Thursday, September 12, 2013

Author Interview – Andrew Seaward

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? Back to Blood by the master story-teller of our generation, Tom Wolfe.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? Digital publishing. Hands down. No doubt about it. Now-a-days, writers don’t need to get through the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. There’s absolutely nothing keeping them from reaching their target audience. If they want to get their work seen they can publish it on Amazon in as little at ten minutes, schedule a free promotion using KDP select, and within a couple hours have their book in the hands of a few hundred readers. 

It’s a great thing, this e-publishing. Gone are the days of having to sit by the mailbox waiting for a literary agent’s rejection letter. You can become your own agent, your own publisher, your own marketer and distributor. Of course, once you start wearing all these different hats, you have a lot less time for actual writing. Then, it becomes an issue of time management. How much time should you spend on marketing and promotion versus writing? It’s actually a good problem to have. Without Amazon KDP, I have no doubt I’d still be waiting for that rejection letter. At least, now I can have people reading my work and giving me feedback. The best feeling in the world is when you get a five star, rave review from a Top 50 Amazon Reviewer. It’s better than sex. Well, almost. 
What contributes to making a writer successful? Discipline. Perseverance. Commitment. You can have all the talent in the world, but without discipline, none of that talent will ever get through.  

Do you have any advice for writers? Yes, I do. It’s very simple. Don’t be afraid to embrace your craft. I spent many years avoiding who I was and what I was, all because I didn’t think writing was a practical vocation. As a result, I spent five years on a degree I didn’t want, four years in a job I detested, all the while drinking myself to death, trying to dull the creative desire burning in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t until I stopped poisoning myself and embraced who I was that I was finally able to begin my life. 
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? After many years of self-doubt, I finally accepted myself as an artist. Since then, I have grown tremendously as a person. I am much more open and expressive than I used to be and I possess a lot more empathy for all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, all races and colors. As a writer, you have to possess empathy. How else can you portray someone accurately unless you’ve walked in their loafers? With this empathy, comes patience, open-mindedness, and understanding. Although I still need work, I’m not as quick to judge someone based solely on their appearance. Who knows what the bum begging for change on the corner has been through? Maybe he lost his wife and children to a car accident. Or, maybe he has PTSD from his service in Afghanistan. There’s no way of knowing unless we ask them. And that’s my job as a writer; to explore the unexplored, to chart new territory. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my young thirty years on this planet, it’s that everyone has a story. So, let’s hear it!

