INSIDE THE HEAD OF STEVEN L. SEARS, PART TWO
Steven L. Sears, a clever guy
I can't say enough about this nice, talented, teddy bear of a guy. Aside from his kindness, generosity, and humor, he finds time to write. He recently wrote an episode of She Spies and I was glad he agreed to let us pick his brain once more. There is a warning though. You will go through a full range of emotions and be careful; there are a couple areas where the spew alert should be on. LOL!
If you had the opportunity to take a month off to simply write - what surroundings would you chose and why?
I would travel across the country in a railcar. I've thought of doing this in Amtrak and I have done a little of it. Just the idea of sitting there writing while the world passes by my window is incredibly romantic to me.
What book has caught your attention in the past months?
I read a lot of books, most of them non-fiction. I have had a series of historical dramas that I have read recently by Jeff Shaara dealing with the American Civil War ("The Last Full Measure", "Gods and Generals") and the War of Independence ("Rise to Rebellion", "The Glorious Cause"). But two books that have been extremely interesting are "Asimov's Guide to the Bible" by Isaac Asimov (and incredible tracking of the biblical stories examined through the science and folklore of the time) and "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.
Where have all the flowers gone?
The flowers are still there, it's just that the compost is deeper these days.
What is the one thing you will never do?
I don't know how to answer that as there are many, many things that I will never do as a result of physics or availability. I will never soar through the Grand Canyon on wings of my own, for example. Or photograph Abraham Lincoln while talking with him. But the great thing about being a human being is that we can imagine those things. So in a practical sense, there are many things I will never do. But in the realm of my imagination, there is nothing I cannot do.
You see someone being bullied/beaten up, what do you do?
Well, I've been in this situation more than once. It's never the same but I do what I can to try to stop it. That can mean getting help or intervening directly. If it's physical abuse, the intervention thing is dicey, but, hey, I've done it. If it's emotional or mental, again, it depends on the situation. In that case, I would hope to empower the person being abused so that they can defend themselves without awaiting a rescuer.
Have you even been in an area directly affected by a disaster? What did you learn?
Oh, let's see… In 1969, I was in Kentucky when nine tornados landed around our base (Ft. Knox). I was in Florida in 1979 when Hurricane David (a category five) stalled off the coast of my home town of St. Augustine. And, probably the most memorable, I was less than three miles from the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Then, of course, there were the lovely L.A. Riots of 1992, does that count? Having gone through all those (and most importantly, living in an area where we have fairly regular earthquakes), you really do learn to separate material possessions from irreplaceable things in your life. Friends, family, lovers, pets, all become the first thing you think about. Anything else is just dressing and can be replaced. You learn that many things have a price, but few things have true value.
What sort of letter writer are you? What kind of correspondence do you keep?
I'm horrible at keeping up with people. When I do write, I tend to write a lot, but it's infrequent. A lot of that has to do with the volume of mail that I get. Fan mail, for example. I don't get as much as I used to, but even then, I really tried to answer it all. I know I never did get to all of it, but I tried. But I'll drop off the face of the earth for a while then try to catch up. I try to keep all my correspondence, at least as far as e-mail is concerned. Now to the subject of holiday cards… we'll see. I went through a couple of years where I just did not have the time to write and send them out.
What are the elements of a perfect kiss?
That's as subjective a question as you could ask. A kiss is an invitation, a promise, the hint of a desire, and a question mark. It should be hesitant when hesitancy is demanded and hard when hard is suggested. Sometimes the mere touch of a tongue on a lip can send the senses reeling. Other times it can be a bite, a small nibble on the cheek, or a taste of your lover's breath. The hand softly caressing the face during a kiss can broaden the experience, taking it beyond the confines of the mouth. Other times the absolute restraint of contact can intensify the kiss beyond the mere touching of tongues. The perfect kiss does not exist on its own; it exists in a perfect moment. It exists with the perfect partner at that precise moment. It exists in the mind. And, even when it happens, it is never complete. Otherwise what would be the point of seeking another?
You have an awesome idea for a new series and even have the plot written out. What does it take for it to get from your pages to the small screen? Give us the trials and tribulations of a writer.
