So back in 2014, I had heard about a book, The Cruelty, by new writer Scott Bergstrom. I figured, why not yanno….new writers don’t become old writers unless we read their stuff. And the title intrigued me, so I figured I would give it a try.
The Cruelty – an intriguing novel that introduces us to Gwendolyn Bloom. When her father vanishes, she sets off on a journey she never bargained for. Traveling under a new identity in a world of assassins, spies, and criminal masterminds, she uncovers a disturbing truth. To bring her father back alive, she must become every bit as cruel as the men holding him captive.
I am so very glad that I took a chance on a new author. This book held my attention which is not the easiest thing to do. My mind is always racing, so I have a tendency to read 2 books at once, so that there is always something to switch to; not this time. I read this book, alone, and surprised myself.
Fast forward to 2017. Mr. Bergstrom was going to be in Naperville and I was super excited to meet him. Well, some life happened and I wasn’t able to attend the reading and book signing. However, Mr. Bergstrom agreed to answer a few questions for me about being a writer. Can I tell you how super stoked I was? Man listen…..you could have knocked me over with a noodle. I was seriously fan-girling. Anyways, I’d like to share with you a few pieces of our conversation…..
HM: When/how did you know you wanted to write for a living?SB: When I was in seventh grade, I was failing almost every class, even English–an awkward situation for the son of an English teacher. Then I received a class assignment to write an eight-page story. To me, it seemed impossible. But as soon as I started writing, I fell in love with it. Creating characters, inventing a plot, all of it woke up something inside me. My teacher, Fred Marfell, became a mentor, and later, a close friend. He altered the lives of many, many students over the years, and he’s missed by all of us.
HM: Does you family have a writing background? A parent, a sibling, etc?SB: My father was an English teacher, and both my parents were avid readers. There were always books around the house–classics, mystery novels, spy stories, science fiction–every kind of book imaginable. All of us always had a book handy. I was very privileged to have both my parents encourage my love of writing, which began as a love of reading.
HM: How did this book come together for you? What was your inspiration for the topic?SB: I was taking a train from Berlin to Prague, and found myself standing in the corridor, staring at a handle for the emergency brake. I wondered, what would happen if someone pulled it? Suddenly, the specifics of the plot started coming together. Why would someone pull it? What would happen afterward? That scene–Gwen pulling the emergency brake–is still right in the middle of the book. Everything before it and after it started there.
HM: I would like to know your thoughts on handling negative responses to your writing from the writers standpoint. What do you do to not let it stop you from moving forward with your craft?
SB: Criticism is always tough, but it is also constructive. Sometimes we agree with the criticism, but even when we don’t, it nevertheless provides an author with a reader’s perspective. Peoples’ opinions are always valid, and it’s something we can take account of in the future.HM: What tips do you have for aspiring writers who want their own words on paper, i.e. choosing/trusting an editor; who to submit to for review?SB: The best tip I can give is: keep going, no matter what. Many writers I know, myself included, received countless rejections before their first “yes.” Sometimes, a book just isn’t ready yet. Other times, it’s because it’s just not the right fit for a particular agent or publisher. Workshops and trusted readers who will critique your work honestly were indispensable for me in improving my writing. Though it can be very, very hard, there’s no substitute for perseverance. Not only in researching agents and sending queries, but getting your manuscript in the best shape you can make it.