02 May 2011

Q&A with Sean Williams and a Competition!

Next in our occasional author-interviews series is Sean Williams, a super star in our humble opinion. Sean has kindly given us an insight into his wonderful creative world. And to celebrate the release of his latest fantastic series for Omnibus Books, The Fixers, we have a competition! To win a signed set of The Fixers, simply leave us a comment telling us the last time you went on a bus and we'll randomly draw a winner at the end of May. So comment away, and win!

How long did it take you to write The Fixers?
Either three weeks or seven years, depending on how you look at it. In terms of actually writing the words, it didn’t take long at all. I’m a quick writer once I know what story I want to tell, and Ollie’s adventures were so much fun I didn’t want to pause at any point. My obsessive records tell me that I wrote the first sentence of Castle of the Zombies on 30 January 2009 and the last sentence of Invasion of the Freaks on 17 February 2010. There were rewrites in March and September the same year, plus some last-minute changes ahead of each book’s publication. So the question of when a book starts or finishes becomes a very complicated one. It shouldn’t be so difficult!

Do you procrastinate? Are you an early-morning or late-at-night writer?
I’m somewhere in between: a nine-to-five writer, like it’s a real job. Which it is, of course. I tend to write at the start of the day, which leaves the afternoon free for catching up with other stuff, like emails, talking to collaborators, proofing, etc. One thing that surprised me about being a full-time writer is how little of it is actually about writing. But that’s okay. I suppose people my age should be working some of the time, instead of playing all the time.

Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
From everywhere! The opening scenes of Castle of the Zombies happened almost beat-by-beat in my real life. Then there’s the idea of writing a story about castle, which came from one of my step-sons. Pixel the space-cat in Planet of the Cyborgs was inspired by Pixel the ordinary-cat, who belongs to a friend in Sydney. The most beautiful girl in the village of Curse of the Vampire is my wife, Amanda. And so on. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open, and ideas will just pour in. The trick is working out which are the good ones and how best to use them.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I finished my first novel in 1983. It has the awesomely bad title of Slug in the Sky. I was 15 and in high school and really should have been doing my homework, but instead I was banging out this thing on an old typewriter and it was the most fun I’d ever had in my entire life. I’d written some short pieces before then, but nothing I could get so involved in. The book was terrible, of course. It’s never been published, and I hope it never will be, but it was a step in the right direction. I wrote my second book (The Memö Böok Chronicles) in fountain pen the following year and my third (Circle of Kings) on an electric typewriter after leaving school. My fourth (When the Cow Came Down) came while I was at uni. My first computer was supposed to help me study, but all I really did on it was write. Not one of those novels has been published, but the next one was, and so were the next thirty-four. It’s literally a dream come true.

What does your family think of your writing?
They love it! Of course, they say they do, and I insist on believing them – even though everyone knows your mum is the worst critic ever. She’ll love everything, even if it’s terrible.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been reading a bunch of thrillers by Lee Child, and before that I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for about the billionth time. I love that book it: as well as being both funny and frightening, it’s a wonderful glimpse into another world. The superstitions of Tom and his friends are far too bizarre for Mark Twain to have made them up. They could only be real.

(If you want to know more about my reading habits, you can find them on my blog or more recently at Goodreads.)

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from readers. One popular question is: ‘Can you put me in a Star Wars novel?’ The answer, I’m sorry to say, is, ‘Probably not,’ although I have done it for most of my friends, whether they want to be in there or not.

Another is: ‘I want to do what you do. How do I make it happen?’ The answer is to just sit down and do it. And keep doing it. There’s an old Japanese saying, something along the lines of, ‘Even a thief takes seven years to learn her trade.’ That’s true for writing, too, but if you love doing it, it won’t feel like it took that long.

I’m asked a lot about coming to talk at schools, which is very flattering, and something I love doing, but it’s not something I can fit in very often. For one, I’m usually in the middle of writing something new and I don’t like taking days off, even for birthdays and Christmas. For two, I’m a very shy person and I get nervous in crowds. My natural instinct is to sit in my study and hide, so it takes a lot to get me out into the real world. You have to coax me out with chocolate. That usually works.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a while I wanted to be a cowboy, but then I started reading and my fate was sealed: the only thing better than being told a good story is writing one yourself. I’ve occasionally contemplated other careers – archaeology, mathematics, even accountancy – but none of them have stuck. It’s always been writing. Once I realised that resistance was futile, life became a whole lot simpler.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I don’t really have any hobbies, since I write and read every day. When I take time off at night, I like to hang out with my wife and family. One day I’m going to get back into writing music, my other true love, but as that would mean writing fewer words, it might not be any time soon.

When was the last time you went on a bus?
Hmm. *scratches head* I live very close to the city centre of Adelaide, so I tend to walk most places. Probably the last time would have been in Los Angeles in 2009, or maybe England in 2007. A long time ago, in other words. But I’ve caught plenty of trains and subways, and I’m a big believer in public transport.

1 comment:

  1. I went on a bus last week. It was a hoot! (and being school holidays, I actually got a seat too).