Fantasy/Sci-Fi Focus: So when did you know you wanted to be a writer, and describe the journey that led to your first published work.
Sean P. Valiente: I knew I wanted to be a writer in high school. I had always had a very specific scene in my head, dating back to middle school, about how two characters meet. But it wasn’t until high school that I started to turn that scene into characters and a story. After joining a creative writing club in high school, I began to take notes on characters, plots, ideas, and anything else that popped into my head. This continued all throughout college and then years after I graduated. Soon, I had the bones and structure for an entire series, many different scenes throughout, and a passion for verbally telling my friends all my ideas. Then, one July 4th, my friend Paige sat me down and forced me to actually write, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. And now I have a real book!
FSF: That’s awesome. So can you talk a bit to our audience about The Lightning Knight and let them know why it should be their next click?
SV: So The Lightning Knight is your classic fantasy story. Think Lord of the Rings or Eragon. It’s got sword fights, magic, dragons, elves, heroes and villains and all that jazz. So at the end of the day, it’s like hanging out with an old friend. But what makes it different and special is that it’s very character driven, and not “world building” driven. The Lightning Knight centers around a teenage boy named Oliver, who hasn’t really got a lot going on in his life. Until one day when his life is flipped upsidedown and he’s quested with finding and saving a magic he doesnt’ believe in. On top of that, he’s supposed to protect and train a young boy named Po who is meant to save the world. It’s all pretty heady for a teenage boy who really just wants to focus on his love life (or lack thereof). Throughout the book, Oliver and his two best friends, along with two mysterious figures called Knight Angels, will attempt to unravel the mysteries surrounding magic, train Po to be the next hero of the world, and try not to die in the process. At its core, the book is about friendship, teen romance, identity, and finding your place in the world. It’s also got some epic swordfights and pretty fun action scenes. It’s a slow burn at the beginning, and then the second half is non-stop action until suddenly, its over and your left going, “When’s the next book coming out!”
FSF: That’s cool. So you obviously love Epic Fantasy. Who are some of your biggest influences in all media forms that have helped shaped your work? What do you love about the fantasy genre?
SV: I really do love the fantasy genre! My obvious influences are Tolkien for one: he is the godfather of fantasy. Paolini’s Eragon really made me think: Hey, I could do this too! I’m in love with Brent Week’s plots and worlds. Rowling is a master of pace (though horrible in her private views on human beings). Star Wars is a huge influence for me (I even dedicated my first book to it!) as well as the superhero genre – ultimately my series is kind of a hero’s journey meets avengers assemble. What I love about fantasy is that you can escape the real world and get lost in these fictitious universes, but all the same elements are there from your own life. It gives the reader a way to understand life without it being bludgeoned over their head. X-men is a great example. X-men takes the premise of “people treat others like monsters when they disagree with who they are or how they live” and says, “okay, so what if we actually made these “others” actual monsters with scary powers” and investigates societie’s acceptance or reluctance. At the end of the day, fantasy is all about showing real world situations in a different way, and learning to understand people who are different than you.
FSF: Awesome. I’m a fan of all your influences. I’ve been reading X-Men comics for years and I’ve always loved the overall message, which leads me to this question. Do you write with an audience in mind, or an intention to convey deeper themes in your work or are you simply writing for yourself and hoping people come along for the ride?
SV: I write for myself and hope people come along for the ride. Ultimatly, every story always has deeper meaning, whether you want it to be there or not. Every reader is different and takes in with them during the reading process their own baggage and comes out with their own outlook. An author can go into a book with an idea of what they want to get across, but ultimately it’s also their job to lay the foundation enough that readers can take away even more than what the author had originally intended. That’s why books are always these “living” things – it’s why people re-read them. It’s why they are studied in school. In my own personal life, I’ve changed so much from middle school to high school, from high school to college, from college to my twenties, and so on and so forth. My stories and my series is really about that growth and learning and thinking you understand the world one way and learning that it’s actually much different and more complex than you realized.
FSF: How much of yourself and people in your personal life do you draw into your character?
SV: If you asked my wife, she’d say that my main character of Oliver says a lot of the same things I do, which is true. I think it’s hard not to put some of yourself into your characters, and the same goes for the people you know. Ultimatly, no one character is based solely on me or people I know, but rather certain attributes are borrowed to flesh out the characters.
FSF: What takes up most of your time when you are not writing?
SV: Well I have a day job, so that’s what I’m usually doing when I’m not writing. But other than that, the normal things like spending time with friends and family – for some reason those people keep wanting to hang out with me!
FSF: How important is reader interaction to you as an indie author, and what is your favorite method to network with your readers?
SV: Reader interaction is SUPER important to me – whether I know you or you are a stranger. I’m a big fan of feedback and any little bit helps for future books (but probably not this one, since it’s already published and all). I will literally talk to anyone about my book through any medium: Twitter, Facebook, email, carrier pigeon.
FSF: Can you recommend some good indie fantasy that you’ve read in the last year to our audience.
SV: For a fun YA book about dragons, Dragon Speaker by Elana Mugdan is great. TH Paul’s Legacy Chronicle: The Sword is a real throwback of a story and feels like a DnD game. And Orewall by Nicoline Evans is a fantastic book that I found while at Rhode Island Comicon!
FSF: So what can readers look forward to from you in 2021?
SV: I’ll be pushing The Lighting Knight throughout most of the year and working on the second book in the series (name yet to be revealed). I’m also concurrently working on a middle-grade fantasy adventure series that’s kind of like magic-treehouse meets The Jersey
FSF: So I like to end all my interviews with this question. What one piece of advice can you give to new and aspiring writers?
SV: My advice is to WRITE. It’s literally the hardest part of it all. Starting to write when you’ve been mulling over ideas in your head for a while can feel daunting: where do I start, and I sure I want to start there, etc. But trust me, once you start, the dam will break like your an Ent flooding Isengard.