Recent Work By Sean Ferrell

showering with dinosaursEver since my wife and I separated I’ve been showering with dinosaurs. They belong to my son, and out of either laziness or… okay, mostly laziness, I usually just kick them to the foot of the tub and enjoy the swearing I get to exercise when I step on their inflexible plastic bodies. No one could say Stegosaurus wasn’t ready to defend himself, with that tail and plating, even if only three inches long. You step on one of them while naked and tell me you don’t back off.

When considering the pursuit of writing as a means of expression, it is advisable to keep in mind Jean Paul Sartre’s famous statement about getting work before the masses: “Sometimes one must cut one’s palm to see if the razor is sharp enough to shave with.”(1) In other words, your goal may force a method you’d rather not have to employ. It’s for this reason that you had better really consider whether you have something of value to add to the literary landscape, and whether you have the constitution to get it out there. As we all know, there are examples, from Homer to Hemmingway, that lacking one or the other leads to trouble.(2)

Having been asked a lot of questions after the release of my first novel, Numb, I now realize that most interviews follow a very standard set of questions. In order to provide future interviewers with some of the most requested information up front, I decided to put together this FAQ based on the questions I’ve heard most often. My hope is that interviewers can use this information as a jumping-off point.

Did you plagiarize any of Numb?

Next question.

When preparing to write a novel, the role of research can’t be overstated. There are moments of panic in every writer’s life when they realize they don’t know what vermouth tastes like on its own (kind of medicinal and dry, with a hint of a tonic flavor as the result of herbs added to what is basically cheap wine), how many years it takes one to go from law school to full fledged partner (seven, if you don’t ever go home or have any connection to what one might call “a life”) or how difficult it might be to have sex in a moving vehicle while driving (still in the planning stages). Research fills the cracks between a character being anyone and being someone, making them particular, making them resonant with an audience. Even if your reader doesn’t know that the stick shift could prove a tremendous hindrance (or aid) to the mobile love scene, they must trust that you, the writer know that it would cause problems (or move things along at a nice clip). If the writing rings authentic and true then, ironically, the reader won’t even notice the writer is there; if it is inauthentic then it is as if the writer has just arrived, uninvited, and soiled the dinner napkins.

I am very protective of my son’s experience of my childhood. When he stumbles across some detail that was shocking, formative, or pivotal to how I related to stories and how they relate to the world I do as subtle a dance as I am capable between revelation and obfuscation. I recognize that this is futile. I do it nonetheless. This was  made abundantly clear to me recently on an evening walk.

Maintaining a spirit of play as opposed to laboring under the “rules” of writing is a troublesome task. There is an entire industry to teach us the rules. Play, not so much. Inside the playfulness of writing we forge our connection to the reader. It’s behind rules that distance is bred. I was reminded of this over the weekend. I was part of an audience at a gladiatorial arena, also known as a play-date. Surrounded by four- and five-year-olds at the local playground, the other parents and I gave our thumbs-up (“Way to run away from that kicking kid!”) and thumbs-down,  (“Don’t kick that kid in the head!”) responses to children who would have ignored us were we not controlling the purse strings when ice cream rolled our way. I was a solo parent for the weekend, my wife having earned parole in the form of a women’s retreat, and in order to maintain my and my son’s sanity I had orchestrated the gathering with families from my son’s pre-school class. Several classmates came, the weather was Grillmaster hot, and the playground was being tested by three-and-a-half foot tall humans pounding through, on, and around it, water sprinklers and squirt guns in full spray.