8 Questions with Upstart Author Logan Rutherford

By Sean Platt

Sean: Today I have Logan Rutherford, and I don’t even know how to introduce Logan because he’s 21 and already doing better than a lot of authors I know, which is kind of awesome.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the 8 Questions Podcast)

This is a joke between Logan and I that my daughter, Haley, doesn’t like him. Whenever she’s saying “I don’t want to do it, I can’t do it.” “Logan does it.” Which actually has only happened twice.

Logan is a great example of just doing the work, which is something I have all the respect for in the world. My kryptonite is entitlement. I can’t stand people who just think that my genius shall be rewarded, and Logan has clearly done the work for a long time.

I wanted to talk to him about how great that is and how it’s not that he’s magical. It’s that he started very early knowing what he wants, and he’s done the work.

Welcome, Logan.

Logan: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Sean: You’ve been listening for four years now, since you were 16, is that right?

Logan: Yes, I think the very first SPP episode I listened to was episode 11 or 12, or something. It was like the very beginning.

Sean: So we completely corrupted your youth.

Logan: For sure. It was definitely and interesting time to start listening.

Sean: Did your parents know that you were being corrupted?

Logan: Sometimes I would talk to my Mom to say, oh, this is a really cool thing I learned on the Self Publishing Podcast, and I would tell her things every once in a while, but like I would never tell her about Better Off Undead after I listened to an actual episode.

Sean: Did you ever feel guilty listening to those shows?

Logan: No! Maybe I felt guilty because some shows like Better Off Undead it was like there’s so many better things I could be doing, but.

Sean: Yes, it’s darkly addictive.

Logan: Yes, sure.

Sean: What made you want to do what you’re doing now and how early did you know that’s what you wanted to do?

Logan: Just storytelling in general is something I always wanted to do. My Mom taught me how to read when I was three years old, so I’ve been consuming stories for such a long time that it was always a goal of mine – it would always be like super cool if I could do that like full time.

But it was also kind of a pipe dream almost because I grew up in a town of 2,000 people in the middle of nowhere in Texas. It was like you know you can’t go to Hollywood and become an actor or a filmmaker or something.

So, that’s when I discovered writing, because that was something I could do where I was at, and a way to tell stories. It was still never something I thought I could do full-time because all I heard about was how hard it was to get a publishing deal.

When people would say it would take three months to hear back from an agent or a publisher, I’m so impatient that I’m just like oh, I could never do that. It was always something that kind of was in the back of mind and I tinkered with, but it was never really anything that I could actually accomplish and do.

Sean: So, is it one of those things like I’ve said a bunch of times that if I was in a different century, I wouldn’t be a writer. Would you say the same thing?

Logan: Yes, yes. Because I mean if it’s hard now, I can’t even imagine having to be a writer 100 or 200 years ago. That would be insane. Especially because all the writers you hear about from that long ago are usually crazy, alcoholic.

Sean: Right. Like Twain, he was such a great writer. He didn’t produce that much, but a manual typewriter and waiting for your editor. It was just a totally different thing. We have these amazing tools.

That’s another one of those things where people talk about writing fast. How can you possibly write that fast and have it be any good, and they’re kind of comparing the modern paradigm to the old paradigm that doesn’t really exist anymore.

People could only write a book a year before, but they also were doing it on a manual typewriter, and snail mailing editors, and it’s a much more accelerated pace. It doesn’t mean that you can’t write exceptional copy in an abbreviated time.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: So when you decided to do this, were your parents cool with it? Did your friends think you were crazy? What was the reception to “I’m going to be a full-time author”?

Logan: My parents were also cool, because it was something they had been listening to me talk about for like five years, so they were just happy that I was actually being successful at it. I remember telling my Mom because whenever I was in college – I did a couple of years at a community college and it was nearby so I just lived with my parents.

Sean: So it was really small then, right?

Logan: Yes, yes. So I was just going to go to community college, do my basics and then I was going to do a college in Dallas.

I was living with my parents while I was doing that, but then I actually dropped out of school because I told my Mom I just wanted to be a writer and I need money to buy good covers and get editing, but I can’t make money with all of this school because the school was like 45 minutes away so I was always either driving to or from school, or doing school work.

I was like I’m just going to drop out of school and get a job so I can write. At that point they were a little like um, they were a little hesitant.

Sean: They were leery but supportive.

