Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Sean Ferrell

Hello my darlings!

Today I am thrilled to bring you my very first ever author interview with the amazing Sean Ferrell!

I’m seriously almost too excited here, kids.

If you don’t know who Mr. Ferrell is, well, this must be rectified so we can remain friends.

Sean is the author of the amazeballs books, NUMB and THE MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT, as well has having recently sold his first picture book, I DON’T LIKE KOALA.

Add in his extracurricular internet spectacularity, we’ve got a full-blown jack of all the awesome trades here.

I’m a fan. I hope that’s translating here. I have a tendency to be too subtle…

Read on and discover why you should be a fan too!

1. You have an awesome little cult of Followers on Twitter. How does it feel to be ridiculously awesome in every way, Mr. Ferrell? Also, tell me what makes your fans extra special?

First, Just because I’ve convinced people that we are all about to be taken to heaven by a spaceship hiding in a comet’s tail does not mean I have a cult. Second, you’re being far, far, far too kind. Third, I’m simply grateful that anyone would be willing to subject themselves to what I have to say about anything. Whether they are reading only my tweets, or my essays or my books, I am so appreciative of the time people give to my work. It is very humbling.

2. I am dying to hear about how you landed the sharkiest of all agents, the incomparable Janet Reid. I’m told your query tale is the stuff of literary legend, so would you care to share it with the rest of the class?

This took place an eon ago, when Janet only took queries by snail mail. In other words: eight years ago. I sent her a query letter and five pages, and then waited for the SASE (I can hear the youngsters out there hitting The Google for that) to bring back my old friend, Form Rejection. When it came I read the rejection, left it on my desk, sighed, and walked into the other room. But something didn’t make sense, so I went back and reread the rejection. Three times. Out loud. It took that much effort to realize that she was asking for the whole manuscript. After that it’s the classic tale: Boy meets agent, agent requests manuscript, boy realizes he has queried too early. She said, “Send it,” and I was in the middle of revising it. I thought “I’ll buckle down, get it to her in no time.” There was nothing to stop me. Other than the fact that my son had just been born. Babies and revisions go together like caramel and thumbtacks. Three months later I got a letter from her: “I have a folder with your name on it, but nothing to put in it. Should I throw it away?” I wrote the first of many “I an idiot” notes, and she patiently said to send when ready. Then she made me squirm after I sent it. The moral: do not query unless the finished manuscript is bloody ready.

3. You write both literary adult and picture books for kidlets. How does your approach to such wildly different genres change? I envision you surrounded by scotch and strippers for Adult, and gummi worms and stuffed pandas for PB. Am I close?

Very close, you just have the two settings and refreshments reversed. Actually, there isn’t really a different approach for any of my writing. I want whatever I am working on to be itself. It needs to be a good story first. Editing can smooth out any missteps (too dark a tone for kids, for example) but when working on that pre-first-draft draft I just let what happens happen. So far, the books have sorted themselves out. I don’t think kids should be reading my adult books (“Won’t someone please think of the children!”) but I like to think that older readers can enjoy the kids’ stories, or at least not grind their teeth as they read.

4. Your video series with Jeff Somers, Two Men Have Words is kind of freaking hilarious. The Dan Krokos Continuity  episode is particularly delicious. For those who haven’t seen it, can you explain what it is, and maybe dish a little dirt on the kind of frenemy vibe you and Jeff have?

I am not familiar with this video series. Okay, I am. Jeff and I met on a blind date arranged by our agent who, I believe, was tired of footing separate bar bills and wanted us both in the same room where she could keep an eye on us. I knew immediately that I could harvest Jeff’s organs, and our senses of humor is almost eerily in tune. Don’t ever hurt yourself in front of us because we won’t help you until the giggles stop. I was interested in collaborating on something silly and fun, and Jeff agreed because how could he say no to this face? Dan got involved because we needed a fall-guy.

To be honest I am lucky to call them my friends. They are both talented and funny and put up with me. Our attitude toward the videos is “Whatever makes us laugh, and only as long as its fun to make.” We’ve been successful on those terms so far.

5. As I was scrambling to think of cool questions to ask you, it was suggested that I ask about your MFA. So, I’m gonna. Tell me about it. How does it influence your perspective with writing, or the publishing industry as a whole?

There is a long-running debate on the effectiveness and value of an MFA. Clearly they are not a prerequisite for writing. The benefit for me came from the intensity of focus on writing with a community of people as interested in writing as I was. This can be found outside a program of course, but for me the program became a way of enforcing a habit that hadn’t yet taken hold: write or die via shame.

6. In case anyone hasn’t read your newest novel, MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT, please take this opportunity to tell them why they should, while I shake my head disapprovingly that they haven’t already ditched this interview to go buy it…

I’m not so great at selling my own work. I know I like the book, it is something I would want to read, but I hesitate to say “read my work because….”

So, I asked my brother. Here’s what he said:

Because it’s cool. How’s that for a fifth grade level book report?

A bulleted list of why I read MITES:

– Sci fi – I love me some time travel twists and turns.
– Mystery – Shades of a good old murder mystery (hence my obsession with Columbo).
– Character study – how our life decisions impact and change who we are as a person.
– Love – how love makes us make stupid decisions, but also elevates us to be more than ourselves (see previous bullet).
– Family – this dude I know wrote it.

So, people should read it because I’m family.

I also asked my mother and father the same question, but I wasn’t as clear about why and what I was asking as I should have been. They became confused, and the discussion devolved into three separate email chains, each more terrible than the last.

7. I know you can’t give too many specifics, but what sort of brilliance are you working on right now?

I’m finishing the first draft of something that started as a bedtime story for my son. I’ll say robots, pirates and monkeys and leave it at that.

8. So, you’re a badass. An award winning badass at that, but I imagine once upon a time you were a mere mortal trying to make his way in the publishing world. What seasoned vet advice can you pass along to the rest of us to carry us through these cold, lonely nights on our way to publication?

I’m beginning to wonder if my mother had a hand in preparing these questions. You’re far too laudatory.

I loathe giving writing advice because what the hell do I know? Everyone finds their own way to fall down the cliff. But on your way down, remember you’re not alone. In anything. Success or failure. Moments of difficulty are not a sign of weakness. You haven’t discovered your true essence in the confusion of your third version of chapter three. You didn’t invent self-doubt. Breathe deep and look for someone who can nod and say, “I’ve worn that face.” And your successes should be celebrated, but you didn’t get there alone. Sure you climbed the mountain, but someone drew the map, someone hauled the water, and God made the landscape. Enjoy your success, but remember those who helped you get past the pitfalls. Take the time to say thanks.

9. It is customary on my blog for my unwitting visitors to share an embarrassing moment, all the better if it’s industry related. Bonus points for humiliation or accidental nudity.

I recently arrived early for a publishing seminar at Random House. One month early. Yeah, February, you do look a lot like March.

And that is the fabulous Mr. Ferrell, ladies and gents!!

See? Awesome. So much awesome.

Buy and read his awesome books, follow him on Twitter, and prepare yourself for hilarity and greatness.

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and MITES!!!

6 Comments

  1. Excellent interview. And, of course, love the GIFs (though the one right before 8 wasn’t working for me). MITES was an excellent, excellent read. I have shared it with quite a few people and they all love it, too.

    Showing up a month early for a conference is pretty fantastic, but I suspect this well runs deeper, Mr. Ferrell.

    Thanks for the great interview, both of you.

  2. I had to scroll past the creepy rabbit gif. Bravo to the rest, other than those few sentences that raced past in a blur of desperation and terror!

  3. Love this interview; love Sean’s work.

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