October 11th, 2019
I asked Sean where he would like to interview:
“She hovered high above the skyscraper, bobbing listlessly and tensing slightly to account for the wind that pushed against her body, gravity growing frustrated at its inability to claim her. Her black coat flapped loudly, the Flier long since having given up at trying to force it into behaving. It was then she saw it; the flicker of green light in the darkness of a trellis archway set atop a lavishly maintained roof garden.
The Flier smiled, the ponytail of her tied-back hair whipping across her face then back behind her into the night sky. She loved the verticality of his choice in location. She clenched her fists then stretched out her right hand, pulling at nothingness as if she were lassoing the building, and her whole body moved, as if drawn to it like a magnet.
The green light solidified as she drew closer, filling the entire archway and forming a far more definitive doorway. A breach between space and time, she supposed, her theory confirmed as she flew closer, her birds-eye view giving her a unique vantage point of an empty arch suddenly being invaded by a man as he stepped through nothingness, and into her time.
The Flier banked to her left, swinging her entire body in a tight crescent manoeuvre in line with the ground, her heavy brown work boots slamming against the terracotta tiles with a satisfying crunch. A seamless landing, even if she did say so herself, which she smoothly switched into a purposeful walk.
The man was notably impressed. ‘Quite the entrance,’ he said with visible wonder.
‘Says the time traveler.’ The man smirked and offered a non-committal sort of shrug, the tray of coffees in his hand wobbling, threatening to topple.
‘You’re late,’ she said in jest. ‘Shall we?’
She gestured to the fancy park bench, her eyes glowing green and causing the lamp heaters to switch on, illuminating the fake grass.
‘Sorry. Occupational hazard,’ the traveler said, a slight fatigue swirling deep within his voice.
Laura Mae: What inspired you to enter the world of writing?
Sean McMahon: It was a culmination of things. The perfect storm sort of presented itself in the strangest of ways. My brother and I always used to discuss movies and books. How we would change an ending to make it more cinematic, or more heart wrenching, that sort of thing. We obsessed over the stories we wished someone would tell, never having the courage to actually do it ourselves because…well, making stuff is hard! Like, super hard, as it turns out. But the true moment I decided to write the story I’ve always wanted to read was during a trip to the real Fir Lodge in Norfolk. There was something so beautiful and endearing about that place that I fell in love with the idea of something sinister going down and ruining all the tranquility.
L: How long have you been writing for?
S: The first story I ever wrote was way back when I was about 14. It was basically a complete rip-off of the movie True Lies <laughs> A film I adored. My story was terrible. It was all about a spy breaking into an office and stealing the MacGuffin of some super important files. Classic, right? It had poorly described gunfights, I think there was even a snowmobile chase at some point. <shudders> It was only on some idle Sunday on August 2017 when I made the conscious decision to write a full novel that I truly became consumed by the process. A single sentence that led to a paragraph, which led to me losing the ability to switch my brain off ever again.
L: What are you currently working on?
S: I’ve just reached the halfway point on the first draft of the third installment to my time travel adventure series! Which, I know I don’t need to tell you, is an absolutely terrifying prospect. When I began outlining the first book, Fir Lodge, I knew instantly there was more of the story I wanted to tell. It all started falling into place for me. Releasing the sequel brought with it even more challenges, not to mention anxiety. Which was rad. To build on your initial idea and provide substance? For it to have a reason to exist? These were all things I worked tirelessly to reconcile.
And yet, the sequel also had to achieve something else entirely. It needed to lean heavily into the endgame of Hal and Kara’s story. So, right now I’m working on a book I never thought I’d reach. Where all the loose ends and clues are leading to the big reveal; the reason Restarting exists in the first place. And it’s as exciting to write as it is complicated to execute lol.
L: Are there any books or authors who inspire your work?
S: Richard Matheson and Ben Aaronovitch are definitely an inspiration to me. Their world-building and descriptive terminology is next level. But when it comes to time travel, Audrey Niffenegger and Alex Scarrow. Two wildly different takes on time travel that really captured my imagination. I have a newfound and much deeper respect for them tackling the theme, because I now have first-hand experience on how much of a nightmare it can be <laughs>
Honestly, my writing space looks like a crime scene investigation from the 90’s, with string everywhere connecting post-it notes of various colours, with nonsensical scratchings written on them that I made in the dead of night two years ago that nonsensically mean both nothing and everything to me all at the same time.
L: What has been the most challenging for you so far?
S: Well, creating two-hundred-and-three variations of a thirty-three-hour time-loop that eventually culminates in six definitive alternate timelines, which predominately run parallel to each other, whilst occasionally intersecting at key moments…that was a hoot.
That headache aside, explaining it in a way that a reader could absorb without losing the story in the minutia of that…this was by far my biggest challenge. And formatting for Ebook, man. I hates it! For a bonus challenge, I’d say juggling my home life, day job, and writing life. You have to make time. It takes so much discipline.
L: What is your favorite writing trope? Least favorite?
