Scott Keen Launches His Blog Tour for Scar of the Downers

Monday, April 06, 2015
& giveaway contest!

Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master's store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings while scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master's house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before--escape from the city of Ungstah.

Paperback: 274 pages
Genre: MG/YA Fantasy
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (March 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1937178633
ISBN-13: 978-1937178635

Scar of the Downers is available in print at Amazon, Indie Bound, Books-a-Million, and Barnes & Noble.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Scar of the Downers, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, April 10 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Scott Keen grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn't want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing--he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools.

Visit Scott online at:




-----Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: First of all, congratulations on the publication of your first book! On your blog you mentioned that you first starting working on Scar of the Downers in 2005-2006, when it was tentatively called Child of the Downers. Can you tell us a little about all the changes the book went through in the development phase?

Scott: I was still in graduate school working on my Master of Fine Arts when I wrote a short story about an orphan. It was just an idea really. It was a rainy day, and I remember looking out my window a lot. Weird how you recall things like that.

The story was about a rich man who adopted a street orphan. The orphan’s longing for his old life, however, was too strong, and he returned to it. The rich man left the comfort of his home to go and find him. I can’t remember the orphan’s name. He may not even have had one. It was only one page long, but it was the beginning of the Scar of the Downers.

Over the next year or so, I began developing the story a bit more. That is when the character of Crik came into being. Back then his name was simply Child, and Jak’s name was originally Chap. Their first appearance as those characters was actually in a treatment for a play, which I never finished. Ever since then, the general idea has always been the same. The Downers must escape from their master.

Crik (spelled Crick earlier) was actually the name of another character altogether. In the editing process, he was deleted and his name was stolen (by myself from myself). Eventually, I changed the spelling to what it is now. Most of the changes that took place were in the arrangement of the plot and the fleshing out of some of the different creatures and characters.

WOW: What was the submission process like for you with Scar of the Downers? Did you target literary agents or small publishing houses or did you do a combination of both?

Scott: The process was long and arduous. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. But it was also a great learning experience. Frankly, that is where I learned the most about the industry. It was in the rejections.

I first targeted literary agents when I completed an early draft. In retrospect, I submitted the manuscript far too early. The book was nowhere where it should have been. When I quickly learned that, I waited a few more years and a lot of rewrites before I began the process again. In the beginning, I was only sending to agents. There were some requests for fulls, but in the end, the agents didn’t feel it was right for them.

I put the story off because I was in the process of working on another one. During that time, the Scar of the Downers sat on my hard drive collecting digital dust. Then last year, I joined a website called QueryTracker that collates a list of agents and publishers. I decided I would try to submit it to a small press, since it was proving so difficult to break in with an agent (especially because I didn’t have a long track record of success in the industry).

That’s where I found WiDo Publishing. I looked through a lot of small press websites trying to find a good match, and WiDo was the publisher I decided to send it to. As the cliché goes, the rest is history.

WOW: If you are a writer and you are submitting regularly, rejection can become a way of life. But now that your book has been published, you’ve also talked about some of the struggles you’ve had about dealing with acceptance of your book. Can you share a little of your thoughts on that with our readers?

Scott: In some ways, there is safety in rejection. You can hide behind it. You can say that the industry just isn’t giving your book a chance. A rejection slip is easy to brush off based on a 5-page reading of your manuscript. But once your book is accepted and ready to be read, you can’t hide behind your rejection slips anymore. In my opinion, success is far scarier than failure. What you’ve written is now made plain for everyone to see. The world can judge for itself whether your story is good and bad. That can be nerve-racking.

For me, self-doubt will probably always be there no matter how “successful” my book is. I think that can be a good thing. Self-doubt makes me question my writing. It tells me I don’t know everything. I can still learn from others. Too much of it, however, can paralyze you. It is a constant struggle for me. You never want one to overpower the other too much.

WOW: In addition to being a writer, you are also a homeschooling stay-at-home-dad. Is there a certain time of day you find to be more productive for your writing? And do you have any specific writing rituals that go along with writing fiction?

Scott: For me, ideally the best time of day to write is late morning. However, since that’s also the best time of day for the girls to do school, I usually can’t write at that time. So, I usually have to wait until my wife gets home from work. I either go out to Starbucks with my laptop and write or I work in our basement. Of course, I have to bring headphones wherever I go to block out the noise.

That is really the only ritual I have. I listen to music from soundtracks (Pan’s Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, World War Z, etc…). The music has to be evocative. In my opinion, soundtracks fit that requirement.

I also need a hot drink next to me: coffee or tea.

I also keep a book next to me. One that is similar in topic so I can turn to it for creative inspiration (especially if I get stuck). Just reading sometimes opens the creative floodgates.

Scott and his family at his book launch party.

WOW: You and your wife sound like you make a great team! Did she or any of your children provide feedback on Scar of the Downers during the writing/revision process?

Scott: My wife is really is my biggest fan, greatest encourager, and the one person’s advice I seek out the most, even though she is not a writer. She is, however, a big reader. Sometimes I feel writers opinions on writing tend to be more about how they would write something rather than helping you get across what you want to say. That is why I value a “reader’s” opinion so much. That, of course, is not to say I don’t value a writer’s opinion. It’s just when the two read something, they look at it differently. That being said, I send every chapter I finish to her for feedback. She lets me know if she finds actions believable, funny, confusing, etc… She is my first editor.

