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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Sean Clarke talks about what inspired his new book, A Hunter Rises, and his creative writing process.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Sean Clarke about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the work that went into his new book, A Hunter Rises.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m an indie author from Ardrossan which is a lovely little town on the West Coast of Scotland. Although Saltcoats is my current home, I’ll always be an Ardrossan boy at heart because it’s where I grew up. I’ve still got fond memories of playing football and roaming the streets with my friends.

Nowadays, I’m a dad of two and have a stepdaughter as well so I’m truly blessed in the family department.

Sean Clarke on The Table Read
Sean Clarke

When I’m not obsessing over plots, characters, and themes, I love to read, especially non-fiction books about mythology, the occult and the paranormal. In terms of fiction, I’ll read almost anything. I play video games in my spare time as well. FIFA and the Final Fantasy series are my all-time favourites.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book. My first attempt came when I was about ten and involved filling every page of a lined notepad with a story about Super Mario fighting to save the Mushroom Kingdom. It was gibberish of course but I’ve always fancied myself as a storyteller. Plots, themes, and characters are with me every minute of the day now. I’m cursed with an addictive personality so my obsession hasn’t come as a great surprise.

When did you take a step to start writing?

Only those closest to me will know this, but I started a blog called EastEnders View in 2014 that regularly hit 80,000 readers a month and even featured in a few newspaper articles. It was centred on the British soap opera, EastEnders.

EastEnders View got a great reception from EastEnders fans on social media and made me realise someone out there wanted to read my work. Sadly, my interest waned as the soap became unwatchable and the articles too time-consuming, so I obliterated the blog and began EastEndersEye, a much less demanding site that’s still around to this day, although I haven’t blogged in nearly two years.

As for writing my first book, I’d already put the building blocks for my fantasy trilogy in place by early 2011 but it would be another four years before I started writing consistently. My partner, Samantha was instrumental in my transition from dreamer to doer. There were days when she had to literally drag me to my desk. I hammered out the first draft in a few months but, little did I realise how much hard work would go into the finished product. Thirteen more drafts would be completed before the book was ready for release.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

The finished book came out in early 2021 so it was around ten years from conception to completion. It took great discipline to keep going when everyone, but a select few friends and family members told me I was wasting my time. They were wrong. I’ll always remember those who supported me and those who didn’t.

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What made you want to write A Hunter Rises?

A Hunter Rises is quest fantasy at its core. Who doesn’t want to go on an adventure in search of something magical that could change the world? I spent my childhood playing RPGs like Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, and other early classics. They all helped shape my love of quest fantasy.

The idea of a diverse group of characters going on an adventure has always appealed to me. It’s something I couldn’t find much in literature when I was younger, although I’ve since come to realise, I was looking in the wrong place and at the wrong genre.

The Scottish political landscape of 2014 greatly influenced me as well. Readers will see a lot of parallels between Scotland and the country of Uthovaya, even if they don’t agree with the general message in the book.

What were your biggest challenges with writing A Hunter Rises?

I’ve always struggled to silence that little voice inside telling me how useless I am. Some people won’t admit it, but I believe everyone has heard the same voice at some point in their lives, even if they’re able to ignore it.

It’s easy to believe that little voice and let it dictate your actions, but I’ve found a way to cope by telling myself a simple fact:

“I’m not the best writer in the world, but I’m not the worst either.”

That’s good enough for me.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I don’t think there was ever an inspiration for Jacob Crestmore. Maybe on a subconscious level but nothing I’m consciously aware of. I suppose he’s your typical hero-to-zero story. I didn’t want to create a hero who was perfect in every way. There’s nothing worse than someone you can’t relate to. Nobody is perfect and characters shouldn’t be either. It’s the little flaws that make us human.

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Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

I’m a big fan of the X-Files, especially the books based on the TV show by Kevin J. Anderson and Charles L. Grant. The writers of the TV show knew how to write a three-dimensional villain as well. They shied away from the traditional moustache-twirling fiend who comes complete with a maniacal laugh. Nobody is like that in real life. Every villain believes they’re the hero of their own story.

What is the inciting incident of A Hunter Rises?

The inciting incident is when Jacob is caught up in a ballroom siege. Hundreds of innocent people perish but Jacob is rescued by someone close to his parents. They join him on a dangerous journey to find the Elemental Key and bring magic back to the fight for freedom.

What is the main conflict of A Hunter Rises?

There are two conflicts in the book – Inner and outer conflict.

The inner conflict centres on Jacob’s struggle to adapt to his newfound importance. I think everyone can relate to feeling pressured to make the best decisions in our lives, but rarely do those decisions impact an entire nation.

The outer conflict is Jacob’s search for the Elemental Key. It’s a dangerous journey across the world of Lozaro where he meets many interesting characters, visits weird and wonderful places and battles otherworldly creatures.

Did you plot A Hunter Rises in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I originally planned the book in advance but most of those plans fell by the wayside when I started writing the story. I’d question myself constantly, wondering what kind of author can’t properly plan a story before they write it?

Then I learned lots of successful authors don’t plan their books in advance. Learning that fact made me feel a lot better about my process. Since then, I’ve perfected that process. I always know the beginning and end of the story before I begin, but the meaty bits in between are usually added with each passing draft. It’s like a sandwich. Start with two bits of bread and add meat to the middle.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did A Hunter Rises need?

My book was edited by Charlie Knight, a wonderful editor who helped make the finished book as great as it could be. Charlie is available on Twitter and has their own website. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I’m of the belief it’s vital to get your book edited. We often can’t see the flaws in our own work and sometimes it takes a skilled outsider to point them out. If it wasn’t for Charlie, I’d have a poorer product on the market right now.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Trust your own process. There are so many writing tips out there, and while it’s great to get advice, it only works if the advice is solid and works for you. Everyone has a different process when they sit down to write a book.

It doesn’t matter if yours is different to everyone else’s because we’re all unique. I didn’t trust my own process while writing my novel and it added years onto the completion time. I’d constantly wonder why others did things differently.

Trust your own process, put in the work and you’ll reach your goal.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’m currently writing the sequel to A Hunter Rises. It’s titled Fallen Angel and set two years after the first book.

The decision to continue with the second part was easy because I always had a Jacob Crestmore trilogy in mind. There are no more stories to tell after the third novel so if anyone catches me writing more than three books in the main series, feel free to call me out.

I’m also working on a Scottish Crime Fiction novel. I’ll be pitching it to publishers sometime in early 2024 under a different pen name. I’ve never went down the traditional publishing route before but I’m keen to have a go. I love Scottish crime fiction. Writers like JD Kirk James Oswald have put out amazing books in that genre. They are very talented authors. I’d love to be mentioned in the same breath as them someday.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I’ve got one novel and a novella out so I’m immensely proud of my accomplishments so far. All three are in digital, paperback, hardback, and audio format but I’m not resting on my laurels. This is just the beginning and anyone who knows me will tell you the same. I’ll keep going until I’ve nothing left to give.

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