Blog Tour: Interview with Scarlett Savage, author of 'Narcotic Nation'

Scarlett Savage was born and raised in Maine. She began her writing career at age 5 after reading LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS. When she finished the book, she announced to her family that she would become an author. She began to write stories but soon turned her attention to the theater, which led her to explore playwriting. By the time she was in high school, she was writing for professional stage companies in Maine. She received a full scholarship to the University of Maine at Orono, where she won her first major writing awards. Her play, DEAR DADDY, LOVE CASSIE, won several awards and raised money for both national and regional sexual assault support centers. Scarlett moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and made her L.A. theater debut with her latest play, SHE F*&KING HATES ME: A LOVE STORY. She lives in Santa Monica with the love of her life, Mike Biggie, who designed the cover of NARCOTIC NATION.

Visit her website at

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Thank you!! I first conceived of the idea for Narcotic Nation in college. I had a group of artist friends who would regularly hang around and discuss how we were going to change the world with art. One of them was taking an economics class and had read a paper about how if drugs were legalized, the country would go to hell for twenty years, and then be the better for it. I immediately thought, “How interesting would it be to write about those twenty years…” So I created the changed world for the overview; the lead characters are a microcosm of the various groups in the country.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I never think of writing as hard, but structuring your time to write your first novel—now that’s a trick!! The first thing I did was to research—I spoke to several politicians, economics professors, religious professionals (priests, rabbis, etc) as well as parental groups and drug rehabilitation centers. That took a few years in and of itself! But the best advice I can give to a writer, is to do it the same time every day. At first I would write at 7:30-8PM every evening; the goal being just five pages a day. (that might seem ambitious, but believe me, it’s not!). Soon I was up to an hour a day, then two. And now I write about four hours a day, every day. Commit to those five pages a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in the mood, or if you’re not “inspired”; it matters that you get words down on the page. If you’re truly a writer, then you’ll write every day. The other thing a writer of today’s world needs to accomplish is to educate yourselves on promoting your work. For every hour you spend writing your play/novel/poem/screenplay, you should spend ten hours either promoting it, or researching people who can properly represent you—manager, agent, publicist.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

Taylor Street Books, a boutique agency in San Francisco. I was thrilled to find them. I had spoken with another company but I was increasingly dissatisfied with them; they just couldn’t deliver what they promised. That’s another thing I would want to tell young writers—if you sign a contract, those people owe you what’s promised. Don’t feel like you’re being a burden or risking losing a contract if you demand what your contract stipulates. So, I got out of the first contract, and was wondering which direction I’d go in, when Taylor Street contacted me out of the blue. They’d heard I’d let my first house go, and were “thrilled” to have me on board—in fact they signed me without reading the book first, based on my reputation as a playwright and the upcoming buzz from my book She F*&king Hates Me: A Love Story, which is being released by SkyHorse Publishing, NYC, March 2014. Once I researched Taylor Street, I was absolutely thrilled at the thought of being one of their writers. They’re marketing Narcotic Nation as a Hunger Games type book, which could not be more appropriate. They did their homework thoroughly and very, very fast!

I have nothing against self-publishing, but I personally wouldn’t do it. There’s too much competition out there; you need a house who knows what they’re doing behind you.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

That after fifteen years as a successful off-Broadway playwright I was finally getting a book on the shelves! I’d spent a lot of years trying to sell a book, to no avail, so I just spent all my energies on my plays. Then, James Patrick Kelly, a hugely successful author, saw one of my plays and said, “You need to turn this into a book. And a movie.” As I said, I’d tried for so long before…but I transposed it, and bam, five different agents were fighting over me. I guess it’s a lot easier for them to sell a book if it’s based on a multi-award-winning play!!

But as SkyHorse isn’t releasing She F*&king Hates Me: A Love Story until March 2014, I didn’t want to just sit around waiting, so I went looking for a publisher for Narcotic Nation (it’s not really in SkyHorse’s genre). Again, I was surprised at the amount of interest there was immediately. I had offers from three eBook houses immediately. So, another piece of advice for young writers, if you’re not getting agents or houses interested in you, get the public interested in you. Put your plays on in local theaters. Do readings and post them on YouTube. Most cities have groups or communities where you can share your work out loud and get people interested that way. Get your name in your local papers; apply for local awards. Then branch out. And network!! Email people you admire, and you’ll be surprised how many answer back—although I’m from NH, I’d never met one of my heroes, Jodi Piccoult. But when I emailed her, she answered within the hour!! As did Lou Meyer, writer of the Jacky Faber, Girl Pirate series. There’s a lot you can do to draw attention to yourself.
Wow, that rambled, didn’t it? But I’m very excited at the opportunity to show young writers things I wished I’d known back when I began.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?

I cried. Absolutely. I’d wanted to have a book on the shelves of stores and in libraries ever since I was five years old and had read Little House in the Big Woods.  It was like someone handing me every dream I’d ever had. And the artwork Taylor Street has done is incredible. It wasn’t quite the same as holding my newborn daughters in my hands for the first time…but it was darn close!!!

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

So many!! As stated, I’ve got SkyHorse Publishing coming out with the novelization of She F*&king Hates Me: A Love Story in March 2014; that’s about a couple who didn’t make it in their teens getting a second chance in their sixties. Taylor Street Books told me that I “absolutely had to” promise them a sequel to Narcotic Nation, and I wholeheartedly agreed. I’ve also signed the novelization of my play Numbers, which is entitled Did My Sister Scream? which is about a high school senior whose sister is date-raped…but it’s about what the rape does to his life. I felt that was a hugely unspoken POV, what rape does to the men in the lives of the victim. I’m also working on the sequel to She F*&king Hates Me: A Love Story , which is entitled, She F*&king Loves Me: A Wedding Story. I’m also working on a y/a fantasy series, about a young student of elemental power and alchemy in a small village; he’s called The Mage. The first book in that series is called Tale the First of the Village Mage and the Mysterious Girl Who Sleeps in the Heather I had a successful suspense play called The Monster List that I’m thinking of transposing into a book as well, after I finish the rest!! There…I think that’s it…for now!!
I’m not a genre writer. For some reason, they really like to see women in one genre or another. As you can see, I’ve got adventure books, fantasy books, crime books, chick lit books…I could never write in just one vein, that would bore me senseless!!!

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?

I truly think that if this country considered legalizing drugs, it would be the best thing for it. Every person I interviewed—politicians, professors, rehab professionals, lawyers—agreed, albeit grudgingly in some cases, that if we legalized drugs, we could stop spending billions of dollars fighting a problem that’s not going to go away; prohibition of any kind has never worked. We could tax it and create trillions of dollars—it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, it would put the farmers back to work (and we owe this country to the farmers), it would release us from supporting drug users and dealers in prison, it would turn drug cartels into legitimate businessmen. This country would experience an economic boom unseen so far in our history.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

We can’t afford to pretend we live in a perfect world. We have to deal with the world the way it is. And making narcotics illegal is something we truly can’t afford to do. One in six American kids is “food insecure”, which means that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from (of all the BS PC terms I’ve heard in my life, that’s the BS-iest.)
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

For all you writers out there...never give up!! I knocked on certain doors for twenty years before they opened, but they finally opened. Talent is a special thing, of course, but talent won’t sell your book; persistence, research, and plotting a course on how to get your name out there will. Good luck!! And thanks!!!

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