Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Interview With Author Sean T. M. Steinnon

Here's an interview with Sean T. M. Steinnon, author of the anthology Six With Flinteye. He's perhaps the best published author in his age-range, but that's just my opinion.

What do you think is the reason why your readers love the character Flinteye so much?

Hmm...I think it's several things, really. First, there's the stories themselves: Fast-paced space opera that focuses on characters, action, and exotic settings rather than advanced science and social woes. I think people enjoy that kind of fiction and aren't finding enough of it. Then there's Jalazar Flinteye himself. The stories are all (well, almost all) narrated in first person from his perspective, so the reader gets to see the stories through Flinteye's heavily tinted lens. He has a wry sense of humor but rarely laughs. He's very much driven by emotions-often deadly ones-and has a brutal side to him, but also has a strong sense of justice and a personal code of honor that he (usually) follows.

Readers also tend to enjoy his robot sidekick, Axten. Axten is something of a jester, but there's also a serious aspect to him, and I think he has an interesting relationship with Flinteye. Then there's something else which I think readers appreciate: Flinteye is a hero. The stories are basically optimistic, and the bad guys are usually either dead or otherwise thwarted by the end.

How did you come up with the idea for Flinteye?

There's two elements to this one: The name and stories. The name I came up with one day while I was wondering what Captain Flint's (from Treasure Island) first name was. I thought it was "Salazar" (turns out it was Nathaniel). So I swapped the "S" out for a "J", and I had Jalazar Flint...Flinteye. And that's a name worthy of a character to match it. Everything else is inspired primarily by Star Wars-in particular, places like the cantina from A New Hope and Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi. That seamy side to the universe interested me-there was more to this galaxy than pristine spaceships and clean good guys vs. clean bad guys. I also spent several years reading every Star Wars novel I could find, and these only re-enforced that interest. So, once I started writing, it wasn't long before I turned to doing space opera as viewed from the underworld of the galaxy.

Shabak is another character you've written a couple stories about. What, in your opinion, is the attraction of writing re-occurring characters in fiction? And in reading about them?

If a character is cool and interesting, it naturally follows that writing several stories about him is a good idea. It allows you to explore the character more deeply, perhaps to tell a broader story above the level of the individual tales, and to show the same character reacting to many different situations. They're fun to read because, if one story was great, the others should be too. Reading a new story about a character you've enjoyed is like meeting up with an old friend. It immediately gives you a grounding in the story.

With e-zines like Ray Gun Revival and Flashing Swords attempting to re-invigorate the Space Opera and Sword & Sorcery subgenres, what do you think the future may hold for those and other "Golden Age"-styles of SF/F?

As far as short fiction goes, I think many readers are sick of the stuff the big print magazines are putting out-literary experiments and dark, angsty tales which are often too weird or too negative for the average reader. S&S, space opera, and high fantasy are the subgenres that sell best in book form, but oddly enough they aren't popular in short fiction these days. I think places like Flashing Swords, Ray Gun Revival, and Pitch-Black Books (the publishers of some excellent heroic fantasy anthologies) are helping to change that by publishing short fiction that more closely resembles the stuff readers shell out for when they head to the bookstore. That can only be good for the health of short story publishing in general and those genres in particular.

How important do you feel "small press" publishers are to writers? And to readers?

I like small press publishers because they buy my stuff. More generally, I think they provide a way for a beginning writer to get his work in front of some readers and refine his writing skills to the level where he can sell work to professional publishers ( i.e., big houses like Tor and Baen that will pay hot mounds of cold cash for your books). As for readers, I can only speak for myself, but I do really enjoy some small press products-the magazines Black Gate and Paradox are excellent when I get around to reading them, and I love Pitch-Black's heroic fantasy anthologies Lords of Swords and Sages and Swords (I've actually got a story in Sages and another one in the upcoming Lords of Swords 2). Whatever kind of fiction you like, odds are you can find some of it coming out from some small-press publisher or magazine.

What type of music do you enjoy, and have you found it to be helpful to your writing?

Lessee...a few different kinds. My favorites are probably singers like Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, and Charlotte Church who do classical singing with a modern vibe. I also enjoy Irish music (the Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains, The Kells), Mozart, and movie/musical soundtracks like Braveheart and The Phantom of the Opera. I've been known to listen to a bit of opera, Christian rock, John Denver, and They Might be Giants. I usually do listen to music while I write, but it often has nothing to do with what I'm writing-i.e., Flinteye will be wading through a brutal knife-fight while I listen to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sing about whiskey and Irish wenches. Then I'll listen to the Van Helsing soundtrack during a contemplative stargazing scene.

Occasionally, though, I will actually pick music to match the tone I'm going for, which can be an aid to writing. It helps the words flow and helps keep me from getting bored.

What are the current and future projects you have coming up?

I'm working on a space opera novel entitled Memory Wipe, which will be serialized in Ray Gun Revival--the first chapter was released in their second issue. My next big short story publication is a Shabak tale upcoming in Lords of Swords 2, an anthology of heroic fantasy from Pitch-Black Books. I've almost finished with a Flinteye novel which I'll be sending out to publishers before the end of summer. I'm also continuing to work on short stories--right now, my focus is on various Shabak tales. I'm also going to be writing a couple stories for Carnifex Press' Freehold shared-world anthologies. I'm signed up to work on the Ghourlesh trilogy. I'm hoping to do National Novel Writing Month again this year, but I'll be attending the University of Wisconsin--Madison, so it remains to be seen how much time I'll have. Admittedly, though, the class schedule I'm looking at is pretty light, and I'll have my computer when I'm down on campus, so hopefully it won't cut into my writing time too much.


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