Writer Interview: Scott Thomas Outlar

Another week, another writer interview! Today we’re spending some time with Scott Thomas Outlar – poetry, fiction and essay writer, and editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, and The Peregrine Muse.

When and why did you first start writing?

Well, one day I woke up, and it just seemed like the most natural thing to do. Seventeen or so years later, I stand by the decision. I’ve doubled down so many times at this point it would be a crying shame to bail out now. I’m in too deep. It’s a compulsion. I’m a junkie for creative language. The only way to get a fix is to align the words in such a way that the bells start ringing loudly. Of course, the sound that eventually arrives might just be coming from that church in the distance, or a train rumbling steadily along, or a symphony of illusion inside my own head. Whatever the case, I like to catch a buzz with the letters as they rise.

In the beginning, I wrote to free my soul of demons. I summoned them up to the surface of consciousness through spells cast with my pen. Then I had to fight them with the necessary intensity to make sure I won a solid victory. Then I had to slaughter them in a sacrifice upon the altar of righteousness, belligerence, madness, and howling laughter. It was a long fought war. But it tested my mettle. Surviving hell helps open the pathway to heaven. From chaos comes order. This is Live and Learn 101. There is a certain arc to every story. At least there should be.

At the moment, I write to sing the Psalms of Selah into existence. The hoped for result reflected in that statement sounds a lot more extravagant and lofty than simply describing the actual process of day to day grinding that goes into the effort of trying to leave a legacy. But if you want to do something important in this world, you have to work at it. Again, these are commonsensical ideas. Honestly, I’m just trying to stay focused long enough to say something interesting. All the goals geared toward renaissance and revolution are sort of unfolding organically on their own. I’ve just been waiting around to catch the wave when it rises.

What was your favourite book as a child?

When I was in the 8th grade, an assignment that involved writing a book report was handed down from on high by the almighty teacher. My father had recently given my younger sister a book from his library, suggesting she read it at some point, and I knew that it was still sitting, unopened, in her room. Maybe I wondered why he’d told her about the book instead of me. Or perhaps my motivation was not born out of jealousy at all, but rather a natural curiosity stemming from the synopsis that I’d overheard him explaining to her. My memory concerning such matters is slightly faulty at this point, due to age and certain nasty habits picked up over the past 25 years or so. However, if I were a betting man, which I certainly am, I’d tend to lean slightly toward jealousy being at least partially responsible. Whatever the case might be, I wound up asking my sister if I could borrow the book. Thank God, she agreed to the one-sided deal (come to think of it, I ought to buy her a gift all these years later in appreciation for that life-changing decision).

The Chronicles of Amber: Volume One contained the first two books in what would quickly become, and will likely always remain, my favorite fantasy series. The first book, Nine Princes in Amber, kicked off the fun and games. The tale was penned brilliantly by Roger Zelazny. A masterful craftsman whose novels won him multiple Hugo and Nebula awards during his prime. The balance between order and chaos is at the heart of this series’ mythology, and I would be a damned fool to pretend that it hasn’t played a huge role in helping to develop my own philosophy through the years. In fact, I’m working myself up into a royal fit just thinking about the plot right now, and so, perhaps, after having spent at least a decade away from the characters and intrigue of Amber, the time has come to crack the spine one more time…

What do you enjoy writing, and what do you find yourself writing about most often?

I enjoy writing about politics, culture, philosophy, spirituality, sports, health, and any other type of general nonsense that might be floating through my mind during the day. With that being said, I have been focused primarily on poetry during the past two and a half years. Before that I had been contributing essays and articles at a few different journals in the early months of 2014, but once my first poem appeared at Dissident Voice in the summer of that year, I immediately fell into an addictive groove that hasn’t quite shaken loose yet.

