge.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read. You will find writers you like, and then you can imitate them. Sooner or later you will find that your natural voice is different from theirs, and then you will have your own style. In my case it was finding out that I wasn’t Ray Bradbury.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I gave traditional publishers their chance to find me, and none of them rose to the bait. So I decided I was going to have to self-publish. What I learned was that self-publishers aren’t interested in selling books; they are in business to sell services to writers, and the writers are on their own so far as marketing their wares are concerned. I wish there was a third alternative.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
E-books are popular now, but they’re ephemeral. I want something I can hold in my hands and turn the pages of.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: historical fiction, fantasy
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
Link To Sam Sackett Page On Amazon