Sean Valiente Interview
Raised in Maine, Sean Valiente grew up loving all things geek. He now spends his days as a financial professional for a tech company, and his nights dreaming up fantasy worlds.
An interview with science fiction & fantasy author Sean Valiente
About (Who, why, when, where, what)
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes.
I currently have one book available, The Lightning Knight, which is the first in an anticipated series. It’s a classic fantasy book, ala Eragon or Lord of the Rings, but focuses on the interpersonal relationships of the main characters. The main protagonist is 16 years old, so a lot of the themes are YA but it’s got a lot of epic fantasy to it.
Where are you based?
I was raised in Maine but currently reside just north of Boston, MA.
Latest releases and upcoming titles?
The Lightning Knight, available now!
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on the second book in the series – with a tentative release date of December 2021
What inspires you to write?
I have a story in my head and characters that are daring me to let them out into the wild. It’s these stories and scenes and characters that push me to write.
When and why did you get into writing fantasy?
I’ve always loved the fantasy genre, it’s one of my favorites to write and read. It allows you to simultaneously escape into a fantastical world with fantastical elements and also deal with real-life issues. Fantasy is a great way to use metaphor and speak to what is going on with you or around you in the world.
Who are your favourite fantasy writers/ fantasy authors?
Tolkien is the “godfather” but one of my favorite contemporary authors is Brent Weeks.
What is your favourite fantasy series and why?
I think there are two answers to this: The Inheratance Cycle by Christopher Paolini inspired me to believe that I too could write my story, but the series I love to read and re-read is The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks.
What are your favourite fantasy genres?
I’m a sucker for epic fantasy or a chosen one story. Grimdark not so much, mostly because it is too dark for me hahaha. I like more light at the end of my tunnel than grimdark tends to offer.
What’s going on in the next few months? Anything on the Horizon?
Book 2 of my series is currently in the works!
What kind of books did you read that contributed to your upbringing, as far as fantasy and science-fiction?
Redwall by Jacobs was the first fantasy book that made me fall in love with reading. Then the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cemented that love. I devoured Eragon in high school and then in college, I got really into the Star Wars Extended Universe (not canon anymore). Post-college I’ve been really into Brent Weeks (both his series). These have had the biggest influences on me beyond the myriad of tv shows and movies that inspire me as well.
Was your upbringing pretty geeky?
Is sort of an answer? I loved geeky things but growing up in rural Maine I didn’t really get exposure or even have knowledge of a lot of the more fun geeky things (like role-playing games) that I do now.
Why should anyone read your book?
If you like fantasy and want a fun book to read that will make you feel all sorts of feels – this is the book for you. It’s a classic fantasy tale with magic, dragons, sword fights and all that jazz. But at its core it’s about a teenager dealing with teenage feelings and ideas: romance, belonging, loss, acceptance, what you want to be in life, big emotions and immature experiences.
The writing process ( Inspiration, discipline, planning, software, editing)
Do you have a process, do you plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
I’m a bit of both a plotter and a panster. I know Point A and Point B, but I don’t know how the characters get between the points. They tell me what happens in the story, not the other way around. I’m at best a conscious observer and at worse just a transcriptionist for their adventures.
How has your writing process changed since you first started writing?
The biggest change in my process has been adding more time away from the writing to let it sit in my head and come back to it with fresh eyes. It can be hard to see the forest through the trees when you’re knee-deep in the writing zone, so that time away really adds value.
How long does it normally take you to write a fantasy novel, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
I can write a draft in about three months if I stick to a writing schedule. But alas, life sometimes gets in the way and I don’t always get to write when I want to.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
The first draft – because it’s all-new for me and it’s like watching a tv show or movie and writing down what is happening.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
I will often ask some alpha readers for their opinions to make sure I’m staying true to the characters, but my writing is often a solitary service.
As far as writing goes, what do you use? Software, Apps, Hardware etc?
I’ve tried Scrivener but didn’t put the time into learning the software, so I’ve stuck mostly to Google Docs. I love it because I can collaborate with other people and have it available at all times to work on no matter where I am!
