Interview: E. A. Comiskey and Some Sailors Never Die

by Gurpreet Sihat

A few years ago, the lovely E. A Comiskey pitched me a book called Curmudgeon, describing it as Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in a Grumpy Old Men meets Supernatural story. I was instantly obsessed with the idea. So, when I was asked to run the blog tour for her latest book, Some Sailors Never Die, I jumped at the opportunity. 

For the first time since 2017, I’d like to welcome the amazing, Elizabeth Comiskey…

Each of the books in the Monsters and Mayhem series reads as a standalone but they all tie together. How did writing them work? Did you plan them in advance? Rather than foreshadowing did you hide any secret easter eggs?

The first book really started as a little seedling of an idea. I sat down to write a scene about two old men in a nursing home, one who was lovely and suave and irresistible and a second who despised the first, for no reason other than that he is so fabulous. I was maybe two hundred words into it when I realized I’d already fallen in love with Richard’s cantankerous voice. Book One developed from that, but when I finished it, I had no real plans about moving forward with the series. However, when I pitched the story to Scarsdale, they saw the potential right away and my initial contract was for a five-book series.

Knowing that I would be with these guys for a while, I did take some time to plot out where I wanted to go after the end of the first adventure, so while each story does stand alone, a reader would absolutely notice hints and easter eggs scattered throughout the series. Just as in real life, the characters learn and change as they experience life, so of course they occasionally refer back to things they’ve done before and they kick themselves for their bad choices.

When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh, both for your readers and also yourself? 

I worried about that, to be honest. Five books are over 300,000 words. That is a lot of time to spend with the same tiny group of people, but I think the fact that each story is set in an entirely different location and each has its own unique cast of supporting characters really helped give them all their own unique flavour. Also, Richard learns some very hard lessons in the first book, and Stanley faces some challenges unique to his profession in the second, so their personalities shift and develop over time. I definitely haven’t gotten bored writing about these men yet.

What came first, the plot or the characters?

Definitely the characters, specifically Stanley. He actually came to life one afternoon when my daughter and I were talking about certain men, like Patrick Stewart, who never lose their appeal, no matter how old they get. Immediately, my imagination went to work putting him in different scenarios and that’s how he ended up in a nursing home with a guy who despised him. Once I got there, the story wrote itself.

Describe Richard and Stanley in three words.

I cannot. 

Hahaha! Maybe if I do them individually – 

Richard: Ornery old fart.

Stanley: Proud with reason.

Oh, I’ve got it.

Bromantically adventurous elders.

When you first started the series, Some Monsters Never Die was called Curmudgeon. Why did this change and how did this impact the books that followed?

I am horrible at titles, so I was super proud of coming up with Curmudgeon. I still believe that it is a perfect title for the first book, but when I agreed to turn it into a series, the publisher suggested that Curmudgeon didn’t translate well into multiple books, whereas Some Monsters Never Die left room for us to create titles that fit together better, making it less confusing for readers.

How has your writing process changed since writing the first book?

Well, out of necessity, I’ve had to become more of a plotter and a tracker. When I’m writing one book, I can pretty well keep the details in my head and work things out as I go, but when I’m writing books over the course of several years there are a lot of note cards and flow charts involved, lest I confuse myself and forget who’s who as the cast continues to grow and accumulate experiences.

What kind of research did you do for this series and how long do you now spend researching before writing each instalment?

A lot of my research comes in the form of reading legends, and there’s no real time-limit to that. It’s something I’m constantly doing. When you’re writing in the supernatural and paranormal genre, there’s an expectation of vampires, witches, and so on, but I want to go beyond that and explore other stories. For instance, there’s a character in Some Sailors Never Die that came from a Polynesian creation legend. The story felt so real and relatable to me that I had to give him a personality and build a story around him. 

The other part comes in learning about the places Richard and Stanley visit. Many of them I’ve been to myself, so I write from experience, but it’s always nice to read about the history of famous landmarks, the quirks of particular highways and so forth and incorporate those titbits into the story. One of my favourite reader-interactions is the kind when people are trying to separate fact from fiction. If they’re having a hard time doing that, then I’ve done a good job incorporating my research into the story.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing protagonists from the opposite sex? 

I don’t know that I find it difficult. If anything, I find writing women to be harder, maybe because it feels more vulnerable to me. If a female character does something or reacts in a certain way, I question it a lot. Is it what I would do? Am I giving away some deep, dark secret when she says that? Am I being careful to portray my female characters as rich and authentic, rather than as caricatures? It seems that my female characters are more of a direct reflection of myself. When I write a male character, I don’t feel those same pressures. Maybe I should. I don’t know. Geez, know I need to go talk to my therapist about this subject.

