Monday, March 1, 2010

Guest Author - Sean Cummings (Interview & Giveaway)

I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Sean Cummings for some time now and have been lucky enough to have read his debut urban fantasy Shade Fright. Sean is a fun-loving guy and it is reflected in his writing. Of course he has an advantage, you have to have a great sense of humour if you live in a place called Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (SciFiGuy ducks) but then again I'm from Guelph (what's with Canadian names, eh?)

Sean has gallantly offered a signed copy of Shade Fright to one lucky commenter, so please introduce yourself and ask him something embarrassing thoughtful and deep. Sean will drop in from time to time to respond. So without further delay - welcome Sean!

SFG: Today is the official release day for Shade Fright. How do you plan to celebrate?

Well, I still have a day job so it’ll be a usual Monday for me. I’ll be checking your blog and adding to the comments. I’ll have a blurb over on our author blog and I’ll probably be ending the day by working on edits for the second book in the series, Funeral Pallor. I think that were I living in the UK where Shade Fright is now in book stores, I’d be running off to take a picture and post it to the blog – something like that. Instead, I’ll just hope the cover jumps out at enough people to make them want to pick up the book and take it home with them.

SFG: Shade Fright has a very striking title. How did you arrive at it and can you tell give us the highpoints of the story?

I came up with the title after after I’d written the first draft during the Labour Day weekend in 2007. I’d participated in the 3 Day Novel Contest just to see if I could pump something out in that short span of a time. After drinking gallons and gallons of coffee and swearing at my keyboard more times than I’d care to admit, the story took shape. When I finished the draft and then started editing it prior to sending it in for the contest, the title jumped out at me as a play on the term “Stage Fright”. Shade Fright seemed like an interesting title, so I decided to use it.
SYNOPIS: "I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Services and Infrastructure Canada likes to keep track of these things. Don't ask me why."

There's a malevolent force in town, and it's quite literally Valerie Stevens' job to determine who's behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary.

She'll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by 'Bill' these days). But that's not all - Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.
SFG: Tell us a little about the supporting cast. Who or what are some of supernatural characters that surround Valerie?

Fifty-Dollar Bill is kind of a spirit guide for Valerie. He’s the ghost of William Lyon Mackenzie King and right from the get-go, I wanted to use him as a supporting character because he was a closet occultist during life and I thought it would be kind of interesting to have a character who like to commune with the departed during life, now refusing to cross over after death because he likes to commune with the living.

Caroline (who doesn’t have a surname in the book, by the way) is a former family lawyer who was bitten by a revenant and eventually became one herself, yet she is sentient. She’s still her old self, but she’s dead and she eats rodents, puppies, you name it. She owes a life debt to Valerie Stevens because Val killed the necromancer at the precise moment she’d been bitten, so she’s a bit of an aberration. She should be a mindless killing machine in Prada shoes, but she still retains all of her pre-zombie faculties. She’s the physical muscle for Valerie when things get tight. She’s snarky, she fights a daily battle to stop herself from eating people and she’s an important figure in helping Valerie uncover the mystery of the shade.

D.T. is a two-thousand year old dwarf troll mage who is Valerie’s mentor. He speaks in King James English and he lives in a cavern on the highest point of the city. He’s also key in the back story for the series and he provides Valerie with the insight she needs to learn about the nature of magic.

SFG: You have very stylish and dramatic art for your cover. Tell us something about it and the artist?

Anna Torborg is my editor and she’s also my cover artist. I cannot say enough about how fantastic she’s been. Anna is an author herself, having published a crafting book that is pretty successful, so she can do ANYTHING. We wanted to have a cover that looked completely different from all the other book covers in urban fantasy where there’s a female protagonist. (You know, tramp stamp tattoos, a woman with a perfect body wearing leather pants in a seductive pose.) I like those covers, but they really do all look the same. From the marketing end, we wanted to have a cover that really stood out, so I suggested that we include the main characters and Anna did the rest. It’s got a pulp fiction/comic book style to it. Anna wanted the cover to be in the style of some of Jasper FForde’s earlier covers and what she came up with exceeded my expectations. I love the cover and I hope readers will, too.

