A Brief Autobiography

Sean Stewart Born June 2, 1965, in Lubbock, Texas; moved to Canada in 1968. No siblings. An unremarkable childhood of roughly the usual length.

On my seventh birthday I received a copy of The Hobbit. Within a year I was reading in bulk, leaning toward books featuring Adventures with Swords. I decided to be a writer when I grew up and for some reason never changed my mind.

When hayfever dashed the dream of being a crack horseman, I turned my attention to swordplay. To the outward eye, my career as a fencer peaked at age 11, when I beat out two 9 year olds for the Alberta (Canada) Boys Under 12 Provincial Championship in foil. In fact, my best weapon was the epee, which I picked up in Grade 9. The following year the new coach did not teach epee, ran class like a Bulgarian military academy, and anyway I found myself more interested in girls than weapons.

My artistic career took a brief detour in high school as I acted in more than twenty plays and did crew work on another score. From my drama teacher I gained many valuable insights, such as the fact that if you salt the donuts at your concession stand, those who purchase between the first act and the second will be back for a pop between the second and third.

It was during my high school years that it began to dawn on me that at some point my unshakeable conviction I would be an author when I grew up would have to be backed by the actual act of writing. When I caught sight of an advertisement for the Young Canadian Writers Award, I seized my chance. Reasoning that there couldn't be many Canadian would-be writers who would churn out the requisite 10,000 words plus, I wrote and submitted a story called "Dos Equis," about a girl's vacation in Mazatlan with her estranged father.

As it turned out, there were more than 600 entries. "Dos Equis" was named one of the twelve finalists. On reading the promo material over carefully, I began to wonder if I had really done myself a service by using words like 'fuck' in my piece, given that the winner was to be published by Scholastic Tab books and sold to schools. On reflection, I was aware of a great many flaws in the story, but my suspicions were not entirely allayed when the results were announced, and the award went to a story about a boy and his faithful dog.

Looking back, "Dos Equis" seems surprisingly indicative of what my work would be like many years further on. Dos Equis is a brand of Mexican beer; it is also, of course, spanish for 'two crosses'--the first in a series of works in which I, though an atheist, invoked the echoes of religion to give a richer resonance to the events in the story. The same idea lies at the heart of Passion Play; as its climax was prefigured by the waterfall of imitation Faulkner that ended "Dos Equis," emotions and sensations all rushed and tumbled together.

None of this was me, of course; it was Faulkner and Dostoyevsky and Greene and who knows who else. But every writer germinates and grows in the soil made from his dead ancestors. Those other books and other writers comprise many of the "swallowed ghosts" to whom Resurrection Man is dedicated. My work happens at the confluence of Faulkner and Tolkien, Dostoyevsky and Enid Nesbit, Joseph Conrad and Lloyd Alexander and Ursula Le Guin.

I graduated from the English program at the University of Alberta, married my high school sweetheart, and put in the requisite years of writing very badly and getting rejected, followed by the requisite years of writing half-decently and continuing to be rejected.

The fifth novel I had written, Passion Play, attended by enough disasters to make a decent Coleridge poem, finally struggled mewling into daylight in 1992 from the Tesseract Books imprint of Beach Holme, a small Canadian publisher. Jill and Walter, the owners of White Dwarf Books in Vancouver, where I was living at the time, happened to like the book a great deal. They hand-sold it, and pressed a copy on the local sales rep for Ace books. Her husband read it, gave it a thumbs up, and she took it back to New York to give to the senior editor, Susan Allison, who liked it very much. A year later, I was finally an author with a book out from a major US publishing house.

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