Sean Williams is the award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over thirty-five novels, eighty short stories, and the odd odd poem. He writes science fiction, fantasy and horror for adults, young adults and children, and enjoys the occasional franchise, too, such as Star Wars and Doctor Who. His latest book is Troubletwisters: The Monster, co-written with Garth Nix.
Your collaboration with Garth Nix, the “Troubletwisters” series, has been receiving excellent reviews and it isn’t the first time you have worked with another author. Do you find it is something that comes naturally to you, or was there a period of adjustment? Are there any keys to a successful collaboration that you could share?
Collaborating is not an entirely natural thing for writers to do, which is why, I think, it’s so important that writers do it at some point in the career. Given our druthers, writers would happily keep on doing whatever the hell we want until we drop dead at our keyboards. It’s only through engaging with editors, critics and other writers that we improve in ways that will (hopefully) lead to better writing. Some people might be naturally good at regarding their work with an objective eye, but I’m positive that even those fortunate types benefit from someone poking their nose in and messing around. That’s what collaboration’s all about: having someone step into your kitchen and say, “Have you thought about adding a little chilli? Or maybe taking out the meat?”
A good collaborator will get you over the hump, revitalize your dead ideas, catch your blind spots, keep the project alive when it is dead to you, and creatively stimulate, challenge and surprise you. To work productively and happily, the members of a collaborative team must all trust each, respect each other, communicate with each other, have similar aspirations to each other, and be able to rely on each other absolutely. They must each bring something unique to the project, and they must also be prepared to give something up in the process of bringing it to fruition. A good collaboration never reads like any one of the people involved; it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of many parts that lives and breathes in its own right. That said, however, it’s important for one person to have the final say, and that everyone involved knows who this is before setting pen to paper. Make an agreement that all parties will sign. Stick to it. And have fun!
At the time of the last Aussie Snapshot you were embarking on your role as the Overseas Regional Director for the SFWA. How well do you think that international authors, particularly Australian ones, are represented by the SFWA? Are there any initiatives you are particularly proud of during your time in that role?
Well, you’ve touched on something I feel a little remorseful about , as I haven’t done nearly as much as I’d hoped with SFWA. Partly because of time constraints at my end, mostly because this has been a time for SFWA to get its house into order. I’m hopeful that in the year remaining of my term we’ll get something rolling or, if not even then, that the person who follows me will find it easier. I think international writers need a stronger presence in SFWA, and that SFWA could improve its servicing of OS authors on many fronts, so there’s definitely work to be done.
In general, I’m planning to drop all my extracurricular work in the coming months, as I’ve found it difficult to maintain on top of travel, writing and family. By 2014 I hope to be footloose and committee-free, and will therefore only need to emerge from my study for cons.
There are more “Trouble Twisters” on the way, but are there any other worlds you have written in that you would like to return to in the future?
I have sold a YA series that taps into a long-standing SFnal interest of mine (can’t say anything more about that at the moment, sorry), and there are a few other projects in the works. One is the TV series of my novel The Crooked Letter, which is at pilot-script stage. If that goes into production, I’ll be busy for a while to come, hopefully. And then there’s Star Wars, which I hope to return to soon. I have lots of irons in lots of fires. I’m limited only by the hours in the day.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read much Australian work lately–but then I haven’t read much recent fiction at all, in any genre. I’ve been researching my PhD, which has meant digging into a lot of old science fiction novels. Fun, but I’m looking forward to it being over and done with this year so I can get back to reading for pleasure.
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Again, because I’ve been torn between my PhD and travel, I haven’t seen much of the local scene, and I completely missed Aussiecon 4 for health reasons. The community seems to be thriving, though, judging by Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the very strong showing in the 2011 and 2012 awards rounds. From very sketchy beginnings, it has become a vibrant, multi-faceted, constantly surprising thing that is now much larger than the people comprising it, and that’s absolutely marvellous. Nothing makes me prouder than to be part of it