Author Interview: The Drive Home, Pre-Launch

Prior to the launch of The Drive Home: A Tale of Bromance and Horror, I sat down with Emerald Inkwell so that they could ask me a few questions about my writing and the novel itself. I thought I’d put them together in a nice, beautifully formatted post.

Congratulations on the upcoming release! To start things off, why don’t you tell us who you are and a little about The Drive Home.

Ok and thanks, I’m excited too. My name is Sean Kelly, my upcoming novel is titled The Drive Home: A Tale of Bromance and Horror and it’s a thriller set in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the story of Ben and Taylor who take a road trip to visit Ben’s ill father, but hope to have a little fun and maybe get a little inspiration along the way. Ben is a young man who is fed up with the direction his life is taking so he quits his job and decides to try and write his first novel. Taylor, like it says on the back of the book, is Ben’s best—and quite often irritating—friend, who essentially invites himself on the trip, hoping that things will get a little crazy as all road trip stories usually do. In a sense, their road trip does get a little crazy, but not in the way they’d hoped… People start winding up dead in their wake as they drive through Oregon and Washington until eventually they’re confronted with the reality of their situation.

Love it! We’re from the PNW and we’re excited to read a story based there! Although, I do have to ask, what is this whole “Bromance and Horror” deal?

Yeah, I’m from the PNW too and that’s exactly why I wanted to write something based here; it’s my home! But the subtitle, right. So, “bromance” is a word that really only started to emerge sometime in the last decade thanks to movies like “I Love You, Man,” but the concept has been around for a while in things like buddy comedies. A bromance is essentially when two or more male friends are way, way too close and from the outside it can often be misconstrued as romantic, although there are no romantic intentions between them. In a broader sense, a bromance is like a more intense version of a best friendship, which eventually led to the forming of the word “bromance.” So, in the case of Ben and Taylor they’ve been best friends since childhood and have always been close and really don’t have any boundaries, as much as Ben sometimes wishes there were. In regards to the “horror” in the subtitle, well, that pretty much explains itself because, yeah, Ben and Taylor have been best friends since they were young, but then some scary shit happens and it puts that to the test.

So, you told us a bit about the story, but with this being your first novel, how would you describe your writing style before someone picks up the book?

Well, that’s kind of an interesting question. I’ve never liked the idea of pigeonholing myself into one category or style and I like to experiment with writing styles a bit. But in the case of The Drive Home and it being my first novel, I wanted it to be a fun, easy reading experience that would feel more cinematic. Furthermore, one of the things a lot of literary fiction writers do is really delve into the little details of their surroundings. They create that vivid painting of the setting with paragraphs or sometimes pages of details. While I love that style of writing I wanted this to be faster paced and the things that happen to Ben and Taylor are pretty distracting, to say the least, and I wanted to allow the real life settings to evoke a lot of the imagery. So, needless to say, they’re not going to notice the cherry colored rose resting and wilting peacefully in the walnut brown pot, bathing in the sunlight creeping through the stained glass window. As people are dying around them, that pretty much takes up all their attention and I wanted the pacing of the story to reflect that.

You say the novel is a faster paced, “cinematic” experience, could you elaborate a little more on that? How do you fill all those pages but keep things moving along at that rate?

It’s really a lot of ups and down, intense moments juxtaposed against serene or calmer scenes. To prepare the reader for that flow, the beginning is a gradual rise, developing the main characters before anything too crazy happens. Also, one of the things I haven’t spoken too much about is all the main characters that the narrative follows. What I mean is, we have Ben and Taylor, and their trip towards Spokane, but on the flip side of that, there’s another narrative arc we’ll be following. A surly, middle-aged detective who is tasked with connecting some of the dots and finding out who is responsible for the trail of bodies dropping throughout the Pacific Northwest. That alternate perspective allowed me to really play with that pacing I was talking about and really pick and choose where those highs and lows took place. It also gave me an opportunity to introduce a character type I’ve always wanted to write about: that skeptical detective who smokes too much and is easily pissed off by just about everyone. I love those guys.

Alright, let’s ask you a more difficult question. Without giving away any spoilers, what would you say is your favorite part of The Drive Home?

You’re right, that is a more difficult question. Other than the ending, because I really love the ending, I think that one of my favorite parts would have to be a short ways in when something happens and really shakes up everything the first few chapters set up and it really messes with the main characters. One of the reasons I really like this part is because it takes place in one of my favorite small towns in Oregon: Mt. Angel.

Interesting, Mt. Angel? It’s not during Oktoberfest is it?

No, but that is why I fell in love with love Mt. Angel. It is referenced a little bit though and you get a glimpse of Oktoberfest’s influence on the town. But what I like about it is that you meet a couple really interesting characters, some important and some not, but some of those characters and the conversations with them are almost entirely real. They actually happened to me and I sort of wanted to pay homage to those people who’ve given me those memories I cherish so much.