I use the term “prose-fusion poetry” to describe my work, which essentially allows me to mess around with any style or form at any given moment while still remaining within some nebulous, ineffable classification that I coined. That way I can rant, rave, ramble, and fly off on tangential screeds at the drop of a dime, yet still slap the same label on the product at the end of each line. If someone wants to offer an unsolicited critique about some abstract or surrealistic piece of my work by pointing out that it doesn’t technically qualify as being classical poetry, that’s fine, they’re absolutely correct. I never set out to play by their restricted rules. I’m making the game up as I go along. Some have called such a concept manifest destiny. I simply refer to it as life, and then I continue dancing. Hell, I only halfway believe that this entire existence isn’t some sort of multidimensional computer simulation anyway, so at this point I figure we all might as well just enjoy some good, old-fashioned, primal, Dionysian revelry and fun. As long as the ink keeps spilling from the pen, I’ll continue screaming, scribbling, and kicking up a fuss.

Where do you write? Do you have a writing space or a particular process/routine?

I’m sitting on a bench in the woods at a local park right now. It is a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. The sun is shining through the naked branches of trees, and I’m wearing shorts with my shirt sleeves rolled up because the mild winter temperature of February feels something like what I’d imagine to be heaven here on earth. In fact, just maybe? Could it be? Is this the paradise of Eden reborn? Am I mistaken when believing that Atlantis version 2.0 has risen? The song of chirping birds from up above signals that it might all very well be true. The symphony of the Phoenix erupting in my heart assures the fact.

What I mean to say is that this particular spot has been my favorite of late. The atmospheric energy seems to surge at a high frequency. So I come here to absorb a heavy, heady dose of the stuff before pulling out my pen and paper to see what might happen next.

There is also something that should be said for another familiar scene I’ve found myself in recently where the following situation can be observed. Seated on the bed (also known as a makeshift [and comfortable] office) with a laptop resting on my legs. Personal email open, W.I.S.H. email open, Twitter open, 17Numa WordPress site open, Facebook open (but used sparingly, else that Devil sucks out my soul), multiple Microsoft Word files open (poetry, essays, submissions, current interviews being asked or answered), and a notebook by my side to keep notes in while reading dozens of articles, monitoring various literature journals, and watching news/propaganda throughout the day.

What’s your favourite word?

I must admit that I had never considered such a question before. Which seems a bit strange considering how much I love the rhythms created by words and language. Perhaps that is the heart of the issue. There are so many to choose from, how can I possibly pick just one from the bunch? I could say Love, God, War, or Wine, and the answer would have a hint of truth. But, in this particular instance, after careful consideration, I must choose a different route by saying that my favorite word is Swine.

It serves as the perfect dagger with which to attack an enemy. As in: “Those filthy swine in the rogue intelligence agencies have been funneling arms, munitions, and cold hard cash to the terrorist organizations again over in the middle east. They don’t even care that the public has caught them red handed, and that the scandal is plastered all over the foreign press. Their audacity must truly know no bounds.”

But it also works just as well in a more playful manner with friends who can take a goodhearted ribbing without immediately searching for a safe space into which they can curl up and cry. As in: “You son of a swine! You said you’d be here with the tickets over an hour ago. You degenerate fool! The first quarter is nearly over already, and I haven’t even been able to drink one damn beer yet! There’s going to be hell to pay this time. I’ve warned you about this type of recalcitrance! I’m getting sick of this same old song and dance every week. No more excuses. If you’re not here in the next…” (etc. etc.) I think we all get the point.

You simply can’t go wrong when comparing someone to a pig, no matter how you slice it. A slab of ham, or thin strips of bacon. Either way, it’s a glorious blessing from heaven upon which to feast.

What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?

I think it’s important to first point out that any challenges associated with the writing process are actually perceived as blessings by me. One’s skill and craft must be tested, or else growth becomes stagnant. Right now, finding the next sentence to jot down for this answer is proving to be somewhat of a challenge, but by embracing it as an opportunity I’m able to faithfully move ahead and discover what will eventually pour forth from the pen. Pushing ever-forward with a zeroed-in focus is the type of mentality that I seek to maintain in life at all times.

