Scott McDermott is an award-winning author living in Virginia Beach with his wife and two furballs. Looking at our current democratic system, McDermott finds it easy to see a future more like Game of Thrones than what our constitution aspires to. Inspired by his observations, he decided to write Election 2064, a political thriller aimed at anyone who enjoys a riveting, epic story with an emotional punch. As our Author of the Day, McDermott talks politics, reveals his secret skills and talks about his writing habits.
Please give us a short introduction to what Election 2064 is about.
Election 2064 is a science fiction series that doubles as a political thriller. As its title describes, it follows a future presidential campaign season with some haunting parallels to today’s environment. A prolonged civil war may have ended, but the fragile sway toward peace and unity doesn’t sit well with everyone. Book One in the series introduces a variety of characters across the ideological landscape, battling it out for control of the nation and power for themselves.
What inspired you to write a book with Game of Thrones-style American politics and lasers?
It certainly feels lately that our democratic system is becoming more tribal, with loyalties to personality and party eroding some of our principles. Divisions have become so pronounced that you can almost live in a different universe depending on what cable network you watch. I wrote most of the first book during the 2016 election, and if you see that unparalleled time in our history as the beginning of a trend rather than an anomaly, it’s easy to see a future more like Game of Thrones than what our constitution aspires to. As for the lasers, that’s just icing on the cake.
This is the first volume in a series - did you plan from the start for this to become a series?
Yes – there’s so much story to tell that it will take at least 4 books to convey it properly. The first volume primarily takes place in 2063 as many of the campaigns are just beginning, so there’s a long way to go until election day!
Your book gives an interesting perspective on what America might have looked like if it had a multi-party instead of a two-party system. Why did you take this approach?
To be honest, I think that’s where we’re heading. You can see an ideological rift in the Republican party now that I think will play a big role in 2020, between buttoned-up, business-minded conservatives and the ideological, culture-war populists. The Democrats face divisions of their own between incremental progressives and large-scale reformers (i.e., the Hillary and Bernie wings during 2016). From a writer’s perspective, working from a different playing field than the typical R versus D was more interesting to me.
There’s also a trend explored in the novel on the trend of politics as an entertainment engine. Today there’s wall-to-wall political coverage that’s becoming its own industry. It will only become more monetized, which is why candidates try so hard to attract lucrative sponsorships. It’s also become almost like a sport, which is why the League structure has replaced political parties, with Commissioners and so on – you’ll see it more in Book Two with the start of what’s called Debate Season.
What type of audience did you have in mind when writing this? Would this series be interesting to someone who isn't into politics?
Absolutely! It’s a character-driven thriller more than anything else, with big action pieces, major twists, and lots of suspense. So to me it’s for anyone who enjoys a riveting, epic story with an emotional punch. Those who do follow politics will see some parallels to current events, but the main goal in this series is to entertain and provide a little food for thought as to where this country might be going if we stay divided and let our democracy erode.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I live in Virginia Beach, so I’m very adept at putting my feet in the sand for a lazy afternoon, beer in hand. I keep myself young by playing in a bunch of adult recreational sports leagues, play a little guitar (though not so much anymore), and hang out with our pets.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
How much time do you have? I’ve learned so much, and still have so much left to learn. Like many writers, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it took me a long time to be okay with a clunky scene or chapter without getting dejected. Above all, to succeed as a writer you have to be persistent and just trust that if you keep coming back to it, you’ll be able to fix it. A page with words, bad as they may be, is a lot easier to fix than a page that’s blank.
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve a clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
I used to write short stories as a kid and sell them to my friends for a quarter, so I always had this bug. For me, it’s an outlet – if I didn’t do something creative with myself, I’d probably go nuts. If you want to call that achieving clarity, feel free!
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
Absolutely, and it’s one of the reasons why I like writing this series so much. There are characters from all manner of backgrounds, with opposing moralities, philosophies, and beliefs – but they’ve all got the same dream. They just have starkly different methods of trying to achieve that dream.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
I do most of my writing at night during the week, a couple hours at a time. On the weekends I’ll try to fit in at least one long shift during the day. Habit and discipline are so important – I try to set a relatively modest goal of 10,000 words per month and write at least every other day. If I go longer than without getting anything down, or get behind, I start to get a little crazy.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
Never stopping. Writing a novel can be a solitary, nerve-fraying experience, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems awfully small at times. But if you chip away a little every day, you eventually have a statue.
Did you work out a plot for your series before you started to write, or do a lot of things just "happen" while you write?
I’d say it’s a little of both. There’s an outline and I know some of the emotional beats I want to hit, along with the plot twists and pivotal scenes. But you need to leave yourself a little flexibility, at least at first, because you will inevitably get new ideas. I will often write my last couple of chapters about halfway through my draft. That way, I know what I’m working toward, but I also leave some room for significant changes once I get there.
What are you working on right now?
Book Two is almost done, and I can’t wait to share it! It will be available for pre-order in April 2018 and released in June.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I’ve got an author blog at election-2064.com and readers can find me tweeting (usually about politics, baseball, or tech stuff) from the handle @DudeWhoWrites.