Do you do a lot of research for each book? If so how do you conduct your research?
A lot of my research consists of Googling things I might not know and watching youtube series on relevant topics. It can be a bit of a misnomer that if you have a made-up fantasy world you can do whatever you want, but ultimately you still have to follow some standard rules when writing or else you’ll lose the reader.
Do you prefer to write in silence and or have some sort of sound in the background?
I love to have music on in the background. I’ve tried things like Netflix but found that my writing was slower when there was a show or movie that I tangentially cared about on.
Publishing (formatting, cover design, formats, marketing)
Describe the road you took to publishing your first novel? And how that has changed.
I’m a self-published author and love it! I have an entrepreneurial spirit and background and the idea of having control over every aspect of the process has been really fun. It is definitely challenging and can be frustrating, but there’s a huge sense of accomplishment when your book is in your hands and you know it’s because of you.
Will your next book be traditional or indie published?
At the moment, indie published!
Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
Both are valid and depend on your own skills and ambitions. Traditional paths have a lot of gatekeeping to get by, but offer the author a lot of resources that can be hard to do on your own. But Self-publishing guarantees your story is out in the world.
What sort of input do you give to formatting, cover design, marketing?
I did the internal formatting myself and hired my sister-in-law who is a graphic designer to do my cover. Both took loads of time researching how to make it look not only professional but genre-specific. Marketing is a learning process that will never end and is definitely the hardest part for me and any author, but for all three aspects I’ve had a lot of input and in the cases of where I’ve hired, I let the professionals do what they do best.
What do you do pre and post-release to help get your books noticed?
Getting Blog reviews is huge – that is a community you want to get in with and support. Book reviewers are the lifeblood of indie books.
Marketing is so important nowadays, what’s your best advice to fellow authors?
Research, research, research, and then don’t be surprised to spend a little to make a little. No one thing will work and all the free marketing in the world doesn’t help you reach a prospective audience. You either need to have the distribution channels (like a Traditional Publisher does) or you need to spend money on ads.
What legal publishing advice can you give?
The moment you’ve written something, it’s copywritten. Don’t use a vanity publisher or hybrid publisher – if a publisher “costs” you thousands of dollars, they often don’t have the reach you need to recoup the investment. Unless they do – sometimes the vanity publisher can get you places you normally wouldn’t – but be weary. Also, purchase your ISBN’s from Bowker directly – that way you can use it across all printers. You can make an LLC if you want (recommended if you want to separate your business from your personal life) but being a sole proprietor is perfectly fine.
Advice on making an impact in today busy Scifi and Fantasy markets.
People love books. People love reading books. There is always a market for books. The market isn’t saturated – what it is, and this goes for every genre, is that there are a lot of good books, a lot of great books, and a WHOLE TON of bad books. When I say bad books, I mean not edited, not formatted, not genre-specific in style, not priced right, and a whole host of other issues. Anyone can self-publish a book, which means there’s a lot of sub-par products. But if you do the work, the research, and pay professionals for things you can’t do on your own to a high quality, then your book will stand out and you’ll get the impact you want for anyone that reads your book. Reaching readers is a whole other issue – where marketing comes in.
Do you read digital, paperback or hardback or do you listen to audiobooks?
When I buy into a series (beginning, middle, or end) I tend to get all three formats. If it’s a book or series I don’t know about, I usually go audiobook and if I like it, supplement it with physical copy and digital. I like having the story available for any occasion.
What are some difficulties you’ve experienced in your writing career; how do you handle book critiques/criticism?
Any author that tells you that critiques/criticism or a bad review doesn’t affect them has their pants on fire. Because they are liars. But at the end of the day, often you have to tell yourself that not every book is for every reader – it happens. You just try and tell yourself that you like your story and others do too and move on. But it can be hard when someone says “this story sucks”.
What are some encouraging words you’d give to another author/writer?
Write, write, and write some more. Your story deserves to be told.
Get in touch
Tell the story you want to read