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Monday, 9 February 2015

Forgotten Places Author Interviews: Sean Chase

Forgotten Places
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I'm a freelance writer who currently resides in Colorado.  I've been telling stories most of my life.  I think since around four or five I have known inherently that I wanted to tell stories.  Initially, when I was about five or so, I gravitated towards visual storytelling, wanting to come up with stories and provide illustrations while an adult wrote the bulk of the text from my dictation.  Then around age nine or so, I began doing a lot of writing on my own, sometimes with accompanying visuals, but more often than not without.  Early on, the inspiration for my stories came from my favourite films and television series, as well as from classical literature and mythology.  I was obsessed with Graeco-Roman mythology, Arthurian legends, and Shakespearean dramas from around the time was I was eight or nine.

What can you tell me about your story in Forgotten Places?

My story is partly historical fiction and part fable.  The characters and events in it are entirely fictitious, but everything is set in a very real world and within a real historical period.  I had decided to have my story set in the abandoned capitol city of Akhetaten, in Egypt, which was built by King Akhenaten during the fourteenth century B.C..  He was an unusual ruler for a number of reasons, ranging from his focus on changing the artistic styles of the time, in everything from temple drawings to architecture, to giving more acknowledgement to his bride, Queen Nefertiti.  But what really set Akhenaten apart from other pharaohs is the fact that he practiced monotheism in a time and culture was polytheism was the only real religion.  Because of this, after his death, his newly erected capitol city of Akhetaten was abandoned and the monotheism that he had attempted to popularize and convert people to was gradually abandoned as well.  Until the eighteenth century A.D., very little was known about Akhenaten or his children.  His dynasty, and particularly his immediate family, his wife, his children, and himself, were stricken from the official historical record of the pharaohs, and so he was essentially erased from history until archaeologists uncovered more about him.

I thought setting a story in that setting, albeit in a different time period when the ruins of the city were being used by traveling refugees, merchants, and others, gave it a certain unique flavour.  It seemed interesting to me, to look at how the different cultures during the early Christian era were so disparate and at odds with one another.  You still have the remnants of Graeco-Roman religion, you have Judaism, you have Christianity, and people of all three of these religions were traveling in Egypt, which means to an extent that you also had Egyptian religion as well.  The idea of all these kind of theological convergences and the conflicts that arise from them seemed like a good idea for a story about a forgotten city mired in the past and slowly decaying, only to be rediscovered again.  That said, I didn't want it to be an overtly religious narrative or anything that seemed proselytizing.  I'm not remotely religious, but I am fascinated by the shared themes and ideas found in religion, and the way in which religious beliefs and attitudes helped to shape the world in which we live today.

Aside from the location, what was your inspiration for the story?

Well, my first idea for a story was not the one ultimately used in the book, and I had originally come up with an idea that revolved around Pripyat in the future.  It was a science fiction story in which, once again, two boys meet under unusual circumstances and become friends.  I didn't do that story because it was felt that perhaps Pripyat was too stark of a location, and that using a city which was devastated by an actual disaster (The Chernobyl disaster), might seem insensitive or exploitative.  Somewhat ironically, that story actually had a more uplifting and hopeful narrative than the story I wrote about Akhetaten.

As for the inspiration, that's a bit difficult for me to divine.  Some of my stories are inspired by things that move me in other mediums, such as music, films, and artwork, or other works of literature, and in most cases I'm fully cognizant of the inspirations.  Other times, I draw my inspiration from dreams, or occasionally even my personal life.  In this instance, my approach was a little unusual.  I normally have a story plotted out far in advance of the actual writing.  Sometimes I will consider themes, characters, story, and narrative for years before I begin the writing process.  With this, I had found out about the anthology and what it was proposed to be, although what I did know was rather vague, and I just wrote down three or four abandoned or forgotten places that seemed like a good setting for a dramatic story to emanate from.  Knowing that my time to write this was limited, and knowing how much time I can and often do spend on research and just brainstorming, I elected to choose a location where I was familiar with the history.  I had done a lot of studying on ancient civilizations, mythology and religion, and early history for my own personal enjoyment since I was young, and Akhenaten was already featured in an essay I have been writing for the past few years.  So, a big part of it was that it was convenient and I felt I had the knowledge I needed to develop a short work of fiction right there, whereas with another setting more research would have been required.

Thematically, I tend to draw more from my own life and experiences, and so I think that the idea of an individual or a group of individuals traveling somewhat aimlessly without purpose felt, well, familiar.  I also wanted to look at the nature of friendship and how friendship isn't determined necessarily by the things that people have in common or by their similarities, but by their differences and distinctions.  I think friendship has been an important theme in most of my short stories.  There are also themes about familial relations, mother/son relationships, and the notion of children and parents alike coming to a better understanding of one another.  Then there are the themes of religious intolerance and violence, which I have explored often, and of course death, which is probably the one theme that is carried through all my work.

Do you have any other written works or is this your first?

This will be my first work of fiction to be officially published in a book, but I have written fiction for about twenty years now, though the rest has really yet to see the light of day.  Prior to this, I have been doing my own blog which consists of essays, poetry, lyrics, art, photography, and writings about aspects of pop culture that I am interested in.  I also did some professional writing as part of a paid internship with an art gallery and I found that to be very rewarding.  In addition to those, I also wrote online as a cultural critic on a few websites, where I reviewed books, movies, music, television, et cetera.

Can you describe your writing style in three words?

Hmmm, that's challenging.  I would say, character-driven (is that cheating since it's essentially two words?), dark, and ambiguous.

Where can people find out more about you?

On my blog.  That's at
Buy Forgotten Places Here
A rich, diverse collection of short stories inspired by some of Earth's forgotten places. Organised by best-selling author Josh Walker and edited by Angel Blackwood, this collection of inspired stories brings something new and exciting. All proceeds from this anthology will be donated to St Judes Children's Hospital.

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