1st December 2018
Interview with Sean McMahon
Hi Sean! How’ve you been since we last chatted about Fir Lodge?
Mike! Thank you so much for having me back! Hard to believe it's been the best part of a year since Fir Lodge came out, right?
I think so. The arrival of Baby Three has completely destroyed my sense of time, which is an irony given your books’ subject.
Haha I can only imagine! Congratulations! How you find time to juggle all of these interviews as well as three little ones blows my mind!
You know, it's funny, on the day of release I immediately started the sequel. So for me, it hasn't really stopped. It's been all systems go! But honestly for me the biggest change has been from being "that guy people know who is writing a book" to finally feeling confident enough to accept the title of being an author.
Another advantage is taking everything I learnt from the first book. It's given me a better understanding of getting things like the next book trailer done in advance.
I also have a dedicated writing space now! A desk, a whiteboard. The whole deal. It's been a bit of a game changer for me.
What else do you think you learned from Fir Lodge?
I've learned a lot. For example formatting,whilst still a harsh mistress, comes a little easier to me now. I've been trying some things I haven't seen anyone else do before. But, I'm sure there's a reason they haven't gone the route I've taken so it remains to be seen if these design quirks make it into the final edit.
How did you find the reception to Fir Lodge?
Shortage of chairs. A lot of people had to stand. <laughs> It's no exaggeration to say I was blown away, man. Just the sheer amount of love from the readers, and the writing community itself was overwhelming. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to resonate with so many people. It's an honour and so incredibly humbling. Even just thinking about it legit gives me all the feels.
What do you think people most engaged with from the book?
Honestly?! Your guess is as good as mine <laughs> but going by the feedback I've received, I think the juxtaposition of the humour and horror helped ground the characters a little. What amazes me is how occasionally I'll get a message about an Easter egg and people's interpretation of its meaning can differ wildly. To the point where they will come up with these crazy ideas I hadn't even thought of. When that happens I usually ask them to keep talking <furiously takes notes> lol
How is The Dark Restarter different to Fir Lodge?
Oosh. You went all in man. Not pulling any punches today I see?
Ah. I’ll just scribble out the next few questions. Bear with me.
<Waits patiently> better...
In terms of how it's different? The cast has had a bit of an overhaul. I took on board every single word of feedback from the readers. One of the things I learnt was the cast was a lot for readers to keep track of. So with TDR I wanted to refine that. The cast is smaller. I mean all of the characters from Fir Lodge are still there which makes for some fun cameos. Because time travel. But the story revolves around a smaller cast overall.
You've pretty much summed up the biggest challenge I found when approaching the sequel. How to make it different, whilst staying true to the core of what I wanted Fir Lodge to be: real people, facing unreal situations.
Another benefit of spending so much time in those early chapters of Fir Lodge is that I've established the world of Restarting now. Which means with the sequel I was able to jump right into the action. People understand what a Restart Point is now. They know the rules of what a Restarter can and can't do.
The Dark Restarter has been a huge challenge for me, and a true labour of love. It serves as both a prequel and a sequel at the same time. Because you know how I love to make life easy for myself <laughs> it's longer than Fir Lodge as a result. And that's even after I cut six chapters from the current edit. I feel like the story needed the extra word count so it could breathe.
Don’t tell me you cut the chapters with the DeLorean?
I can neither confirm nor deny whether the DeLorean will feature in this series. But I will say this: writing a time travel series and not exploring that avenue...Well, it would be one helluva missed opportunity don't you think?...<winks as he sips his coffee. Spills coffee down shirt>
How did you go about plotting The Dark Restarter? Did you have it in mind whilst you were working on Fir Lodge?
100% yes! Whilst I had no idea if anyone would be interested in a second part to my story, it was always my intention for them to be intrinsically connected. In fact, I plotted the outline of TDR whilst writing Fir Lodge. The first thing I did on release day was mark out the clues I'd embedded into Book One with post-it notes. I surprised even myself with how many Easter eggs and hints I'd woven into the story.
From a technical perspective, I tried some new things with the sequel. I broke it down into 3 separate acts which really helped me focus on the key plot beats.
Given that the whole world of Restarting is - forgive me - ‘wibbly wobbly timey wimey’, how hard was it to fit the story into a traditional structure?
I literally have that quote on the coaster on my desk! It's kind of a mantra! Haha. Well, I know you know the process for structuring a story. And the challenges that brings. I dance the line between panster and plotter but with a story like this, structure is crucial. And as we head towards the third instalment, I'm so glad I took the time to map out the journey from beginning to end. I'm hoping it will result in some air punch twists, as all the clues I've sprinkled throughout connect, so that when readers have the full picture they'll see just how far in advance I had to plan.
