Interview With Author Sean McMahon

Please introduce yourself and your books!

Thanks so much for having me! My name is Sean McMahon, and I’m the Author of Fir Lodge and its sequel, The Dark Restarter.

A story about life, death, tequila…and time travel.

It’s an adventure series set in the UK that focuses on Hal and Kara, two friends who are thrust into a thirty-three hour time-loop. Every thirty-three hours, their weekend restarts, and they quickly learn that the only way to break the cycle is to uncover the secrets hiding within their own past in the hope they can outsmart time itself and, hopefully, free themselves from their perpetual prison.

What is the real-life story behind your books?

I think it always surprises people to learn that Fir Lodge is based on a true story. Set in a real location. But you can’t put that on the cover lol.

The entire idea stemmed from two friends, who took a lost little dog back to his home during a weekend retreat at the Pentney Lakes in Norfolk.

Upon their return, they found themselves locked out from the lodge they were staying at, and no one inside could hear them knocking.

For a moment, they joked about the strangeness of that. “What if something happened to us back there? Changed us somehow?”

After mulling that thought over and over in my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That’s the day the Restarters were born, even if I didn’t know that was what they would be called at the time.

Fir Lodge is essentially the alternate timeline of “what really happened to them back there.”

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

For Fir Lodge, my friends were a huge inspiration. A lot of those conversations between the characters in the book are based on actual things they’ve said or done. Which is why the first novel is dedicated to them.

But, honestly, my head has always been up in the clouds. Daydreaming of far off worlds and impossible scenarios. Becoming a writer has been a wonderful way to channel that.

How do you deal with creative block?

It hits us all, at one point or another. When I encounter that wall, I focus on reading. This allows me to switch off the frustrated part of my brain and helps me fall in love with storytelling all over again.

I also listen to a lot of music. If I’m struggling to evoke a mood in my writing for a particularly complex scene, I’ll spend hours searching for the exact piece of music that fits perfectly with what I’m trying to create.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

For me it’s being mindful of your “magic objects.” If someone puts something down, you need to be darn sure they’re not putting it down again a few paragraphs later. Continuity is key. And if we do our job right, you’ll never even notice something is amiss.

Dialogue is also a tricky beast. It needs to be authentic, and that’s something I strive to improve upon with every chapter I write.

Another thing to remember, in my experience, is that it’s not always what’s happening to a character that’s important. It’s that they respond to it in a way that feels true to who they are. It’s okay for your protagonist to be funny, or brave. But distributing these defining qualities across your roster of characters can allow for some great trope subversion.

It’s totally okay for the stoic character to get some good one liners. It doesn’t always have to be your main protagonist.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Oh wow, with titles? I’m not the guy you should be asking <laughs>

Deciding on Fir Lodge as a title was a risk. I could have played it safe, but eventually sticking to my guns paid off. I wanted a title that wouldn’t make sense at first. Two simple words that I could make so huge on the cover it would be recognisable regardless of how big the thumbnail was on your phone screen.

For my covers, I had a very specific tone in mind. I wanted to try and capture that retro vibe. With the sequel we took it further, paying tribute to those late 80’s slasher movie posters.

It was important to me to use my own images. Taken on location, rather than stock images. And that was a huge challenge. Because I then had to consider how those images would look in higher resolution, and initially they were grainy as hell. However grainy hell is. Luckily I know an amazing photographer who got the shots we needed in ways I never could. Shout out to Russell Whitcombe for making that happen.

If you’re rocking a series, these things take a bit more forward planning. You need to ensure there’s a unified style running throughout. Which is why the most important tip I would offer any budding writer is to hire a cover designer. Unless you’re a wiz with graphic design, having someone who knows what they’re doing frees you up to do your job, whilst they do theirs.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

You know, it’s crazy. I’ve been incredibly fortunate. My reviews have been generally positive, which is an absolutely incredible feeling after putting an entire year of your life into a project. Every waking minute…every sleepless night. For even a single reader to enjoy something I’ve made makes every second of graft worth it.

But as with most things in life, you can’t please everybody all of the time. I’ve realised that has never been truer than when it comes to writing.

There are so many variables. What if the reader hates the genre? Or dislikes your characters? Or dislikes the decisions your character makes during a crucial scene? And what if they hate your blurb straight off the bat? You’ve lost them before you’ve even begun.

I try not to let the negative reviews faze me. In time, you have to train yourself to accept that it’s okay for someone to hate your work. Because that means creatively you’re taking risks. The only thing that matters is your readership. And if they’re digging the direction you’re taking, you can take a breath and move forwards.

You can get a bunch of heartfelt reviews that tell you your story isn’t just functional, but that it’s enjoyable. Good, even. As a writer it’s incredibly hard to accept positive feedback. You never really get used to that. But as the months after publishing stack up, you do learn not to fight them on it. You learn not to resist as much.

The constructive feedback legitimately helps, too! I know I’ve personally taken it on board and implemented some of the changes readers have asked for in the sequel.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your books?

The best moment was printing my first manuscript. Until I realised that was when the work really begins. And then receiving a proof copy of my actual book. I didn’t think anything would top that. Until it was released into the world…

The most surprising thing about launching a book was gaining readers. Having a readership is by far the best part of the entire process. And whenever I’m feeling down or hitting the wall creatively, I just think of them. Check in with them on social media. And they give me the strength to dust myself off and try again.

I’ve made some amazing friends that I would never have met were it not for writing these books.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

First and foremost I’m writing the story I’d want to read. But I also want to show respect to the readers by ensuring the editing, formatting, and story structure is as sharp as it can possibly be.

For example, I always try to earn my twists, narratively speaking. I could play it safe, but I just feel like there’s no fun in that. I want to shake things up. I want to take chances on story ideas and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I want that throwaway comment in chapter two of the first book to raise a smile when it’s referenced later down the line. Those things are there, interwoven into the story. There for those that want them. Easter eggs that may go unnoticed, but may just make a single reader smirk.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

For me I sort of utilise the writing prompt mentality.

Having two characters sit down and discuss everything that has happened thus far. And what they plan to do about it. It allows you to check in on your characters and reassess their motivations.

And failing that…blowing up the location they’re in and having them do everything they can to try and survive it works a right treat.

What are your plans for future books?

I have some projects I want to work on. A lot of exciting things in the pipeline. Exploring genres worlds apart from what I’m writing currently. But right now my head and heart are solely focused on the Restarters. As I make my way towards the finish line of the series, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to life after Hal and Kara. Saying goodbye is going to be hard.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

I legit came up with the idea of the digital photo frame.

I once took a leak standing next to Simon Pegg.

If I don’t say Lumos when I switch a light on, I’m definitely thinking it.

Once a year, when no one is around, I run as fast as I can and jump into the air with everything I have just to see if I’ve evolved and now possess the ability to fly.

Results seem to indicate I cannot. But there’s always next year…

You can connect with Sean via the social media links on his website, where you can also check out his books, and view his book trailers at

www.restarterlodge.com

Author: NFReads.com

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