Today in the Library we have Sean MacCotter, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author.
Thanks for dropping by, Sean, tell us a little about yourself:
This author thing has come to me pretty late in life. I suppose you could find my name listed in the dictionary under ‘procrastinator’. When I was a child in post-war England, I was exposed to three things which have stayed with me throughout the years and finally brought me to my keyboard. First, I was a Yank, pretty well isolated in a foreign country surrounded by sights and experiences which would fill any young lad with wonder. I lived directly atop the cliffs in Southeast England, near the old Roman fort of Reculver, with playmates who actually lived in a castle. That’s a Wizard of Oz experience for a boy from Kansas City. Second, being alone much of the time, inspired by my librarian grandmother, I read a LOT – Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, Shakespeare, boy stuff. Third, I had a school teacher who knew the history of the area and always shared the little things that bring old events to life.
As an adult, I had occasions in the military and business to travel back to England and Europe many times. Each time, I would try to spend a day or two away from the ‘sights’ and walk the streets of the villages and fields which are the real heart of any country.
As I grew older, I inherited my grandmother’s mantle as the family historian, along with her voluminous collection of books and original documents (back in the days before Al Gore invented the internet). Until I retired, I collected facts and added them to our family database. I guess you’d say I’m a collector of memories.
When I retired I found myself surrounded with crate loads of old family pictures, documents and random bits I’d found interesting at one time or another and decided to organize them and file them away. One high resolution scanner and more than 10,000 documents later, I finished that job.
From there, I turned to writing documented narratives for my family to bring some relevance to them from all this hoard. Family members read the things I’d prepared for their eyes only and encouraged me to write something for a wider audience.
Finally, after sixty years of waiting, I wrote my first book, The Key, about the fictional adventure of a very distant relative of mine from a little town in Berkshire who goes off to fight in the crusades. The writing has been great fun, and the research to fill in the huge gaps in my knowledge has taken me back to those Medieval days I imagined playing knights on the cliffs over the North Sea.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I read a lot of books as a child. As I said before, I spent a lot of time alone in England, and later moving frequently from place to place in a military family.
Since I began writing narratives and novels a few years ago, most of my reading has been limited to research. While I enjoy digging out little known facts, I miss having time to sit with a good read and enjoy the trip. I’m taking off the next couple of months from writing to enjoy the holidays and read a few entire books.
I tend to be a binge reader. If I find an author I enjoy, I’ll read as many of his/her books as I can until I get bored. Then I’ll move on. The same goes for genre. I’m about historied and biographied out for a bit. I think I’ll turn to some quantum mechanics or other science topics – I’m pretty obsolete when my grandchildren are asking me questions I can’t answer. I read your historical romance, The Bowes Inheritance, a few months ago (my first romance that I recall), and found I enjoyed it much more than I expected – so I might add a few more to my stack.
Thanks, Sean. Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I’m self-published at this point. I wanted to test the waters for acceptance of my writing before I invest too much time and money publishing. I set a goal for myself to write and publish The Key Trilogy as an e-book first. Then, invest the proceeds from that into printing the same three books. And then, if they are reasonably successful, approaching publishers for future books.
Which genre do you write in and why?
I write historical fiction. I am an historian at heart and am fascinated by the details of the lives of the lesser known people and events who create history. If I can write an interesting story which, in its telling, pulls the reader into the life and times of the characters, I’ve succeeded. Regrettably, most history is written by and for academics, which most general readers find dry and difficult.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
I can’t name a single person. My grandmother introduced me to research. Various teachers encouraged me to write non-fiction and creatively. Reading a wide variety of authors and topics broadened my world view. My family’s encouragement and support has probably been the most influential.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Certainly. No one can avoid the effects of their environment. I try to write in the world in which my characters live, but I’m sure my own biases creep in. Basically, I’m an American with a strong English history and experience. It’s easiest to write in that world.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I tend to over complicate plots and find myself 1,000 or so words off track when I get really inspired. After a cup of strong coffee and a slap upside my head from my alter-ego I overcome it by a liberal application of the Del key.
Do you have a favorite time of day to write?
Early, early morning. Between 5am and 9am, before the real world interferes with my concentration.
What’s the best side about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
The best thing so far is giving birth to all the stories I’ve locked in my head over the years. So far, I’ve not had a worst – except possibly not being number one on the New York Times Best Seller List – yet. I’m not sure what will happen when the ‘easy’ stories are all on paper. Will it become work, or still be fun. I’ll let you know in a few years.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
I’m very new to social media. Throughout my career, someone else was always responsible to round up my audiences; then I walked on stage and presented my topic du jour. Now, I’m having to build my own market – totally new concept. I’m still learning. Right now, I’m somewhere between a chore and enjoyment.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I’d be travelling. Exploring new things. Learning new ‘stuff’. And boring my family having to listen to me tell me about my day – in excruciating detail.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
The Bible – my grandmother’s dog-eared copy so I could make sure to read all the good stuff before the oblivion part happened.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
You can find it on:
In U.K. Amazon.co.uk
In U.S. Amazon.com