Andrew M Seddon - Doctor by day author and hierographier by night. Born in England and raised in the United States. He writes the lives of the saints as if he was a desert father himself. He is a wordsmith! He has been writing part time since 1990, recently he took some time out from his busy schedule to both writing and healing to answer a few questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how did you pursue that goal?
I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember - even in grade school, although my handwriting was dreadful. In college I did well on essay questions.
I began writing more seriously in 1990 when I moved to Montana and found that I had free time in which to pursue it. I began with non-fiction articles, but quickly moved into short fiction and novels. I was fortunate to achieve some early publications, which was a good confidence builder. I read many books on writing from Writer's Digest. I think that being a voracious reader from childhood gave me the desire to someday be able to write as well.
2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
My parents were my early supporters. Otherwise, I suppose the supporters were the editors who accepted my early efforts - that gave me incentive to continue, and helped me to take the many inevitable rejections in stride. Now, my wife Olivia is my supporter in chief. I also have some writer friends who provide valuable support and critiques.
3. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
Don't expect too much. Especially not too soon. It's fine to have great dreams, but don't be disappointed if they don't materialize the way you think they should. And be patient. Sometimes it's best if things don't get published, because you may look back later and see how flawed they were… and then you have the chance to make them better!
4. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?
If I wrote for a living I'd have starved long ago. My day job is as a part-time urgent care physician. I write because it's a way in which I can share the Faith while also having a creative outlet.
5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?
I haven't consciously patterned myself after anyone. Developing a "voice" is something that happens gradually over time. I want to sound like "me" and not anyone else.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
Once I have an idea for a non-fiction article I can usually write it fairly quickly once the basic research is done. Fiction typically takes considerably longer. I have to know the beginning and the end of a story before I begin - the middle is worked out as I go along. Typically when I sit down to write I will go over the parts already written and revise and add to them before commencing a new section. I like to write stories straight through, but occasionally if I have specific scenes clearly in mind will write piecemeal, and then go back and write the continuity.
Once a story is done, I let it sit for a while, and then go back and reread it with fresh eyes. After any revisions there, I let my wife read it. After any further changes I send it to a pair of other authors for their input and critique. Only after that do I submit it somewhere. If it is rejected, then it sits again awaiting further revision before being sent out again, unless I think the story is perfectly good as is.
My novel Imperial Legions was written rapidly over a period of three months, and picked up fairly quickly by Broadman & Holman. In contrast, a science-fiction novel, Wreaths of Empire, was written in 1994 over a year's time, rewritten about seven times over the years, most recently this year, and was accepted for publication in 2015 by Pro Se Press. Another one, Time's Ring, began life as a series of short stories which were later combined into novel format. It was accepted by Splashdown Press this year.
If I become stuck on a story, then I lay it aside and either work on something else or go for a run with my German Shepherd, Rex, or allow the subconscious to work overnight.
7. Does your writing process differ greatly when writing fiction compared to writing about the lives of saints?
When writing fiction I'm free to create characters and situations as I wish. For the lives of the saints I tried to incorporate such historical detail as we know, and endeavored to envision their personalities from what is recorded about them. I didn't wish to contradict the historical record on one hand, but given that much of what is recorded is legendary, I did have some freedom to exercise the imagination.
8. Both Saints Alive Volume I - Saints of Empire and Saints Alive Volume II - Celtic Paths are incredible reads, transporting the reader and challenging readers to greater faith and action. Do you have further books planned in this series?
Next up, I suppose, would be Anglo-Saxon and Norse saints. I'm not as familiar with that period, so would need more research, which might take a while. It depends on what interesting information about them I can find to serve as basis for stories. Living in the West, I'm also interested in the missionaries who labored here in the 18th and 19th centuries. I would like to write a series about them, as well.
9. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?
I have several projects in progress. Time's Ring and Wreaths of Empire should be published soon. I have a series of ghost stories in progress, inspired by those of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson. Another series is about the adventures of a space-traveling veterinarian and his telepathic German Shepherd. Another is about a British World War One veteran whose travels between the wars land him in supernatural situations. I'm revising another one of my old SF novels and hoping to co-edit an anthology of Catholic SF. I have notes for a SF-lost race novel that I'd like to begin sometime.
