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Q: Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know about? Like your hobbies?
I was born and raised on the Canadian prairies in a small farming town. So playing hockey in winter and baseball in summer were staples of life growing up. I enjoy getting my hands dirty either through carpentry or any type of building project and spend as much time as I can outdoors golfing, skiing, hiking or fishing. My home province of Manitoba has over 100,000 lakes and Lake Winnipeg is the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. From the white sand beaches of its Interlake region to the polar bears and beluga whales of its north, my interests and hobbies grew from this vast playground of activity.
Q: When did you write your first story and how old were you?
I was probably eight or nine years old and in elementary school. I believe it was a Christmas story. I attended a two-room school in my home town of Domain. The ‘library’ was the size of an average kitchen but it’s where I learned I loved to read. The fundamentals of reading and writing were very strong and became a foundation for learning about the world that stayed with me the rest of my life.
Q: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Well, as a child I had a vivid imagination. I wanted to be a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, and if that didn’t pan out - a high ranking government official. Luckily for me, I found I took greater pleasure in reading about these people and later, writing about them.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
I started writing later in life mostly because I felt I had some life experience that gave me my own unique perspective on the world. I spent my younger years engaging pieces of that world and earning a living doing other things. The experiences I had raising a family, volunteer opportunities in Uganda and working in Canada’s north inspired my mindset to see beyond my own life’s circumstances. There was always a quiet persistent calling to mark reflections, feelings, thoughts and experiences by writing through much of my life in one form or another. My mother made a living in translation, my father was a music composer, a high school English teacher encouraged my writing (despite my terrible grammar), and a host of university professors and academics provided all the inspiration I needed. And it still took me into my late forties to write my first book! So there’s hope for anyone.
EXCLUSIVE: INTERVIEW WITH SEAN CARLSON
Q: What is your favorite book from your childhood?
My favourite book as a child was - The Call Of The Wild, by Jack London. The story is timeless and the writing is simple, profound and beautiful. He captures a time and a place perfectly. Accomplish this task as a writer and people will read and remember it. That’s why it’s still one of my favourites.
Q: What do you like doing when you're not reading?
I enjoy being with family and friends. I get my energy from people. It’s also why I enjoy traveling when the chance affords itself. A good carpentry project keeps my hands busy and getting out on the golf course when I can is a treat. I’ve also discovered backgammon which first caught my attention on the PBS Television series - Grantchester. It’s brilliant writing. Check it out!
Q: Where do you get your writing ideas from?
My ideas start from my own personal interests of events and people that capture my attention and then my imagination. I was raised and encouraged to cultivate a broad range of interests and have always been fascinated how they intersect and interact with each other. For example, my love of history and politics and their interaction with faith and theology in a predominantly secular western world produce an endless stream of storylines. When you overlay these storylines against a backdrop of world views and experience you realize how humanity is so diverse, yet so intertwined in understanding our own relevance and identity. These observations form ideas as I learn about them and allow them to percolate over time. I like writing about challenges and conflicts in different parts of the world that have parallel narratives layered within the story, often just beneath the surface that is rarely easy to find. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres because it allows us to look at a picture of ourselves and others through multiple lenses of parallel realities transposed against each other. We can view and reflect on things differently. It may affect our interpretation, it may not, but it stretches our thinking. Fiction allows us an honesty to explore ideas in a way we wouldn’t dare pursue otherwise.
Q: Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
As my novel is historical fiction, the vast majority of my characters in Road To Emmaus: The New Deal are real people. I did name some of them slightly differently to give the novel a layer of complexity to avoid stereotyping certain characters. I wanted the reader to identify with these historical figures in the reality of the moment, their struggles and merit in that idiom of time. A few supporting characters were based off of real people to help frame a particular narrative or illustrate a competing or opposing viewpoint. I also used personal encounters that had left an impression on me over the years to paint some of the supporting characters through a reaction, a response, a look - anything with colour.
Q. Can you describe to us your ideal writing space?
Being from the Canadian prairie, I like to see a lot of sky when I write. I like to look out a window and see endless fields and sky that eventually come together in a far-off horizon. This is what I grew up with and it stayed with me. It keeps me pondering the mysteries of ‘what’s out there’ beyond the horizon.
Q. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
By far the most difficult part of writing is the first 5 minutes. Too often, I’ll do anything I can to avoid sitting down to write. I’ll make a sandwich, do the laundry, take out the garbage, run an errand - anything I can do to not do what I know I must. But after that first 5 minutes, you can’t pry me away for hours. Steven Pressfield called this ‘resistance’ and it’s a very powerful and persistent adversary.
Q. How do you handle a writer’s block?
Sometimes you’re just not ready to write so I’ll engage in research which usually leads me back to the actual writing. The most difficult challenge for me is to turn off my editing brain and ‘just write.’ This was the best advice I received from my publisher, Dr. Gerry Bowler, founder of The Theodosian Press and a wonderful author. He helped me understand in my own way that incessant wordsmithing during the writing process and forcing ideas out on paper for the sake of another 500 words is counter-productive and pretty tedious. It’s not much fun. A walk outside and some ‘free time’ to think and ponder is often the best cure for me. It’s simple but effective.
Q. What advice would you give to a new writer, someone who’s just starting out?
Far be it from me to offer advice to a new writer but since you asked, here goes: First, believe you have a story to tell. We all do. If it’s done well, meaning you’ve dutifully engaged in the work and wrestled with every part of it several times over and thought you’d never finish it, it’s probably worth reading, even if it’s not anywhere near a bestseller. Second, design a road map for the content of your book and the actual writing of it. I found mapping out the storyline of my novel gave me the structure I needed and the freedom to create within that structure. I knew where I was going, where I’d been, and what still lay ahead in terms of content in the telling of the story. In terms of the actual writing process, try to write a bit every day. Whether it’s 5,000, 500 or 50 words - get the words down every day. You’ll maintain some flow and continuity in your thoughts and better be able to maintain the mood of a particular scene which affects how you write descriptively. Third, stand fully behind what you’ve written. It’s yours - be proud
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Sean Carlson lives in Canada. He was raised in a small farming town in the heart of the
Canadian prairies. He received Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and conflict resolution from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg respectively.
His first novel, Road To Emmaus: The New Deal was written and edited over two years but evolved through events of the past 25 years. Those experiences include studying history and politics, extensive involvement in conflict resolution and international development; experiences in the former battle grounds of rural Uganda and work experiences in Canada's north - each connected through a lens of theological and cultural reflection.
Sean is currently working on two upcoming novels - The Hidden Side Of Yesterday set forrelease in fall of 2020 and The Beauty Of A Painted Order set for release in 2021.