There is absolutely no way I could answer this. It's taken me twenty years to figure it out (and even then). And there are too many answers, most of them making no sense whatsoever. The misconception is that a great idea will find its way to the screen no matter what the path it takes. Not true. Coming up with a great idea is the smallest component. Remember, we are talking about a practical journey through the maze of a business. You have to show how the show is marketable, whether the series has an audience, whether that audience will be enough to bring in revenue, and to do all that, you have to have connections to get the series idea to the right people. We all have great ideas. I'd like to think I have a whole job-jar of them. But getting them produced is much more involved. Even with my career and resume', I can't walk into a studio and get a project going based on how great I think it is. Very few people can.
Do you have faith in your being a writer?
Nope. Never have. It's not about faith, it's about what I enjoy and, more importantly, the fact that other people seem to enjoy what I do. I get asked often if I think I'm a good writer. I say that I am, but the only way I know that is because other people keep paying me to do it. But my personal attitude toward my writing is that I write because I love it. In that sense, yes, I have faith in me as a writer because I know I will always love it. But whether the rest of the industry has faith in me as a writer, well, that's another question and not one that I can answer. I can only say that, so far, it seems to have. That could end tomorrow. If it does, I still have my love for writing.
Last thing you felt guilty about?
I had to put one of my dogs to sleep. I know it was the right thing to do, but she was one of the most special creatures in my life. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her. Guilt is rarely about what's right; it's mostly about choices you make that you regret, even though you know logically you had no alternative.
Who outside your family has taught you the most?
I learn lessons every day from people. I can't really answer that because I can't think of one particular person. It's like asking me who my mentor was/is. I don't have one, but that's because I don't look to one person for learning about life. Experience and observation has been the biggest instructors in my life.
How has writing changed you, your life or goals?
Changed me from what? It's not like I started writing yesterday. I've been at this for twenty years. Writing is a major part of my life, but still only one part. In fact, up until 1983, I had never considered writing as any kind of career. I discovered my career by accident and I can say that at that point, it changed everything. Until then, I was planning a career in front of the camera as an Actor. The writing was something I did as a hobby, writing audition scenes for myself. Somehow that snowballed into a career and I've not looked back. So in 1983 or 1984, this question would have been more relevant. A part of me believes that I would have always ended up as a Writer. It was less of me finding it than it finding me.
What impossible skill would you like to have if you could choose anything at all?
Impossible skill? You mean impossible for me? Drawing. I wish I could draw the way other people can. Aside from that, approaching someone for a date. Yes, I consider that a skill. I've never been good at it. Have to hit me over the head with a hammer to let me know if someone's flirting with me or not. At least with drawing, I can hold the pencil.
Describe a situation or event that really changed the direction of your life.
Again, too many to mention. Discovering that I loved to write is an obvious one. Losing my best friend in a car accident when I was 14 was another. Losing both my parents. Deciding to get a degree in Theatre. All of these things and others affected my life and each one changed it significantly.
What do you do when you're blue to cheer yourself up?
I force myself to accomplish something. Whether it be washing the dishes, working in the yard, writing a few lines in a script, something to take my focus off the depression and give me a sense of accomplishment. My photography is very important to me and I'll often just go out and look for photo opportunities.
What's the weirdest thing you own? Explain.
With a house filled with things that Xena fans have sent me, you think there's just one thing??? Okay, excluding TV memorabilia, I do have an authentic powder and ball pouch from the late 1700's. It's been handed down through the family. Has the powder horns, the melting spoon and even the ball mold. My brother has the Kentucky long rifle that was also handed down. I'm trying to find a museum that will give it the care that it deserves. I don't know if that's the weirdest thing, but it's unique.
Steve wrote DREAMWORKER, the bestest episode of Xena EVER!
And the webmaster of this site will 'rassle anyone who thinks otherwise!
What is your favorite ethnic food? How did you discover it?
