Author Sean Keefer is touring the internet with his novel The Solicitor, which is set in historic Charleston and the surrounding South Carolina Lowcountry. Since my background is English, I don't immediately know where that is, or what it's like, so I'm delighted that Sean has agreed to join me here on my blog and answer a few questions. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a coffee, and listen in. Thank you for joining us Sean.
Firstly, I grew up in England and really don't have a feel for different American states. How would you characterize South Carolina as being different from North Carolina and other places?
South Carolina is vastly different from North Carolina and other surrounding states in a number of ways primarily, I’ll focus on North Carolina and Georgia, respectfully South Carolina’s neighbors to the north and south. These two states each are home to major metropolitan areas, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area in North Carolina and the Atlanta Metro in Georgia making for a lot more people, particularly around these cities as they are some of the largest you will find. In comparison, South Carolina, even in its largest areas from a population standpoint, has fewer people. The net of this is that virtually anywhere you are in South Carolina you are still essentially in a small town. I live in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the larger areas in the state, and literally every time I am out of the house I pass someone I know on the street or in a store.
As well, all of these states have coastal areas, South Carolina has a number of separate coastal destinations that draw scores of visitors each year. The opportunities for recreational activities, arts and cultural events are simply pristine in South Carolina.
I must admit, coming from South Carolina I am biased, but I believe that South Carolina is a little less crowded, a bit more relaxed and overall simply a wonderful place to be. That and we are also home to the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks!
And finally what makes South Carolina different, for me, is that it is my home.
How closely tied is your novel to time and place? Could the same story be told elsewhere, or would it be a different story then?
I attempted to attach a somewhat fluid time element to The Solicitor meaning that while it enjoys a modern setting it is more a range than date specific. However, in the story, I keep up with technological “gadgets” meaning it couldn’t be set in, say Revolutionary War times, as the use of cellphones and laptop computers would be, how shall we say, difficult. That being said, it could be set largely anytime in a 20-30 year period, that is unless there are technological advances coming in the next few years that will render some of the technology I use obsolete.
As to the location, it is tied very closely to Charleston. That is not to say that the story couldn’t be transposed to another setting, but as it was conceptualized and realized, Charleston is home.
Home is always special (says she, now living and writing so far from her original home). As a writer, I'd love to know how fully plotted are your stories before you start writing? What is included in "conceptualization”?
I wrote my first book as it came to me and found this very difficult. For The Solicitor and my current project, I looked back to my high school education. Literally. My method for writing is to do a book report and reverse engineer a novel from that. This allows me to conceptualize the major characters, the plot and the flow of the story but to also have freedom to explore subplots and other characters as they may arise. For me this is a good balance that allows the process to flow more efficiently and keeps me focused.
What a neat idea! I might try that. So... How long was your journey from conceptualization to print, and what advice would you give others setting out on the same road?
Way too long. The conceptualization to written draft was not all that long, but editing and the process of moving to publication took, well years. The best advice I can give to others is to write more. The more you write, the more you will have to edit and the closer you will find yourself to having a book. Spend time around writers and industry professionals, grow your network. Writing can be an isolated process, but get out and meet writers and readers. I love going to book events where those that love the written word congregate.
Me too. And your protagonist relies on the help of people he can trust. I suspect you've already answered this for me, but where do you find people you can trust, and how have they helped you to get published?
In keeping with the last question, I try to put myself around other readers and other writers. I’ve found these folks amazingly supportive and helpful. I’ve found that people want to help as long as the need and desire for their help is genuine. I’ve had loads of people help me on my path to publishing my novels. Whether it be readers who have asked for more, book sellers that have provided encouragement or introduced me to the writers, other writers who have encouraged or even people who have been critical, all have given me knowledge and motivation to sit back down and put more words on paper.
Your protagonist goes through a maze of deceptions, lies, family turmoil and treachery. How is getting published like negotiating a maze? Is life a maze?
I describe getting published as organized, prolonged chaos. Sometimes the process is measured incrementally, in units that seem smaller than inches. Many times the process day to day, week to week or month to month can seem stalled if not moving in reverse, but then one day you step back and gain perspective and realize that a release date is just around the corner. Then the fun starts. And after all, isn’t that about the same with life….?
Thank you so much Sean. It's been great "talking" with you. And now I'll go back into my own disorganized chaos and try to recreate order... incrementally.
Now for some more information about the book...
Now for some more information about the book...
Title: THE SOLICITOR
Author: Sean Keefer
Publisher: Four Hounds Creative
Author: Sean Keefer
Publisher: Four Hounds Creative
When you make your living fighting for justice, the last place you expect to wake up is behind bars.
Attorney Noah Parks has spent his life keeping people out of jail. When he’s charged with the murder of a candidate for Charleston County Solicitor he finds himself on the wrong side of the law for a crime he says he didn’t commit.
No longer fighting for others and now relying on the help of the few people he does trust, Noah must fight to clear his name and find the real killer before it’s too late.
His search will lead him through a maze of deceptions, lies, family turmoil and treachery that spans generations.
