Author Spotlight: Earl Sewell

Teen/Adult Author, Earl Sewell
Chicago native Earl Sewell knew he always wanted to write.  Even after receiving more than forty rejection letters from several  New York publishing houses, Sewell pursued his dream.   He started his own publishing company which he named "Katie Books" after his late mother and the rest is history.   
Today, Earl Sewell has written over seventeen novels over the past eleven years and has a strong flowing of teen and adult readers.  These novels have held steady positions on national bestseller lists and has been featured in numerous popular magazines.   His new teen novel, "Back to Me," will be released June of 2012.  

Miss Domino:  First let me tell you from a Librarian’s perspective, my students are in love with your books. Why do you think pre-teens/teens are so drawn to your character Keysha?
Earl Sewell:      Sometimes I ask myself the same question. I believe there is a combination of factors that draw teens to Keysha. Followers of the books have probably been waiting for something they could identify with for a long time. Next is the emotional connection readers have to the character. They want to meet Keysha and hang out with. They want to discuss their problems with her and treat her as their best friend because they feel she understands what they’re going through. 

Sewell speaks to teens.
Miss Domino:  Your book, “Mya’s Choice” has a Hispanic female protagonist. What did you do to learn more about the Hispanic/Mexican American culture while developing the character Mya?
Earl Sewell:      I read a book entitled, "Images of America, Mexican Chicago" by Rita Arias Jirasek and Carlos Tortolero. The book follows  the rich history of Mexican people and their culture in Chicago. I visited the Mexican American Museum and visited the Pilsen community where I spoke business owners about the history of the community. I also spoke with several friends of Hispanic descent who provided me with useful information.

Miss Domino:  Not to give any part of the book away, Mya’s sister experiences a life threatening event. Some may say that this is too much for teens to handle, while others believe that the discussion is warranted. How did you come to a final decision to tackle tough or sensitive subjects in your books?
Earl Sewell:      No one wants to read a boring story where everyone is happy, nothing is wrong and the fictitious characters live in absolute bliss. No one would read the book. In fact, I’d argue that the reason many people read fiction is to take away some life lessons. Any good parent of a teenager would tell you that they spend a lot of time trying to teach their teens similar lessons. The world around us isn’t filtered. Turn on the news in Chicago and nearly every day the report is about a teen being shot, a drug bust, or political scandal. Jump on the Internet and you’ll see everything else television networks refuse to air. We live in a world where information on any subject is just a few key strokes away. So for those who believe that certain subjects for teens are taboo I would say the 1950’s are gone and the Leave It To Beaver, philosophy is ancient. Welcome to the 21st Century. 
Sewell gets the students excited about reading.

Miss Domino:  What has been the response from teens, parents and librarians about the books?
Earl Sewell:      All of the responses I’ve received have been very positive. So far so good. Librarians love it when they can locate a book that kids will enjoying reading. 

Miss Domino:  You visited my school last year and I observed something very interesting. Teen boys that were hyped and amped just as much as the girls about the Keysha series and hearing you speak. As you know, teen boys can be a challenging audience because they generally enjoy reading other genres, i.e. fantasy, sports, science and not realistic fiction. Why do you think you receive this type of response from teens?
Earl Sewell:     I think for young men who saw me at your school were excited because seeing an African American male author was something they hadn’t been exposed to. I enjoyed them just as much as they enjoyed me.

Miss Domino:  What are some of the challenges have you experienced from a writer’s position while developing these books?
Earl Sewel:      Coming up with storylines that don’t seem repetitive is the biggest challenge. I find myself pushing my creativity beyond its boundaries. I keep searching for the stories that I know are there, but hidden deep within. 

Miss Domino:  Do you believe it was easier to produce a book for a teen audience than an adult audience?
Earl Sewell:     Oh no each of them are equally difficult.

The Keysha Saga Continues!
Miss Domino:  How do you balance writing for your adult audience and teen audience.
Earl Sewell:      Good question. My adult audience is just as demanding as my teen readers. Once they’ve completed a book they’re ready to read the next one and don’t like waiting. At times I feel as if I can’t produce the titles fast enough. I balance everything through discipline and good time management. 

Miss Domino:  How do you balance writing, your personal life and fatherhood?

Earl Sewell:      It’s a grind. Although I have tight deadlines, I can never lose sight of my daughter who is now seventeen. I always take the time to pull away from my work to connect with her. Soon she’ll be away a college and will mostly likely not have much time for me because she’ll be too busy maturing into adulthood.

Miss Domino:  Writing for the Teen audience is tough. A writer must be very observant of content and messages conveyed in the story. On average, how long did it take to develop and produce your books for publication?
Earl Sewell:      My upcoming book entitled, "Back To Me" comes out in June of 2012. I began writing that book on August 8, 2011 and completed it November 27, 2011. That’s about 15 weeks. 

Miss Domino:   Yes, I checked Amazon and have already pre-ordered my book.  I really like the book trailer promoting the book.  

Earl Sewell:       Thank you!  I'm glad you liked it.

Miss Domino:  Earl, it has been a pleasure speaking to you today.  Good luck on your upcoming release of "Back to Me."  Please continue to write stories for teens that entertain and inspire them.

*Meet Earl Sewell at the Harlequin/Kimani Tru booth at the American Library Association Conference this June in Anaheim, California.

1 comment:

  1. Wow that was a good interview that you did w/ Earl Sewell! great job!