Is that how you come up with your ideas? Real life situations?

Sort of, yes. I wanted the novel to be grounded in the real world, so a lot of the characters and conversations are based on real people I know or have met. That’s what made them so interesting to me, they’re real. Real characters and real conversations I’ve had with them, which might explain why some of them aren’t very appropriate. Myself and a lot of the people I know have fairly foul mouths and some of that did transfer into the story as well. What’s the old adage? “Write what you know.”TDH-FB-COVER

Thanks for reading the pre-launch interview questions! We’re working on some post-launch questions that delve a bit deeper into the story itself and shed a little light on the future. Pick up your copy of The Drive Home in Print on iBooks, Kindle, and Nook today!

Those Nagging Feelings: The Debut

Recently, I published my first novel: The Drive Home: A Tale of Bromance and Horror. Immediately friends and family were showing their support, near and far, those closest to me and those I’ve not seen in years. It is truly an amazing feeling. However, there’s an underlying fear clawing at the surface, striving for my attention.

“What if my book sucks?”

“What if my friends find every little thing wrong with the novel?”

“What if some internet troll decides to tank my novel with a 1-star review when the book’s actually good?”

These are just a few of the million nagging thoughts passing through any writer’s mind as they write a novel. And they’re all valid points. I’d like to use my debut novel as an example to inform and maybe even inspire someone in the same situation as me. A while back I began writing a blog titled The New Writers Journey, check it out if you’re interested. What I was hoping to do with that blog was follow my process from wanting to write a book to one day accomplishing that goal. It was an “amateur” blog in my eyes, which is what I wanted it to be. But there’s a difference between The New Writer’s Journey and the Sean K. Novels site. Experience. In the time I began writing that blog and my novel, up until now, my writing has grown, I’ve published my first novel and I’ve done a lot in regards to the creation of a novel. With the time and effort, and the experience gained from it all, my outlook on the points raised above has matured too.

The prospect of putting your work out to the world is intimidating, to say the least. How do you get over that feeling? In my honest opinion, you don’t. There were, however, a few factors that lent themselves to dealing with the pressure. The first being that you spend so much time working and re-working a project—be it a book or painting or video game code—that you arrive at the realization that because it’s yours, it’ll never be good enough. It didn’t take long to write the initial draft of my novel, but it took years to re-write, edit, add and subtract content. I soon realized that I will always find something I could do differently, whether for better or worse. You have to come to a point where you’re happy with your work and put it out there to be judged, nagging thoughts be damned.

“But what if what you wrote actually sucks?” you ask?

Well, to be perfectly honest, it might, but how are you supposed to know that it sucks if you don’t put it out there; if you don’t get feedback. I hope everyone who reads The Drive Home has something to say, good, bad, or ugly (hopefully not ugly). There’s no problem with constructive criticism. I love constructive criticism, hell, I thrive on it. How is my next book supposed to be any better than the last if no one tells me their brutally honest (FYI, brutal honesty is something I’m going to cover in another post) opinions? There is a difference, though, between constructive criticism and someone who just posts “this sucks” and nothing else. Screw those guys, but we’ll go ahead and address them too. The way we handle those people is what separates us from the rest of the pack. If someone gives you good feedback about a character or grammar issues, let ‘em know “Hey, thanks. I appreciate it and the next one won’t have that problem.” That will entice them to check out your next novel too and give you a reason to keep improving.

Those trolls, though. How do we deal with someone who just says “this sucks”? Confront them too. Say “Really? Any constructive criticism you can give me?” If they’re anyone who matters, they’ll give you something, and you win. If they don’t ever respond to your inquiry, people will see that you cared enough to find out how to improve your work and that the guy who said “this sucks” has no evidence to back up his claim, and you win anyway.

The moral of the story is growth. Gain the difficult ability to learn from your mistakes and you won’t care if you misspelled a word or your grammar is childish—well, you will care, but you’ll know how to use that to fuel your next endeavor. If your audience sees that you want to grow and you can tell a good story, they’ll want to enjoy the ride as they watch you grow from an amateur writer to a professional wordsmith. No matter how well you think you did on something, you never know how the public will respond to it. It’s how you take that input that really shows what kind of a writer or artists you really are. Which is why I encourage feedback. Even though I stand by and love every single word, comma, and semi-colon I wrote, that doesn’t mean I can’t do any better. Even if the world thinks it’s the greatest thing since the toaster; I can do better. I love the story of The Drive Home. It was fun to write, fun for me to read a million times, and I got to really know my characters. And as cheesy and irritating as it sounds, that really was all that mattered to me. Yeah, everyone wants to make a living doing what they love, but you can’t let the bullshit weigh you down. If you enjoy what you’re doing, then just…do that. I know that’s what I’m going to do. If you’ve got something constructive to say, say it. Give me the opportunity to outdo myself. I dare you.