I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Sean DeLauder today to talk with me about his book, The Least Envied. This author has held several positions in recent years, including Content Writer, Grant Writer, Obituary Clerk, and Staff Writer, and is under the false impression that these experiences have added to his character since they have not contributed much to his finances. He was awarded a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism and a BA in Technical Communication by Bowling Green State University because they are giving and eager to make friends. He has a few scattered publications with The Circle magazine, Wild Violet, Toasted Cheese, and Lovable Losers Literary Revue, and resides in the drab, northeastern region of Ohio because it makes everything else seem fascinating, exotic, and beautiful.
Sean, how did you discover indieBRAG?
I’m not exactly sure. I don’t remember if I found it on my own as part of a search, if I saw another honoree somewhere, or if I read an article espousing the wonderful benefits of becoming a BRAG honoree.
Please tell me a little about your book, The Least Envied.
The Least Envied is, like its main character(s), more than what it seems. On the surface the story is a bildungsroman in which a boy aspires to be great and do great things worthy of praise. It’s also a treatise on the value of persistence and thinking things through rather than acting on impulse. It’s an examination of what a hero is, what good and evil are, and the counterintuitive evidence that the purported tools of evil, such as deception, can be used against it. It’s a look at not only what Good is, but what is Evil, and do we really understand what Evil is when we don’t know what motivates it?
In most cases, the story takes a typical trope and turns it on its ear to get a different look at it. I’d like people to, at the very least, feel a tweak in their perception. Even if they don’t realize it’s happened, I want people to have the ability to look at things from more than one perspective.
What was the inspiration for your story?
Probably a need to express my personal philosophy, I suppose. In the end, Billy-Bob’s goal is to become a hero to save people, but in truth his purpose is to show people they can save themselves, that they accomplish nothing by hoping for someone to save them, and that hope can only take you so far—one needs to act to effect change.
Your characters sound really fascinating. Please tell me a little about Andrew.
The vast majority of the characters in The Least Envied undergo a transformation, from non-believer to believer in most cases, but Andrew, I think, undergoes the most significant change. There are several conspicuous heroes in this story, but Andrew is one as well in his own way. But like the others he has to endure his trial, first. At the outset Andrew is frustrated. That’s fairly evident right away. He’s forced to do something he doesn’t think has value, is potentially dangerous, and undercuts his own worth. He’s a bit spoiled, a bit arrogant, but with absolutely no justification for either. As a result, he’s not a very sympathetic character at the outset. And rightly so. He doesn’t deserve it, though he may say otherwise. Deep down, however, he knows he is flawed, unworthy, in fact, and this is manifest in his unrequited affections for a girl he had to leave behind when his task was given him.
Over the course of the story Andrew’s egocentric views on the world mature and he discovers he does have a role within it, and that role can be significant.
What is a challenge that Billy-Bob faces?
Ostensibly, Billy-Bob’s mission is to “go West, defeat Ultimate Evil, find Beta, and save the girl”. Whether or not these are genuine missions or made up is debatable, but the key to all of these is that he will “find victory on defeat in death”, which, as Billy-Bob points out, seem a contradiction. In addition to the contradiction, Billy-Bob’s biggest challenge is getting from Dirtburg to Beta, the last place in the known world where people resist the slow decline of humanity. The road there is peppered with several challenges, some of which his guide attempts to avoid, others he leads Billy-Bob directly into as a means of testing him. In the course of these encounters Billy-Bob is constantly confronted with the need to determine the appropriate course of action, what is “right”, and should he do what is right, even if it means putting himself in harm’s way. And, ultimately, what choice would a hero make in the same situation?
How did you come up with, “Wogs”?
The wogs are one of my favorite parts of the story, and they came about to fulfill a need for this story: I needed monsters. However, I didn’t want them to be normal, hulking monsters. I wanted them to be quirky and different, and sinister because one didn’t know what they were or their capabilities. At the same time I wanted them to be innocuous, so their sudden bursts of violence would be jarring.
The wogs were not always wogs, however, and they were briefly raccoons, or leaves, or other beasts. But I came back to the wogs because they added an essential component of quirk and surreality that I demand and, I think, suited the story. They also represent a technological aspect lost to the current age, a hint of the capacity of humanity before a long, slow spiral, and more significantly an overlap between humanity and technology, since wogs and humans seem to share many cognitive characteristics.
Wogs often struggle between duty and rationale, which I believe makes them very human. In many ways the wogs are nobler than most people, though they can also exhibit blind hostility toward those who impede their mission.
Any Historical facts or significance about your book?
