Feature Week 24: International Best Sellers
In week 24 of the National Year of Reading we focus on two Australian authors who have been successful in the international arena: Sean Williams and Katherine Scholes.
Sean grew up in Adelaide where he still lives with his wife and family. He began writing as a teenager, dropping out of university to pursue his writing career. He returned to study as an adult, completing a Master's in creative writing from Adelaide University, and he is currently working towards his PhD.
With over 30 novels, several collections, a selection of poetry and 75 published short stories, Sean writes for both adult and younger readers. His work encompasses science fiction, space opera and fantasy genres.
To find out more about Sean, take a look at the following clip that features Sean and fellow writer Garth Nix:
Sean is well known for his number-one New York Times best selling work 'Star wars: the force unleashed' that also links into a computer game adaptation. He has written several other Star wars books in the space opera genre with fellow South Australian author Shane Dix.
Another group of his work falls into the fantasy genre including the Books of the change and Books of the cataclysm series.
Sean has written a number of books for younger readers with a science fiction focus including The fixers series.
Most recently, Sean has collaborated with fellow author and National Year of Reading ambassador Garth Nix to write 'Troubletwisters', a fantasy adventure story about twins, Jaide and Jack, who are born into a family of wardens who are the guardians of the earth. This fun clip shows Sean and Garth discussing their ideas behind the Troubletwisters series:
In May 2012, the second book in the Troubletwisters series, 'The monster', was released. This book trailer provides a great introduction to this exciting new adventure:
Sean's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
The National Year of Reading is a reminder to myself to keep discovering new and different things. I'm making a conscious effort to expand my comfort zones, by reading more works by women, by authors from other countries, by authors translated from other languages. I've discovered some wonderful stories that way, and I hope people following my reading habits via sites like Goodreads are encouraged to do the same.
Out and about for the National Year of Reading
Sean will be touring with fellow National Year of Reading ambassador Garth Nix.
When: Friday 26th July, 6.30pm
Where: Norwood, South Australia
You can find details of this event by selecting the following link:
Information about other National Year of Reading appearances by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, including an appearance by both authors at Dymocks in Adelaide, can be found on the National Year of Reading events calendar:
Sean's reading habits
- Are you a constant reader or are there times when you don't read at all? I'm always reading something. It's important for me as a writer and a person to be constantly widening my experience. Reading gets me into another place, another mind, another culture, another way of being. It also reminds me that wordplay is fun. I try, when I'm writing, to read something that spurs me on to write better, because there's always room for that.
- Do you have a favourite genre? My favourite genre to write is speculative fiction, and that was certainly my favourite genre to read when I was a teenager. But before then I would read literally anything I could get my hands on, and I guess I've returned to that kind of voraciousness in the last decade or so. I'll read anything, if it grabs me.
- Print books, ereader or both? I still can't quite believe ebooks are here. I've been waiting for them for so long. But I don't think it has to be one or the other. The only thing better than sucking a new story out of the internet in one second flat is opening a package containing a new, old or special edition of a paper book. I've had great fun this year seeking out old copies of books I loved as a young reader. My old paperbacks are wearing out, and second-hand books smell awesome.
- Do you have lots of books on the go at once, or just one?
On the whole, I'm a serial reader: one book at a time. I like to write that way too, so I think it's the way my brain is wired. Or maybe it's a way of avoiding overload, because when I'm reading someone else's story with part of my brain, another part is writing my own story, and it could be easy to get tangled up. Then there's all the research: I do often have several non-fiction texts floating about as well. My to-read shelf contains books about Doctor Who, Stoicism, writing techniques and true crime alongside novels by Megan Abbott, Stephen Gould, Len Deighton and Madeleine E Robins.
- Do your ever cheat and read the end of the book first? Never. I don't even read the back blurbs. I prefer to dive in and let the currents take me down into the depths, lured on by the author's (siren) song.