10. What of your books is your favorite and why?
My favorite composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, despite living to age 86 and writing 9 symphonies, was almost most fond of his youthful Second, the London. Similarly, I have always had a soft spot for Wreaths of Empire. I had fun writing it, I enjoyed the interaction between the male and female protagonists, and to me it has a light, fresh, youthful feel.
11. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?
My favorite author was H. Rider Haggard, the originator of the 'lost race' novel, with King Solomon's Mines, She, and other tales of adventure. I have always loved Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as others who followed in his footsteps such as R. A Freeman (Dr. Thorndyke) and Sax Rohmer (Fu Manchu). C.S. Forester's Hornblower books were favorites. In the science fiction realm I liked Andre Norton, Hal Clement, and of course other giants like Asimov, Clarke, etc. Edgar Rice Burrough's tales of adventure were also devoured.
12. What fiction books or authors do you enjoy or recommend?
I don't read as much fiction as non-fiction, however I enjoy Tony Hillerman's Navajo novels, Guy Boothby's Dr. Nikola series, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson's books, Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, Donald Thomas' Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and the short stories of Colleen Drippe.
13. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?
Contemporary religious authors would include Pope Benedict XVI, Raniera Cantalamessa, Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, George Weigel, Diane Moczar.
14. Some of your earlier books are currently out of print, have you thought of rereleasing them as ebooks?
Yes, I have thought about having my books available as e-books, I just have to find the time and the know-how to do it.
15. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
I have never heard of torrents - not a clue as to what they are. Although I prefer print books, e-books are here to stay - particularly since the cost is less. I think they should have the same protection as regular books and other media like CDs, DVDs.
16. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?
17. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
A tough question - I can only answer out of books that I have read. Besides the Bible, these come to mind:
King Solomon's Mines (for a lost race adventure).
Beethoven's Hair (for the courage of the Danes protecting their Jewish citizens and resisting the Nazis).
Faith of Our Fathers (Cardinal Gibbons)
Forty Years for Labrador (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell was my hero).
Triumph (Crocker's history of the Catholic Church)
Quo Vadis (Sienkiewicz)
Life of Fr. DeSmet
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
My Imitation of Christ (a Kempis)
18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
Of course a person should be able to think, but one has to have knowledge and facts upon which to base thoughts, and also be able to use reason and logic. Thought does not arise in a vacuum. One quotation I like is from Cicero: "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child."
I think our culture is becoming both ignorant and unable to engage in rational discourse. Emotions, instincts, and desires rule.
The problem begins earlier than university. I can generally tell when a high school student comes to the office if they are being home schooled or attend the Catholic high school versus attending one of the public high schools. They are much more articulate, open, and conversant. Our public schools are not teaching students how to think or giving them the basic tools.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
Another tough one.
Complete Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
Complete Dr. Nikola (Boothby)
Forty Years for Labrador (Grenfell)
My Imitation of Christ (a Kempis)
The Kif Trilogy (Cherryh) (I remember thinking these were beautifully written).
King Solomon's Mines (Haggard)
Endurance (Lansing; about the Shackleton expedition)
First Lady of the Seeing Eye (Morris)(I love books about heroic German Shepherds).
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?
Be patient and keep at it. Success doesn't come quickly at may not come at all. Don't strive for success - rather, write for the Lord and leave the results to Him. Strive to be the best - don't settle for slipshod work, and always try to improve. Listen to advice from others and learn the craft. Don't try to shoehorn art into faith and vice versa, but let each inform the other. Tell a story but don't preach. Let the message come naturally. Show, don't tell.
Thank you Andrew and I am looking forward to your old books showing up in eBook format and new one's coming along.
Books by Andrew M. Seddon:
Saints Alive Volume I - Saints of Empire
Saints Alive Volume II - Celtic Paths
Walking with the Celtic Saints (with Neil & Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones)
Ring of Time
Sky Songs II
Infinite Space Infinite God II
The Tanist's Wife and other stories
Author Profile and interview with Andrew M Seddon.