No historical facts outside of my own history. I started writing this book in a study hall in high school because I was bored. I remember this vividly because as I began writing a classmate turned around and asked what I was doing. The conversation went like this:
- Kid: What are you doing?
- Me: Writing a story.
- Kid: Why?
- Me: Because I’m bored.
- Kid: You’re weird.
Da Vinci said “art is never finished, only abandoned”. Well this book proves two things about Da Vinci: 1) he’s wrong, and 2) he’s a quitter.
Who designed your book cover?
My friend, Ellie Kay Bockert-Augsburger, did the print cover (and ebook). I had a few ideas on how to put it together, then suggested something like a page out of a journal. She liked that idea and we went back and forth about features we could add that would make it seem like a work in progress—the notes taped to the cover; a piece of the cover missing to show a poorly drawn figure from the story (taken from the original scribbled notebook I proposed); the scribbled title (also my scribble… took me three tries to get it how I liked). A great deal of thought went into it and Ellie did a great job articulating what I wanted and adding a few tweaks of her own.
This is the second cover she’s done for me. The first was her first, and after getting her feet wet she decided to start doing more covers. She’s since started a very nice book design and editing service you can find at creativedigitalstudios.com. If you need a cover or editing work, be sure to visit her site!
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I don’t recall the moment I came up with the title, but I immediately saw it as both misleading and illuminating at the same time—just the sort of author trick I like to play on people. I wanted that meaning to change as readers moved through the story: perhaps it applies to the first character they meet; then perhaps another, more cynical character; or maybe the main character (whomever they decide that may be); penultimately the reader may come to feel everyone in this realm falls under the umbrella of the title; and, finally, I wanted to shrink it back down to a single character. It was not my plan to identify a title that did this, but it came unbidden, and I understood how well it suited the story. It’s a wriggly and mischievous thing, always trying to stay out of focus, like a blurry blob viewed through a telescope. You’ve got to keep twisting and tuning your adjustments until it relents and comes into satisfying clarity.
What are you working on next?
A murder mystery. I expect it to be hilariously depressing, as all amazing books are.
Do you stick with just genre?
Fantasy and science fiction are probably the two broad categories that I operate under most of the time, though I would call myself a satirist. I like to take normal tropes and turn them on their heads. That said, I’m currently working on a murder mystery, and have plans for historical and romance novels, but I wouldn’t approach them as though they’re manufactured by some publishing house crank. They’ll probably be unlike what you associate with the genres—which is what makes them interesting to me and fun to write.
When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?
Becoming “stuck” isn’t really an event that happens so much as being confronted with a decision about which avenue best suits the story. There may be something I want to include that doesn’t fit well, and I struggle to manipulate it until it works or I come to my senses and file it away for something else. Or I am overwhelmed with a variety of situations or resolutions for a single scenario. I tend to explore every possible permutation to see where it leads and which interests me the most, but because my brain is cluttered and crammed this can be time consuming, so I may give an outward appearance of stuckedness.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
Wherever I am is where I write. Unless the battery is low on the laptop. Then it’s usually within 6 feet out an outlet. Anywhere in the world. If I’m using pen/pencil and paper/hand, then it’s anywhere in the world, independent of electrical outlets.
How I write, or develop a story, is not unlike how we think evolution works: there are long periods of slow development with occasional leaps. I tend to start by building one chapter, or one scene, featuring the main character. From there I let the story sit while I think about who they are, what their motivations are, their process, issues they might encounter, how they might resolve them, on and on. Granted, this process does not occur all at once while I sit in a catatonic state staring at scribbles on a napkin or my computer screen. It’s more like a background process in your PC that you don’t see, but is always running. Every once in a while you’ll see the screen flicker or the performance lag. Every once in a while I’ll scuttle off to find a piece of paper to write a note. After I feel comfortable with my character, after they feel familiar, as if I know how he/she will behave under certain circumstances, I’ll sit down and unload the miseries I’ve thought up for them to endure.
Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?
When I’m writing the whole world goes away. All I do is write down what I see. It’s a lot like somniloquoy (sleep talking). I may have a conversation with you, but I won’t remember a word of it. So food or drink doesn’t register as a need or want. Of course, if you were to pass a cookie in front of my face you might lose a hand. I probably wouldn’t remember biting it off, though.
Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I have a really restless mind and body, so I play the guitar and write music; I build things out of wood (a 19-foot-long bookshelf is my next project); I have a weird fixation with lawn care and I’m becoming interested in developing our landscaping; I watch NOVA programs, I read, I fidget, I play with my boys, I erect camping tents indoors, and I eat far too many cookies.
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Sean DeLauder who is the author of, The Least Envied, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Least Envied, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.