Sean Wright Interview
Posted on 25 November 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Sean Wright, publisher of Crowswing Books, and author of The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor, which Crowswing published to great acclaim. Waterstone's are currently including Jaarfindor in their major Christmas promotion and Sean will be signing copies on December 2nd alongside Monica Ali, PD James, Ruth Rendell and others.
Tell us about your writing background - what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing.
I've been writing for a long time - over thirty years. My article on the anti-slavery campaigner, Thomas Clarkson, was my first published piece in 1985 in a magazine called East Anglia Monthly. I’ve written and been published in every market I can think of since then, after completing an excellent writing correspondence course back in 1982. It took me eighteen months to complete but it was well worth it. I can’t recall the name of my tutor, which is awful of me, but he used to teach at the Oundle Prep School, near Peterborough. I've written novels, short stories and articles predominantly and have a mountain of rejection slips that far out-weigh my credits.
Jesse Jameson and the Golden Glow (May 2003) hardback and paperback.
Jesse Jameson and the Bogie Beast (Oct 2003) hardback and paperback.
Jesse Jameson and the Curse of Caldazar (May 2004) hardback and paperback.
Jameson and the Golden Glow (Aug 2004) leather-bound edition.
Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault (Oct 2004) hardback and paperback.
The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor (Oct 2004) hardback and paperback.
I’m currently writing Dark Tales of Time and Space due out next summer. Like Jaarfindor, it’s a teenage-adult crossover title.
How did you start writing?
I must have been in my mid-teens when I regularly sat with the intention of producing something worth while. Why? It was an impulse, an urge to get ideas down on paper. But I also had the audacity to think that other people might be bothered enough to read my scribbles. Once I started sending my work out for publication, I got the shock of my life. There’s nothing quite like a sobering rejection slip to kick away the pretensions of literary fame and fortune.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Where do I begin? Okay – mine is a real mixture of literary fiction, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi writers – some classic and others very new. Some are not fiction at all. So in no particular order: Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett, JRR Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, JK Rowling, Michael Moorcock, Philip Pullman, Earnest Hemmingway, Shakespeare, Kevin Crossley-Holland, John Brunner, Cliff McNish, C.S. Lewis, Katherine Briggs, Ursula Le Guin, Joseph Campbell, Catherine Storr, Clive King, LM Boston, and more recently Andrew Hook, Allen Ashley, Jay Lake, GP Taylor, China Mieville, and David Lee Stone. I like all of the above for different reasons, but generally ... I like funny, poetic powerful prose that grip you and refuse to let you leave that fantastic world of words and imagination. I lean toward writing that leave questions in my mind. Although I think Stephen King and Ray Bradbury would stand out for me from the US – King because of his strong characterisations, and the Bradbury because of his poetic imagination. I think in Britain, the young writers Hook, Allen and Mieville have something to say that is original and challenging within the field of the fantastic.
How did you get your first agent?
My current agent is Peter Straus at RCW, London. My work was recommended by the book dealer, Nigel Eastman, who’d discovered Charmain Hussey and alerted Peter
What's the worst thing about writing?
It’s time consuming, and unless you’re obsessed, then it’s probably best to think of something else to do with your time. Add that to the independent publishing equation and you have no time at all to lead a ‘normal’ life, whatever that means. But it’s really demanding on time. Then of course if you’re doing your job properly as writer, you’ll spend another huge chunk of time promoting what you’ve written. You don’t need me to tell you that there’s an awful lot of competition out there. But self-promotion is vital if you want to sell books.
And the best?
The best is certainly holding that finished book in your hands for the first time. A close second is getting an email from a complete stranger who has heard about your work via word of mouth, read it, and gives you an insight into it that you hadn’t thought of before. Someone recently said that The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor reminded them of Philip K. Dick stories, such as Blade Runner and Total Recall. Or probably the best of all is when another published writer speaks from the heart: 'Just finished Jaarfindor and I have to say I was truly captivated. Without being too gushing you really are a wonderful storyteller-I lived that book! I do read quite a lot, especially older fantasy. The imagination and flow was tremendous.’
Do you read your work to audience? Tell us what kind of response you get.
As a teacher, I guess I have the advantage of a ‘captive audience’ so to speak. I’ve run workshops in schools, read to hundreds of children during assemblies and so on. Kids are great – usually very enthusiastic, and honest to the point of being blunt and rude. I once over-heard a child walking away from a reading who said: ‘That was a pile of shite.’ His friend asked, ‘what’s shite?’ ‘Sean Wright.’ They then cracked up about ghosts and lampposts and played around with words that rhymed with my name. Who needs the Literary Hour?
What was your breakthrough moment?
I think my life is full of breakthrough moments in regards to writing. I know that sounds pretentious, but that’s how I feel. Every time someone buys a book, or a publication accepts an article, now that is a breakthrough. Most recently, a big break for me was Waterstone’s agreeing to reserve the entire print run of the paperback version of The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor in their 3 month Christmas promotion. Seeing it stacked high in the Waterstone’s Oxford Street store, or in the bestseller children’s shelves in Waterstone’s Norwich alongside some big household names was a wonderful feeling after so many years working to get to that moment. But signing over 500 books in two hours at Hatchard’s in Piccadilly last month has got to be the highlight so far. That experience was surreal.
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