#2 Sean Davison “A New Chapter”
12 minute read
The previous ‘people’ feature was an insight into the world of Emily of Adventures and Kindness; a website based upon themes that encourage travel, personal development, and spreading kindness in the world. Based in Arkansas in the US, this feature was brought to you from the other side of the world. This latest ‘people’ piece is a story that I am equally proud of, but is being created much closer to home this time. In fact, this man is one of my friends who I see almost every day.
Meet Sean Davison, author of the novel Mouth.
Sean’s story is an impressive one; impressive in the scale of what he managed to achieve, but impressive also in that he kept his cards very close to his chest and hardly spoke a word of what he was doing. It wasn’t until after the book had been released that I actually got to hear about it. We were in the pub one night and he just handed me his phone. When I looked at the screen I saw that it was open on Amazon, and to begin with I had no idea what I was looking at. After a few moments, it finally clicked. There it was, on the screen; Mouth by Sean Davison.
“You’ve written a book?” I asked, completely shocked.
Sean replied. “Erm, yeah.”
“What? But, when? That’s amazing. Bloody hell mate!”
Sean has been incredibly modest about its creation, even following its release and having received some much deserved praise. It’s not just the book, but the humility in which it’s been delivered. And it’s not just the humility, but the circumstances under which it was written and under which Sean continues to write.
This is a story about having a vision, and the journey that you have to take in order to achieve your dream.
Elliot – It’s a pleasure to have you on this site and I’m really looking forward to sharing your story here. For anybody reading this feature who doesn’t know anything about Mouth, could you please give us an overview of its plot?
Sean – Thanks Elliot, the pleasure is all mine. Mouth is about a man named Elijah who is on a dark path right from the get-go, he’s standing on the edge on page one, literally. He’s had the nice girlfriend, a great job in the city, but as he begins to feel those things slipping away, Elijah finds himself in a really bad place. Some of this self-destruction stems from survivor guilt following a major accident he experiences fairly early on in the story.
When he’s there at rock bottom he answers a phonebox that’s ringing away in the dead of night. On the other end of the phone is a man who claims to know when bad things are going to happen, and he’s willing to share them with Elijah so that he can stop them, but at a price.
Mouth is really a character study, and a real cat-and-mouse psychological piece. I wanted to explore what someone like Elijah might do in the circumstances he finds himself in, and how far would someone go for the greater good.
Elliot – The book definitely explores some dark themes and for me this is a huge part of its intrigue. There are also redemptive elements to the story, but I really don’t want to give too much away by going any further into that. Can you tell us, how did the idea for Mouth come about? And what inspired the story and its content?
Sean – Ever since I first got into writing I had this vague idea for a story I’d like to do which ultimately became the basis for the book. I think it really came from a fusion of ideas and influences as so many stories do.
When I was younger, perhaps in the 90’s, there was an American TV show on called Early Edition I think it was. In it there was an everyday character who mysteriously received tomorrow’s newspaper today on his doorstep in every episode, and he would have a chance to act on it and put things right before the events took place. Even as a kid I thought it was a really interesting concept and it stuck with me.
As I got older I really got into some darker influences if you will, so Chuck Palahniuk who wrote Fight Club, and Choke amongst many others was one of the first authors I really got into, and anyone who has read his work would agree his stories aren’t for the faint-hearted. Even with music I really like bands like Nine Inch Nails and a few others of that ilk so I have always been drawn to the ‘Dark Side’ if you will. And so it was I decided to put my own dark spin on that Early Edition concept and push the envelope on it.
As for the content of the book, I’ve always had this question of ‘How far would you go?’ or ‘What would you be prepared to do’ that I’ve wanted to explore in this story. Even before writing the novel I’ve always been interested in asking people difficult moral scenario questions where there is no easy answer, just to see how they think, and the answers often surprised me. I found some people gave me a ‘safe’ answer or something they thought everyone wanted to hear, and I became very interested in what might happen if someone was really up against it, I mean real life or death stuff, what would they actually do? How far can you be pushed? I put my main character in a few of these tricky spots and I really wanted to put the reader in that position for a while to get them thinking about what decisions they might have made.