- At what point do you give up on a book? Often the first page--sometimes the very first line. There's no time to read books that don't grab me right away. That doesn't mean they're bad books; they're just not right for me, right then. But if I get through the first page, there's a very good chance I'll get to the end in a huge rush. There's nothing better than that WOW feeling of discovering that a book has completely captured you--whether you're reading one or writing one.
- Was your family a reading family? Did you like to read as a child?
My parents were teachers and very keen readers. Our house was full of books. One of my earliest obsessions (Agatha Christie's Poirot mysteries) came about because my mother had an apparently endless supply of them. Those and Doctor Who novels got me utterly addicted to reading. (I still have all my Doctor Who novels, and occasionally I still read them.)
- Estimate the number of books you own. I couldn't begin to guess. A lot. I've been collecting books all my life, for reading and for research, and my wife's a Professor in the English Department of the University of Adelaide, so she has a huge collection, too. We're not obsessive about it, though; we're not squeezing the kids into closets in order to make room for our collections. We just have a lot of books coming into the house (and out, too: we donate our surplus books to Oxfam) and we're happy to make room for them. Books are as essential to us as clothes or food, and now we can buy them electronically, maybe they'll take up a little less space.
- Where do you read? I read in the cracks between my working and personal lives--in bed at night, in planes, in waiting rooms, in the loo. Sometimes I'm so utterly gripped by a book that I'll stop everything to read it, in which case I'll lie stretched out on the floor of my study with my back absolutely flat. Nothing gets the kinks out, mentally and physically, like a good book.
- Where's the strangest place you have ever read? I had a moment several years ago that I'll never forget. I was lying on a beach, listening to music through headphones, and reading a book. That's not so strange, but the beach was in Thailand, the music was of a live performance by Kraftwerk, and the book was by Raymond Chandler--and I was suddenly struck by an awareness of how twenty-first century that all was. It's probably the only time those experiences collided. (The book, btw, was The Long Goodbye, and it was marvellous.)
Sean's favourite reads
- 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' by Alan Garner
My mother gave me this book when she was studying children's literature. I must've been around nine years old. I've read it almost every year since. It's a remarkable book for several reasons. One, it's amazingly concise: every time I read it I'm amazed at how much it contains and how quickly Garner gets through it all. Two, it's emotionally authentic and utterly gripping: there are scenes in there that have haunted or delighted me almost my entire life. Three, adults aren't sidelined: it's a kids' book, but the grown-ups play important roles, just as they do in real life. Four, the ending is perfect: every writer should read this book to learn how to bring a story to its natural conclusion without wasting a single word. I wish I could write this well.
- 'The adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain
Another one from my mother. It's a comedy, an adventure, a romance, a horror story, an insight into another age, and more.
I've written about this book recently, on the website of National Year of Reading friend, Michael Pryor:
- The Schrödinger's cat trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson
I stumbled across this series as a teenager and it literally changed my life. Not so much as a writer, but as a person. Wilson opened my eyes to our weird and wonderful world, and the weird and wonderful beings who inhabit it--i.e. us. He was the writer I most wanted to meet when I was starting out, but sadly he died before I could make it happen. In the universe next door, perhaps I got the chance.
Sean takes an active role in writing-related organisations and writer advocacy groups:
The Big Book Club
As a founding board member of The Big Book Club, Sean seeks to promote reading and Australian authors and illustrators.
Adelaide Writers' Week and SFWA
He is a member of the advisory committee of Adelaide Writers' Week and currently serving as Overseas Regional Director of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the peak international body representing speculative fiction writers in the book industry.
Writers of the Future
Sean is also a judge of the international Writers of the Future Contest, which is dedicated to finding and encouraging new writers of speculative fiction. Sean talks about the impact that winning the Writers of the Future Contest in 1992 had on him:
A selection of Sean's novels will shortly be available through the Worldreader Program, bringing free e-books to poor children in Africa.
Want to know more?
- To read more about Sean, take a look at his website:
- Select the following link to read about Katherine Scholes, our other featured ambassador for week 24:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.