Please welcome author H. Scott Butler, who will answer some questions about becoming a writer later in life, something Auntie M can identify with~
H. Scott Butler grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from LSU, went on to earn a doctorate in English at Duke University, and taught literature and film at a community college in eastern Virginia for many years.
Since his early retirement he has devoted his time to writing and to participating in a grassroots effort to preserve Fort Monroe, a former Army post of deep historic significance. He and his wife, Susan, currently live in Blacksburg, Virginia.
What have you written? Three novels, the first unpublished, as should be. The other two–Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows–are mystery thrillers about a female sheriff’s investigator in Northern Virginia. My heroine, Cynthia Westbrook, is a tall thirty-something with a serious interest in literature.
Why a woman for your main character?
Not sure. Although in retrospect, I’ve found it a sort of freeing thing to do. In Night Journey, Cynthia has never dealt with a profoundly traumatic event in her childhood, so in much of the novel she’s a little detached from herself. If she were a man with the same problem, the usual macho baggage would dictate, by my lights, a less cathartic outcome.
Also, I’m drawn to underdogs, and in America as in most countries women aren’t treated as equals.
Is Night Journey, then, primarily about a detective solving a crime or someone with a personal issue?
The two are intertwined. Cynthia’s evasion of her past interferes with her ability to interpret the evidence. She can’t solve the mystery until she confronts herself.
As a reader of mysteries I’m always more interested in the personality of the detective than in the crime, and I wanted to reflect that inclination in my mystery–without, of course, neglecting the crime-solving element.
You said Cynthia’s a serious reader. Why did you emphasize that about her?
Literature has always been important to me. I’m a retired English and film teacher. I spent my working life trying to help students see that art, as Hamlet says, holds the mirror up to nature. It’s a way of understanding ourselves and the world.
So I wanted Cynthia to have that sort of appreciation of literature. And in Night Journey, a poem by Robert Frost becomes in fact both an emotional touchstone for her and a significant clue.
Yes. There it isn’t a clue but a means of self-understanding. Cynthia feels compelled to confront the traumatic event in her past, a still unsolved murder, by returning to her Alabama hometown and doing her own investigation. For something to read she takes along, not really by accident, as she comes to see, The Scarlet Letter.
You said you were retired. Is writing fiction a recent or a long-time ambition?
I’ve always wanted to do it, but I lacked both the time and impetus–the impetus being, in my case, the sense of time growing short. To quote Andrew Marvel: But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.
How does becoming a writer at your age make you feel?
Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows, by H. Scott Butler, published by High Tide Publications, are both available from Amazon.
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