Elliot – It’s a truly fascinating subject to explore as there’s no doubt that everybody has a ‘dark side’, even if their depths are never fully revealed. But if somebody is pushed to the limit or if a situation or set of circumstances takes us to the edge; where do we go from there, and what are we capable of? They’re questions that most people would rather not ponder, yet those depths are human nature, albeit the side that we hope we never have to encounter.
So when did your passion for writing begin? And is it possible to summarise your journey up to the release of Mouth?
Sean – It started way back at school. I remember I was around 13 or 14, and our English teacher gave us some homework to do. On this occasion it was to write an original ten page story which was a pretty unheard of thing to do at our school, it was quite a major undertaking at the time, but he gave it us to do despite all of the protests.
I’ve always been into video games, especially back then, and the order of the day at that time was Resident Evil 2. I don’t know if you ever played it, looking back there’s no way I should have been playing it at that age it was so gory, but I’d never seen anything like it, and I’ve had a great affection for all things zombie ever since, it was just so good. I’ve always felt ‘write what you know’, or what you enjoy, so I wrote a long story about surviving a zombie apocalypse, I suppose really it was like fan-fiction. After putting it off and off I found that I actually enjoyed the process of writing the story more than I’d thought I would. I finished it up and handed in my book and thought nothing more of it, it was just another homework assignment done and I was onto the next one.
Anyway, come the next lesson and our teacher, Mr Grant, he told everyone he’d read the stories and they were all great, and one story in particular had grabbed his attention. He then proceeded to read aloud my story about the zombie apocalypse to the entire class and I had never been so proud and embarrassed at the same time, but that was it, I was hooked. Mr Grant really encouraged me to keep going with it, and sadly we lost touch but I carried on with the writing.
After school I went to college and studied English Literature, which in all honesty was fantastic. We’d sit as a group and read through a novel or a play together and really break down the themes, the characters, everything. I think it was there that I learnt if you’re going to write something, try and write it well, add a few layers, make it interesting. I read a lot of books and the characters can come off flat, or the story so plot driven it’s distracting, and I decided if I ever wrote a book I would try not to commit those sins.
I then went on to university where I studied Creative Writing, which was a great three years. We did a whole load of things, script writing, spoken word, it was all useful. In that time I experimented a lot with different things, I wrote a couple of scripts, a few dud stories that never went anywhere. There were a couple of times where it looked like one of my scripts would be made into a short film but it never came off in the end which is a regret.
So after uni I started a ‘real’ job but this idea I’d been harbouring for a story became brighter and brighter. I started the story a few times over the years coming in from different angles but it never felt right. In the end it was the thought of turning 30 without having done it. I’d always said to myself I would have written something before then so I got it together and churned out a new opening chapter, and this time it felt right, like it could go somewhere.
A thousand words became ten thousand, then twenty, then forty. I actually took a break halfway through the writing process as I pondered a key moment in the story. As we’ve talked about, there are a few dark moments in the book and I wondered if I was going too dark, too far. I left the project for a few months and when I came back I carried on the story that felt right. In the end I had a novel I was happy with and the rest is history.
Elliot – Hahah yes I do remember playing Resident Evil 2 and that was one hell of a game in its day. Given the dark themes in Mouth I think you should definitely consider writing a book which is set during the zombie apocalypse. Just saying.
As you know, one of the key themes of Lossul.com is to explore the adventures and achievements that are possible despite the various constraints that we have in our lives. I’m sure that many would be interested to know how you found the time to write a book. Therefore, from the initial inception of writing Mouth, and right up until its final completion, how long did it take you? And how did you fit this around your personal life, and working a full time job?
Sean – Well it’s funny you should say that as I’m actually working on something at the moment involving the zombie apocalypse so watch this space!
From the first word to the last, Mouth took me a year to write the first draft, and then a further four months in editing. Depending on who you talk to, that is probably slightly longer than most authors would take, especially those who do it for a living. I should say in that time as I mentioned earlier, I did take a break for a few months to evaluate where I was with the story.
