I first began working with David Seaburn about one year ago, in February of 2010. I worked as the editor for Dave’s book Charlie No Face, which is set to be released on Amazon any day now–and I loved every second of it. Dave sat down with me and answered a few of my questions about his experience as an author.
1. Tell me a little bit about your experience as an author.
I was published for the first time when I was in seminary at Boston University in the early 1970s. This was a series of poems that appeared in an alumni journal. But I didn’t start writing seriously until a few years later while I was pastor of a small rural church in western New York. There I wrote a book of inspirational vignettes, poems, and songs that was accepted for publication by Macmillan only to be later rejected. I stopped writing completely for almost two years after this, but then started writing short stories again, although I didn’t try to publish them. I left the parish ministry and entered the field of psychotherapy in 1980, working in community mental health, where I published a few papers on my experience as a clinician, including one on a patient’s suicide.
In 1986, I started working at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where my focus on academics also accelerated my development as a writer. Over the next twenty years, I co-authored two professional books and wrote fifty-five papers and book chapters. The rigor of mentored writing and excellent editing taught me a great deal about the craft.
During my academic career I remained interested in fiction, but did little more than collect ideas and make notes.
My first novel, Darkness is as Light (2005), was based on a personal vignette told by a former patient. I couldn’t get the story out of my mind and reworked it in several creative nonfiction workshops, finally transforming it into the backbone of a novel about a middle-aged man and his relationship with his alcoholic father. I wrote Darkness in exactly one year.
In 1990, I did extensive work on a story idea and then stored it all away in a folder. I returned to them years later. They became the basis for my second novel, Pumpkin Hill (2007). I used many of my experiences in rural ministry for this story.
I am very excited about my third novel, my first with Savant, Charlie No Face. I enjoyed this writing project more than any other, perhaps because it gave me the opportunity to use the first person voice of Jackie, the eleven-year-old protagonist, and it is set in my western Pennsylvania hometown, Ellwood City. The title character, Charlie No Face, is a fictionalized version of a disfigured man who lived a rather secluded life in our area. He had been severely burned as a child in a freak accident that left him deformed. He was known to walk country roads late at night, often the target of thrill-seeking teenagers. In this novel, I humanize Charlie No Face and create a unique relationship between him and Jackie, one that transforms them both.
Common to all of my work is an abiding interest in the unique struggles that make us human—loss, fear, hope, uncertainty, connection, separation, meaning, questioning, love, guilt, wonder, joy, and storytelling. I think we are all storytellers. That is how we make sense of our lives and the world around us. When I write, I feel that more than anything else, I am trying to make sense of life, trying to explore its meaning. And, of course, I am trying to tell a good story in the process.
2. Charlie No Face is your first novel working with Savant Books and Publications. How was the publishing process?
I had not heard of Savant until I started the search for a publisher. I found them through a publishing clearing house website and was impressed with what I saw as an independent publisher that was open to new ideas. I quickly learned that the publisher was interested in creating a literary community of authors that would build their writing careers with Savant. This intrigued me. I also learned again that publishing a novel is a very slow process with many steps that must be taken with as much precision as possible. At times, this was frustrating, but the result has been very satisfying.
3. Charlie No Face is also your first novel working with me as your editor. How would you characterize the editing process?
As I have said numerous times, having you as my editor during this process made all the difference. As you know, writers tend to be an anxious group who are a little possessive of their work. Trusting one’s editor is critical. We made a connection very quickly because we committed to communicating with each other regularly, even if we didn’t have much to discuss about the book. You worked very efficiently and creatively.
I remember being delighted when you had completed your first review of the manuscript and had sent me your comments and recommendations. What I appreciated was that it was clear you understood what I was trying to do, you committed to the voice of the narrative, and you sought diligently to make it better. Your suggestions were always offered firmly but respectfully. I think I took them all! And you didn’t hesitate to say what you liked, something that meant a lot when I was feeling insecure about the story.
When we got to line and word editing, my God, I don’t know what I would have done without your keen eye. You found literally hundreds of minor errors I would never have seen. I think we had a great working relationship.
4. What do you look for in an editor/author relationship?
I’m using our work together as the model for what I will look for in the future. Simply put, I look for ‘fit.’ I want to feel like there is a connection between myself and the editor that I can trust. This involves candor, respect, and humor. Of course I also look for talent, someone who can see the big picture, the thematic thread, understand character development and narrative arc as well as the minutiae of editing detail that finishes the product.
5. What are you currently working on?
I am about two-thirds through my fourth novel, Chimney Bluffs. This has been my most challenging work. It is based on an actual incident that occurred a few years ago in England when a little boy died. His parents were so bereft that they leapt from a famous cliff to their deaths, taking two sacks with them. One had the body of their son, and the other had his toys. I thought about this incident for many months and wondered two things: What made this a reasonable thing to do? What would have happened if one parent had survived the leap? These questions form the core of the story.
For more information about David Seaburn, visit the author’s website at www.davidbseaburn.com.