numbSean Ferrell is the author of Numb (HarperPerennial, August 2010). His short fiction has appeared in The Cafe Irreal and won the Fulton Prize from The Adirondack Review. He lives and works, in no particular order, in New York City. You can find him online at

What story or book do you feel closest to?

This is a tough question. I don’t think I can bring myself to one definitive answer. So many swirl to the top of the list only to be replaced by another piece just ast good. “Perfect Day for Bananafish” by Salinger is up there. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Gravity’s Rainbow. The later works of Philip K. Dick. The First Man by Camus, and The Plague. I have to stop there, or I won’t be able to stop.

Do you have a mentor?

Do you mean an actual, “Hey, I know you exist”-mentor, or a “This person may even be dead but I have chosen them in spirit”-mentor? The former, no; the latter, many. Not all of them are writers. There are painters, musicians, directors, actors in there as well. Anyone who demonstrates talent harnessed with practice and focus.

How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”

I write every day. As long as I keep myself in the practice of writing something always comes out. It may be garbage, but it comes. I may not use it, but it comes. And I actually enjoy getting myself into a corner, having to really puzzle my way through something, which is the opposite of the type of “stuck” I think you mean.

I think the kind of “stuck” to which you refer is the nothing coming out of the pen kind of stuck, and I was there about ten years ago. I handled it by becoming horribly depressed. That was fun. I came out of it by realizing that I would only ever be a writer if I wrote, so I started to write.

To keep the pump primed I read, dabble (horribly, unsuccessfully, and excitedly) with drawing and painting. Walking is part of my habit. Most of the time you see me on the street I’ll be talking to myself which is how I find my way through dialogue and plot issues. Nothing like acting crazy to get your characters sane.

What are your favorite websites?

Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, Twitter, Fictionaut, Rumpus, Electric Lit.

What is new? Tell us about your novel?

What novel?

Oh, right.

My novel was just released. It was tagged, so we’ll track it and see how it interacts with the other novels out there. It was good to finally have it leave the nest–it was getting tough talking about it being out instead of just having it out. I’ve also been working on new stuff and so Numb was feeling kind of old to me. Having it come out has reawakened my love of it, which is nice. I’ll be at the Brooklyn Book Festival in two weeks and doing an event with Jess Walter, which is making me nervously excited. So far it’s all been terrifying and fun.

Other new things: My son just had a birthday. He’s five. Heads to kindergarten in a few weeks, so clearly I am old. Summer vacation was a rain-washout. Non-vacation days have been dry, high heat, blistering and beautiful.

I’ve been working on edits to a new novel called The Man in the Empty Suit, and another, Invisible Towers, is undergoing some early revisions.

The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at

  1. Patty Blount

    Kindergarten makes you old? Talk to me when he hits college, like mine. I am a dinosaur.

    Happy Birthday to your son and congrats again!

  2. JanetReid

    “Anyone who demonstrates talent harnessed with practice and focus” is a great line.

    I did wonder why you were talking to yourself in the elevator. I thought you were just unhinged. Good to know it’s all in the service of craft.

  3. Meredith

    *I* am the real dinosaur here. I love NUMB, and can’t wait to nag Janet for glimpses (probably to no avail) of the forthcoming books!

  1. 1 Writezilla

    Dispatch from NBCC Reads Conversation in Corte Madera, California…

    A passionate group of readers showed up at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California in early August to talk about the most memorable books about conjugal love, the latest in the NBCC Reads series. Kicking off the discussion were (from left)  panel…

Leave a Comment