Logan: Yes, for sure. They were definitely supportive. I remember I told my Mom whenever I was about to publish the second Super, at the time I had a $300 a month car payment and I was like if by the end of the summer I’m making enough money off my books to just pay for my car payment, that would be awesome. I’d be totally set.

And then a week or two after it came out, I woke around 11:30 or 12:00, because it was the weekend, but by the time I had woken up, just in that first 12 hours in the day, I had already made enough to make my car payment. That’s awesome!

Sean: That’s fantastic.

Logan: So, it was okay, I think this is actually turning into something here. So, yes, my parents were always supportive, even if at times they were a little bit like I’m not sure, but I’m going to trust you on this. And of course now they tell everybody about it, so.

Sean: And you were home schooled, right? So you had a really intimate relationship where they got to really see you develop and it wasn’t like just a little bit of talking at the dinner table. I imagine you talked about it all the time, right?

Logan: Yes, and I would always force my Mom to read my stuff. She would always lie and say it was good then. Yes, they had always told me to follow my dreams and all this stuff.

Whenever I was going to an acting and film school in Dallas, they would drive me 4 hours round trip, multiple times a week. So they were always very supportive of me following my dreams. There wasn’t really any friction there when I decided to make the leap into full-time.

Sean: That’s really cool then. We talk on the show a lot about supportive spouses, right.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: You can’t do it without supportive spouses. This is really the same situation.

Logan: Right.

Sean: It’s your family, your parents. Because you’re young enough to where you’re not going to have a spouse, but you do have this other entity that you have this relationship with, and if they’re not fully supportive, then that is a lot of friction.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: So, $300 to cover a car payment on Day 1 is really great. That’s awesome. Is that a lot because you are writing to market or where’s that line between – because your stuff looks very commercial. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Logan: I definitely take that as a compliment.

Sean: Right. It’s designed to sell. So how much do you write to market versus writing what you want to? Because I also get the feeling that as commercial as your stuff looks, it’s also what you totally want to write.

Logan: Right. I mean who doesn’t want to write about superheroes saving the day? I’ve always loved the idea of superheroes, somebody who was an ordinary person becoming extraordinary. I worked on this certain superhero book off and on for a few years.

But then I started seeing the superhero genre on Amazon start to flicker, it was really about to start taking off. I was like okay, I better hurry up and get on this. I looked at the marketplace and saw what was selling, just the things you do if you’re writing to market.

You look at the Top 20 lists, you look at the covers, see the cover design. Of the few superhero novels that are out there, I saw the similarities were and the tropes, then I did write something that was my own spin to it.

There was a lot of writing to market going into it, but at the same time there was a lot of my own style, what I wanted to write. It’s definitely a balancing act between market and my own stuff, but there are different way where you can make it work to where you’re writing to market but you’re also writing what you love.

Sean: Oh, yes, completely, and it seems that you’re doing that really well. It’s not about finding market where there’s a lot of money and then just writing like a mercenary in that space. You’re saying okay, where are the spaces where I can be a happy creator and thrive.

Logan: Exactly.

Sean: And that seems like a bullseye. What’s your worst habit?

Logan: Probably my procrastination and how my – I don’t know if it’s really procrastination actually. It’s just how easily distracted I can be. It’s so easy when you’re supposed to be writing, just jumping on Facebook or something. Or even whenever you’re supposed to be writing one thing, you get distracted by this other project so you don’t do that.

Sean: Oh, yes!

Logan: So, then you’re not getting anything done on either one. You’re just like bouncing back and forth.

Sean: So lack of focus, right?

Logan: Yes, that would be it.

Sean: It’s not procrastination, it’s that you like to jump around a little bit.

Logan: Exactly.

Sean: So how do you combat that?

Logan: It’s usually with deadlines for my editor is a good way to combat that. If I set my own deadline, like people say self-imposed deadlines, like I don’t care about a self-imposed deadline. I’ll just blow through that, I don’t care.

But when I put a deadline where it’s someone else is depending on me, especially when they’re depending on me to give her money for that, I feel more inclined to not ignore that deadline. I usually set it out with my editor like three or four weeks out, just to give myself enough time. Usually when I’m halfway through the first draft, I’ll set the deadline so that I have time.

Sean: That’s a good time to set it because that’s when you start losing interest in the book, right?

Logan: Exactly. Yes. About halfway through it, so that gives me time to finish it and then read through it a couple of times. That’s the main way. But again, it’s very hard to get to that halfway point sometimes.

