Indie Spotlight of Author Scott Kaelen
A Very Personal Account of How His Disability Turned Him Into an Author
“Stay tuned for my second novel, don’t let the obstacles in your path stop you from achieving your dreams, and don’t take those magical orbs in your head for granted. “
When Beth asked me to return to her blog for another guest post, I initially considered sharing what I’ve learned about character building or some other aspect of writing, but… You know what? Those things are ten a penny. If you’re an author and you want help with fleshing out your characters, just ask Google and you’ll easily find a decent article by an established author. So, no writing help, no info about the world of my own series, none of that fluff. Instead, I’ll get personal – personal to me, not to you. I’ll tell you something I’ve been meaning to share in detail but putting off for quite some time, mostly because a voice in my head keeps telling me that no one will care.
But, whether that turns out to be true or not, here goes.
The Disability That Turned Me Into An Author
by Scott Kaelen
I’m legally blind. I have been since 2004. For three years prior to that, I was registered as “partially sighted” but later upgraded to “blind / severely sight impaired”. I’m also a self-published author who deals with practically every aspect of his writing despite the myriad visual difficulties.
Looking back, there were subtle signs throughout my childhood and early adulthood that something wasn’t quite right with my eyesight, but, at the time, I didn’t spare it any thought. My sight was good enough, after all, to get me into the military shortly after my 18th birthday in 1996. And it was there, nearly six hears later, that I was unexpectedly cast into the next chapter of my life. (No, not as a writer; that came much later.) It was 2001 and I was still at the rank of private because I couldn’t pass the night navigation exercise of the course that would allow me to be promoted (although I can at least say I was a “local” lance corporal during my second tour of Bosnia in ’99/’00). I was on shift as “duty driver” one night and I was sent to pick someone up from a hospital. I set off in the Land Rover, but I never made it to the hospital. My “night blindness”, previously shrugged off by corporals, senior ranks and officers as “Stop complaining, Scott. None of us can see in the dark”, was worse than usual and all the vehicles on the road were dazzling me with what I thought, at the time, were their full beams. I eventually made it back to the army base and had to explain why I’d returned alone. The following morning, my boss called me into his office and ordered me to have an eye test with a military ophthalmologist. I did so, and the ophthalmologist, quite bluntly, told me that I had retinitis pigmentosa and would probably be blind within ten years.
When an author takes the time to build a solid history, I believe that it adds so much depth and mystery that just make it a joy to read. Scott Kaelen has accomplished that tenfold with THE BLIGHTED CITY.
I refer to the 2000s, wryly and somewhat ironically, as my “dark decade”. After promptly being discharged from the army, I went from job to job, leaving each one due to increasing difficulties as my eyesight worsened. I still had good central vision – that wasn’t a problem – the problems were not being able to see between dusk and dawn and a gradual reduction of my peripheral vision. Tunnel vision is one of the other symptoms of RP, as retinitis pigmentosa is more commonly named. My temperament during that decade was not good. Most of the people in my life were not good for me, and, conversely, I was not an ideal person to be around. Friendships faded or crashed and burned. Relationships, such as they were, were poor choices and went the same way. I lost touch with most of my family and I never regained it. I was in a bad place and the future looked even grimmer.
Between 2009 and 2015 I went from being single to in a relationship to engaged to married to separated, moved back to England and was divorced in 2016. While in Germany I made the worst mistake of my life. No, not being married; I don’t regret that. The mistake was that I allowed German eye doctors to slice my eyeballs open, take out my lenses and replace them with plastic ones. I regret it every day, but at the same time – and it feels a little strange to say this – I don’t think I’d change it if I could go back in time and do so. Why? Because it’s my belief that the operations going wrong were the catalyst which led me to where I am now in life, to becoming the person I am, to meeting the woman I love who has kept me sane for the last several years, and to becoming not just a writer but an author.
Rewind the clock to late 2011 after the ill-fated operations which should have slightly improve my sight but instead made it much worse. I had comparatively been coping with the night blindness and tunnel vision, but my central vision quickly deteriorated and my depth perception was affected. A room now looked like a faded painting. The smaller details had gone and I could no longer recognise people as easily. I seethed over what the doctors had done to me, how they hadn’t taken into account and told me about the higher chance of complications from such operations for people with my condition. And so, there I was: living in a foreign land, able to converse on a basic level but ultimately unemployable, with extreme difficulties on public transport and in crowded areas, miserable and directionless. I asked myself what I could do to put some purpose into my life. The answer came quickly and stunned me with its apparent simplicity.
I would become a writer. I’d been an avid reader of speculative fiction since I was given library tickets for my 7th birthday, so the transition seemed an obvious one. But, of course, it wasn’t that easy. I spent some time reading lots of articles on how to write (see, even I with my awful vision could find those articles online) and I gained some experience by writing short stories and test chapters for beginnings of novels, plus some poetry and essays. I spent too much time on those things instead of making a serious effort to write my first novel. I regret that. It wasn’t until a year after my return to England and I’d found a place to live and things had settled down that I finally put the essays and poems aside and kicked my arse into gear to write my first novel. In January 2018, it was published, and not before time…
While editing the final draft of the novel, my eyesight took another turn for the worse, this time with much more bizarre and troublesome symptoms which I’m still fighting with as I type this. Since the fake lenses were put into my eyes, the left and the right eye have struggled against each other, one of them now far-sighted and the other near-sighted. My left eye – the near-sighted one – was the dominant eye while working on my manuscripts and researching online and engaging on social media. That eye has developed distortions. I have described how I see things now, unfortunately especially people, as being similar to what a VHS cassette looks like on-screen when you press the pause button, how the people’s faces go all jittery. I’ve also described it as people’s moving facial features (eyes and mouth) look like they’re crawling with maggots beneath the surface. Less ghastly, I’ve also compared it to how a pixelated character’s features shift in a 1990s computer game. That’s what I have to contend with now when I look at anyone and as I push forward with writing my second novel. Oh, and because of those new symptoms, the eyes are in constant combat with one another which has made me cross-eyed when wearing glasses. All of this causes eye strain and headaches that range from mild to acute stabs of pain, plus it tires me out and makes me need a nap in the middle of the day.