Do you have a favourite minor character? If so, who? What makes them special?

Creating the characters for this series has been an absolute joy and there are several I am especially fond of, but if I had to pick favourites I think it would come down to either Nathanial or Ike. 

Nathanial is a cross between Hagrid from Harry Potter and the delightfully crazy essential oils lady that lives down the street from me, and every single thing he does and says makes me smile. 

Ike, despite fighting a constant battle against his own fears, or maybe because of it, finds himself as irresistibly drawn to Stanley as I am, so I feel a deep kinship with him.

What were you listening to when writing this book?

For the most part, when I’m writing from Richard’s point of view, I’m listening to the oldies—Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and so forth. I’m confident that whenever Richard has control of the radio dial in the Caddy, that’s the station he’d dial into. Burke’s playlist is a little more modern, more diverse, and much fiercer. When I’m in her thoughts, I have a playlist that includes Activator, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Pink, Panic at the Disco, Rob Dougan. Over time, Stanley’s background music has changed, but for the past year or so, it has been solidly grounded in Radio Company and Jace Everett. 

If these books ever make it into production and I get any say in the soundtrack it’s going to be truly epic.

Quick Fire Round

What are you reading now?

Lina Hansen’s In My Attic.

What are the next three books on your TBR?

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Glimpses of Time and Magic, an anthology edited by one of my favourite Wattpadders, Ariel Paiement

Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor

What was the last book that made you cry?

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

What was the last book that scared you?

Cold Fire by Dean Koontz

What was the last book that you struggled to put down?

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz. I love every single thing about it, but I hardly ever meet anyone else who’s read it.

What’s your favourite literary quote?

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” -Dumbledore

If you could have one famous author as your mentor, who would it be and why?

Charlaine Harris. I’ve never come across a single page of her books that bored me. I love her style and her light-heartedness and her fearlessness.

What is your writing Kryptonite? 

Too much time. If I don’t have a hard and fast deadline, I will put things off for eternity. If I have to write in five-minute segments while I’m in the carpool lane because those are the only five minutes I have in a day and my publisher is waiting on me, I’ll turn out a book every six weeks.

What did you do with your first author paycheque? 

I bought copies of my book for friends and to donate to the local library.

And, finally: 

You’re a Watty Winner. How has Wattpad changed the industry and do you recommend new, aspiring authors follow the Wattpad route?

I could go on all day long on this subject! I think Wattpad is to the writing world what Netflix was to the entertainment world in 2008, and I believe anyone and everyone who wants to build a career as a writer should have a presence on Wattpad. 

Wattpad is a lot like YouTube in that there is virtually unlimited, non-juried content. For that reason, some folks brush Wattpad off as a place for twelve-year-olds to write boy band fanfiction. What most people don’t realize is that Wattpad’s use of artificial intelligence is setting standards in the tech industry. The WattBot allows Wattpad HQ to constantly scan those millions of stories for content that people will love, and when they find the authors creating that content, they will do everything in their power to lift them up in their careers. Being a Wattpad Star is like having a literary agent, legal team, writing tutors, and health specialists all rolled into one. 

As if that weren’t enough, Wattpad Books is the first publisher in… maybe ever… to go head-to-head in terms of production and marketing with “the big five.” They have a hand in development studios around the world and have begun the process of creating their own in-house entertainment development branch, and they can push paid content out to hundreds of millions of subscribers. Because they’re handling everything from creation to publication and production without middlemen, they give their writers a larger-than-average cut of the profit.

In the twenty-first century, I think it’s important for authors to diversify. No one should put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, but even authors like Margaret Atwood and Dan Brown have a few of their eggs in Wattpad’s basket.

Some Loves Never Die is set for release in early 2021. What kind of mischief can we see Richard and Stanley getting into next?

I can’t give away spoilers, of course, but Burke’s ex-husband goes missing and the search brings together a surprising cast of friends and former lovers.

Are you working on anything outside of the Monsters and Mayhem universe?

I’ve always got a hundred things going at once. It’s just how my brain works. I recently finished two novels that are on Wattpad and have been submitted to the 2020 Watty Awards. Summer in The Fields of Bliss is the first in a new four-book paranormal series, and The First Saturday KLUMSIEE Crafter’s Club is a stand-alone about a group of four female friends finding connection to one another and to their pasts. My third published novel, List of 13 is getting a complete overhaul for publication with Scarsdale in 2021, and my work in progress is a cosy mystery called, The Widow, Melody Scott.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the tour… Four of them have exclusive excerpts, two have amazing reviews, and all of them have a competition you’ll be crazy to miss out on!

To enter the competition, click HERE!

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