One day I hope to be as cool as Sean Taylor. That is the mantra by which I live my life.
Seriously, Sean is an awesome guy, a talented writer, and a great friend of mine. I’ve been doing roundtables at his blog for a long time, so it’s finally time to deliver some payback. I’m always interested in writers that work in areas that aren’t my strong points, and his work in pulp and comics has had me fascinated for years. I’m still trying to keep up with him and learn from his experience, and talking to him at conventions is always fun. He’s also a great dance partner, if you don’t mind him dropping you on the floor.
So bringing back the infamous SJ author interview, here is the incomparable Sean Taylor!
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
Sean: I’m a notoriously outliner. It comes from my comic book scripting. When all I wrote was short stories and didn’t care too much about the word count, I could always ignore that plotting voice inside my head, but the first time I tried that with a comic book script, I got to page 20 and realized I still needed 10 more pages to tale before page 22. So, I focused then and there on becoming a better plotter on the front end of a story.
Once my plots are in place, then it’s off to Starbucks to make the magic happen. I write better at the ‘Bucks because I can simulate the office experience when I’m there. I can stop and chat with the baristas or I can “close my door” (with earbuds and Global Chill on Pandora) and hunker down to work. I need the constant mix of social and private when I write. Weird, I admit.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
Sean: As cool as that would be, sadly no. My quirkiest habit when writing is probably something boring like blogging in the middle of writing time. I’m pretty boring when I’m writing. But to be fair, I’m pretty when I’m not writing too.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
Sean: I love the muse. I like to sleep with her as often as I can (thank you, Mr. Gaiman). I plan for my writing time, but I like to keep myself free for sudden inspiration too. I usually have my USB stick on me so I can write whatever the muse hits me with, whether I’m at home, at Starbucks, at work, visiting my family, etc.
SJ:bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
Sean: My muse would look like Knockout from DC comics most of the time, a gorgeous redhead with big muscles who would beat me up whenever I got distracted and make me focus again. At other times, when inspiration was rolling and I wasn’t having to pull teeth to get words out, she would look like old-school Poison Ivy, because, deadly redheads are not just sexy, but cool too.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
Sean: Oooooh. That would have to be “Once Upon a Time” from my Show Me a Hero collection. It’s about a superhero mom who may or may not be the cause of her son’s leukemia. And only her archenemy can save her son. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a story that shows me over and over again what the true power of being a hero is.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
Sean: Action/adventure. Hands down. Besides, I tend to sprinkle bits of literary tidbits into my genre writing anyway.
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
Sean: The biggest downside is that it’s a difficult job to pull off as a full time career, unless you’ve “been discovered” and have access to promotion dollars and the general public at large. There are way too many ideas and not nearly enough hours in the week to devote to them. I wish we had the old model from the past where artists were supported by patrons and lived in castles with nothing to do but paint and write and be shown off at parties.
(note from SJ: if anyone figures out how to go back to this, please feel free to contact me…)
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
Sean: If I had to be stuck, I’d pick the world of Rick Ruby. I think I was born in the wrong time anyway, and the days post the Jazz Age just really resonate with me. Sure, times were tough, but I’ve lived most of my adult like in a recession anyway, so I could handle that as long as there was someone like Evelyn to sing the blues away and Edie to take my calls.
If I had to put a loved one in a story, that would be tough because my wife prefers cozy mysteries and Jane Austen. Sadly, I don’t she’d find much happiness dwelling in any of my work.
As for an enemy, I think the world of Zombies vs. Robots would be a fitting end. How’s that?
SJ:Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
Sean: If there is a sure-fire recipe, I haven’t found it. At this point, I’m still waiting to be discovered after all my hard work and networking and marketing so I can be another of those 20-year veteran “overnight” sensations.
What’d I’d prefer to find is a sure-fire recipe for groundswell, grassroots marketing.
(Note from SJ: Word.)
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
Sean: Go for it. But don’t get cocky. And when you realize this gig is a lot of hard work, stick with it. Or get out. The rest of us will need the room and the market share.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
Sean: The “genre I write.” That’s funny considering how many genres I actually write. I guess if I have to pick the one that most defines me at this point it would be adventure writing (although that easily covers noir, hardboiled, pulp, horror, sci-fi, and superheroes). As for defending it, that’s easy. It’s the literary language of the common man and woman. One look at the best-sellers will show you that. People want escape, adventure, when they read, and my kind of writing is always ready to meet that need.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
Sean: He took the genre and elevated it. I know that’s hoity-toity of me, and makes me a bit of an elitist snob, but it’s what I want. The heart wants, and so forth.
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
Sean: How ‘bout if I just list a few of the thinks I have coming up this year. I did the math the other day and realized that I’ve been so busy that if I stopped writing today for at least six months, I’d still have 10 stories coming out this year in collections. Among them:
“A Tree Falls in a Forest,”The Ruby Files Vol. 2 (Airship 27)
”The Face of the Yaun Gui,” Asian Pulp (Pro Se)
“The Hubris of Gods,” Black Pulp (Pro Se)
Spy Candy #1: The Dead Man Wore Stockings (Pro Se Signature Series)
“Gatsby,” The New Deal: Masks and Mutants (Pro Se)
“The Truth Will Set You Free,” Hookerpunk (Dark Oak)
“Not So These City Beasts,” Capes & Clockwork #2 (Dark Oak)
If people want to keep up with my work and what’s coming up, they can visit me at my Writer’s blog, Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action, at http://seanhtaylor.blogspot.com. From there, they can link out to all my other digital homes on the web, from Facebook to Twitter to my official website.
Big, big thanks to Sean for coming on here, and for all the help and support through the years!