SFG: You have been writing furiously with a number of projects on the go. Can you tell us a little about the next Valerie Stevens book Funeral Pallor, your YA novel and Tim Reaper?

Funeral Pallor will be out July 1st – Canada Day, so I’m unbelievably fortunate to have found a publisher so supportive of the series that they’d publish the first two books in the same year. Here it is in a nutshell:
There's a nest of rotting husks in an old Calgary warehouse and they've got a hankering for human flesh, but that's the least of Valerie Stevens' problems. While necromancers are a dime a dozen, these mindless killing machines point to a plot that is going to shake Valerie Stevens to the core.

The evidence points to Caroline, and to make matters worse, Val's best friend isn't exactly making life easy for the only mage on the Government of Canada's payroll. If Valerie plans to clear her best friend's name, she'll have to move fast: someone has dispatched a zombie assassin and Caroline's only hope may rest with a pair of middle-aged head bangers and a big freaking snow plow.
Tim Reaper (the book) is a spin-off from Funeral Pallor. He’s grim reaper in human form that was thrown out of his order and stripped of his powers because he decided to destroy five percent of the world’s population by starting Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. Since he’s a spirit, he occupies people’s bodies on a temporary basis. I won’t tell you how he is central to the plot in Funeral Pallor, but I will tell you that he’s a bit of Simon R. Green’s John Taylor, Bruce Willis and Peter Parker all rolled into one guy. I’m writing it for the new adult market.

Poltergeeks is a young adult novel I’ve written for a series entitled “Strange Days”. Here’s the synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend Marcus witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home and the old lady's cat launched through the chimney, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection. The house is occupied by a poltergeist and in order to reclaim it, Julie's going to have to exorcise the spirit. Of course, she'll need her mother's help and what teenager in their right mind wants that?

Julie's mom might be skilled in witchcraft, but there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to endless night - a dark spell that rips her mom's soul from her mortal husk, leaving her in the supernatural equivalent of a persistent vegetative state. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul - she'll lose her mother's life.
SFG: Will Valerie and Dave ever take a road trip? Where would they go?

I hadn’t really thought about that. I’m trying to keep the entire series in Calgary. That said, something is going to happen to Valerie and Dave in book two that will likely involve a trip of some kind. ;)

SFG: Tell us what inspired you to include our somewhat eccentric Prime Minister, William Lyon McKenzie King as a character? Did you consider other famous Canadians or do you maybe plan other famous guest appearances in future books?

As mentioned, he was the perfect fit for the book because of his eccentricity and the fact that he was an occultist. I was very careful to write him in a respectful manner, but any scholar will tell you that he was a wildly eccentric person so I wrote him as being pretty eccentric in the book. He’s also the key to the entire back story for the series – he explains why humanity is up to its ears in the supernatural, he provides Valerie with the insight she needs to understand why there’s a nasty organization known as The Conclave who are into using magic as a weapon for everything from international terrorism to geo-political intrigue.

Another prominent Canadian will be making an appearance in book three: this one deals with a ghost train that is about to make its maiden trip across the country. Unfortunately the angel of death has decided to take over the train and he’s got a hate on for humanity. Sir John A. MacDonald will be making an appearance and he’s the bane of Fifty-Dollar Bill’s existence.

SFG: The tagline on your website is “Canadian Urban Fantasy”. Is this a new sub-genre?

It should be! I love Canada and I hope readers do, too. I want to write about kicking supernatural bad guy ass and Canada is just as good a setting as Chicago, London or Louisiana for that matter. There are so many FANTASTIC authors in Canada and we all have stories to tell. Unfortunately, there are very few urban fantasy series that are entirely Canadian. I’m not trying to rectify that (not entirely) but I think readers will be happy to dive into a book about a Canadian hero just as easily as they would read about one who lives in the United States – so long as it’s a good story.