Fitting the writing around my personal life and full time work was the challenge that prolonged the length of the process. Generally on an evening I would try to write anything between 500-1,000 words and on the weekend around 2,000 words a day, I think a lot of other authors would agree that once you go past 2,000 words the quality tends to take a nosedive for whatever reason. The finished book was around 100,000 words to put it all into context.
It was really about grabbing any spare time I could and lock myself away for a couple of hours, which for me would typically be around 9 or 10 at night. A lot of people say you should write every day, and if I had done that it would have been finished a lot sooner, but you know what it’s like, you’ve either got other commitments or sometimes after a long day you’re just not up to it and it doesn’t feel right, so I often saved it for when I was up for it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You can’t force these things.
Elliot – I can totally relate to what you say about the quality of writing taking that nosedive after so many words. No matter how inspired I am when I write, there is only so much of a window to really capitalise on that until eventually the brakes just seem to come on. And to get the very best out of yourself it has to be done at a time when you’re feeling inspired and passionate; that’s the only way to really get your best work down on paper.
I’ve got massive respect for the commitment you was able to make to bring Mouth to fruition. Since the release of your book you are now a first-time father (congratulations by the way) and so I can imagine you don’t have as much spare time as you once did. How has that affected what you’re doing? And how have you had to adapt your approach to what you do?
Sean – Yeah I don’t know why that is, but I think even Stephen King limits himself to around 2,000 words a day, so it’s not just us!
Thank you for your kind words. After Mouth was released and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, a real fatigue set in, and I decided to put my writing on hold as we prepared for the arrival of Molly. I didn’t want to write something I wouldn’t enjoy and I wanted to put all of my energy into this exciting new chapter in my life, so after all those months of hard work I took a well earned break and concentrated on my new family.
After Molly was born any thoughts of writing went right out of the window as you can imagine. Suddenly a new type of fatigue was in my life, and besides, any spare time we had I wanted to spend doing family things. Writing became a pretty low priority in my life for well over a year, but it was never forgotten.
We had Molly’s first birthday party not long back and suddenly she isn’t a baby anymore, she’s a little girl. We have a great routine with her now, and she has slept all through the night from pretty early on. A few months ago I finally felt like I was in a place where I wanted to take baby steps of my own and start writing again. I felt fresh and the ideas for stories starting lining up one after the other like I was making up for lost time, I almost couldn’t keep up.
This gave me a good idea though, while I get back into the swing of things, instead of taking on another huge undertaking, at the moment I am putting together a short story collection. This allows me to invest myself in each story for short, sharp bursts of time, and I can take a breather between each tale. This allows me to still put my family first and work on my writing when I can, without compromising either.
I’m hoping to publish it this summer and I’m undecided as to whether to put together another collection afterwards or build up towards another novel.
Elliot – I recently wrote that having constraints in our lives shouldn’t mean that we have to stop pursuing our dreams, but that it’s about adapting to our circumstances and altering our approach. And so it’s really inspiring to hear how you’ve been doing exactly that. What would you say to anybody who has a dream that they wish to follow, but is having trouble in getting started? And although this may sound a little ambiguous, what advice do you have for somebody who is facing constraints of their own?
Sean – There’s that great quote going around a lot at the moment ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.’ Simply put – every dream starts with a difficult step, it’s about how much you want it and what you’re willing to do to get it. It’s going to take hard work, a lot of hard work, but as Roosevelt said ‘Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…’
Troubles getting started and constraints can come in many different forms, everybody is different and we are all fighting our own battles, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question unfortunately. The biggest thing for me is you have to be adaptable, don’t give up at the first sign of trouble, try and work around it. There are nearly always ways of finding that balance between everyday life and making dreams happen, you just have to want it and find a way to adapt.
Some more advice I think goes hand-in-hand with this is that they’re your dreams, not anybody else’s. That means nobody else is going to come along and make these things happen for you. If you want it you have to get out there and take it.
I’ll mention one last quote here, which if it doesn’t inspire you nothing will, it certainly worked for me: ‘A year from now you will wish you had started today.’
