- Lost City Of The Monkey God
- The Descent
- The Wall
- The Shroud Of Heaven
Visit Sean at http://seanellisauthor.com
C. G. Cooper : Welcome to Books in 30, with me C. G. Cooper. Here at Books on 30 we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. So welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest Sean Ellis. Sean, how you doing man?
Sean Ellis: Doing good thanks. Thanks for having me.
C. G. Cooper : Thank you for coming. You're calling me from Arizona, is that right?
Sean Ellis: That's correct. Phoenix.
C. G. Cooper : How's the weather out there right now?
Sean Ellis: It's pretty mild. We had a little rain this morning.
C. G. Cooper : That's always a good thing, right?
Sean Ellis: Definitely.
C. G. Cooper : Good. Well, can you give the listeners a little snapshot of why you became an author.
Sean Ellis: I think I always wanted to be a writer. I grew up with Hardy Boys, and the Danny Dunn science detective stories. I mean, those were my earliest experiences being back when I was six years old, and I just always loved stories, and I liked writing them as well.
Sean Ellis: I always wanted to write the stories I liked to read. As I got into my teen years, I kind of dipped into science fiction fantasy a little bit more, but then when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I'm like, "I want to write that story."
It took me years to get that first novel, but I think I always wanted it.
C. G. Cooper : Hey, Raiders of the Lost Ark is not a bad place to start. What a great movie. I just introduced those movies to my kids, and one of them wasn't a fan just because of the monkey brain episode in Temple of Doom, but other than that, I mean, I think those things have just stood the test of time. What great stories.
Sean Ellis: I want more.
C. G. Cooper : Well, rumor says we might get another one, so we'll see. Let me rewind a little bit. Completely forgot to read your bio. I totally wanted to hear it from you, but let me give the official bio, your bio, to listeners.
C. G. Cooper : Sean Ellis is the author of more than 30 action adventure novels. He's a military veteran with a bachelor of science degree in natural resource policy. He currently resides in Arizona, as we said, where he divides his time between writing, adventure sports, and trying to figure out how to save the world. Some noble pursuits there. Tell us a little bit about the adventure sports.
Sean Ellis: Well, I grew up in Oregon and discovered surfing late in life, and that kind of led me to exploring the other ... They used to call them extreme sports. I don't know if they still do anymore, but I always loved being outside. Hiking, trail running. Then I started surfing, and I wanted to get into snowboarding, and things like that. Mountain biking, and I'm just lately trying to get ... Now I'm here in Phoenix where there's not a lot of big waves, I'm really trying to get into rock climbing, and that's a journey, but it's a lot of fun to do, and of course it's great to have stuff that your character's going to do in the stories.
C. G. Cooper : Oh, heck yeah. Well, I've tried rock climbing before and I wish I had time and a place to do it because wow, what a workout. I mean, that just ... You try climbing up even the easy ones and you walk away with arms and legs shaking. What a rush, right?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. It's a huge money suck. To really get out there and enjoy the rock, you've got to drop tons of dollars and gear. Mostly I've been limited to the gym, which is nice because you don't need as much gear. They can rent you what you don't have, but I'd like to get out on some real rocks soon.
C. G. Cooper : Very cool, very cool. Well, why don't we jump into it. I know the listeners want to know, I want to know, what are you reading right now? What's a book you're reading or something you currently finished that you really enjoyed and kind of walked away with that, "Holy cow that was a great read."
Sean Ellis: Right. So I just finished Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, which is non-fiction, but I think books like that are really useful. Especially for me, that one, which is about a search for an actual lost city in the jungle, the jungles of Honduras, because that's the kind of stuff I write about, and this is people actually doing it.
Sean Ellis: What you realize is that you take lots of shortcuts when you write it in fiction because the actual process even in this day and age, just horribly complex with all sorts of logistical challenges. But it was good to do that because then I can start to add more authenticity to my stories as I can compare.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah, we're all sharing notes as we're writing anyway, right?
Sean Ellis: Right.
C. G. Cooper : I know I find that. In fact, I finished a book that another guest had shared with me a couple weeks ago, and now my mind's spinning. The Red Sparrow. It was all about Russian female agents, and the Sparrow School, and my brain is just ... It won't stop. I love that you're going back to ... Obviously, that Indian Jones hasn't left you, has it, if you're reading that book?
