[Guest Post] Anton Strout on Methods of Artistic Expression, or Exploring Your Core

About the Author

Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. He currently lives in the haunted corn maze that is New Jersey (where nothing paranormal ever really happens, he assures you).

He is the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and the Spellmason Chronicles for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Random House. Anton is also the author of many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books. His latest book, Incarnate,the third Spellmason Chronicles book, is coming out September 30, 2014.

In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.

He is currently hard at work on his next book and be found lurking the darkened hallways of his website or talking with your favorite SF&F authors on The Once and Future Podcast, where he is host and content curator.

Methods of Artistic Expression, or Exploring Your Core

By Anton Strout


Some writers say, “Oh, I always knew I was going to be a writer!” or “The Muse was with me at birth!”

I want to punch those Muse people right in the neckmeat.

Yes, I got the writing bug early, but at best I was a dabbler.

There were a million things I wanted to be growing up, but at the core was one common idea: I wanted to entertain.

I don’t often think of myself as an artist. It seems pretentious to me, but at the heart of it I am. So I entertained anyway I could growing up:

Magician. Musician. Actor, teacher even, and eventually, writer.

So how the hell did writing win out?

Well, let’s face it… magic can only get you so far unless you’re name is Penn or Teller. In magic, you are out to deceive. You weave a tale, you misdirect, leading the audience one way and surprising them in a way they hadn’t expected. That’s writing, isn’t it? Fun, but something I grew out of but still love to watch.

I’m a musical dabbler as well. I can pick up many an instrument and learn just enough to get by on it. I used to beat myself up about it, being a jack of all trades but master of none (the way I see fledgling writer’s posting “I suck” or “wanna read my bad pages for me?”, by the way). Eventually I got sick of hearing myself be Eeyore and I stopped fretting over my inadequacy and just played. Guess what? People liked it. I had success with it, playing semi-professional at times even. Still, while I was hitting my common core idea of entertaining, music is a hard life, and ultimately I don’t think my soul was fully committed to it. But I did write songs. I told tales through music, and again, writing reared its prose-filled little head again.

I also loved acting. It’s what I studied in college, but I can stare at myself in the mirror and tell the truth to my own face… I don’t have ‘the look’. Unless they’re looking to cast a balding overweight fantasy author! Then I’d totally be in. Acting was my love, and it’s what I started college with and why I moved to New York City, but I discovered that the day to day pass/fail of auditioning wore on my soul as well.  As an actor you’re indeed entertaining, usually telling a story, but it is a tale written by another. The lack of the creative writing process in it for me sealed the fact that I should absolutely be writing instead, and not just dabbling in writing as I had over the years.

First of all, the writing has a much better pass/fail cycle. You can spend a year or two writing and polishing a book, and then only get stuck in yes/no mode when you send it out. It’s not every day rejection like a New York actor pounding the pavement auditioning. Writing is just bulk rejections every couple of years when you submit something you put the time into writing, which in theory seems far more appealing to me.

Not that I had to really deal with rejection, mind you.

(Turn your hate machine on now, wannabe-authors)

My first book, Dead To Me, was only rejected once. And three days later I sold it and its sequel. You might read that and think I got super lucky. And in some respects, you would be right. The stars did indeed line up that day, but there was more than ‘luck’ to it:

Thirty eight years of dabbling. Thirty eight years of trying something else, but all roads eventually leading to the book writing. Six years of my Dorks of the Round Table writing group where we tore each other apart to try to get published (all of us are now, by the way). Learning to write over the course of a lifetime. Sixteen years working in traditional publishing learning what does and doesn’t sell out there. Seven books so far over two series. Picking up the pieces of the Simon Canderous book four to pitch The Spellmason Chronicles.

I suppose yes, there was some luck to only having to endure one rejection, and for only a whole three days at that, but when I take my life as a whole, the path to writing as my method of creative expression makes more and more sense to me.

Of course I was going to get published. I have spent my whole life in pursuit of that one singular goal I mentioned earlier: I wanted to entertain, and hopefully my words and books do just that.

I still engage in all my other avenues of entertaining on some level, bu if there’s one thing I can feel lucky about? It’s that I get to share my stories with you, dear reader. Thanks for reading and I hope to see your noses buried deep in the pages of The Spellmason Chronicles real soon.

Bonus, Anton is doing a Rafflecopter giveaway. Click the link for more information!

2 Responses

  • Now I’m curious how your other artistic endeavors have influenced your writing on a textual level, Anton. I know as a creator, Alexandra and her family are very close to your heart, but in general, I wonder how playing music and acting has influenced how you write.

  • As someone who often feels like the best opportunities have slipped them by because they’re always given to those much younger, I want to thank you for the encouragement in this post. I see stories of people who’ve had 2 or more books published by the time they’re my age, and it gets a bit discouraging, thinking that time has been wasted and, sometimes in the darker moments, that there’s no point in continuing to try. So thanks for reminding me that it’s not just talent, not just skill, but also a crapton of time devoted to building up said skill, and it doesn’t happen the same way for everyone.

    Looking forward to reading more of your books, Mr. Strout!

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