Due to the success of Fir Lodge, your social media footprint has grown markedly. How do you manage this?
Wow Mike? Stalk much? I jest! That is so kind of you to say...success is relative I suppose. But in terms of my personal goals and what I set out to do, it really has been an incredible journey so far.
I was honestly not expecting any of that to happen. Take Twitter for example. When Fir Lodge was released I had about 46 followers .which was awesome! That many people showing an interest in the book was inconceivable to me! And then I hit 100 and I was done. That was the ultimate for me. That made up my initial readership after all. But as I started connecting with other like-minded creatives I suddenly realised I was slowly becoming a part of something more. A whole community of writers, podcasters, musicians, booktubers...
And then the Restarter community sprung into existence, and people started reading my work and...Well. How do I manage it? By being thankful every single day that I get to hang out with such wonderful people and engage with my audience. I can't tell you how incredible it is to see a new review pop up or receive a message out of the blue from a reader.
Do you think that an online presence is necessary for modern authors?
I truly do. But not in the sense of marketing or anything like that. Though that is a part of it. More so in terms of how unique it is as a means of connecting with your readership. Imagine reading a book you enjoyed, then having the opportunity to speak to the actual author afterwards? That's a beautiful thing. There's something really cool about that. Is it essential? Not necessarily. But does it allow you to connect with your audience in ways that would otherwise be impossible? Absolutely.
You’ve also been approached to do interviews with other publications (*cough* traitor *cough*), even video interviews. How did you find these?
<puts on shades, jumps on motorcycle> We'll always have Paris, Mike...
<realises he can't drive a motorcycle and wipes out into some wheelie bins>
Oh, Sean. With the new interview budget, I take all of the interviewees to Paris now. I’m sorry.
I've been meaning to say, it's been wonderful to see so many fantastic authors lining up for your Saturday interviews.
I’ve been really lucky and talked to some wonderful people.
And to think, when last we spoke you were offering up stolen mints from the local supermarket. Mints I still haven't received I might add...
I guess they were disappoint-mints in the end.
I guess it just...wasn't mint to be? <cue CSI Miami intro music>
Nerve-wracking dude! Seriously. Initially I felt like a fraud? <laughs> Like don't they know I'm just a guy? I'm super green on the writing scene. Why would anyone be interested in me waxing lyrical about the topic? But ya know I take a breath and think well, I made a thing. Maybe I could offer a little hope to others who are also trying to make a thing. Maybe offer up some of my experiences on what not to do. Because I did make a fair few mistakes along the way lol.
Honestly? It's just a joy to be mentioned in the same breath as other writers I respect the heck out of! I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast I've been following for months. My first ever podcast appearance courtesy of Silverton Audio. It was so much fun getting to converse with an audio artist when you're a huge fan of their work. And utterly surreal going from being a listener to being a guest?! It was a dream come true.
Did you have to map out what you said in advance so you didn’t drop any unplanned spoilers?
You know the urge is always there to blurt out the secrets of the project you're working on. Because I'm excited and invested in my characters and can't wait to share it. But you sort of learn how to rein that in. Mainly because without context the thrill is somewhat negated lol.
The host, Marnye Young was fantastic, I was in good hands <laughs>
To all those thinking of doing a podcast interview, I would strongly recommend preparing a little. But when you know your story inside and out, it's just a joy to speak about it.
Now that book 2 is almost out, what’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started writing Fir Lodge?
I wish I'd known that Createspace was shutting down and moving to KDP so I didn't have to switch publishers a few months later <laughs>
And to order my saved documents in a more manageable way. I genuinely think my dog is more organised than I was in those early days in getting my first novel off the ground.
Also? I wish I'd invested in a whiteboard and desk way sooner.
I asked last time and I’ll ask again: spoiler please!
Bruce Willis was a ghost, man. The whole damn time!
Nuts. Now I'll need to add a spoiler warning to the interview for people who've been cryogenically frozen for the last twenty years. Any spoilers for The Dark Restarter?
Of course! Well, I've just wrapped up a pretty steamy scene I'm super excited about. Things are really going to heat up…
As for what readers can expect from the sequel? Everything is going to change for Hal and Kara. And they're going to learn that a lot of things they thought they knew about Restarting are just the tip of a blood-soaked iceberg.
We're on track for a March 2019 release, all being well. Which will also mark the 1 Year anniversary of Fir Lodge.
For more information, check out Sean's website at www.restarterlodge.com