Sean Ellis: No. In fact, usually when people ask me what my books are like, I will start by saying, "Do you know who James Rollins or Clive Cussler are?" And they'll always say, "No," because people don't read anymore. So then I'll say, "It's a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark," and that they get.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. Well, I will tell you that the listeners around here will know who you're talking about. Definitely Douglas Preston. Well, cool. Well, what about your favorite book of all time. Maybe it's something like you said, you started with Hardy Boys. What just kind of was that aha moment in your life where you're like, "Holy cow. This is the best book I've ever read"?
Sean Ellis:I saw this question and I knew it was coming, and this is like the impossible question to ask a reader, "What's your favorite book?"
C. G. Cooper : You are welcome.
Sean Ellis: But, I think I'm going to go with The Descent by Jeff Long. It's a story about the discovery of a giant cave system that runs under the entire surface world connecting all the continents, and is inhabited by these creatures, which may have inspired stories of hell and demons.
Sean Ellis: In terms of it's plot, it's not necessarily that much different than other stories of going back to Jules Verne, but Jeff Long's prose is so beautiful, that after I read his books I'm like, "What am I doing? I should quit writing and just go do something else." Because his writing is really that good. I highly recommend The Descent, and really anything by Jeff Long.
Sean Ellis: I guess he's in retirement or something. He hasn't put anything out in a while, but his books are really just that ... They're a little bit horror, a lot of high adventure, a lot of rock climbing. He actually, I don't know if you're familiar with Jeff, but he wrote the novel that was adapted into the screenplay for Cliffhanger. The Sylvester Stallone movie.
C. G. Cooper : Really?
Sean Ellis: Right.
C. G. Cooper : This is exactly why I wanted to do this show. Jeff Long, somebody that I've never heard of, and you already pulled me in. Right? You love this book and that's right up my alley. The horror-ish but high adventure, that is very, very cool. When did you read that book? Is that a recent thing or was that something you read a long time ago?
Sean Ellis: I'm going to say I probably discovered that around 2001. It's been awhile. I could not even tell you how I stumbled across it. Maybe I saw it in a bookstore, but I read The Descent, and then I started checking out some of his other stuff.
Sean Ellis: I've got all of his books except for a couple of his very early stories. One of them was a non-fiction, and then of course the story that Cliffhanger was based on, I haven't found that one yet either. But he wrote actually, the sequel to The Descent, and that wasn't as well received. He was talking about a third book, but that may have fallen by the wayside.
Sean Ellis: I just actually just read for the second time another one his books called The Wall, which is about a rock climber, kind of an aging rock climber who wants to go for one last hurrah up a fictional route and ends up ... The story is kind of a ghost story really. So you've got these guys climbing this vertical wall, and all the things that go horribly wrong during the climb, and ghosts, so.
C. G. Cooper : Holy cow. Well, I remember watching that movie, and I'd be curious to see what the book of Cliffhanger is compared to the movie. I am not a heights guy. Like I said, "Rock climbing fascinates me, but I could not go up that high." But holy cow, I mean, if that movie is any indication of the type of adventure he puts into his novels, it's got to be pretty good.
Sean Ellis: Like I said, "That's the one I haven't read," but it's his prose really more than anything else that just ... It's almost lyrical. He's a beautiful writer.
C. G. Cooper : That's awesome. We'll have to check that out. Let's move on to the next part of the show. Did you happen to bring a snippet of some of your work that you'd like to read to our listeners?
Sean Ellis: I meant to ask you earlier, do you have a word limit?
C. G. Cooper : You know what? A couple paragraphs, a page, whatever. We've got some time.
Sean Ellis: This is about 600 words. This is from Exile, which is the name of my latest collaborative novel with David Wood. It's about a female archaeologist named Jade Ihara, who gets in a lot of trouble. In this excerpt I'm about to read, this is actually Jade's ... Jade has been kidnapped and her sidekick who goes by the name Professor, which would be a whole other discussion. Professor is looking for her. She disappeared in Port-au-Prince Haiti, and he is now about to meet with a local gangster who he believes may have information. So I think that's enough set up. I will launch right into it.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. Let's hear it.