To get to the halfway point it’s usually a lot of really just forcing yourself, shutting everything off, turning off my phone, turning off my Internet, just shutting everything off and forcing myself to do it. You can do all these hacks and tricks and all these different things in the world, but sometimes the best thing to do is just really beat yourself down and force yourself to do it.

Sean: That’s what Dave does. Do you ever give yourself consequences? Like if I don’t X then Y is going to happen?

Logan: Right now I’m being full-time, if I don’t do X then I can’t…

Sean: You can’t pass money, yes, okay.

Logan: That’s a really good motivator. Especially in Los Angeles where your money disappears very quickly when you’re paying for rent and stuff like that. So that’s a really good motivator.

And then sometimes I’ll be like if there’s a TV show I really want to watch or a movie I really want to see, then it’s like well, I’ve got to write a chapter. I feel that people throw that around so often, or they’ll say they’re going to reward themselves.

But if you really think about it and really do it, it’s like such a huge help. I think that gets repeated so much and now that people are saying oh, yes, whatever, reward yourself, whatever. But it actually does help so much to be like no, I’m going to turn off the TV until I’m done writing this and then I’ll reward myself with an episode of a TV show or something.

Sean: No, it does. The brain wants those rewards, so as long as you don’t cheat and reward yourself anyway.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: Then that just destroys it. Then you’re training your brain that you don’t actually have to do the work to get the reward. But for me I’m finally at a place where I don’t work until 10:00 at night like I used to, every single night. I go out there with my family and spend time with them at the end of the day, which is great.

So that’s when I watch my movies and do stuff like that. But my reward system has changed to the point where email, for example. Email is not a reward. It’s a place I don’t even like to be.

Logan: I agree.

Sean: Right, it’s the worst. But it’s also a necessary evil. I have to be on email every single day, and it’s really easy. Email is my Facebook. It’s just a way to not work. It’s like oh, I have to answer emails so I’ll jump to email instead of doing work that I’m actually supposed to be doing.

I know this is sad, this is my sad, sad life. Email is my treat. It’s like okay, I’ve got my work done, now I can go do email. And it is a treat because once I’m through email, then my work day is done. Then I can okay, I’m done for the day and now I can go and do all the stuff with my family that I want to do. So what is your best habit?

Logan: My best habit. I hate talking about myself in a good light.

Sean: Don’t do that. Okay, I’m going to change your worst habit to being not being able to talk about yourself in a good light. You’ve got to get better at that.

Logan: No, okay. So my best habit would probably be – it definitely doesn’t sound good. I don’t know, but just being able to – and it’s also kind of contradictory to what I’ve said. But compared to other people, like my friends and I don’t want to make a generalization about a whole generation, but just my ability to actually sit down and do the work. To actually sit down and write a couple of thousand words every day.

Because one thing I like to tell myself is that every day I’m not writing is a day that I’m not getting better at writing.

Just like actually doing the work. One friend of mine was trying to get sympathy from me because he failed two of his classes at school because there were all these papers he was supposed to write that he would just never write and he would try to get sympathy. He’s like wow, man, my parents are going to be so mad at me, all this stuff. And I was like yes, they should be.

Sean: They should be!

Logan: Man, you just blew like $10,000 on classes that you failed.

Sean: Because you didn’t even try. I love that you’re claiming that as a great habit because it’s true. I make jokes about Haley in that context but it’s true. She’s so vibrant and hyper creative, and she wants to make her living as a creative entrepreneur.

I’m like that’s great, but you’ve got to do the work. It’s not enough to have all these great ideas, and she does, and she always wants to tell me about her great ideas. And I said okay, what have you implemented?

And it’s about sitting down and doing the work, and I do think that you’re right. I’m not putting down a whole generation either, but there is some truth to that. We’re a very distracted society now and I know that I don’t think I would be as diligent or as hard working now if I grew up when you grew up. I just don’t. I would have been on my phone. I would have been texting. It’s digital masturbation and it’s terrible.

Logan: It’s hard not to because it’s instant gratification.

Sean: Right. I was lucky that I grew up in a mostly analog world. I had to go in and clean and dry flowers at 5:30 in the morning on Saturdays. My very Long Beach version of milking the cows.

It was fine, but it gave me a work ethic that I desperately want my daughter to have because she wants to have this same kind of career that we have. But if she doesn’t learn to do the work, it’s going to be much harder to learn it in the 20s.

And that’s one of the reasons you impress me so much is that you learned it early, and you’re just getting better. And the fact that at 21 you can tell yourself a day I’m not writing is a day I’m not improving. That’s a great thing to live by.  Do you collaborate with anyone, and if not is that something that you want to do?

