20 Minutes with Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire – author, musician, poet, artist, essayist, (I could go on but there’s only so many pixels on the screen) – is an amazing person to speak with. It’s the conversational equivalent of speaking to the genetic fusion of Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, and HP Lovecraft while drinking from a fire hose and holding live electrical wires. She is an astonishing and intense storyteller, versed in all mediums of the craft, and incredibly forth coming on any topic you care to throw at her. We tossed a few in and she gave us back gold… lots of it. (and you’ll definitely want to tune in to Seanan’s Workshop Episode! )

PROMO: “Haywire” by Justin Macumber

Showcase Episode: 20 Minutes with Seanan McGuire

[caution: mature language – listener discretion is advised]

Listen to this episode on iTunes

Episode Breakdown

00:50 – Seanan’s Awesomeness

03:50 – Your work is so diverse and each creation in it is an intensely focused work… is there something you’re trying to accomplish?

  • 04:25 – Every book I write forces me to get better
  • 04:50 – There were books that I wasn’t good enough to write until I wrote the six books I wrote before it
  • 05:00 – There are books I want to write that I’m not ready to write yet
  • 05:30 – I also need to feed my cats
  • 06:25 – I have one tragic affliction that I think in series
  • 06:45 – If I slow down, I’m not going to finish my series before I die


07:30 – How do you keep characters from going stale in a series?

  • 08:00 – A lot of it is that you can’t give your character everything they want
  • 08:30 – Make a complex enough character and you won’t have to worry for a while
  • 08:35 – Minor characters can get stale and that’s why God gave us C-4
  • 09:30 – Also, some characters are not here to sustain a 10-book series


10:25 – What is the book you want to write?

  • 10:35 – I’m generally writing the book I want to write (in 3 or 4 separate genres at a time)
  • 10:40 – Usually the book I want to write is the sequel to the one I’m currently writing


11:00 – How do you determine whether or not a character’s need is enough to sustain the story?

  • 11:40 – The initial “want” doesn’t need to be the full on propulsion.  It can just serve to move the character to the real motivation.
  • 12:15 – Also, go with wants that are environmental (like a social worker)
  • 13:00 – A great way to figure out what a character wants is “free writing”
  • 13:20 – Helps you learn your character and learn how they react to things


13:45 – PROMO: “Haywire” by Justin Macumber


15:45 – What advice do you have for authors contemplating pseudonyms?

  • 16:40 – I never made any secret that I’m my pseudonym and my pseudonym is me
  • 17:00 – Some people still confuse it, and that fact affirms the correctness of the choice
  • 18:45 – Find a name that you can sign
  • 19:00 – Also, make sure you choose a name where you can secure the dot-com.


19:15 – What resource do you use for your fairy research and how do you choose which pieces you’ll bring into the story and when do you go “off book”?

  • 19:55 – There is so much mythology that if you try to kitchen sink it all, you would explode
  • 20:20 – Resources depend on where you want to focus
  • 20:35 – In the Toby Daye series, I made the conscious decision to use settings that would work with the Celtic folklore of the British isles and the fairy folk lore of Western Europe
  • 22:00 – Katherine Briggs wrote some of the seminal works for the Celtic/Germanic mythology and folklore
  • 23:10 – Incrypted is limited by the ability to explain with pseudo-science


25:35 – What is it about Urban Fantasy that captures your attention?

  • 26:05 – I studied fairy tales
  • 26:15 – Fairy tales are urban fantasy that has aged out
  • 27:00 – So I am writing fairy tales… they’re just new


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Comments (4)

Great interview! Thanks for asking/answering my question. I usually think of the big picture when answering “what does a character want”, but I tend to forget about the little/simpler/basic things they want and how those can be utilized. Thanks for that, Seanan. Brion’s follow-up question and the conversation helped me figure some things out for my own writing.

Looking forward to the workshop ep!

[p.s. Dave, you said my last name right on the second try. :)]

I SO should have checked a head of time… didn’t realize there could be multiple pronunciations until I was actually trying to utter the syllables. At least I got it right in there somewhere. 😉

And it was a GREAT question that unlocked some great ideas! You gotta love this whole “Interview Amazing People and Ask Them Questions” thing.

Seanan, yet another interesting an insightful interview. Looking forward to the workshopping episode! Loved your info re: folklore. I’ve never heard of Katherine Briggs before now, but they sound like great books. Also, great podcast guys, keep up the good work!

Dang, feeling like a slacker after hearing her. But, what great points and insights she has. I love the idea of giving the protagonist something she wants and then take it away. Awesome!

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