WOW: What are some of your favorite books in the children’s fantasy genre?

Scott: I love children’s fantasy. I love the lack of cynicism you find in it. Many people think cynicism is adult or grown-up. If there is too much of it, I find it tiring and depressing. That is why I love books like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Book of the Dun Cow, and The Chronicles of Prydain.

The clear delineation of good and evil is needed. While the world is full of gray, I think as adults we forget that there is black and white as well.

WOW: Do you have any favorite writing blogs or books about the craft of writing that you could recommend?

Scott: The books that influenced me the most are The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri and Story by Robert McKee. On Writing by Stephen King was a great help as well. Within those three books is a goldmine of information for writers. Of course there are others, but they had the greatest influence on me. You can find whatever you need in them, whether it is character development, plot lines, structure, etc.

WOW: Writing for kids can be tricky. What advice would you give aspiring children’s book authors?

Scott: While I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I would say this: don’t write down to them. I think there is a tendency to believe that to get a young adult or a child to relate to your book, you must “talk” like them. You must use the same language or expressions. I disagree with this thought. I don’t believe I have to talk like a teen to write for one. I understand writing as one to catch their expressions in dialogue, but that’s where I believe it should end.

Another thing I would say is to not write peril-light for children with the idea that they can’t handle it. I see this in my own children. They love serious content and peril. It makes them feel like they are big and grown up. Children like to think that they can handle scary or adult things, and a good children’s fantasy allows them to flex these muscles in a safe place.

WOW: What are you working on now?

Scott: Currently, I am writing the second book to Scar of the Downers. Over the last year, I completed another young adult book called The Cry of Kilhaven. It is set in a cozy village in the midst of a post-apocalyptic world. It looks at the question: what if the fantastical merged with the realistic. What would it look like? For now I have put that away. I’m giving it some distance so that when I go back and edit it I will have a fresh perspective.

----------Blog Tour Dates

April 6 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Scott Keen and a book giveaway.

April 8 @ Margo L. Dill
Scott Keen shares a list of the children's books that have touched him the most as a parent and author.

April 10 @ Lifting the Curtain
D.A. Russell hosts Scott as he discusses his family's decision to homeschool.

April 13 @ Renee's Pages
It’s true—we often judge a book by it’s cover, or at least use it to determine what we will read first. Scott Keen shares with us the story of the beautiful cover of his debut novel, Scar of the Downers.

April 14 @ Create Write Now
Scott Keen shares the story of how and why he made the career change from lawyer to stay-at-home/homeschooling father.

April 22 @ Elizabeth Maria Naranjo
Fellow YA fantasy author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo reviews Scott Keen's novel Scar of the Downers.

April 23 @All Things Audry
Get tips on on finding creativity in the everyday from fantasy writer Scott Keen, author of Scar of the Downers.

April 24 @ Writing Room 101
Not only is he an author, Scott Keen also writes screenplays, and he shares his experiences in this guest post at Writing Room 101.

April 27 @ Beth's Bemusings
Scott visits fellow author Bethany Harar's blog with a guest post on "Building the Fantasy World of Your Story."

April 28 @ Cathy C. Hall
There are benefits to publishing a book with a small press. Cathy Hall hosts Scott as he chronicles his experience working with WiDo Publishing.

April 29 @ The New Book Review
Want the inside scoop on Scar of the Downers? Renee Roberson reviews Scott Keen's YA fantasy novel for The New Book Review.

April 30 @ Writing Room 101
Scott Keen is back at Writing Room 101 with a fun author interview.

May 1 @ Lisa Hasleton's Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews fantasy writer Scott Keen about writing quirks and what he's working on now.

We have a few more dates left in Scott's tour, so if you'd like to join us contact Renee (renee[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com).


Enter to win a copy of Scar of the Downers by Scott Keen! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, April 10th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview! Scott, I can totally relate to what you said about self-doubt being a good thing for your work but also a paralyzer. And when you said, "In some ways, there is safety in rejection" - never thought of it that way, but I can see that. Thank you for sharing your publishing journey, and congratulations on the publication of your book! It sounds like a fascinating read. Good luck on your tour!

Margo Dill said...

Hi Scott: I'm just wondering if you are facing any challenges writing a sequel. I'm currently planning to write a prequel and feel overwhelmed! Best of luck to you.

Scott Keen said...

Thanks, Angela, for reading, and the encouragement. I found it keeps the self-doubt in check.

Scott Keen said...

Margo, in some ways I am having difficulty, but Scar of the Downers was actually the first part of a larger book that has already been written. I'm just glad I know where I'm going with the story. It is, however, somewhat daunting since I am now dealing with expectations. So yes, it is challenging.

Ava Louise said...

Hi Scott. Your book sounds very intriguing! Good luck with your blog tour. :)

Renee Roberson said...

Scott did a fantastic job with this book, and I say that as someone who reads a lot of YA but not a lot of fantasy. This is a book both children and adults will enjoy. I was rooting for Crik and Jak the entire time. I feel like I should write a glossary now of all the fantastical creatures he created in Scar of the Downers. My only complaint is having to wait for the next book in the series!

Scott Keen said...

Thank you, Ava!

Scott Keen said...

Thank you, Renee, for the great interview! I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

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