Ah HAH! Anyone who has had dinner with me more than once knows that it is SUSHI! The funny thing is that I used to HATE the taste of raw fish. See, I used to work at Marineland of Florida. I did everything from announcing the shows to working with the trainers with the porpoises (yes, it was just as incredible an experience as you think it is!). Being around fish all the time, there is no way you can keep the taste out of your mouth. So I hated the idea of raw fish. However, I was introduced to California Roll, which doesn't have raw fish, but cooked crab. I liked it so I would order it now and then. One night, I went into a sushi restaurant called Nozawa's in Studio City. I sat at the bar and ordered a California Roll. The chef got angry at me and pointed to a sign that said "No California Roll!" Seems that he considers that an American invention, not true sushi. Before I could leave, he put two pieces of sushi in front of me and walked away. I had no idea what it was, but I figured I would be polite and push it around on the plate with my chopsticks, then leave. It had an oil on it and I tasted the oil… not bad. I took a nibble of the sushi… and ended up spending almost a hundred dollars that night on sushi. I was hooked. Still am.
Have you ever been completely lost? Explain the circumstances.
As Davy Crockett once said "I've never been lost but once I was mighty bewildered for a few days." If you're talking geographically, I can't say I've ever been really lost. My dad taught me how to orient myself in the wilderness when I was a child. I've had a few times when I wasn't sure what street I was on, but that didn't take much effort to figure out. Oh, wait… when I was three, I got lost at a carnival. I went to a policeman and told him. He took me to the lost kids room and my mother came to get me. Now if you mean lost spiritually… well, that's a different matter. When you're only 14 and your best friend is killed, you start to question a lot of things in your life.
Do you have a place where you keep your favorite things (books, knickknacks, etc.)? Describe what you have there.
I live alone so my entire house is my favorite place to keep things! And, what, you want an entire inventory????
What is the greatest thing that others could say about you?
That answer would require an objectivity about myself that I just don't have. I don't know. "He had his moments", I guess. Might put that on my tombstone.
What is the worst thing that others could say about you?
You think I'm going to let that secret out of the bag? Come up with our own worst thing to say about me.
When is the last time you looked at old school pictures/your year book?
To look at the pictures; probably about three months ago. It was because I was trying to remember what someone looked like. I actually go to my yearbooks often to find names for characters. Great resource for that. Oh, yeah… and to reaffirm the fact that I did, at one time, actually have hair.
Would you ever consider participating in a reality TV show? If so, which one?
I'm told "Straight Guy with a Queer Eye" might be appropriate.
What is your favorite way to spend free time?
Answering "In The Head Of" interviews, apparently. My favorite ways to spend free time are writing and photography. I have a list of other ways to occupy myself, but those came to mind first. Unless you want to ask me the Perfect Kiss question again…
What was the last thing that made you laugh yourself silly?
Okay, this is a little bizarre, and long winded, so try to stay with me. This happened about a month ago. I have a yard which is on a hill. Consequently, there is a cliff facing my house in my backyard. It goes up about ten feet higher than the roof of my house. The sprinkler on top of the cliff wasn't working, so I went up to fix it. I found what appeared to be a broken pipe, so I mended it by gluing a spare pipe in place. That wasn't the problem, though, so I went back up to look at it again. I found the problem and fixed it. I decided to remove the spare pipe (since it wasn't the problem) and gave it a good pull since it was glued on. Turns out the glue wasn't as good as I thought it was, so the pipe came free and I fell backwards over the cliff. Now, it is exactly as bad as it sounds, I fell backwards over a cliff, down about twenty feet and hit on my neck and upper shoulders (the funny part is coming up, I swear). The breath was knocked out of me and I was upside down with my legs and back still against the cliff wall. The first thing that went through my mind was "Great, I've broken my neck, which means I can't move. And when that damn sprinkler finally starts working, I'm going to drown!" Then, my portably phone slid down the cliff next to my head and started ringing! I answered it (out of breath). It was my Agent. He said "How are you feeling for a meeting tomorrow?" Later on, when I thought back to it, I started laughing and just couldn't stop. Oh, and I (obviously) lived through it. I had an impacted knee, a sprained ankle, a twisted wrist and an upper back pain that I still have. All things considered, it was quite a cabaret.
What was the last thing that made you cry?
Putting my dog to sleep. I still cry.
What aspects of your current job do you enjoy the most? What aspects do you like the least?
