March 4, 2013

Author Interview: Sean Ferrell

You see people on Twitter sometimes. They're funny, so you follow them. They write books, so you try to learn from them that secret that makes them successful, so you can mirror it yourself.

Ok, maybe you don't do that, but I do.

So then, they make you laugh with their tweets, and occasionally cry with their blog posts for those suffering from self-doubt, and you're happy you found them.

And then sometimes you buy their books, and it turns out...fabulous.

Sean Ferrell is one such person. I started reading his book, Man in the Empty Suit, early last week, and I was immediately drawn into his world of wonder, full of time travel, self-indulgence, love, anger, paradoxes, and all kinds of drama.

This is the kind of book that makes you have weird dreams, because the world is so immersive. That makes you consider what you'd do in a similar situation. That makes you love a character so much you want to punch him in the face when he does something dumb.

For all these reasons I'm excited to introduce you (and myself) to Sean Ferrell today - I think you'll enjoy what he has to say about time travel, mulletts, and being a dad.

LR: Ah, time travel. Man in the Empty Suit is all about the time travel. So. First question. If you could go back in time and change one thing, without having to worry about messy paradoxes (should that be paradoxi? paradoxices? Word says no, but I like them…) what would you change?

SF: I'd probably tell my 19-year-old self that "mullet" is a filthy, filthy word.

LR: Our narrator in this journey is nameless but for the names he gives the different iterations of himself. Nose. Yellow. Seventy. Screwdriver. The Inventor. I’m working on a book right now in which I have a lot of characters with a lot of different names, and I had to create a cast of characters spreadsheet in order to keep everyone straight. How’d you keep track of which guy was which? Especially since they’re all nuanced versions of the same character?

SF: At first they were all referred to by age. That was far, far worse. Try setting up a scene between 36, 37, 41 and 42 sometime. Once I hit upon the naming convention is was fairly easy keeping them straight. Each of them had a different motive that sprang from a single root (that root being that they were all the same man). Somehow, they all kept in line. 

LR: Though the main hotel setting of the story could be anywhere, and nowhere, the beginning of the book felt very much like a New York story. You so carefully mention New York places – Lincoln Center, Central Park, etc. I know you’re a New Yorker - how does living there influence your writing? (Also, will you send me a bagel? Or some pizza? Because I miss them.)

SF: I'm very aware of how the place affects me. This many people, yet feeling isolated. It's a marvelous city, and it's easy to fall for, but like all crushes it's not a requited love. It will carry on without me. I think that is an element that leaked into the novel: places continue, despite our finality. 

LR: I loved how you handled the youngest of the time travelers – the Sixes and Sevens. It was very tender. I know from reading your blog that you have a young son. What part, if any, did he play in shaping those boys? 

SF: That's a part of this I've never considered, but now that you point it out it seems remarkably striking. I guess it's the desire to not make mistakes with the youngest of them. They are a fragility added to events that the narrator may not be ready for, and if that's not a metaphor for fatherhood, I don't know what is. 

LR: I’ll be honest, reading Man in the Empty Suit makes my head spin (in a good way). The first night I felt like there were ten of me watching me sleep, and it freaked me out. I don’t know how much I’d love seeing myself at a party. So I wondered….what do you think it would be like for YOU to run into dozens of past and future versions of yourself? 

SF: If there is enough rye on hand, not too bad. 

LR: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened since releasing Numb and Man in the Empty Suit? Any cool fan stories?

SF: I've been able to work with some amazingly talented people, and having a book published opens up the opportunity for more of that. I'm incredibly lucky to get to work with the agents, editors, publishers, publicists around me, I'm even luckier to call so many of them friends. And all of that pales when compared to strangers taking time out of their day to read something I've made. Words can't express my gratitude. So, there's not one single story, but a lot of tremendous ones all sewn together. 

LR: Are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pantser? 

SF: Pantser. I have great respect for people who can outline and make it work. I tend to go off the path and then feel like I've abandoned what I'm "supposed" to be doing. The result is: I don't outline. 

LR: Favorites time! Favorite character from a book you read as a child? 

SF: Winnie the Pooh. 

LR: Favorite movie? 

SF: The home movie of my son sledding down a hill while the dog chases after him. 

LR: Favorite book?

SF: Right now: Moby Dick. 

LR: Favorite band or album? 

SF: Right now: I just fell in love with Atoms for Peace "Amok," which is a Thom Yorke (Radiohead) side project. It's amazing.


Thanks so much, Sean, for stopping by. For more info, you can find Sean on his web site or on Twitter.

As for me, I'll be starting his first novel, Numb, very soon, and I can't wait. 


Janet Reid said...

I love what you saw that about the Sixes and Sevens. I missed that.

MarissaV said...

Hi Leah,

Two things. First, Ms. Janet Reid just commented on this post. Right above me. Do you see it? Of course you do. Are you jumping up and down?

Second, I met Mr. Sean Ferrell a couple of years ago. Well, met is the wrong word - I introduced myself via the interwebs. I read an interview he did and loved what he had to say. I emailed him! I never do that! And he actually emailed me back. I love Numb. I'll have to read his new novel. I had to share this story because I was excited to see you interviewed him. Small world. :)

Leah said...

Thanks, Janet! :)

Marissa - of COURSE I'm not jumping up and down - I'm cartwheeling instead. Hahaha. :) Sean seems awesome, so funny you'd emailed him too.

(BTW - play date this week? Homeschooling has begun!!)

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