The Solicitor is set in historic Charleston and the surrounding South Carolina Lowcountry where under the surface things are not always as genteel as they appear.
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The sun’s arrival just as it cleared the horizon had always marked my favorite time of day. It wasn’t unusual to find me at dawn on the Carolina shore gazing to the east in anticipation, the ocean breeze softly brushing my face. The fleeting moments when the first rays of sunlight painted an explosion of color were more than enough to leave me knowing I was fortunate having witnessed it. Those, those were my favorite mornings and anything that followed was a bit less complicated, easier to handle.
I found myself in desperate need of such a morning.
But today there would be only cold concrete.
For the past five days, my sunrise had been a sliver of light crawling across the floor of my jail cell.
At first, I’d looked forward to it, but on the third day I realized I’d need a lot more to get me through the day, otherwise, that mere slice of sun would soon be pushing me into the icy grip of depression.
I’d quickly learned jail had a way of ushering in melancholy, even for the most optimistic. Most everyone inside, even the guards, were simply miserable.
My bail hearing had been a waste of everyone’s time. Accused murders don’t get bail with their first request, sometimes not on the second, if at all. The fact I’m a lawyer wasn’t helping. The last thing a judge wants to do is give the impression that a lawyer, particularly a criminal attorney like me, is entitled to special treatment.
Things change fast. Days earlier, my life, while not perfect, had been good.
I’d taken my girlfriend to the airport to catch a late-night flight to Chicago. She’d recently relocated to Charleston, but was wrapping up her ties to Chicago.
After returning from the airport, I turned on ESPN, eager to hear what the talking heads had to say about the South Carolina Gamecock’s next football game. As was the case for most Gamecock fans, their football season sanity ebbed or flowed with the team’s weekly performance.
It was a cool fall night and the windows were open as I watched TV from bed, my dog at my feet. Both he and I looked up as we heard a car outside–odd for that time of night in our quiet neighborhood.
The sound of the doorbell was even more unexpected, so much so I didn’t immediately get up. Rarely did anyone just drop by, especially near midnight. The second ring was immediately followed by a knock. I got out of bed, pulled on jeans and a T-shirt and went down the stairs. Austin, my Australian Shepherd, was barking and jumping beside me as I unlocked the door. He sat on my command.
I opened the door to the sight of a tall black man in plainclothes with a Charleston Police Department badge on his belt. Three uniformed Charleston County deputy sheriffs flanked him. Three police cars occupied my drive. An unmarked cruiser in the cul-de-sac completed the scene. Thankfully none had their lights on. I shifted my gaze back to the officers. Not a smile among them.
This couldn’t be good, I remember thinking.
“Noah, how about I come in?” Emmett Gabriel said. He looked me straight in the eyes. We were the same height, just under six feet tall, but the lack of a smile, his badge, and the deputies that flanked him made him feel bigger and much stronger than me.
I’d heard his voice many times before. At the police station, in his backyard, over a meal, on my back deck, other times through the years but never near midnight with other police officers standing on my front porch.
“Since when have you ever asked permission to come in the house? What’s wrong?”
“Noah, let’s talk inside?”
I just stood in the doorway. Silent and motionless.
One of the officers behind him coughed, jarring me back to reality.
I stepped to the side. “Sorry, certainly, come in.”
“Wait outside,” Gabriel said to the deputies.
We walked down the short hallway into my living room in silence.
“Where’s Anna Beth?”
A feeling of panic ran through me as he asked about my girlfriend.
“Is she okay?”
“As far as I know. She not here?”
“No. Chicago trip.”
The feeling of panic faded to one of wonder, wondering why at midnight a detective I knew was standing, unannounced, in my living room while three other anxious officers were staged on my front porch. I asked why he was here. Wonder quickly faded with the next words I heard.
“The officers outside have a warrant for your arrest.”
Having never been one to miss the obvious, I remember uttering my insightful reply, “A warrant?”
While growing up in South Carolina, Sean didn't realize it, but he was absorbing the styles, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, dialects and the culture of his home. Add to this the time he spent traveling the other Carolina for school and then North America for work, he collected a vast array of experiences and observations from which to draw upon and bring together in his writing.
After studying law in North Carolina, Sean settled in Charleston, South Carolina and instantly became enamored with the people as well as the city.
One day he started writing and the words, generally, kept flowing. A page became a chapter which ultimately became a book known as The Trust. After this the process started again and The Solicitor was the end result. Hopefully, if you are reading this you either have, or soon will have, your very own copy of one or both.
The experience of taking two novels from conceptualization to print has been one of frustration peppered with increasing amounts of reward. Each step from the first words hitting the page to ultimately holding a book in hand has been a personal reward.
When Sean is not writing he practices Family Law and works as a Domestic Mediator and lives with his Wife and an ever-expanding pack of rescue canines – the current count is 4. As well, Sean can frequently be found wandering the lowcountry of South Carolina with his camera, playing guitar in assorted venues around Charleston or exploring the underwater world of the southeast.