Snapshot: Sean Williams

Sean Williams is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over forty award-winning novels for children, young adults and adults. His latest include Jump and Missing, Presumed Evil, with Garth Nix. For more information, please visit twinmakerbooks.com.

1. You’ve recently completed a PhD – congratulations! – and you’ve published a few stories connected to the topic of your research. How did your fascination with “d-mat” start, and do you think it’s a concept you’ll use in future stories?

I’ve been obsessed with matter transmitters for about as long as I’ve been obsessed with stories. Where the obsession comes from isn’t hard to identify–it’s Doctor Who (not Star Trek)–but it’s taken me forty years to work out why I keep coming back to it. And boy, do I. Before Twinmaker, I had over two dozen published novels and short stories featuring the trope (plus my very first, unpublished short), and the number of Twinmaker-related stories just passed twenty-five. I’m currently working on two more, and I have an unsold novel featuring matter transmitters that I co-wrote with a friend last year. It would be fair to say that there’s no sign of the flood easing any time soon.

But why keep coming back to it? Because the matter transmitter is a trope that allows an author to tackle any aspect of society, identity, physicality, and spatiality she wants. It is the perfect SFnal trope, in fact: there’s literally nothing about the present world you can’t interrogate with it. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

2. Some of your best known work is your Star Wars novels. What was it like working in a shared universe like that? Has it had much of an impact on your other writing? 

It’s both fun and extremely hard work. I enjoy doing it because it takes me out of my own worlds and into a much larger collaborative space than the one in which I normal operate, where I’m working on my own or with another author, with the help of my agent and editors. Tie-in work is massively constrained in lots of ways, but that forces you to be more creative. I find that kind of thing immensely stimulating.

3. You’re in the midst of a children’s series, with Garth Nix, called Troubletwisters. Do you already have an idea of where the story will take the twins, and how many more books are there to go? 

Yes and yes. We have always known pretty much where the twins would end up, although the journey there has brought its share of surprises, as with all writing. As with all journeys, I guess. I feel like we could write about Jaide and Jack forever, but sadly all stories must come to an end, and Garth and I are even now looking into the stories we’ll be telling next.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m way behind on everything, including, most shamefully, the work of my friends and peers. Here’s some I’ve read this year, in no particular order:

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Beauty’s Sister, James Bradley

Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs, Tim Molloy

The Bride Price, Cat Sparks

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

As I mentioned earlier, Garth and I are mapping out our post-Troubletwisters series, while at the same time I’m looking at what will come after Twinmaker. There have been no radical changes to the way this falls into place, for me, anyway. I still work pretty much the same way I did when I sold my first novels, ie drafting stories in a word processor (no Scrivener), delivering through a traditional publisher and an agent, and selling books mainly in paper form. That doesn’t mean I have a problem with e-books. Quite the contrary! They’re all I read, and most of my earlier novels are available that way now. The only reason I haven’t gone down that road yet is because I have no interest in being a publisher myself, not to mention the time to learn the skills required. But that could change if the right project comes along.

What do I think I’ll be writing in five years? Five years ago I thought I’d be writing adult crime novels, and here I am loving every moment in YA and MG, so what do I know? Whatever it is, I’ll be totally invested, and totally loving it. That’s the only way to be.

SnaphotLogo2014

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

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