SFG: How does a Canadian author living in Saskatoon snag a UK publisher?

I’d read a few of their titles which are available even here in Saskatoon. Thomas Emson’s Maneater is a great book as well as Monster Island by David Wellington. Anyway, I submitted according to their guidelines around Christmas 2008 and in May 2009 I got an offer. I cannot say enough about Snowbooks. They’re an award winning independent publisher and their books can be found all over the place. They were really enthusiastic about Shade Fright and I just love to write for them.

SFG: What are your reading and viewing pleasures? Favourite SF or Fantasy movie? Favourite urban fantasy or paranormal books/authors? Do you or have you read romances?

My favourite sci-fi movie of all time is Logan’s Run. Period. It’s a classic and it still holds up well more than thirty years after it was made. I think the best werewolf movie ever made is An American Werewolf in London – I freaking LOVE that movie. As for authors, I love Simon R. Green, Jim Butcher, Nancy Holzner’s Deadtown is a fantastic read. Kelley Armstrong walks on water. Tanya Huff… just so many great authors. Have I read romances? Yes. Do I write romance well? Ummm… next question, please.

SFG: Tell us how e can order the book. When will it be available in Canada and the United States?
You can order on Amazon or purchase through Snowbooks. If you’re reading this and you’re in the UK, Shade Fright is in bookstores now. I don’t yet have a North American release date for Shade Fright or Funeral Pallor, though I am told it won’t be until later in the year. Will keep you posted!

Thanks Sean! We'll be sure to get the North American release info out as soon as you have it. In the meantime checkout Snowbooks to order Shade Fright!

  1. One signed copy of Shade Fright to giveaway courtesy of Sean Cummings.
  2. Leave a comment or question for Sean or tell us something about your favourite Canadian.
  3. Open internationally.
  4. Leave a way to notify you if you should win.
  5. Blog, tweet, post on Facebook or other social network sites for an extra entry. Leave a comment here to let me know.
  6. Giveaway open until Midnight, March 10, 2010 EST.


  1. Ask you something embarrassing? Can do! Sean, have you ever shaved your legs? Even just a tiny patch? ;-)

    Also, is it easier to write chicks like Val & Julie, or blokes like Tim?

    Favourite Canadian? Well, I love the Canadian on South Park who says, "That's Scott - he's a dick!" ;-)

    Way to contact me if I win: TezMillerOz at gmail dot com

  2. Sean - do you find it harder to write for Adults or Young Adults? Why?

    Favorite Canadian? Avril Lavigne - because 'sk8er boi' is pure lyrical genius.

  3. lol 50-dollar-bill sounds pretty interesting, and I love that Caroline is the muscle
    fave Canadian: erm, Sandra Oh? she's a pretty good actress, and I loved her in Last Night (canadian film) =)

    +1 tweeted


  4. Reading about characters in different books with slightly twisted takes on the usual abilities has left me very confused. I hope the books are not as confusing. A dwarf troll ? Thought trolls were huge and hairy?

    Never heard of the publisher but always good to see new ones popping up.

    Embarrasing question. Well, do you use gell on your hair to cover the thinning?

    Favourite Canadian. I thought Pierre Trudeau was an amusing Prime Minister.


    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  5. Tez: I did once for a contest, actually. I had to dress up like a woman and I was determined to win.

    Danielle: I don't really experience difficulty with either as I get myself fairly stoked with an idea for a book and I just write like crazy. :)

    buddy: Gel rules, dude. I am from the 80's which is where I left most of my hair.

  6. Sean,
    Sounds like a good book. Did you time the release to coincide with the interest in Canada generated by the Olympics?

    sgiden AT verizon DOT net

  7. Hi Sandy:

    Not at all - I just call it a very very happy accident :)

  8. Sean--The description of Shade Fright's cast of characters is terrific. I have to put this book on my TBR list. The cover is captivating. You mentioned it has a comic book feel. Specifically, it reminds me of Japanese anime. Is that part of the intent? Will future covers have a similar design? Thanks for visiting.