Writing poems seems to me to be somewhat analogous to lining up a shot with a camera and snapping a photo. A specific moment in time and space is captured with a quick flash. On the other hand, writing an essay or an article is more akin to the steps taken while directing a short film. There are stops, starts, appraisals, edits, cuts, additions, consultations (perhaps), and new angles of perception to be considered before a final draft (or movie) can be presented to the public. Inherently, the larger an idea, the more effort will be needed to see it manifest. Thus, the greatest challenge might just be making sure that the biggest ideas get seen through to full fruition, and not compromised somewhere along the way due to limitations of energy or resources. That is to say: dream of the moon, yet always aspire for the stars beyond.

Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.

2016 was a year that I will look back on fondly for the rest of my life. I released a chapbook, Chaos Songs, through Weasel Press; and a full-length poetry collection, Happy Hour Hallelujah, through CTU Publishing. I feel as though I put in a sustained level of energy toward my work during the year, and in the month of December I was able to reap the rewards of what had been sown.

My 1000th poem was published, I was named Poet of the Year out of 10,000 members in Michael Lee’s Johnson Contemporary Poets group, and I received three Pushcart Prize nominations for my work. After having recently been betrayed in my personal life by someone whom I didn’t anticipate such a thing happening from, my psyche could have potentially been thrown completely off course and out of whack, and so it was a fortuitous gift, indeed, to be recognized at just the right time by editors, publishers, and my peers. It helped me to keep my head held high, my spine straight, and my eyes gazing toward the future. For that, I am eternally grateful.

There was another aspect of 2016 which also made me feel both honored and humbled, and that was being asked by four different publishers to come on board as an editor. Earning the respect of other people in the literary community is something I don’t take lightly, and so it was with great enthusiasm that I began serving in various capacities at Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?

2017 is about a month long in the tooth as I write this, and as the wheels continue churning around the cycle of the sun, it is my intention to align the spinning gears of my soul in kind. Life is a perpetual motion machine, forever rolling along toward the inevitable future. It’s a sink or swim process. As brutal as it might sound, the only way to survive is with constant adaptation toward evolution. What that means to me at this point of my life is being able to stare down the forces of chaos with mindfulness while maintaining perfect faith that a higher state of order is steadily emerging. I pray for confidence, courage, strength, and goodwill every day. I do my best to synchronize my heart and mind with such characteristics so that all my actions arise from a space of purity.

I believe in the brightest future imaginable. I trust in my intuition. I trust in the Tao River. I trust in the Renaissance of America that is destined to restore the Republic and birth Atlantis 2.0 upon the earth. I trust in the peace that will be established as the globalist empire collapses and its wars wind down. I trust in the vision of Revolution that I still haven’t learned how to fully express quite yet. I trust in my family, my friends, and my allies. I trust in all individuals across this world who have the light of liberty flashing in their eyes and the blood of sovereignty burning through their veins. I trust that today will be better than yesterday. I trust that tomorrow will be the greatest day ever.

I probably should have just cut bait and ended with that dramatic finale dedicated to the free will of humanity, but, what the hell, I guess I might as well push the issue a little further and try to sneak in just a few more thoughts before closing up shop. My goals for the rest of this year will be focused primarily on promoting Happy Hour Hallelujah (available here), completing the manuscript for my next chapbook (which will be released relatively soon), and continuing to perform at as many literary events as possible in an effort to cultivate my skills in front of live audiences. In that vein, I’m particularly looking forward to helping launch the new open mic event that The Southern Collective Experience will be hosting in coordination with Good Acting Studio in metro Atlanta. The SCE will also continue recording episodes of our radio program, Dante’s Old South, which airs on NPR/WUTC.

And, lastly (this should go without saying), singing and dancing will always remain high priorities on any list in my life.

Would you like to take part in an interview for the Peeking Cat blog? Email editor@peekingcatpoetry.co.uk

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