I love to write. I hate the business. Pretty much says it all. It's the constant struggle of the creative versus the practical. The fickleness of my career is something I've gotten used to, but it's still something to consider.
What esoteric subjects are you most interested in?
Hmm…I don't actually know. I have an insatiable curiosity, so there are so many things I have an interest in. I love to study the human condition, I love anthropology, trivia, gender relationships, evolution, so on and so on. None of them are esoteric to me.
In your daydreams, you are...
Awake! That was easy.
What is on the floor in the left corner of your clothes closet?
Hold on, let me check…………………… the extreme left corner has a bag with some camera equipment for an old Hi8mm camcorder. Good thing you didn't ask about the right corner… I'd have a hard time explaining that.
What's your favorite pair of shoes?
Darn… that was the extreme right corner of my closet. Okay, so I have a pair of leather thigh high boots, is that a crime???? I keep them just in case I meet someone who might fit them…. But as far as shoes that I wear… boots. I got into wearing cowboy boots after I got dragged by a horse (no kidding, really happened). I was wearing hiking boots which got stuck in the stirrup. I decided it was best to switch. But my favorite boots are an old, beaten up pair of cowboy boots with a faded buckle. I have another pair of hiking boots which I've had for twenty five years. Still look almost new. Bought them in a K-Mart.
Should children be taught that it' okay to fight back under certain circumstances?
Is it better to teach a child that it's okay to be a victim? Absolutely, children should learn that there are things that are worth fighting for and times when fighting back is the best choice. The problem is that children are rarely given the knowledge to make a moral distinction between the circumstances.
Why do some people hate the United States of America?
Complicated answer. We aren't perfect, but the world wants to believe we are. The U.S. is still seen as the top of the food chain, the place where dreams can be attained and where freedom is possible. We are a nation made up of the world. We are a nation that actually has a moral conscience, even though we argue among ourselves what that morality should be. The interesting thing is that, in my opinion the true father of the U.S. was Thomas Jefferson. Why? Because the real Jefferson was a contradiction; he was hypocritical; he was hugely flawed. At the same time, he was a deeply moral man with a selfless dedication to the betterment of others. He deplored slavery, yet owned human beings. He was a brilliant thinker who had lapses in small details. He was incredible advanced in his thinking, yet archaic in his philosophies. His persona was exactly what the nation became; flawed yet well intentioned; imperfect but hopeful. The rest of the world doesn't allow us to have flaws, however. Whether we like it or not, we are held to a higher standard. We truly have a system that is unique. We have a system of checks and balances that is constantly at odds. We have a judicial system that works precisely because it's imperfect. We have a military that is made up of citizens who pledge their lives to a piece of paper. Not to a King, or a President or any other person; to a piece of paper called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And we hold it as a right of every citizen to question our government. No, not just a right, but a duty. We are a nation that was born of a revolution against authority and still sustains itself by mistrusting it's own authority. This isn't flag waving on my par; our history is filled with plenty of shame and guilt. But it's to put some things in perspective that other people from around the world just can't conceive of. It's often said that Americans are ignorant of the world. That's only half true. The other half is that the rest of the world has a problem understanding us. Try as they might, they can only judge us by their experiences and most times that perspective is far removed from the truth. Lacking understand, they turn to mistrust and suspicion. Some people hate us for what we have, some hate us for what we are, some hate us just because they have to hate someone.
Does forgiving mean forgetting?
No. It can't. No matter how well intentioned, you will always remember. Forgiveness really means giving another chance. You can never truly forgive and forget.
What is erotic and what is pornographic?
It's erotic to use a feather… it's pornographic to use the entire chicken. Both terms are subjective. They mean different things to different people. And the word "pornographic" doesn't have to be the antithesis of "erotic". For me, better to ask the difference between "erotic" and "obscene". Erotic is a pleasure to the senses, whether real or fantasized. Obscenity is depravity and abuse inflicted upon the human soul or spirit.
What is the purpose of sex?
To perpetuate the species. The real question is "what is the purpose of love?"
How do you find time to write?