Elliot – I really love that final quote, simply because it’s so true. The thing I always say is to just start something; and start today. So much time can be lost in procrastination while you spend time planning every little thing and making sure everything is perfect before you begin. But that doesn’t work, because ideas change, projects evolve, and perfection very rarely exists. What matters is starting things now, today, because you can always change and adapt as you go along. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle which comes together, piece by piece. A year can easily pass by, and it’s painful to look back over that year and see that nothing has transpired.
You touched briefly on your collection of short stories and also the mention of the zombie apocalypse (really can’t wait for that), but when can we expect to see this become available? And also, can you give us all an idea of what else we can expect to see from you in the future?
Sean – You’re right, you can literally dream your life away. If you can do something then you should, even if they’re baby steps like you say. I can’t tell you how many pieces I’ve started writing before binning what I’ve done, hours and hours of work, but it’s the starting and the momentum that picks you up and carries you through. One last quote I’ll leave you with is ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’ You think you have all the time in the world and put things off, and before you know it life has happened and you are left with regrets if you didn’t try.
To answer your question I’m working on the collection at the moment and have been for a couple of months. I’ve got some ideas for a few more stories and hopefully I’ll have something out there by maybe late summer or the autumn if things go well. The theme of the collection is mortality and in each story a character must face it. Some of those stories will deal with the end of days kind of tales (and the zombie apocalypse in particular), but others will be a more intimate, personal struggle. I’m hoping it will be a nice mixture, but I haven’t got a name for it yet.
I’ve also got a couple of ideas for novels I’m looking forward to getting stuck into, maybe around the turn of the year but I’m really enjoying sharpening my writing tools with these short stories right now.
Elliot – I love the theme that surrounds your collection of stories and I’m really excited about getting to read these when they’re released. For anybody that has read this feature and is interested in keeping up to date with all your latest news and planned releases, how can people do this?
Sean – The best way to keep up with me at the moment is to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @SD_Davison. I’ve not really got to grips with the website thing yet, so I’m just on Twitter for now. You’re more likely to see me tweeting about what I’m watching on TV rather than what I’m writing though, I should probably get the whole social media thing in check!
Elliot – Thanks for that. Social Media can be a little bit of a minefield, but I think Twitter is a great way for people to be able to find out more about what’s coming next, so thank you for sharing that information.
Well that just about wraps things up now Sean. Thank you so much for your time and for being a part of Lossul.com. But, before I let you go, it’s now becoming a tradition to throw in a little random question to end things. This one I’ve put together on the basis of you being a big movie fan, and it gives your creative side a chance to go crazy for a moment. The latest Bond movie, ‘Spectre’, has been out for a little while now, and we have the new ‘Bourne’ movie coming soon; so, here we go.
James Bond is in a bar and is keeping himself to himself at a little table at the back of the room, drinking vodka martini and eating a bag of Quavers (he’d skipped lunch). At the other side of the room is a beautiful lady who Mr Bond has his eye on. He gets up from his table and starts walking over to the lady. But just as he’s about half way across the room, in walks Jason Bourne. Mr Bourne is here to meet up with the beautiful lady who has some new information about his past, and he is on guard and is aware that maybe he is being watched. Mr Bond is determined to get the lady, but a wary Mr Bourne glances over his shoulder and sees Mr Bond approaching. What happens next?
Sean – What a question!
And what a scenario. Bond vs Bourne, finally they meet face to face. I think most movie fans will agree that there can only be one winner here in this scenario.
Bond makes a wisecrack. Bourne flexes his muscles and cracks his neck. They step up closer, and although the tone between them doesn’t change, the words become more menacing and are filled with the promise of bloodshed.
Bond finishes his drink and gently places it on the table.
Bourne glances around the room.
They get nose to nose, the words are now more sinister and…wait a minute…where is the beautiful woman? And what happened to the bag of Quavers? Cut to outside the bar and we see Gary Lineker wearing a blonde wig and bright red lipstick tucking into the crisps with a huge smile on his face.
Well that brings another ‘people’ feature to a creative closing. It’s great to have been able to share a story of someone who has been able to follow their dream and to make it come true. But it’s not only that, because what Sean has also been able to do is adapt to his circumstances and to still pursue that which means so much to him.
Thank you for reading, and there will be another ‘people’ feature coming soon.
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