Sean Ellis: The old man regarded him with a vaguely indifferent stare. The whites of his eyes were the color of old ivory, probably the result of the lifetime spent in . When he spoke his mouth barely moved. "You've gone to a great deal of trouble to see me." Cesar's voice was a trouble monotone, gravely like that of an old woman. Professor was mildly surprised to hear English. "This will be a very costly visit for you, I think."
"Like I told your man," Professor replied holding up the case, "I didn't come empty handed. $5,000 dollars. American dollars. It's yours. I just need to ask you a couple questions."
Cesar did not smile, "and if I don't answer your questions, you will just take it and walk away." Professor turned to the linen suit and offered the case to him. The man shied away from it, turned to Cesar, and jabbered in Creole.
Professor just shrugged and placed the case on the concrete floor. "I assume he was just telling you about the bomb in the case. It's true. If you try to force it open or put in the wrong combination it will blow. The charge is big enough to bring this whole building down. It's just insurance. The money is yours whether or not you answer my questions, my gift to you. Explosives too. I'm sure you can find use for them."
He grinned and tipped a wink at Cesar. In truth there weren't explosives though for not a lot of trying. Getting $5,000 dollars had been simple enough, but procuring five pounds of C4 would have taken time he didn't have. "Once Dr. Pierre and I are safely away, I'll call you with the combination."
He didn't pause to let this sink in, but pushed ahead. "My colleague, my friend, Jade Ihara was abducted from her hotel room last night. I don't know who took her, but Yan tells me if it happened in Port-au-Prince, you know about it. I want her back, unharmed, no questions asked, and I'm willing to pay for it. This," he pointed to the case, was just to get me in the door. Name your price."
Cesar's yellow eyes narrowed into contemptuous slits. He took a step forward, and as he moved his hand rotated on the nob of his walking stick, revealing it to be an extremely detailed carving of a human skull, but slightly smaller. A child's skull, perhaps. "That's not a carving," professor thought, and for the first time since entering Cesar L’Enfant’s subterranean lair, felt a shiver of apprehension.
The old man raised his walking stick and thrust the skull end towards Professor. At the gesture, the four men surrounding him lurched forward as one, swarming around Professor. They moved so suddenly without any precursory warning, that he barely had time to react.
He managed to curl his fingers around the handle of the aluminum case and draw it to his chest, but that was all. His plan, admittedly a desperate one, had been to play the bluff for all it was worth. With a threat to trigger the non-existent bomb by attempting to open the case, but the men caught his arms, and pulled them out away from his body, immobilizing him.
He tried to pull free but the lean wiry Haitian men were prodigiously strong. They did not even seem to be exerting themselves. Their faces remained dull and expressionless like sleepwalkers. The chill he'd been filling spiked into a full-blown panic when he realized the significance of this. "Zombies," he gasped. "Son of a bitch."
And I'll leave it there.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. I like it. I like it. Thank you for reading that. That's fantastic. When was that book written?
Sean Ellis: I believe I finished work on it in August .
C. G. Cooper : Okay.
Sean Ellis: We just got ... Go ahead.
C. G. Cooper : So has that been published yet?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. I put that out late September.
C. G. Cooper : Okay, and that was Exile by Sean Ellis with Dave Wood. David Wood, right?
Sean Ellis: Yeah. I think David's name appears ahead of mine in the credits, but yes.
C. G. Cooper : Okay. Well, you're on the show, so we can say yours first.
Sean Ellis: I like it.
C. G. Cooper : Well, very good. Well, thank you for doing that. It's funny, the mix that we see. Some people just want to see a couple lines, but honestly, I think our readers like it when we get longer passages like that. So thank you for reading. Let's move on to the next portion of our show, the mean reviews. Did you happen to bring any of your favorite mean reviews from your work?
Sean Ellis: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome. This is my favorite portion because I've got plenty of mean reviews. I'd love to hear a couple of yours.
