Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2016 Issue
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Adelaide's out- of-this-world author

Sean Williams

Sean Williams
The blank-page problem – when the only thing standing in the way of you and your bestselling three-part sci-fi novel series and inevitable Hollywood adaptation – is figuring out where to start.

Sean Williams knows this better than most; the New York Times best-selling author has had a prolific career spanning hundreds of novels and short stories, including contributing three novels to the expansive Star Wars franchise.

Like the cursor blinking at the top left corner of a freshly opened Word document, Sean’s university career also began as a plethora of possibility. While growing up, reading and writing were hobbies for Sean; his parents were both school teachers and had programmed into him a love of books from a young age.

During high school Sean’s creative drive turned to music, and by the end of Year 12 he’d won a Young Composers Award and was being courted by staff at the Elder Conservatorium who wanted him to follow through with the hype. Rather than jump straight into higher learning though, Sean deferred to think about where further study might take him.

With lofty dreams of becoming a famous novelist or composer planted firmly in his mind, he made his decision and enrolled, surprisingly, in a Bachelor of Economics.

“I decided to go to uni to get a sense of a real job and then retire when I was 40 to do all of this other stuff that I was interested in,” Sean says.

“There are two parts to my brain; there’s a creative part, but there’s also an organised, ordered part of my brain… so I really loved first year economics.”

Passions are not so easily sidelined, though. Sean spent two-and-a-half years in the economics degree before his creative drive became restless and – only months away from reaching the end of his third and final year – he transferred into an arts degree and eventually dropped out completely.

He was not without a plan though. With a distinction under his belt from a science fiction writing course at uni, Sean felt qualified to at least try and become a published author, so he set himself a 10-year deadline.

The stakes were high; if he didn’t publish a novel in that time it was straight back to his economics degree and into a real job. Sure enough, Sean not only published a novel within the 10 years, he was asked to write three Star Wars books, and he had managed to find a place on the New York Times Bestsellers list. But despite the accolades and achievements, there was something niggling at the back of Sean’s mind.

“I was quite proud of the fact that I’d dropped out of university to pursue my career … but it was a relief to decide that I was going to come back because I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and that … unfinished degree is still bothering me,” he laughs.

Sean enrolled in a University of Adelaide Masters program in 2005 and has since undertaken a PhD studying the history of the teleporter in fiction, and can now add being the world expert on that niche subject to his long list of credentials.

Story by Johnny von Einem


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