S: My favourite trope is probably more of an archetype I guess…but that moment when a hero is down and out. They’re on the brink of death. They can’t possibly win. The villain has powered up his world killer, and is taking their sweet time in tearing the hero to pieces. Breaking them down to dust. And then the good guy figures out the thing that can fix everything. The source of their own inner resilience. And the bad guy pulls this face, like “What are you doing?” and the hero kicks their ass. I freaking love that trope! Extra points for adding a dope soundtrack onto it.
My least favourite is probably bad guy atonement or absolution. I’m all for an antihero, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I like it when a bad guy is just a douche. I like playing with the concept of morality in my writing. That good and bad are just relative terms. And that it’s okay if a character is just bad and doesn’t have any interest in what the self-proclaimed “heroes” consider good.
L: Besides writing, what is it you like to do?
S: I want to say gaming, but these days I only play around one game a year now, what with the deadlines I have for my side projects. I love hanging out with my little staffie, Mindy. That doggo is my world. I also love playing around and researching different forms of media. I’m trying to improve my book trailer directing skills, along with photography. So I spend a lot of time swatting up on that. Music is a huge inspiration to me, and for those days when I really want to chill out, I love going to see live bands. But even then, I’m people watching and looking for story ideas.
L: What would you say is your favorite book or series of all time? Why?
S: Favourite book? Don’t do this to me Laura! I’d have to say Alex Garland’s “The Beach”, Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”, as well as the other’s I mentioned earlier. As for a series, I know it sounds trite to say that Harry Potter changed my life, but it’s true, man! Specifically “The Prisoner Of Azkaban.” When the time travel kicked in I remember losing it. I was the happiest I’d ever been whilst reading a book. But also, Time Riders by Alex Scarrow will always hold a firm place in my heart. I actually wrote to Mr Scarrow once when I was in the early stages of drafting Fir Lodge. And he was truly a wonderfully kind dude.
L: Are there any regrets you have or anything you wish you knew sooner?
S: Oh so much! So, so much. I regret the times I tried to rush through a certain part of the process of taking a manuscript and turning it into an actual book. I regret worrying so much. About every little thing. Worrying about deadlines and marketing and networking with professionals in the industry. All of those things matter of course, they are a crucial part of being a self-published writer. But I try to remind myself daily why I started this whole journey in the first place; because it was fun. The reason, I think, that readers dug Fir Lodge as much as they did was because at its core, it’s about two mates having fun. I’m not writing Dicken’s here. The characters and even the story itself don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s about the good times. About the best things in life that we sometimes take for granted, and only miss when they’re gone. I also now know to wait before trying to make professional connections. I’d always rush before my portfolio was ready. But in my eagerness I’ve blown potential collaborations. I try not to beat myself up about it. Because I’ve made even stronger connections since. But still, I get a little too excited sometimes lol. So these days I try to calm down a bit and remember to breathe.
L: In a brief statement, have you self-published or traditionally published? What was your experience?
S: I’m entirely self-published. And the level of control I have as a result is a double-edged sword. I get to choose every last detail of what goes into my story. From the blurb, the cover, to the fonts on the cover, all the way down to the type of paper my book is printed on. The downside of course is that, ultimately, all of that is my problem. All of that is down to me to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be before it finds its way into the first reader’s hands. On the flip side I love the freedom having full creative control gives me.
L: What are you currently reading?
S: I’m rocking an eclectic mix this month. I’m listening to the audiobook of Page Toon’s “Five Years from Now”, which is great. I’m also jumping between Paul Blake’s short story collection “A few Hours after This” and Sarah Bailey’s “Witching Night”, the third book in the After Dark Series. I also have a few comics I want to blast through, such as Corry Heppler’s “Sexy Zombie Hunters” and Jared Wayne Gifford’s Darum series.
L: What genre do you read?
S: I used to stick exclusively to Sci-Fi and Thrillers, but since starting my writing journey I try to read books outside of my usual preference in the hope it might just rub off on me and make me a better writer. Katie Hagaman stole my heart with the totally boss Awakening series, so now I like Fantasy apparently. Admittedly it has a subtle Sci-Fi edge. These days I’ll read everything from Paranormal Romance to trying to read and understand (with varying success) books about theoretical physics, and everything in-between.
L: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Any rituals or ‘must-haves’?
S: I tried to avoid too many sacrifices before lunch, it puts my off my chicken wrap Tesco meal deal. And I make a point of not consorting with crossroad demons more than once a month to boost sales. Most of my days are spent emailing myself notes and paragraphs, or things I need to fix in previous chapters for when I finally get back to writing. Then it’s a case of grabbing some coffee, firing up some music playlists and opening my laptop. Most writing sessions begin with only a flicker of an idea on what I’m going to write about. I’ll just write the first thing that comes to my head. Usually dialogue, as if I’m walking in on Hal and Kara when they’re halfway through a conversation I didn’t hear the beginning of. Those are my favourite days, because I never know where I’m going to end up. Other days I refer to my outline knowing I have a crucial chapter in mind that I’ve been avoiding. And I attack it with everything I have.