  9. Hi LSUReader: You're not the first person to mention the cover has an anime feel to it, but that wasn't the goal. (though I think a cover like the animated Teen Titans cartoon would be awesome!) Anna Torborg just came up big time with a fantastic cover. It's got a bit of the Calgary skyline in the background, a big fog of doom and of course I love the way main character's eyes are superimposed into the foreground. The goal was to create a cover that would get people to pick up this book when they see it in a bookstore. Hopefully it worked and Anna did an amazing job. :)

  10. How about my favorite Canadian TV show--DaVinci's Inquest!


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  11. Right now my favourite Canadian is Sidney Crosby for scoring the winning goal in the final Olympic men's hockey game.

  12. Hi Sean,

    I have to say this is the 2nd blog that talked about your book today so I had to check it out. Definitely on my TBR list. Has a great cast of characters and the premise is different which I love.

    Ok Questions time:

    Do you ever get weird cravings while writing?

    Favorite Canadian? I love Kelley Armstrong. :)

    love2read28 @ gmail DOT com

  13. Sean,

    Your book sounds like a lot of fun!Did you do a lot of research about William Lyons Mackenzie? (p.s. I love his name - Fifty Dollar Bill. It's genius :D)

    My Favourite Canadian(s): Well, I think I'm still on a bit of an olympics high, so I'd have to say I love all our Canadian athletes (especially the hockey team! Go Canada!). I also love Ryan Reynolds just cuz.


  14. Hi Dawn: Thanks for following today! Yep, I get this crazy craving for Bridge Mix (not sure if they have that in the US) and it goes nicely with coffee. I also get a craving for the manuscript to be done! :)

    Kate: I did research King via the Canadian Encyclopaedia and through the National Film Board of Canada. I wanted to get him right and really, the guy doesn't get his due anywhere in the history books, so I think I did him justice :)

  15. Hi Sean, looking forward to reading your book!!

    My favorite Canadian . . . none other than Sid the Kid!!! What an amazing goal that was to score gold.

    rosie0512 @ hotmail . com

  16. Hi Rosie:

    Yep - Sid's stock shot up big time last night :)

  17. Hey Sean! I love Sum41 who are Canadian; at least the lead singer is, and my teens and I love their music.

    On writing; do you just go for it and start typing out the words or do you figure out the plot, outline it and then write?

  18. Hi Moonsanity:

    What a great question!

    I usually have an idea in my head of the overall premise for a book and I do outline, but outlines are kind of organic with me: they keep changing because while I'm writing away, sometimes the story just goes in a different direction. I generally know how I want to book to end as I start the process, but even then changes can happen. For me at least, I try to stick to the premise as closely as possible and revise the outline as I go along.


    Please enter me in the giveaway.

    My best friend is Canadian, so he'd have to be favorite Canadian. He lives on an Indian reservation on the Douglas Channel.

  20. My favourite Canadian is Kelley Armstrong, I love her books and her writing style is brilliant!

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail DOT com

  21. Hey Sean, did you work for government? Sounds interesting - not that I have a clue what our Federal cousins are like (I'm provincial). I'm sure there's a lonely OPP constable in Minden or Burk's Falls who is responsible for keeping Ontario ghost-free. I don't really have a favourite Canadian, so I'll just say Jaggi Singh. I'm sure it would annoy him to be considered anybody's favourite Canadian.

  22. I love the cover for Shade Fright, it has the pulp fiction feel of days past, and is a refreshing change from the current covers. I love that you've set your series in Canada and I look forward to reading Shade Fright, it sounds like a fantastic book.
    One of my favorite Canadians is author Michelle Rowen.

  23. My favourite Canadian actress would have to be Rachel McAdams!

    faked_sugartone at hotmail

  24. My favorite Canadian is figure skater Kurt Browning, and I tweeted

    ajolly1456 at gmail dot com


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