Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Scott Petty, author of The Fourth Wall.
FQ: You have quite a large resume when it comes to the arts. From being an actor in features and short films to TV shows like Days of Our Lives, etc. Can you tell me what stands out for you when it comes to writing? Is there a specific draw for you when it comes to putting pen to paper or, more likely, fingers to keyboard?
PETTY: Hmmm...someone has taken a deep dive into my acting background, mentioning what was just a featured extra gig on Days. But those were the days when I started writing, when I was living in Los Angeles. I wasn’t writing fiction. I was journaling. It was a way to capture the essence of a period of time. That’s the draw. And you had it right the first time: pen and paper. The Fourth Wall started out handwritten.
FQ: Where exactly do your very creative ideas emanate from?
PETTY: They build upon each other. Writing The Fourth Wall was a years-long journey. I didn’t just come up with one idea and then run with it. I sometimes get ideas from notes I wrote many years ago, or conversations I may have had or a piece of music, and then I trust my own writing process to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It is an intuitive process.
FQ: Are you a planner when it comes to plot, such as, does an idea percolate over a period of time where you outline chapters, etc.? Or, are you one of those who has ideas that hit them from out of the blue and you just begin?
PETTY: More the latter, because I’ve developed a great sense of trust with my writing process over the years. It is instinctive work. Brainstorming is crucial. It opens all the initial doors. Get it all out on paper first, then decide what’s useful later. That’s when I’ll start building a structure. You have to be humble to the work, though, and have the courage to quit a path.
FQ: Do you have any personal mentors who you feel create works or offer words that help you in your pursuit to write fiction?
PETTY: Not in particular. When I need inspiration, I turn to other artforms. I enjoy visiting museums. During my main writing years for The Fourth Wall, 2014-2018, I spent many Saturdays at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. I would write there, in the Hirsch Library, after viewing the collection. Movies also stimulate my creativity. During those years I watched hundreds of movies, mostly at one cinema in Houston. It was on Dunvale Road, but the theater closed in 2020. I drove by recently and the theater was torn down. It was an empty field. It was a sad moment, because much of The Fourth Wall took shape there.
FQ: Is there a genre you admire that you have yet to write in, but are looking forward to perhaps tackling one day?
PETTY: I would like to write a horror novel, something gothic or modern-gothic. I’ve written some macabre short stories, but nothing that is truly spine tingling. I read all genres, and each has its reigning superstars. If I attempt to do something completely different in the future, my approach will be the same: write a story that only I can write in a way that only I can write it.
FQ: Tell readers, if you will, a bit about this incredible story, The Fourth Wall. Not the synopsis, of course, but how the characters came about.
PETTY: You may be surprised to learn that the character closest to a real person is Maddox, not I. There was a man in Kuwait, I don’t remember his name, and he spoke to me as Maddox speaks to Jett. I wanted The Fourth Wall to be a serendipitous hero kind of tale, where the hero submits to the unknown and is transformed by the unexpected. That’s Jett’s character. I recall a Russian woman cutting my hair in Afghanistan, and she was the inspiration for Yvonne. In order to keep things interesting and dramatic, I came up with different types of people from different countries. A variety of characters and settings made The Fourth Wall an entertaining project to write. A project must keep me entertained or else I’ll abandon it.
FQ: Your lead, Captain Thomas Jett, is certainly affected by the magical/spiritual realm, such as tarot cards. Is this something that intrigues you personally?
PETTY: I’ve always been interested in the macabre and tales of the unknown. Our earliest works of literature feature characters encountering supernatural beings and monsters, epic adventures that were not too scary, which was my approach with The Fourth Wall. I present the horrors of modern warfare but in an unusual way, as an adventure that includes the reader. Jett’s Fourth Wall becomes a portal into these realms...in ways I am still discovering.
FQ: You’re sitting down at a table to discuss writing. Across from you for this talk sits...who? And why would they be your number one choice when it comes to learning more about their work and/or the literary field?
PETTY: Andre Aciman. First, he is among the living and could actually sit at a table with me and discuss writing. Second, he is a professor of literary theory, so I’m sure I would learn a great deal from him about the field. His work is both lyrical and powerful. You can tell he works hard at it. This business takes more perspiration than inspiration. I would ask him about his writing process—not inspiration, because that is deeply personal—but questions about workflow and how he manages his time.
FQ: Please let us know what is next in your writing career. Will there be a follow-up to The Fourth Wall? Or perhaps something completely different.
PETTY: Yes and yes. The Fourth Wall is the first in a five- or six-book story arc. Only the first two or possibly three books will take place in Afghanistan. I envision some massive story twists, and my imagination cannot remain within my own construct of war in the year 2012. I have an expansive outlook. The rest of the world will become my playground. On the other hand, I have written numerous other novels that have nothing to do with war, and I look forward to revisiting those old friends. But for now, they will have to take a back seat to the next chapter of The Fourth Wall.