Sean grigsby "...I love to be creative in all kinds of ways and I like to follow inspiration when it hits. Music has always been as big a part of my life as books. I’d like to think my musicality lends itself to my writing....."
Once a professional firefighter in Arkansas, musician, podcaster, and author, Sean Grigsby takes on the third installment in the Ash Kicker series with another thrilling story in Flame Riders. Sean has a chat with us about everything from reading at a young age, the pandemic of 2020, podcasting, and music, and answering questions about the origin of Ash Kickers and details about his newest novel, Flame Riders. Check it out!
Can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up? Did you grow up in Arkansas? I hear you are a fan of Goosebumps as your gateway series. Mine was Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. It seems like those two series go hand in hand for kids getting into SFF and horror novels.
[SG] I also loved Scary Stories! Any time my kids are in the car with me, they beg me to put on the audiobooks.
I was a military brat, so I grew up in Japan, Australia, but mostly Memphis, TN. Somehow I got stuck in this hell hole known as Arkansas and I’m eager to escape with my wife, Lisa.
Speaking of Arkansas, I enjoyed the not-so-subtle quote about Arkansas in Flame Riders. That was a funny bit for those readers who know you are from there. Do you put Easter eggs in your books for friends and family?
[SG] All the time. Flame Riders also features a character named Lot Scynch. Somebody out there knows who I’m tipping the hat to.
Can you tell me a bit about the Cosmic Dragon Podcast? From what I understand, you are on hiatus right now. Are you going to come back to it any time soon?
[SG] I am taking a break from it, but I’ll hopefully pick it back up. It’s my podcast where I shoot the shit with other sci-fi and fantasy authors, from Fonda Lee to Nick Eames.
A Note on your podcast, “Due to technical difficulty and the host being a bit inebriated, this episode does not end completely…kind of like Game of Thrones on TV …” So I am taking it you aren’t a huge fan of the ending of Game of Thrones?
[SG] That ending was the biggest pile of bullshit I have ever seen. There were no payoffs.
You are a man that wears many creative hats, including music. Can you tell me a bit about that?
[SG] I love to be creative in all kinds of ways and I like to follow inspiration when it hits. Music has always been as big a part of my life as books. I’d like to think my musicality lends itself to my writing.
I saw that you wrote a short story for Best Death Wins (Warhammer 40k). Are you a Warhammer fan?
[SG] I am, but I don’t collect figurines or read much of the books. It’s too complicated. My short in their Inferno! the anthology was a good excuse to get dark in that world, with three tales told by doomed Imperial Guardsmen.
Tell me about PitchWars. I read that you were a mentor. What was that experience like?
[SG] I was a mentee. So I was the pupil then. Jason Nelson helped me get my book, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap up to snuff, but it’s since become a trunk novel.
I read that you have an affinity for typewriters? What is it about typewriters that you like, and which ones do you have?
[SG] I love typewriters but I don’t own any. I hope my next tattoo is a typewriter. I do own a lot of portable keyboards, though.
We have a shared love Grady Hendrix’s stories. I just finished My Best Friend’s Exorcism, We Sold Our Souls, and tracked down a copy of Li’l Classix: Little Women. Are you a big fan of the horror/comedy/gonzo genre? If so, what do you like about it?
[SG] I’m an 80s/90s kid, so the horror from that era will always be a part of me. Grady has taken that and made it richer, deeper, but even more fun. Horror and Comedy go together like PB&J.
I read some earlier interviews you did back in 2018/19 and mentioned a book called Robots Don’t Cry as a WIP. As a science fiction fan, I loved the premise. Are you still working on it?
[SG] Robots Don’t Cry has been on submission for almost 2 years. So we’re just waiting on an editor to buy it. The Call of the Void is also out there on sub.
2020 as a year was difficult for a lot of reasons. How did it affect you as an author? I know some authors use experiences outside of their stories as fuel for future ideas. While some have to have a solid line of demarcation between what is going on in the world and what is going on in their stories. Which one are you?
[SG] 2020 fucked me up a little. I finished Flame Riders by the skin of my teeth. I have to put echoes of the real world in my writing, but it hasn’t been easy on my brain.
[SG] The pandemic has certainly changed how the medical and emergency fields operate. It’s even more stressful.
Where did you get the idea for the Smoke Eaters series? I know that you are a working firefighter; did that play a part?
[SG] I was in fire academy and it just hit me: Firefighters vs Dragons. I built upon that and here we are 3 books later.
Let’s talk about your newest project, book three of the Fire Eaters series, Flame Riders. I read it, loved it, and finished it in literally one day. For those who aren’t familiar, can you talk a bit about it?
[SG] This is the third and final book. The world has devolved even further into a dragon apocalypse where mercenary soldiers run things and smoke eaters are outlawed. But one soldier finds out he might be a smokie, and shenanigans ensue.
Can you tell me a bit about Gilly? He is very unlike your other main characters from Ash Kickers and Smoke Eaters.
[SG] Gilly just wants to crawl in a hole and be left alone, though he’s always dreamed of being something more. The world has become a terrible and rough place, so he has to fight every day just to hang on. But he realizes some things are worth fighting for, even when it’s painful.
One of the biggest strengths of the series is that each of the books can either be a standalone or a solid addition to the series. You have written for both audiences. Was that always the plan from the start?
[SG] I get bored with the same perspectives, so I knew I wanted a different lead in every book. I also like to write where you don’t have to start at the beginning, but that you’ll really want to read them all eventually.
Smoke Eaters changed the way I viewed firefighters. You had mentioned in another interview that you had an instructor that called firefighters “modern day knights.” When I read Each of the Smoke Eaters books: Smoke Eaters, Ash Kickers, and now Flame Riders, that idea came through. There is even a castle of a sort in Flame Riders. Are firefighters modern-day knights? It seems like an incredibly exciting job to have.
[SG] They can be. But they’re human and can be real assholes, too. But firefighters see things that most people would faint from. They deal with death and destruction constantly. It wears on you. But those that keep going for the benefit of people relying on them, they should be dubbed knights for sure.
Lastly, what have you got going on for the rest of 2021 aside from the release of Flame Riders this month?
[SG] I have a secret IP novel in the works and then it’s back to writing my original novels. I’m moving away from action blockbusters and more into emotionally evocative stories that may also have some cool fight scenes.