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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sean Williams Interview

 (Picture taken from Mr Williams Facebook site)

Sean Williams, author of seventy published short stories and twenty-nine novels is here on the blog to give us an interview. Here it is!!

Castle Plaza Bookstore: What led you into a writing career? 

Like a lot of writers I know, I was an early and voracious reader, with a great love of the language and storytelling and all the wonders that can be found in books. I guess it was only natural that, as I got older, I became more interested in playing with that kind of thing myself, as a creator as well as a consumer. The first stories I wrote were in primary school, pretty basic things, but from them I learned very simple joys of finishing something and letting it loose to the world, even if that world consisted only of my classroom and my parents. From there it was just a matter of time and persistence, and convincing myself that a writing career was more than just a wild pipe dream, that it was something I could really have. It took me a long time, but it was worth it.

Castle Plaza Bookstore: What excites you about writing?                                                                           

Storytelling is such a wonderful thing. There is literally nothing that exists in the real world, and plenty besides, that can't be part of story. When some writers talk about feeling like God, they’re not describing a mystical experience (at least I hope they’re not); it's like having a model of the entire universe in your head that you can play with as though it were a toy. You can change things, break things, make things up--anything is possible, and we turn to words like “god” to describe that feeling, because it’s so far removed from our everyday experience. The process of world-building is utterly thrilling.

At the other end of the scale, there’s the simple act of placing words in exactly the right way, so a person who might be from the other side of the world, who might completely different in every respect to you and anyone you ever knew, can share an experience that didn't exist until you created it. Just thinking about it makes my head spin. What could be more fun?

Castle Plaza Bookstore: Do you think that fiction brings something to peoples lives?                                                         

Anything that broadens people's experiences, makes them aware of what goes on outside the little boxes they live in, opens their eyes to the fact that there may actually BE something outside their little boxes, is automatically a good thing, I think. A story doesn't have to be true to be effective in this regard; it just has to be convincing, to have an impact, to leave an impression. When someone manages that, the world has become a better place.

Castle Plaza Bookstore: What did you do before you became a published author?

I dropped out of uni in 1989 to pursue a career in writing. The course I dropped was a Bachelor of Economics, and I switched for a couple of years to a BA majoring in Music, but that didn’t stick either. For a couple of years I worked a variety of part-time jobs--at Thebarton Theatre, in a CD shop, in a small recording studio, in a petrol station, etc--and slowly, as the sales mounted up, I dropped jobs and shifts until there were none left, and I was writing full-time. That took ten years.

Castle Plaza Bookstore:What was the name of your first typewriter/computer?                                                            

I don’t remember the name of the typewriter on which I wrote my first novel, while I was in high school. It’s no longer in my possession, and I can’t remember where it went. (I’m a bit sad about that, actually. What a relic it would be now!) My next novel I wrote by hand using a fountain pen. My third I wrote on a Brother electric typewriter--on thermal paper, which has now almost entirely turned to brown. (Luckily, I took a copy of it in the late 1980s, but that hasn’t stopped the story itself from being awful.) My fourth novel was written on an Amiga 500 that I bought with a student loan in 1988. I wrote my first few short stories on that machine before moving in 1992 or thereabouts to a PC that a friend built me, on which I wrote my first published novels.

That’s a long answer to a short question, but I think it highlights how writers of my generation spanned that great and wonderful shift from mechanical means of production--ink, paper, typewriters--to something entirely more flexible and efficient. I know some writers still write the old way, but I don’t think I could ever go back. I felt at home in the future of publishing the moment it arrived.

Castle Plaza Bookstore:Who would play you in a film of your life?      

Michael Emerson. When people aren’t mistaking me for Moby, they’re saying I look like the bastard son of Ben from LOST. :-)

Castle Plaza Bookstore:Which character was the hardest to write? Which one was the easiest? Are any of your characters based on people you know or purely imaginative?

Imre Bergamasc, the protagonist of my Astropolis books, was simultaneously the easiest and the hardest, because he/she was a character who felt fully alive to me from the moment I started telling his/her story, but who also took me to the strangest places I’ve ever had to go inside my head. The last volume in particular, THE GRAND CONJUNCTION, was particularly tricky, with genders shifting all over the place: just getting the pronouns right was tricky! To a large degree she/he is based on me, like all my characters. Sometimes I draw on the people around me for quirks and nuances (my wife and several past girlfriends have put in appearances, here and there), but it’s a bit like making sausages: by the time you’ve finished, no one can tell what they’re made of.

Castle Plaza Bookstore:How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?   

Shrug and move on. The best and worst reviews are equally worthless. The ones I particularly like getting are those that illuminate the work in a way I’ve never considered before. They’re rare but really valuable, because the struggle to see my books from the outside is never-ending. The last person you should ask for an opinion of a book is the book’s author. :-)

Castle Plaza Bookstore: What adventures will be next for your characters?

The big release this month is THE FORCE UNLEASHED II, continuing the exploits of Darth Vader’s troubled secret apprentice, last seen sacrificing himself in order to save the nascent Rebellion. Apart from that, I have a bunch of new characters coming up, including Ollie Jolson, the young kid at the heart of my Fixers series (CASTLE OF THE ZOMBIES and PLANET OF THE CYBORGS are due in December) and a pair of twins getting up to trouble in TROUBLETWISTERS, which I’ve co-written with Garth Nix (due May 2011). So lots to get on with. There’s never any shortage of ideas! 

#1 New York Times-bestseller Sean Williams has been called "the premier Australian speculative fiction writer of the age", the "Emperor of Sci-Fi", and the "King of Chameleons" for the diversity of his output. That award-winning output includes thirty novels for readers all ages, seventy short stories across numerous genres, and even the odd published poem. He is a multiple recipient of both the Ditmar & Aurealis Awards. He is a judge and former winner of the international Writers of the Future Contest, and is the current Overseas Regional Director of SFWA. Sean Williams lives in Adelaide, South Australia. For a change of pace, he likes to DJ and cook curries.


  1. Thank you Sean for your lovely interview! The covers for your Fixers series looks great!! Can't wait to see them in store!


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