My top five must-haves are:
Post it notes. Lots of em.
Every colour of sharpie ever forged in the chasms of sharpie HQ.
L: Any songs or type of music you need to listen to when you write?
S: Gimme all the music, Laura! If I’m struggling to nail a scene down, I’ll act it out in time with music. That probably sounds crazy. Because it is crazy. But it works for me and I just roll with it. I’ve been caught more than once, Fight Club style. I love rock, listen to anything I can get my hands on from the indie music scene, 80’s classics (obvs), swing music, and sometimes I just search for uplifting instrumental music when I don’t want to be distracted by lyrics.
L: What’s a word or phrase that people say that always irritates you?
S: When people say they “could care less”, it triggers me massively. I’m not sure when the change happened. The exact day the phrase “I couldn’t care less” morphed into “I could care less”, all I know is it makes angry, Laura! <laughs> I could, and probably should, care less than I do. But I’m hardwired this way.
L: Where would you say you get most of your inspiration?
S: I get most of my inspiration when I’m driving or walking my dog. Hmm… this is why punctuation matters, Laura. Obviously I mean when I’m driving my car. My dog isn’t a Transformer and, as such, is not driveable. My readers play a huge part in inspiring me. Without them, I’m not sure I’d get through the tough head scratching moments. As well as my close friends. I also have a super dope writing group and those guys and gals say things all the time without even realising they’re giving me ideas. I’m very blessed. My brother is the absolute best too. Not only does he call me out on my time travel fails, his imagination is so wild. I can’t wait for the day he decides to write his own book.
L: For aspiring writers out there, what would be the best advice you want them
S: Remember to breathe once in a while. Creatively, everyone around you is at a different stage of their own journey. Some will be further ahead, some will be just starting out, and some will be in the middle, treading water, doggy-paddle style, just trying to stay afloat. Some of the most amazing professional relationships I’ve developed over the past two years have been a direct result of chance encounters with people whose skill set I had no prior knowledge of. So be nice. Pay kindness forward. And the rest will take care of itself.
From a technical perspective, unless you’re an absolute wiz with graphic design, do yourself a favour and hire a cover designer. Self-publishing can be incredibly expensive, but the two constants that really do pay for themselves in the long run? Cover design. And hiring editors. You may think you can edit a novel yourself. And you can, of course. In fact I know writers that do, and it works for them. But most of us are too close to our own work. Trust me. I’ve sat there squinting and glossing over a plot-hole pretending it’s not so bad. And I’ve missed more typos that I have nutritional dinners due to late-night writing binges. Of all the things not to skimp on, I’ve found those two to be the most important.
Sean McMahon is the author of The Restarter series, a story about life, death, tequila…and time travel.
When he’s not working tirelessly to assist people with pronouncing his surname, he spends his free time walking his ridiculously energetic staffie, Mindy. And hassling people in coffee shops about why it’s such a big deal for Brandon Routh to be donning the Kingdom Come Superman suit.
Fir Lodge (Book 1) – The first novel in The Restarter Series If time shattered, taking away everything you loved, how far would you go to get it all back?… Arriving at a lodge in Norfolk for a long weekend retreat, a group of friends meet for a thirtieth birthday celebration. Before the weekend is over, five of them will die. Trapped in a thirty-three-hour time-loop, only Hal and Kara have the ability to alter fate, and prevent the deaths of their friends. But in order to unravel the secrets hidden within their own past, they must first learn how to adapt to the new rules of their reality. Time, however, is a relentless force. One which will stop at nothing to ensure that events unfold exactly as destiny dictates. With time no longer on their side, Hal and Kara will have to decide just how far they are willing to go to free themselves from their perpetual prison, and exactly what they are prepared to sacrifice to defeat an enemy that has already won. Only one thing is certain… Every action has a consequence. The debut novel by Sean McMahon is a gripping time travel adventure, set amidst the unlikely backdrop of Norfolk, England. Join Hal and Kara, as they attempt to restart the past, to change their future.
Buy it here!
The Dark Restarter (Book 2) – The sequel to Fir Lodge is here! And it’s about time.
Six weeks have passed since Hal and Kara’s long weekend retreat at Fir Lodge, and they now find themselves residing in a brand-new timeline, with no memory of the temporal prison from which they fought so hard to escape, nor the threat they left behind.
But when one of their friends is erased from existence, echoes of forgotten memories begin to trickle back into their consciousness.
As the world around them begins to unravel, Hal and Kara discover they have empowered a killer with the abilities of a Restarter; one not bound by the confines of a conscience, operating on a plane of existence they have no way of accessing.
With the past corrupted, present erased, and their future in flux, the former Restarters must forge an unlikely alliance with another time traveller. A man claiming to be from the very future they are trying to save, who believes he possesses the key to defeating this Dark Restarter.
A man who calls himself…Malcolm.
Only one thing is certain…Everything is about to change.
Join Hal and Kara on their next adventure through time, as the secret origins and mysteries surrounding Fir Lodge lead them to hidden truths, and answers that will change everything they thought they knew about Restarting.
Buy it here!