Tuesday 5 October 2021


Sean O'Leary, author of the gritty collection of short stories, Wonderland was kind enough to answer a few questions about his reading and writing habits 

Is the book writing full time? If not, what’s the day job and can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I didn’t start writing, that is submitting work, until I was in my mid-forties. My first published story was for a small New Zealand magazine called Bravado but it gave me the confidence to keep going. I’ve published six books. At the moment Wonderland and Crime Double Feature...Neo Noir are up on Amazon. ‘The Heat’ and ‘Drifting’ are being re-published by my new publisher. Next Chapter Publishing. It’s exciting. They are also publishing my new crime novel ‘Going All the Way; which is next cab off the rank and my best book so far. They are also publishing a short story collection ‘Tokyo Jazz & Other Stories’, which is a mix of crime and literary stories.

Outside of writing. I like to walk, am mad about films, books and sports. My team The Melbourne Demons recently won the premiership for the first time since ’64. A long wait. I love cricket too, tennis, most stuff. Women and men.


I’ve recently finished Wonderland - a collection of short stories, published by Close To The Bone. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?

Wonderland is a collection of tales featuring gritty, urban crime fiction blending a mix of murder, hope and betrayal. It’s a journey to the dark underbelly of life in Australia. But there’s an outback revenge murder set in central Australia too, near Alice Springs and a race crime story set in Darwin in the hot and steamy top end of Australia.

I have another of your works - The Heat on the TBR pile. What can you tell me about that one and what else might I have missed from you?

The Heat is set in Darwin and Bangkok. The heat of these places is pretty much a character in the story, it can’t not be in in these places. But It’s about Kake, a loner with schizophrenia who is in love with a Thai prostitute. She gets murdered, turning his whole life inside out. She has left some money for her daughter and Jake takes it upon himself to go to Thailand and deliver the money to her daughter, and seek revenge for her death.

As I said it’s getting republished by Next Chapter so not out currently but wll be again sometime in 2021/22 with a new cover and doubtless some fine tuning.

Can you remember what your first published piece was and when?

Oh yeah, as I mentioned earlier it was in an NZ magazine called Bravado and the story was called ‘Spinning Out’. A literary piece about a drug and alcohol fuelled day at a music festival in St Kilda.

Do you have a favourite format - short story, poem, novella or novel and a favourite genre to work in?

I started out writing literary short stories with a bit of an edge and luckily enough Les Murray, the editor at Quadrant Magazine kept publishing my stories and they paid (still do) extremely well for a short story. I found I had enough for a collection and that lead to my book ;’Walking’ being published (it is out of print now}. I had started writing crime stories and this lead to the crime novella ‘The Heat’ and my new novel ‘Going All the way’.

My novella ‘Drifting’ also won the ‘Busybird Publishing Great Novella Search’ in 2016 and was published in 2017. This was a nice cash prize and a great confidence boost. My thanks always to them.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I generally write in the morning. I don’t set word limits but aim to do something every single day. I heard Graeme Greene only wrote 500 words per day and he had a fair career I think.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

No. I did earlier to a small extent but no more.  I might use names or a type of coffee they drink or perhaps some clothes they wear but I get so much from films these days, and books too of course.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

No, I am a ‘pantser’. I have the idea of where it is going in my head but no plan. I make a huge amount of notes plus voice recorded messages on my phone etc. I might stop my car while driving to make some notes after an idea for the next paragraph or chapter has popped into my head. I watch TV or films with a notebook beside me. I make notes all the time and the more notes the better for me.

Are there any subjects off limits?

I haven’t found any yet.

How long from conception to completion did the stories in Wonderland take to write? Were they written with this book specifically in mind or are they the product of several year's work?

The stories have been ongoing for a long period of time. Quite a few have been published before in literary magazine and online magazines like FourW, Sudo and  Close to the Bone who are great supporters of crime stories and the publisher of the book.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

No, it is exactly how I imagined it. Craig at Close to the Bone did a cool cover and the editing was to the point. No fucking around as they say.

How did you hook up with Close to the Bone? 

Oh, I had three stories published by them on their site and I read their stories all the time. They are great supporters of crime fiction.

The stories included in the collection, were they agreed on jointly or who had the final say regarding what was included and what may have been discarded? I'm assuming that you might have brought more to the table than eventually wound up in the book.

No, It was pretty much as I had intended, as I said earlier the editing isn’t for the polite, they let you know what needs doing. I enjoyed and liked the process a lot. No bullshit.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I’m writing a crime trilogy now. It’s a first for me. It’s like a challenge. I haven’t done a series before. I still write short stories. I take a break from the novels to do them. I can’t write them at the same time but do takes notes for both. And having a brak from the novels is good. Going back a bit fresher.

What’s the current project in progress?

Yep, as above.

What’s the best thing about writing?

I think it’s the escape from the world. I feel like I feel when watching a beautiful film or reading a book it simply takes me away for the real world.

The worst?

I don’t think there is a worst. Maybe the waiting. Spending my whole life waiting on submissions or edits and so on Ha Ha.

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read? 

Snowflake by Louise Nealon

On the Job by Sandi Wallace.

Truth by Peter Temple (have read it about five times).

Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby

Wet Graves by Peter Corris

Who do you read and enjoy?

Crime and literary mostly don’t much get into horror, a bit of spec fic maybe, a wee bit of sci-fi.

Is there any one book you wish you had written? 

Truth by Temple or Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, such a beautifully paced novel.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I love films and walking all over the face of the earth. Love travelling, which has been curtailed by Covid. Love Melbourne Football Club and cricket.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

The Mauritanian which was bloody amazing.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the O'Leary household?

I love Bosch and The Wire. Rebus. Back in the day it was The Rockford Files and Streets of San Francisco and Callan is an all time favourite.

What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?

Oh, Chet Baker, Let’s Get Lost. Barbados by The Models and I had Fine Young cannibals on the headphones while walking this morning.



What’s your favourite vegetable? 


When did you last have a fist fight? 

In Kings Cross about a decade ago. He hit me. I hit the pavement.

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club? 


Do you have any tattoos? 


What was your first pet’s name? 


What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten? 

Brains for breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel in Alice Springs after an all-nighter. Spewed my guts out.

Do you have any irrational fears? 

Too many to mention.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? 

Oooh. Tokyo. Hanoi. Wilson’s Prom. Naoshima. Alice Springs.

When did you last tell a lie? 

I don’t lie.


Many thanks to Sean O'Leary for his time.

You can catch up with him at the following haunts ....

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/oleary4119/

Website: https://seanolearywriter.com/

Facebook: Sean O'Leary | Facebook

Twitter: Sean O'Leary  twitter.com/SeanOl777

Make sure you check out Wonderland as well

This is Wonderland.

A collection of tales featuring gritty, urban crime fiction blending a mix of murder, hope and betrayal. O’Leary takes you on a journey to the dark underbelly of life in the Australian Wonderland.

A place where race crimes and heists go wrong. Corrupt cops betray the ones they love, lives are turned on a sixpence.

Drug dealers turn Saints, honest people turn to crime.

A Private Investigator discovers pure evil while trying to save the life of a fifteen-year-old boy and a three-time loser gets the upper hand on the cops and his criminal boss.

A released convict’s past catches up with him and a desperate ex-spy becomes a hired killer.

Are you on board?

Are you ready to take the trip to Wonderland?


  1. Thanks, both, for a really interesting interview. I always like learning how other writers go about it. As a planner, myself, I admire the flexibility that 'pantsers' have. And, yes, there's something to be said for escaping into writing... Wishing you much success

    1. Thanks Margot. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

    2. Thanks Margot. I envy planners but would not change.