November 23, 2016

One More Than There Should Be: an interview with Scott Burn, author of "The Enemy Within"

Seventeen-year-old Max has always felt like an outsider. When the agonizing apocalyptic visions begin, he decides suicide is his only escape. He soon finds himself in an institution under the guidance of a therapist who sees something exceptional in him. Just as he begins to leave the hallucinations behind, Max discovers the visions weren't just in his head.

There are three others who have shared those same thoughts and they've been searching for Max. Like him, they are something more than human. Each of them possesses certain abilities, which they're going to need when a covert military group begins hunting them down.

As the danger escalates, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. But in the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.

Gef: What was the impetus behind this The Enemy Within?

Scott: I work in Hollywood as a screenwriter. While there is a certain amount of freedom about what you create, if you’re looking to sell it or would like to be kept on board for rewrites, you have to be cognizant of the market and what studios are after. For years I had wanted to write something that was completely mine and could be, for good or bad, precisely what I wanted it to be. I had been looking to build a story around the idea of teenage alienation, but didn’t quite know what it was. Then one day I heard a fascinating tidbit about how NASA knows precisely how many satellites are orbiting earth at every moment. I thought, what if one day they found one more than there should be - that led to the first page of The Enemy Within.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Scott: Setting really is a character unto itself. My goal is to make the reader feel like they’re there based on the setting descriptions, but not have it be so overdone that it takes over the action and emotion of the moment. Deciding what that perfect balance is took only about 15 drafts.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Scott: There are the standards that I’m sure most of your followers have read, like Heinlein, Zelazny and Bradbury… but I also grew up loving black comedies by authors like Thomas Berger and Jerzy Kosinski. Their gift for language and story craft was extraordinary. Great writing is all about creating that human connection in unexpected ways, and that transcends genres.

Gef: What is your favorite aspect of the scifi genre? Were scifi novels your gateway drug into reading?

Scott: They were indeed the gateway. There were way too many hours in libraries at closing and late at night delving into the next story and getting carried away to fantasy and sci-fi realms. But I think the best of them had one thing in common - sci fi was a backdrop and it was much more about the main characters emotional journey that made the story compelling. Great twists and action sequences are always fun, but unless there’s a real bond to the heroes, as well as the antagonists, the story won’t reach beneath the surface level (for me).

Gef: What is the biggest misconception about "new adult" fiction that you've heard from readers--and writers for that matter?

Scott: I’ve been working on and off for years on a slightly older coming of age story set in college. To me it’s New Adult. But when I talked to my agent or other people in publishing, NA always tends to have erotic over (under?)tones. That’s a bit silly - just call it erotic if that’s the case. I see NA as being for a more mature than YA audience, but not quite into their late 20’s adults.

Gef: What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Scott: That you need to stay in your genre and build your brand in that genre. There may be sense to it, but I think it’s awful advice. Writers are story tellers and that story may be a coming of age story today and an action adventure story next year. Write what you’re psyched every day to get up and write. Although your agent may advise differently...

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Scott: I don’t know if it’s guilty, but House of Cards is one of my great pleasure. I binge on that and watch a full season in 2 days. The same with Bloodline. Love it!

Gef: What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

Scott: When something catches me off guard and takes the story in a great but unexpected direction, that’s such an awesome experience. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas had that effect on me. 

Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Scott: Research is such a huge part of the process - whether in screenwriting or novels. I always take time and dig into articles and reach out to people who are experts in their field. I don’t always understand what it is they tell me, which is all the more reason to dig deeper - because it’s the writers job to find way to make complex ideas relatable. And that only happens once I understand what I’m talking about. I wish there were tricks. But really it’s rolling up your sleeves and diving in until you are an expert in it - or can fake being one.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Scott: I have different film projects at various studios. Hopefully one of them winds its way into production soon enough. And I’ve been working on a new supernatural thriller that will be ready for human eyes in a few months (a few being anywhere between 3 and 20).

They can look at my website to get a sense of the type of things I do outside of The Enemy Within:


  1. Thanks Gef. Hope your readers enjoy.

    Scott Burn

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  3. And here is a link for the book...

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