Read Sean Gill’s “Past Lives, Now Available on Videocassette.”
1. What made you want to become a writer?
I wrote my first “book” at age seven. It was called Deserted! and was about twenty pages long, illustrated, comb bound, and somehow incredibly derivative of both Robinson Crusoe and the Jabba’s Palace scenes from Return of the Jedi. I went on to work in the local theater during my adolescence and began writing plays. Eventually, I became interested in film and studied it in college. By the time I’d graduated and moved to New York, I’d long ago left prose by the wayside and considered myself purely a filmmaker/playwright.
Interestingly enough, it was film that brought me back to prose. One of my most formative post-college experiences was the honor of studying with one of my cinematic heroes, Werner Herzog. Werner emphasized the importance of reading and writing (among other things, such as traveling by foot) and encouraged me to try prose again, as a kind of backbone for my film work (which is often silent and surrealistic). It began with a few experiments, then a few dozen stories, and finally, a novel. I still make films and write plays, but it’s possible that prose writing stands the tallest among my artistic interests.
2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?
My first professional stories were hard science fiction, but I haven’t revisited the genre in years. I’d say most of my recent work has been some blend of literary, magical realist, and speculative elements, though every once in a while I’m inspired and write a pure horror story, a hardboiled noir, or something that’s none of these things.
3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?
Maybe it’s cliché, but I have to say reading—voracious reading. I compulsively manage my holds queue at the local library, fiction and non-fiction alike. It was the first place in my neighborhood where everybody knew my name, and now they even shout “Sean!” when I walk through the doors, like I’m Norm on Cheers.
4. How would you describe your writing practice?
Every day—even when I don’t feel like it, even when I’m working a day job—I prime the pump and write for at least twenty minutes. If nothing decent comes from the effort, I’m happy to move on to other pursuits, and there are plenty of days when that’s the case. I find that I yield my best results when I can wake up, roll out of a dream, and get straight to writing with no distractions along the way: no checking my phone, email, the news, etc.
5. What are you writing now?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my first novel, which is set in a near-future New York City and details the social unrest surrounding a controversial event known as “The Borough War.”
6. Where can we find out more about your work?
If you go to www.seangillfilms.com you can learn more about my films, my plays, and my prose—the “Publications” tab will lead you to a number of my stories that are available online.