Sean: Perhaps the only ritual I have is that I tend to pick and play music that most represents the scene for me – like a movie soundtrack for my writing.
Paul: What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Sean: I like reading history, historical fiction, and some sci-fi/fantasy. My absolute favorite author is Patrick O'Brien who wrote the Aubrey/Maturin series. By far, the most brilliant historical fiction writer (followed very closely by George MacDonald-Fraser) that I have ever read. O'Brien has the spectacular talent of making the most mundane scene in his books riveting in their character complexities and devotion to detail.
Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Sean: I think they would see a bit of a mess. I sometimes feel like that artist with half-finished works spread all over their studio. I have imagery and words for a half dozen works that are always rolling around my head. Dialogue, narrative, witty banter, horrific imagery – all vying for that elusive moment to come out in a coherent non run on sentence.
Paul: What is a typical day for you?
Sean: Awake by 0530 or so and listen to news at 0600. Work my day job and on weekends, maybe that extra cup of coffee. After work I usually try to get an hour or so of marketing / networking in, then an hour or so of writing in the evening (sometimes it's just research). On the weekend I try to double that and find time for family and self (usually in the forest).
Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Sean: I rather like my character in The Scarlet Bastards, Fremantle Freya, and Tongs, Tartan, and Tin Pot Battleships – Angus Motshwega or MacShaka the Tartan Zulu. I am very fond of odd characters and MacShaka, being a Capetown Zulu raised by a Scottish missionary is about as odd as they come.
Paul: In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Sean: I didn't have a solid grasp on marketing nor even a plan. I'm still plugging away at that as well as just trying to discipline myself.
Paul: How do you find the time to write?
Sean: I sometimes don't. Often my writing may be only a couple of hours a week. Sometimes I may even go a few weeks where I produce little. Marketing has been a focus for the last while as my sales have pretty much flat lined.
Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Sean: That it would be terrible to buy this man's books!
Paul: If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Sean: The frustration of trying to even get an agent let alone trying to get into a larger publisher.
Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sean: A little of both. I usually have a good but very general idea of what I want, then I start the individual scenes and run with them... sometimes I even run like hell with them. Sometimes it's more of a plodding pace. When I'm really in trouble and have hit a brick wall, a few hours hiking in the mud is often enough to clear my mind and get back on track. Sometimes, however, I just get muddy.
Paul: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sean: I usually will finish a piece and leave it for a few weeks before coming back to it. Some of my bad habits have died down, but I still get a bit of a glazed look on me when I get into a real writing zone and then sometimes those bad habits come back. It means I will have a lot of editing but in concentrations instead of across the board.
Paul: Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Sean: A lot. Many of my characters are foreign and I really need to read up on customs, mannerisms, and dress. I recall spending an hour of research to write a two paragraph scene where a Pashto solider explains how to make Turkish coffee to a Canadian. I also enjoy using foreign language and dialects when there is need, and this requires additional research.
Sean: Tongs, Tartan, and Tin Pot Battleships. I'm writing a series of memoirs on a retired soldier from the United Nations Off-World Legion set in 2099. Alexander 'Sikunder' Armstrong ran away from Narramatta, British Columbia, Canada, at the age of seventeen and joined the Legion with immature dreams of off-world adventure. Though headstrong and naive (and as it turns out, not overly brave or even a decent shot) this third installment sees 'Sikunder' participating in one of the great conflicts in the early history of the colony of Samsāra in orbit around Delta Pavonis, twenty light years from Earth. Here he joins the Off-World Legion as it attacks a Black Hand Tong fort with the aid of the Samsāra Constabulary and a hundred or so Neo-Celts under the fearsome chief, Amandeep MacGrogan-Singh. With hastily converted lake paddlewheelers armed with recoilless rifles, the armada attacks the fort and forces a beach landing in order to deal the criminal Black Hand organization a punishing blow for its violent excess in the colony. The second story in the anthology follows Sikunder's adventures as he rides shotgun on a riverboat destined to resupply a mining village far to the south of the colony. Watched by the Black Hand, the riverboat is guided under the near sighted command of MacGregor-Chow Jang-Lu and his engineer and partner, Øyvind Svinhufuud.
Paul: What inspired you to write this book?
Sean: I have a love of historical fiction and of history in general, but I also see that history so often repeats itself. The old west and frontier of British Columbia is a setting that is full of possibilities and as well, reading their history is often stranger than reading fiction. I enjoy taking that frontier feel, the characters, primeval settings and impossible situations and pushing them into the future because I think that colonization on distant planets one day won't always be the clean and tidy Star Trek colony but more the tents, mud, horses and camels of the past because that's what's cheap and practical. In my case add paddlewheelers, tundra camels, genetically resurrected mammoths and a population of refugees from the post nuclear Armageddon of South East Asia and China, and I have a world rich in culture, characters and unique stories just waiting to be told.
Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Sean: I have one published poem in a Canadian anthology but that's it. I'm musing on writing my memoirs of my time in the Royal Canadian Navy though. Best I wait until I retire for that one, however.
Paul: Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Sean: My first novel. I slaved over it, rewrote it, fiddled with it, and ultimately decided it was an exercise and not much more.
Paul: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Sean: I have not. The closest was the National Novel Writing Month which was a very fun but ultimately unsuccessful exercise. Next year, however, I'll be ready.
Paul: How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Sean: I have not done near enough. At this point my marketing has been it fits and starts and my sales have reflected this. This winter is when I buckle down to develop a marketing strategy and discipline in order to improve my sales.
Paul: What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Sean: Marketing. I am not a fan though I have to change that.
Paul: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Sean: In my non-writing time, I am a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. Outside of that, I am an avid outdoorsman who loves hiking, backpacking, fishing, kayaking and photography.
Paul: That was fascinating, Sean. I wish you every success for the future.
Sean has been most inspired by his travels and time at sea. Days, weeks, and months away, sometimes in some of the most remote parts of the Pacific Northwest in small ships and large was a constant reminder of what life was like in the ships of centuries passed, and what it would be like in space ships of the future.
Sean enjoys his time on Vancouver Island, appreciating the rugged beauty of the seas and forests and the faint shades of the frontier feeling that can still be found in its rocky remote corners.
Sean's Blog: Sean MacUisdin
Sean on Twitter: @SeanMacUisdin
Sean on Facebook: Sean MacUisdin
Sean's latest book: The Scarlet Bastards (Amazon)