Sean Ellis: Well, I should set this up a little bit. The person who offered these reviews ... I ran into him way back in the day when I was a regular on a Clive Cussler fan forum. For whatever reason, he just kind of took a liking to me, and I remember one day when Cussler was changing up one of his co-authors, this fellow actually went on another forum and said, "Let's just hope he doesn't get
C. G. Cooper : Oh, geez.
Sean Ellis: And I'm like, "Wow. I guess you really esteem me pretty highly to think I would even be in the contention." I said that, and for whatever reason he decided he wanted to take a shot at some of my novels. So he actually wrote reviews for two of my Nick Kismet novels, and then also for a novella.
C. G. Cooper : Lucky you, right?
Sean Ellis: So I'm going to read these, and we'll start with ... This is the review for The Shroud of Heaven, which was my first Nick Kismet novel.
It's, "Did I read anything? To quote Basil Rathbone from the 1939 film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Lady Conyngham gives the kind of party where one comes away with the feeling one hasn't been anywhere. That's similar to the feeling one gets from The Shroud of Heaven. It's just a series of random action set pieces designed no doubt by quotes, author, end quote, Sean Ellis, for a major film studio to pick up for a movie franchise. Let's hope that happens when pigs sprout wings. That have no literary value other than to illustrate the inadequacies Ellis has in becoming a serious writer of this or any other genre. I mean, really? An ancient artifact with unimaginable power, Oh no. A lone hero hardened by combat with the mysterious past who can only save the day with a beautiful woman on his arm, oh my. A pseudo intellectual spade of hokey religious mumbo jumbo, oh yes. If this excuse for a novel was any more original, the sky would be littered with the afore mentioned flying pigs. This genre is better served by the likes of James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, Jack Higgins, and Lee Child with his Reacher series, among others. You as a reader have much better ways to spend your precious reading time, and in this economy, much better ways to spend your money."
C. G. Cooper : Holy cow.
Sean Ellis: So he loved it so much that he went ahead and bought, and reviewed the next novel, Into the Black. I will keep laying it on.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah, please do.
Sean Ellis: This one he titled "Empty Head Adventure."
"Boring as hell. I mean, there's no substance or any real story. It's just chase scene after chase scene, or is it one big chase. Hard to tell the difference really. Where's the plot? I suppose if you're 10 years old, it's okay, but if you're an adult looking for an intelligent adventure, this is not it in any form. Sean Ellis appears to be a Clive Cussler wannabe, and one wonders why he would do so. Cussler is way past his prime, who tries to accent his weak writing with silly cameos of himself in his adventure stories. Ellis is showing signs of being past his prime, and hasn't even written that many books. His books are a waste of money unless you need something to prop up some broken furniture, and Into The Black continues that trend."
C. G. Cooper : He really likes you, doesn't he?
Sean Ellis: He does. He does. He's my favorite reviewer. He kept it short and sweet for the novella called The Devil You Know. I'll just read this one real quick.
"Beep beep. Well, if you don't mind wasting your time reading a road runner cartoon, then this is the book for you. The only thing missing is the quotes hero Nick Kismet saying, 'Beep beep.'"
C. G. Cooper : Do you know what this guy does for a living? I mean, we don't want to call the person out, but I mean, he's pretty creative. I got to say, I enjoy his writing.
Sean Ellis: Yeah. He did most of this back in say, I think 2008, 2009, maybe later than that, but it was before I'd ever heard the term internet troll. I gradually realized that ... I saw this a lot on the Clive Cussler forum, that he just seemed more interested in stirring things up, which is the only explanation I can think of for reviewing books, and buying and reviewing books, that you already hate the author.
C. G. Cooper : Good grief. Well, that's a new one. I haven't seen the personal attacks yet, so thank you for sharing those with us. I know it's not always easy for people. I know when I get bad reviews, it's kind of a kick in the gut, and sometimes it knocks me down. But you know what? The best thing to do is to come back, and enjoy it, and laugh when you can. Man, like I said, that guy, he's pretty creative. So kudos to him.
Sean Ellis: Well, on a more serious note that may be of use to the readers who are aspiring authors out there. You really should read your reviews, even the bad ones. Even the hateful, spiteful ones, and you should think about what is it that they're drawing attention to.