That’s why I wish I’d knuckled down with writing my first novel much sooner. But, if anything, I’m putting extra effort into my second novel because I’m more aware that time may be of the essence. I didn’t become blind within ten years like the military ophthalmologist said I would, but almost two decades have passed since that was said and I still have plenty of stories yet to be written, so I need to assume that the sands are trickling through the time-glass and start churning the words out. If I’m lucky enough to hold onto enough vision to allow me to write for the rest of my life, regardless of the increasing difficulties, then that’s what I intend to do. I can only hope.
The Blighted City checks a lot of boxes for me. The action scenes are vivid and fast-paced. The characters are varied and detailed, the settings rich and immersive. There’s a real sense of foreboding from the outset of the story, and the author delivers on giving the reader a horrifying adventure.
If I didn’t have retinitis pigmentosa, my life would have gone in a very different direction and I would have been oblivious of my potential as an author. Equally important, I would never have met Electa, because it was in an author group that we met. I made mistakes in my past but not in my present, and I’ve got my severe sight impairment to thanks for the wonderful things that are now in my life. Some people who are reading this might be in a position to empathise with the struggle and possibly also the reward. It’s my hope, too, that reading this has been an eye-opener for the rest of you. Struggling for years with deteriorating eyesight is difficult to say the least, but I’m in a good place now – I’m happy, I have my writing and I have my amazing lady, and I’m aiming to have a second novel ready for you to read in the latter half of next year.
The Blighted City is a dark epic fantasy and was a semi-finalist in SPFBO4. It has been narrated into an audiobook and translated into Italian, French, Portuguese and Dutch. The English edition is exclusive to Amazon and is free for members of Audible and Amazon Prime. The foreign language editions are on Amazon and are also listed at many other online book stores. All Amazon links are below. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and, perhaps, thank you also for reading The Blighted City.
Stay tuned for my second novel, don’t let the obstacles in your path stop you from achieving your dreams, and don’t take those magical orbs in your head for granted.
The Fractured Tapestry Series
To challenge the gods is to invite their wrath. So it is written of Lachyla, the Blighted City, in the Codex of the Ages. But who reads codices? And who really believes the tall stories of the Taleweavers?
Dagra does. If it’s a story about the gods – even a dead god – he believes every word. When his sellsword team is offered a contract to cross the Deadlands and find a burial jewel in the crypts of the Blighted City, Dagra wants no part of it. His companions are undaunted by the legend; to them, the blurred divide between the living and the dead is superstitious nonsense. Completing the contract would earn their guild’s failing reputation a much-needed boost and secure them the bounty of a lifetime. They’re going, with or without him. Torn between the convictions of his beliefs and the importance of his friendships, Dagra reluctantly journeys into the godless region in search of the fabled city. But the Deadlands are only the first challenge.
The sellswords uncover an age-old deception when they learn that Lachyla’s foul seed is much darker than its legend, that its truth must forever remain untold or risk plunging humanity into an eternal nightmare. Snagged on the barbs of the blight, Dagra faces the toughest choice of his life … and of his death.
English: The Blighted City
Italian: La Città Di Sventura
French: La Cité Ravagée
Portuguese: A Cidade Sinistra
Dutch: De Verwoeste Stad
The Fractured Tapestry (Short Story)
The Volami opened the walls of their shining city of Midhallow and invited the surrounding tribesfolk to venture within. Decades later, the two races dwell together inside the city, not quite as equals, and watched over by the ever-present Retainers. A treaty, offered by the tribes to the Volami, was to seal their tenuous union during a long-held ritual.
But it was a ruse.
The celebrations became the bloodiest treachery the Volami would ever know, and set in motion events that would echo down the ages.
The beginning is a good place to go wrong, some say, but there’s a certain deity who omnipotently disagrees. Forget all you thought you knew about the first moments of existence, and prepare to have your beliefs played with, tickled, spanked, stretched across spacetime and shattered into so many irrelevant motes of stardust. Travel back to before creation itself, and witness what happens… When Gods Awaken.
This Biblical collection of Cosmic proportions is chock-full with bonus material, but remember:
Be not desirous of his dainties, for they are deceitful meat…
Where to find Him
Scott Kaelen writes in the genres of epic fantasy and poetry. His latest published work is the standalone novel The Blighted City, which was a semi-finalist in SPFBO 4. His current project is a second novel in the Fractured Tapestry series. Scott’s interests include etymology, prehistoric Earth, the universe, and reading and watching sci-fi, fantasy and horror. His favourite shows are Stargate, Farscape, Star Trek and Red Dwarf.
The Blighted City on Goodreads
Scott Kaelen on Twitter
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The Fractured Tapestry Series on Facebook