When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? I will never stop. They’ll have to take me out on a gurney before I ever retire. 
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? The best compliment? The toughest criticism I’ve had as an author was not really a criticism as much as it was a sort of indirect insult. There are a couple people in the Colorado “art community” whose opinions I hold very high. These are people with whom I’ve worked on films, discussed my writing, and had many, many detailed conversations about art, literature, storytelling, etc. They’re also the people I expected to not only read my book, but help promote it through reviews and referrals. To this day, not one of them has taken the time to read my book, much less review it, which makes me very sad. Look, I get it. People are busy and reading takes time, but if you happen to be reading this interview, please know that it would mean the world to me if you read my book and tell me what you thought. As we say in the South, if ya’ll do this fur me, I’ll dance at you’re weddin’. 
Now, on to the happy stuff. The best compliment I ever received was from my friend and former supervisor, William McMechen, who happened to be one of the people who helped me get sober. Not only did he drive me to the ER when I was having one of my “alcoholic fits”, he covered for me at work by telling HR I was suffering from the flu. He also picked me up from the “nut house” a few days later and drove me back to my apartment. I’m convinced that without him, I would’ve never gotten sober. 
Now, William is what you would call, “cultured”. He’s not the type of guy you’ll see reading Tom Clancy or Elmore Leonard. He likes the classics; Faulkner, Tolstoy, Virginia Woolfe. If it’ not at least thirty years old, he probably won’t read it. So, I was a bit nervous when I gave him a copy of my manuscript. After all, there’s quite a lot of swearing, not to mention a pretty gnarly masturbation scene. But when he was finished, he said something to the effect of:
Although I’ve known a lot of addicts and alcoholics in my time, I’ve never fully understood the obsession with doing something that’s so harmful to yourself and everyone around you. But, I think now I do. 
He then looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I think you might have something here, Andrew.” 
Now, I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but coming from Bill, it’s the world.
What cause are you most passionate about and why? Recently, I’ve made it my personal mission to eliminate the unfair stigma of addiction. I just launched a brand new blog, Portraits of Addiction, which is dedicated to sharing our stories of hope, strength, and courage. I believe that by talking about addiction in a public format, we can release that shame and move one step closer towards recovery. I realize this goes against the eleventh tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, which states: “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and have come up with the following question: Why? Why is anonymity still such a crucial part of recovery? Why should I have to hide my sobriety? After all, it’s one of the best things about me. I mean, I can appreciate the reason for its inception—to protect people from the unfair stigma of alcoholism. Back when AA was formed, in the 1930’s, alcoholism was viewed as a “moral disgrace” or a “lack of willpower.” But that was over 80 years ago! We’ve come a long way since the Great Depression era. We now know that addiction is not a disgraceful weakness, but a serious medical condition manifested by a chemical imbalance in the central nervous system. Just like Cancer or Diabetes, there is an entire field of research dedicated to the pathology and treatment of the illness. But unlike Cancer, you’re not allowed to talk about it.

“Keep it to yourself. Remain quiet. Don’t admit to it. If you do, you’ll be jeopardizing your and other people’s recovery.”
How in the world can this be healthy? How does not talking about it, help my and other people’s recovery? What if the same discretion applied to HIV or Cancer? Could you imagine the consequences of such a travesty? For one, we wouldn’t have an entire month devoted to Breast Cancer Awareness. We wouldn’t have pink ribbons or “Walk for Aids Marathons.” Christina Applegate would only be “the hot girl from Married With Children” and not an inspiration to thousands of women suffering from breast cancer.

Look—addiction’s a bitch. It’s a horrible, demoralizing illness, and no one should have to walk through it alone. But, plenty of people do and many, unfortunately, end up dying from it. Why? Because it’s still very much a taboo subject, and there’s a whole faction of people who view it as a disgraceful weakness. And, believe it or not, many of these people are harboring an addiction themselves. They are just too ashamed to admit it. I should know. I did the same thing for many years with my alcoholism.

Quick story: The first time I went through alcohol withdrawal I thought there was something morally wrong with me. I thought my inability to stop drinking was some kind of weakness. I didn’t know about physical and psychological dependence. I didn’t know you could get shakes, seizures, even hallucinations by trying to go “cold turkey”. I didn’t know because no one ever told me. I’d never met an addict or knew of any in the family. They certainly existed. Hell—my grandfather was a raging alcoholic. But I didn’t find out until later on. Why? Because of the anonymity…’cause of the shame…’cause of the goddamn secrecy! If someone had just taken me by the shoulders and slapped some sense into me, I wouldn’t have wasted so many good years of my life trying to hide my dependence. I could’ve gotten into a recovery a lot earlier. I could’ve gone to detox. I could’ve avoided all that pain and suffering.

Fortunately, I had some people in my corner who never gave up on me, and I was eventually able to accept my illness and get treatment. I was one of the lucky ones. Most people don’t make it. They end up in jails, mental institutions, and sometimes coffins.

But I aim to change that. I aim to “Break the Stigma & Celebrate Recovery” by tearing down the walls of that stifling eleventh tradition. Through portraits of addicts—both celebrities and everyday heroes—I’m hoping this blog will encourage people to celebrate their recovery, not hide from it. By sharing our stories of hope, strength, and courage, I believe we can encourage those still struggling with the denial of their problem to make that first step and get treatment.

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – R

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