In this case, he wasn't completely wrong about my overdependence on the protracted chase scenes. That was my intention in writing those stories, but I think I've grown a lot as a writer, and I've realized now that it doesn't have to be balls to the wall action all the time. You can probably reach more readers if you use that more assiduously.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. I agree. I read all of my own at least when I get the guts to actually do that, and they pointed out ... Readers are great at pointing out stuff. Now, it's the constructive feedback that I enjoy. It's the, "This guy is racist, this guy is this, and that ..." Whatever. Why did you finish the book? Why didn't you just return it because Amazon will give you a full refund if you'd like.
So that's always interesting to me, but thank you for that. You're right. Writers out there, prospective writers, keep reading those reviews even though it hurts sometimes because you can learn something from it. Well, thanks again for that. Let's move on to our speed round. Let's see. Today I've got four questions for you. We'll keep these short, and just expound how you'd like to. Number one. What's your favorite thing about being an author?
Sean Ellis: Telling lies for a living.
C. G. Cooper : Telling lies for a living. I love that. Have you put any unicorns into your stories yet?
Sean Ellis: Gee, not yet, but there could be a place for it. There's lots of other mythical creatures.
C. G. Cooper : I know. All right. What's the best advice you ever received?
Sean Ellis: The next book sells the last book. That's just advice for everybody out there who's a writer. Don't get so wrapped up in marketing your book because what's really going to sell that book is the next book you write.
C. G. Cooper : Amen. What is the one piece of technology you could not live without?
Sean Ellis: Word processing software.
C. G. Cooper : Which one do you use?
Sean Ellis: I'm really pretty faithful to Word. It just seems to be the most functional, but really anything would work. Back in the day, I did hammer out a full 400 page novel on a typewriter, and I can't imagine doing that now, and I can't write long hand to save my life. So just something ... I wrote one of my first novels, I wrote it on a Brother word processor, and I was lucky to be able to transfer the files with a floppy disk to the computer I had at the time, and save those files, but something like that. To have that in order to be productive.
C. G. Cooper : Yeah. It's our tools now. I have no idea what I would do without my laptop. Absolutely none. Last question. Who do you look up to?
Sean Ellis: Many people, but if I had to choose just one person, it would probably be Clive Cussler. Reading his novels was kind of one of the things that really made me want to do this. Not just because of the stories, but also because of the way they described his lifestyle in the bio. That's always been an inspiration to me. How he looks for treasures, and gold mines, and things like that. That made me want to do this.
C. G. Cooper : Very cool. It's funny how us creatives have somebody that we watched and read. For me, it was W. E. B. Griffin and Vince Flynn. I just could not get enough of their work, and I finally got something on paper. So that's cool to hear that Clive is your guy, and I assume that you probably read pretty much everything he's written, right?
Sean Ellis: Just about. I haven't read his children's stories but ...
C. G. Cooper : Well, you're a grown-up. So I won't hold that one against you.
Sean Ellis: I'm not a completeist.
C. G. Cooper : Well, I am not either. I have not read a lot of people's children's stuff, other than my own. Well, tell you what, Sean thank you so much for visiting. For letting us know about the books that you're reading, some of the stuff that you've done in your writing world. Can you give a few last words to our listeners? Let them know how they can find you?
Sean Ellis: Okay. So my website, which has pretty much links to all my works, a lot of my collaborations and co-authored works with David Wood, Jeremy Robinson, and so forth. The website is seanellisauthor.com.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome.
Sean Ellis: Also, of course, go to Amazon. That's got all the books, and my Amazon author page. Please follow.
C. G. Cooper : Yes. That's a big deal these days. You mentioned Exile that's been recently released, is there another work that you've got coming that you would love listeners to pick up?
Sean Ellis: Nothing in the next few months that I'm aware of, but I got a lot. If you haven't read anything, get started now. I'm going to be writing ... Working on the third book in my Mira Raiden Adventure series. Those books are kind of in the Tomb Raider vein. So lots of lost cities, and monsters, and guns a-blazing.
C. G. Cooper : Awesome man. Well good. Well, Exile. Recently out. Sean Ellis with David Wood. Sean, thank you again so much for joining us. This has been Books in 30 with C. G. Cooper.
C. G. Cooper : Thank you for listening, and don't forget to email me at Cgc (at) cg-cooper.com. To say hello, or let me know of an author you'd like to see as my guest. Thanks for tuning in. C. G. Cooper, out.
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