Logan: Yes, I just started. I have a friend who I’ve been collaborating with on film stuff for five or six years now that we would write scripts together and we would shoot short films and all this stuff.

But we’ve recently just started collaborating on a novel together. Just because we’re working on this film project and we wanted to fine tune our collaboration. Working on a novel is a good way to do that and not waste thousands of dollars.

Sean: It’s very low rent.

Logan: Exactly. So, if the whole thing just goes up in flames, then you know we’ve only lost…

Sean: Time.

Logan: Yes. Time. Which I mean time is a very valuable thing, but this is definitely…

Sean: Yes, but you’ve got like 20 years on a lot of the community, so you’re okay.

Logan: For me I just blow it like dollar bills in a strip club. So we just started working on something together, to fine tune our collaboration process, and it’s coming really well.

Writing a novel by yourself is such a lonely endeavor, so it’s nice to be writing something with somebody and knowing that as soon as you’re done writing this chapter, somebody’s going to read it. That’s really nice, and it also helps with the instant gratification thing that people my age love.

Sean: It’s instant feedback and means that your ability to grow as a writer is greatly accelerated because you’re also seeing your mistakes through somebody else’s eyes which means that you can grow faster, but also you’re seeing what you do well.

Clearly that’s probably something you need a little bit of help with, right, because you know I hate saying good things about myself, right. That’s having somebody else tell you what you’re good at, helps you to believe it, and it reinforces that, and it adds another layer to your ability.

Are you finding that you’re enjoying collaborating more than working solo, or is it about the same? Do you feel like you’ll probably just continue on solo because that’s what you’re most comfortable with?

Logan: I’ll probably still continue on solo, definitely the stuff I already started. Possibly I’ll continue to do some stuff solo, but just because I’m very stubborn too, so it’s nice to be able to do something and have total freedom. Like I don’t have to worry about anyone else.

Sean: By freedom do you mean control?

Logan: Yes, exactly. It’s nice to not have to be writing something and in the back of your mind thinking I hope we can do this thing, or I hope he’ll agree with me on this thing. But at the same time sometimes you need that person to tell you no, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’ll probably be more open to collaboration, for sure, but at the same time, this is my first shot doing it, in a novel writing form so I’m still figuring it out, whether or not I like it better or worse than doing it by myself.

Sean: Has it been fluid so far, as far as give and take of ideas, or is there a clash of egos at all?

Logan: No, no. We’ve been working together so long that we got over the ego clashing and stuff like that a long time ago. Now we can totally be like this idea sucks, and then we’re like, okay.

Sean: That’s a very good place to be.

Logan: Yes. It’s nice. Having that freedom is really nice. I can’t imagine collaborating with someone that I couldn’t be…

Sean: Yourself with.

Logan: Yes, exactly. I couldn’t be just like brutally honest with and know that they know I’m not – Dave, if I say something like that, he knows I’m not talking about him personally.

Sean: Right. It’s the idea and not you.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: That’s probably the most important thing in collaboration. If you boil it all down to the one golden rule, that’s it right there. You are not your ideas.

Logan: Exactly.

Sean: Because once you establish that there is that danger, it’s just a pillow on the face of creativity. Because then people are stifled. If you could give yourself one habit, if you could say okay, I want a super habit now, what would that habit be?

Logan: A super habit. I would probably say the ability to keep a consistent schedule. Because for me if I have a schedule…

Sean: I think that’s probably 95% of writers right there.

Logan: I always make a schedule and I always sit down and it’s going to be this is it, this is going to be it, I’m going to be super productive, I’m going to do this.

And then I do it for like a day or two and then something comes up and it just falls off and I never come back to it. Even on my phone I’ll have notifications come up for it for like a month.

Sean: And each one is like self-flagellation, right?

Logan: So, whenever I have to go into Google to finally delete so those notifications stop showing up, it’s like man, this was supposed to be so great and then here I am deleting it. I would definitely say that because that would help my productivity a million times if it was a consistent thing.

But it’s so hard because I don’t want to pick that authors talk about is like wake up at 5:30. I heard so many authors say waking up at 5:30 is the best thing you can do. You can finish work before 12:00 and have the rest of the day. That sounds so awesome. I’d love to be able to do that.

Sean: But?

Logan: But last night I didn’t even go to bed till 3:30, so it was like I can’t wake up at 5:30.