Good question. When I'm producing a show, it's hard to find time to write. When I'm not, I'm trying to catch up all the things I neglected to do at home while I was producing. Right now, for example, I'm still trying to sort through all the boxes in my house from when I moved in five years ago (long story….). But I try to force myself to take time to sit down and just write!
Do you write about your own experience? Or do you make things up? ,p>Both. I have to write based on my experiences and perceptions, but I have to make up the ways I document them. Better what to put it, writing consists of asking a question then answering it in the most entertaining and informative way possible. The trick isn't always in the answer, it's really in how you phrase the question.
What made Xena so popular? Did it reflect values and principles that are universal, societal, or personal?
I think Xena touched on many things. But the reasons for its success are varied. It was catching lightning in a bottle. Every now and then, there is a confluence of things and events that, when they come together, create wonderful things. Xena was one of those things. It was the right product, produced the right way, at the right time for an audience that was looking for it. It consisted on a chance association on incredibly talented people, from Rob [Tapert], Lucy [Lawless], Renee O'Connor], RJ [Stewart], Chris [Manheim] and so on all the way down to the people working on the set. It had a studio that was tolerant and even encouraging of our ideas. It had a fan base that didn't let go and people on the production side who understood their value. And, for probably one of the first times, a studio who recognized their value as well. We all came together with the intent of having fun and making a fun show, not with the intention of making a groundbreaking series. But all of that would have meant nothing if the time hadn't been right and the audience hadn't been there waiting. We touched on issues of personal strength and moral conviction. We played with social issues by mirroring them in a past time. We used allegories and analogies to talk about our victories, our failures and our hope. We portrayed two people who had an undying love that couldn't be destroyed. I'm told that we inspired some people, that we made others stop and think. We became a part of the American Pop Culture and we're now a part of our national lexicon. Xena meant a lot to a lot of people, but no one person is responsible for that. If you want to see where it came from, you have to look to Fate. It happened because eventually the dice does roll a seven. I was extremely lucky to be a part of all that.
What questions should I have asked?
Are you kidding? I'm trying to figure out how you came up with these.
Steve setting the fans straight at the 1999 Xena Con
Steve's website is http://www.pondalee.com
Sheena (2000) TV Series (creator) (writer)
Xena: Warrior Princess (1995) TV Series (writer)
Walker, Texas Ranger (1993) TV Series (writer) (episode "Case Closed (1995)
Raven (1992) TV Series (writer)
Swamp Thing (1990) TV Series (writer)
Stingray (1986) TV Series (writer)
The A-Team (1985) TV Series (writer)
Hardcastle and McCormick (1985) TV Series
Riptide (1984) TV Series (writer)
Sheena (2000) TV Series (executive producer)
Xena: Warrior Princess (1995) TV Series (co-executive producer) (supervising producer)
Raven (1992) TV Series (producer)
Thanks to Kamouraskan for the beta.
The Steve Sears and Liz Friedman Show, or Why Gabrielle Doesn't Ride, Diane Silver. WHOOSH #5 (02/97)
Tyldus Interviews Himself: A Response to Last Month's Editorial And Then Some, Steven L. Sears. WHOOSH #11 (08/97)
Tyldus (Aka Steven L. Sears, Supervising Producer/Writer) On His Entry Into Online Xena Fandom, Diane Silver. WHOOSH #13 (10/97).
An Interview with Steven L. Sears, Bret Ryan Rudnick. WHOOSH #22 (07/98)
Friends And Co-Workers Share Their Memories And Impressions Of Kevin Smith, Steven L. Sears. WHOOSH #67 (04/02)
Inside the Head of Steven L. Sears, Amy Murphy. WHOOSH #70 (07/02)
L. J. Maas and Murphy Wilson [Amy Murphy].One Step Beyond ... Uber, That Is. WHOOSH #49 (October 2000)
The "Inside the Head of..." series in Whoosh various issues
Amy Murphy resides in Indiana, and is an avid reader of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction. If it exists in the Xenaverse, chances are she has read it! Murphy has also tried her hand at writing fan fiction, turning out two very nice pieces that reside on a couple of web sites throughout the Xenaverse.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: "I Have Many Skills" --various episodes
First episode seen: TITANS (07/107)
Least favorite episode: LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)