Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Sean and I go way back. I mean, big-hair-and-blue-eyeshadow kind of back. Talking about me, of course, not him. He never had big hair. In fact, we had a serious discussion about what pictures would and would not be shared for this post. You see, there was this play where he played a priest and I played, well, a ditz basically. My best line was "I like his hair...so much." What is that?
Anyway, Sean is now an entertainment reporter as well as a writer-in-waiting novelist. Of course, I had to have him for Tell Me Your Story Tuesday.
Let's get to know my friend, Sean.
Ah, the glamorous life of an entertainment reporter. It's
all free movies, champagne and prestige, right?
entertainment writer is a great gig if you can get it.
I am published in the Moore Monthly
and I am
read by literally dozens of people every month…dozens! Sure, I see movies early
and for free but there is a downside.
People don’t know about the pounds that I have
packed on eating extra-butter theater popcorn two to three times a week, do
they? I suffered the worst of Adam Sandler
for my readers. I saw “Jack and Jill
”. I watch those bad films so you don’t have to. It is a public service.
How did you get into this?
A friend of mine
once gave me the advice, that when you are in a meeting where you clearly do not belong
then just act like you do.
I took this advice when I was asked to meet with the editor of the Moore
Monthly. We had made an acquaintance in social media and he had been impressed
with some freelance writing that I had done for a site called OKC.net. I had written
a story about taking my young children to the annual Flaming Lips
Freak Out and titled it “The Family Who Freaks Out Together
My unique angle
on covering the show impressed him and I found myself having lunch with him. I
was terrified at the prospect that this was a sort of job interview veiled as
two guys eating sandwiches. Now, I had published freelance but this was a
possible regular gig. I was nervous but took my friend’s advice and acted like
this was the sort of thing that happened to me all the time. It worked out and
I am now a professional entertainment writer. I have parlayed that in to
becoming a member of the Oklahoma Film Critic’s Circle
, a recognized
professional society for film criticism.
Which, I have used to get more freelance writing work.
I just keep having meetings and pretending
that I belong there.
What do you look for in the movies you review? Do you
take notes or rely on your own memory?
Do you like to have company for a discussion afterward or do you prefer
Movie studios and promotional companies offer free
screenings for the press and for “word of mouth” hype. Usually, these
screenings are a few weeks before the actual release of the film and are used
to build a buzz around a production.
These screenings are for the press but also for an audience of people
who win tickets on the radio or receive them through some other promotional
source. When I see a movie, it is in a crowded theater of people so I can gauge
their response and measure it against my own. I don’t take notes. I do varying
amounts of research beforehand but go see the films the way that any movie-goer
would. I bring a friend or my children if it is a family film. I get popcorn and candy. I experience the movie.
My work starts once I am walking out of the theater and I
start to distill from my immediate impressions that recommendation of what to
expect from a film. I relate my biases upfront and then try to present as
balanced as possible a review. I am not picky when it comes to which films I
will see. I keep a calendar of all the screenings I can possibly attend and
then attend as many as I can. If I do not write about a movie for my regular
column then I will usually write something freelance for another outlet about
the film. I will see anything because every movie that I see is potential
income for me.
What is it like to leave the theater knowing you are
going to write a negative review? Do you feel guilty at all or is all business?
Too many critics
seem to me to be professional contrarians. I try to be balanced in my criticism
of a film. In the end, I am such a fan of film that there is very rarely a movie
that has nothing redeeming in it to me. If there is only one worthwhile
performance then I will not fail to mention it. Movie-making is a marvelous
thing to me and as a critic, I can be like someone watching prestidigitation at
a stage show and trying to guess at how the tricks are done and pointing out
the wires. In the end I still want to be amazed. I still want it to seem
magic. I still appreciate the art of
making-believe. I mean as a writer, I appreciate the magic behind the creation
of worlds from whole cloth. I have such
a reverence for film and every part of the process. I hope I show that in my criticism.
You also write fiction. What genre? Tell us about one of
your work in progress.
I am not sure. I call myself a speculative fiction
author. I am writing in the genres that I am drawn most to read. My fiction is
some combination of horror and sci-fi, maybe the horrors of science (although
my science is as much psychological and social science as anything else). Hanging a name on a story and categorizing it
is limiting it to follow certain tropes or expectations. It has been suggested
to me that I write slipstream fiction. I am not quite sure what slipstream as a
genre really is exactly but I like what Bruce Sterling wrote about it: "...this
is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that
living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a
certain sensibility”. I get that. Out of
place or out of your mind is sort of what I am shooting for in the atmosphere
of my writing.
What authors have shaped your vision of what you want
your writing to be?
I am currently reading through everything in our local
library written by Philip K. Dick
. Immediately before that, I was rereading the
short fiction of Lovecraft
. I have very few books as I tend to pass them on
quickly but I am literate and an autodidact so I consume the resources of my
I would probably
say Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut are huge influences on my thinking and
writing right now. However, my overall vision is colored by piles upon
piles of yellowed pulp
science fiction and fantasy novels that my
parents had collected.
My first advice
to anyone who likes to write besides ‘Just write’ is to read. Just read.
As of now, you are unpublished in fiction. How do you
keep yourself motivated and writing ?
I have published very little in fiction (a few short
stories in independent small press magazines). I have written however quite a
lot. I spend most of my week working on freelance journalism. After the freelance journalism work is
written, I take time every day for my fiction. The time varies on my workload. I am starting
to feel a pull in the direction of submitting my fiction work and investigating
places to publish (and self-publishing options) especially as I get close to
finishing my novel. I really feel like
it isn’t hard to get motivated to write, it is hard to do the work of getting
that writing seen by others and making a living from that writing. That is
daunting. The writing is the easy part in comparison. The process of submitting
that writing and getting it seen is what takes motivation.
Where do you see yourself going in your writing path?
Five years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Writing. I want to
be writing. A few years ago, writing was a hobby for me. I was a retail manager
for a big box store. I hated my job and I used writing as an escape. I was stuck
in a profession that I found tedious and I was absolutely “adequate” at
. I decided not to settle for being mediocre and feeling
trapped. There was better money in retail but my heart was in writing. That
sounds like a bold choice and may be the best move of my life if I can somehow
make writing my career. I am a freelancer. There is a certain grind to
freelancing but it doesn’t pay a lot and you have to really work it to make it
work. The five year plan is to make the most of every freelance opportunity
that I have and to start taking more “meetings that I don’t belong in” with
Keep working on my
craft and keeping my fingers on the keys. If I am really living the dream, then
I am going to combine this freelance journalism gig with a fiction writer gig.
Ultimately, to be a working novelist and write to support myself would be the
dream fulfilled. Any way that it happens, I am going to keep writing.
Thank you so much for doing this, Sean. It was such fun.
You can also ask him questions in the comments here. Feel free to ask him about me in high school. He may know where some of the bodies are buried, but I've got pictures, so I ain't scared!