Sean: Yes, I think that’s a danger that you see a lot of writers stumble into. Not just writers, people, right. Whatever field you’re in you see successful people in your field and they say I do things this way. And then so you want to do things the way they do it because you expect the same results. But you’re not them, right?

Logan: Yes.

Sean: Dave is never going to wake up at 5:30 and deal with it. He’s not wired to, and he’ll be on day time schedule for two weeks and then want to kill things. It just doesn’t work. I think at your age you’re going to be up later.

Logan: Yes.

Sean: For me, I don’t like being out late anymore. I have a family. I like eating dinner. I like watching whatever I’m going to watch and then going to bed. But I love waking up early. You may get there some time but you have to look at who you are and where you are and come up with the best strategy there instead of trying to ever be somebody else, right?

Logan: Yes, and I see it all the time people share some article like Buzzfeed on Facebook, and it’s like here are 12 habits of the world’s richest people.

Sean: You’ll never guess number seven.

Logan: Exactly. It’s always like oh, they wake up early in the morning. They exercise before they start work, and they start doing all these things. Those are all good things, but at the same time we have to just accept that you do things your way.

For me especially, this is how I’ve been doing things and it’s worked out fine for me so far so I don’t see a reason why to start waking up at 5:30 in the morning, whenever that means I’ll lose all of my friends.

Sean: Right. Logan’s a dork. He goes to bed at 9:00.

Logan: Exactly.

Sean: No, you can’t do that. And I think it’s about appreciable, measurable, incremental growth. You don’t have to be where you’re going to be at 30. If you’re better at 22 than 21, that’s great. Live your life and then let yourself grow.

It’s like I really, really want to make movies, but I know I’m not ready. I so know I’m not ready and I know that if I skip my steps, I’m probably going to make shitty movies and not be as good of an author. Don’t skip my steps. I’ll get there when I get there.

So, we always close this by talking about legacy. But you’re 21, so instead of talking about legacy let’s talk about the difference between one and ten years. It’s an old business adage that most people greatly overestimate what they can do in one year and greatly underestimate what they can do in 10 years.

What would you like to see for yourself in a year from now, and what would you like to see for yourself in a decade?

 Logan: Okay. So, a year from now I would definitely like to see myself being more consistent in pretty much every facet of both my creative life and my personal life. Just to be more consistent with a schedule, be more consistent with publishing and just to be more all around consistent.

I would also like to see myself making a move more into filmmaking, because when I was younger that’s the thing that sparked my drive to be creative, was filmmaking. So to be able to move more into that direction would be awesome. I’d love to do that a year from now.

As far as ten years from now, gosh, I was just thinking about this last night. It’s kind of a scary thing almost to think about ten years from now. I saw this other thing where it was like all these super successful and creative people who didn’t get started in what they’re known for today until they were like 40. I saw something like Vera Wang didn’t design her first wedding dress until she was like 42 or something.

Sean: I didn’t start writing until my mid-30s.

Logan: So, I’m almost scared to think about am I even going to be doing this 10 years from now, or in 10 years from now will I have come up with the idea for the new Sham-Wow or something and be like a multi-faceted.

Sean: Please don’t.

Logan:  If 10 years from now I’m in the same field, I would definitely want to have my own production company and have my own publishing company and basically just be telling stories non-stop in pretty much every facet, movies, books and games. Any way I can tell a story, I want to be doing that 10 years from. I want to be not just doing that but also be successful at doing that.

Sean: If you’re talking trans-media, I imagine you’d have to be successful, right because your properties are popular enough to be in different environments.

Logan: Yes. And plus it’s so expensive to be in those different environments. You have to be bringing in money. So basically just to have my hands in every single basket that I possibly can would be awesome.

Sean:  That’s ambitious and I’m sure doable. You’ve a pretty nice head start. So, everybody keep your eye on Logan. I think the next decade is going to be fun to watch. Where can people find you, Logan?

Logan: If you just go to my website, authorloganrutherford.com, I have links to all of my books, all my social media, everything is right there on the front page of my web site. If you just go there, you can find everything.

Sean Platt is the founder of Sterling & Stone and loves that he not only gets paid to make up stories and come up with crazy ideas, but that he gets to do so with his best friends. Together, they've also co-authored the bestselling non-fiction titles Write. Publish. Repeat., Fiction Unboxed, and Iterate & Optimize to help Smarter Artists get smarter, faster.

Sean lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Cindy and their two children, Ethan and Haley.

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