Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Sean. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
I love escapist fiction. As far back as I can remember I was drawn to science fiction and fantasy, but when I saw the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was sucked into the gravity well of high adventure—particularly stories involving the search for lost treasure. I devoured everything from King Solomon’s Mines to Michael Crichton’s Congo, and along the way, discovered Clive Cussler’s novels. I think the appeal to me, as a kid, was the possibility that I could be one of those heroes…a Quatermain, Indy, or a Dirk Pitt. I might never be able to pilot a space fighter or slay a dragon, but finding a lost city or a sunken pirate ship? That could happen right?
Writing those daydreams out was always a part of it as well. When the school assignment was to ‘write a story about…’ I was all over that. I definitely always knew that I wanted to write, and by the time I finished high school, I was actively trying to find a way to make it a career.
I’ve had my fair share of missteps and false starts, but I guess that was the path I had to follow to get where I am. I’ve got a ton of student loan debt, and a degree that I would love to use, but I’d rather write stories and there’s only so many hours in the day. That’s the lesson life is trying to teach us. That thing you’ve always dreamed of doing? Stick with it. I wish I had realized that thirty years ago.
In addition to writing novels on your own (so to speak), you’ve collaborated with other authors. As you see it, what are the benefits and the additional challenges to writing as a co-author?
The new reality of mainstream publishing is branding. Bestselling authors are a sure thing, and publishers know that they will make more money putting out, say ten new Patterson novels, than they would releasing ten novels from relative unknowns. The bottom line for aspiring authors, particularly in genre fiction, is that it is now even less likely that a mainstream publisher will take a chance on you. At the same time, there are so many other options that many new authors (and quite a few cast off mid-list veterans) are skipping the traditional route, and doing quite well with independent publishing alternatives. I’m somewhere in between. I have my reservations about traditional publishing, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on it. I think collaboration is a valid path to success, and I’m not being cynical about that. The process isn’t much different from an apprenticeship, and who wouldn’t want to work with a master of the craft?
I’m in a slightly different category than the guys working with the bestsellers. The books I’m co-authoring aren’t being published by mainstream houses, but the authors I’m working with are hugely successful in indie publishing. Jeremy Robinson, with whom I’ve written several Chess Team/Jack Sigler novels as well as the original stand-alone thriller Flood Rising, is a traditionally published author, but the books I’ve written with him are indie published. What that means is that the books aren’t going to be in brick and mortar stores, but digital sales will be very strong, and as a direct result, I’m getting new readers for many of my own titles because people who read ebooks tend to read A LOT of ebooks, and they’re always looking for a new favorite author.
I’ve been very lucky in that the authors I’ve worked with give me a lot of freedom when it comes to using their characters. I do try to stay faithful to spirit and style of the original works, but sometimes you have to bow to the creator’s expectations as well as the audience’s.
Can you share a little bit with us about your most recently published work?
The timing on that question couldn’t be better. I wrote a total of five novels in 2014, and only one of them was not a collaboration. As luck would have it, the most recent book is that solo project, Descendant, the second book in the Dark Trinity/Mira Raiden adventures. It’s very much in the vein of the Tomb Raider video games or the Rogue Angel novels. The series chronicles the adventures of Mira Raiden, who has precognitive abilities and an on-again/off-again relationship with the CIA. The first book, Ascendant, kicked off with Mira (freshly booted from the CIA) using her unique abilities to locate an outpost of Atlantis, and with it, a dangerous relic called the Trinity. The second book picks up where Ascendant, left off and sees our heroine swept up in a search to find TWO (count ‘em) lost cities of legend—Shambala a.k.a Shangri La, and Lemuria, often called the Atlantis of the Pacific. Lots of crazy action in these books, as well as some crazy history, science and magic.
What inspired you to become a writer, and what is one of the things that has surprised you most in the process?
One of the things that really inspired me early on was on the ‘about the author’ page in one of Clive Cussler’s early novels. It talked about how Cussler spends his spare time looking for shipwrecks and lost gold mines. That sounded perfect to me. If I became a professional adventure novelist, then I could travel and have real adventures, all in the name of research.
I guess the biggest surprise is that I finally made it…sort of. I’m not exactly where I dreamed of being, but the very fact that I’m now able to write full time seems almost too good to be true.
If you had the opportunity to sit down with any three individuals for dinner (living or deceased), who would they be, where would you dine, and what would you hope to discuss?
Let’s go with Marco Polo, Jesus, and Dan “D.B.” Cooper. Marco, because there are people who question whether he even existed at all, and because his Travels hint at stories untold. Jesus for much the same reason. Cooper because then we’d finally know who he was and what happened to him. We’d go to a Mongolian grill place and I’d have Marco write the review for Yelp. Jesus could say grace, and Dan could leave the tip.
Name one of your novels and list five words that best describe it and then name one of your co-authored novels, and list five words that best describe it. What do you think the resulting words indicate?
Gosh, look at the time….
What are you reading now and what motivated you to select that book?
The Forgotten by David Baldacci. I’ve been wanting to check out some other thriller authors and Baldacci was at the top of my list. Of all his work, the books about Army CID agent John Puller sounded the most appealing, so I’ve been working my way through the series. They aren’t my usual cup of tea, but that can sometimes be a rewarding experience.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
More books! I’m continuing my very successful partnerships with David Wood and Jeremy Robinson. David and I are currently working on a new Outrigger series featuring characters from his Dane Maddock novels, and there’s a second Jade Ihara novel—the sequel to Oracle—in the works as well. Jeremy and I are putting the final touches on the next Chess Team/Jack Sigler novel—the eighth title in the series—which will explore the fate of the famed Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book is titled Cannibal, so…take a wild guess. That should be out in early February. Jeremy and I are also working on a couple other projects, but those are hush-hush for now. Hopefully, there will be time for me to write the next Mira Raiden adventure in there too.
As this interview is coming to a close, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?
I was just reading a science article about the mind-boggling field of quantum dots. As I stumbled through the information, started wondering what the world would be like if all 7 billion of us—that’s 7,000,000,000 people—understood what the article was about. What might we be able to accomplish in such a world? Now, how do we make that happen?
Thanks you Sean, for taking the time to answer my questions.
You're welcome, Terry, and thank you for the opportunity.
Below is a list of places (links) where you can find out more about Sean Ellis and his works: