Seventeen-year-old Sean Fay Wolfe, a senior at South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island, is already an experienced writer – and multitasker. An Eagle Scout and a four-time All-State viola player, who holds a second-degree black belt in karate, Wolfe is the self-published author of the Elementia Chronicles, a fan fiction trilogy based on the popular game, Minecraft, and he is about to release book two.
The series obviously benefits from the enormous popularity of the game. which Microsoft purchased from Mojang earlier this fall for $2.5 billion. Tie-in books from Scholastic helped push its revenue up 2% in the fiscal year that ended May 31. As of the week ending October 26, five Minecraft titles were on PW’s nonfiction juvenile bestsellers list. Sky Pony Press has a bestselling fiction series as well: GameKnight999, written by Mark Cheverton.
Wolfe’s trilogy is set in the world of the Minecraft server Elementia and focuses on three new Minecraft users who become friends: Stan, Charlie, and Kat. When the trio stands up to the prejudice that they see against new players on the server, they end up in a race against the perils of Minecraft, the forces of Elementia’s king, and the mysterious Mr. A. The first book, Quest for Justice, from Wolfe’s Diamond Axe Studios, came out in January. The second volume, Noctem Ascension, will be out in mid-December or early next year. The trilogy closes with Herobrine’s Message, slated for late 2015.
Wolfe began writing Quest for Justice in late 2011, when he was in ninth grade. “As I played, [Minecraft], I saw the idea for a story,” he told PW in a phone interview after school. It took several weeks to find a time to talk, not just because of school, but because of his active promotion schedule. This month alone Wolfe is participating in six events, including a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Warwick, R.I., for Discovery Weekend. He regularly does in-person and Skype visits to schools and libraries for children in grades 3-8. He recently did signings at the Boston Book Festival, the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors, and at Rhode Island Comic Con.
To write the books, Wolfe carried around a notebook at school in which he would jot down ideas. Soon he decided that what was going to be one book needed to be more. When he finished writing the first book at age 16, he showed it to his parents. “After reading it, they said they had a lot of faith in it,” says Wolfe. That meant that his mother did extensive editing on the 420-page book, which was reworked 10 times. She also handles the book’s publicity and marketing. Wolfe’s father helped with the backend, including the book trailer and website. His parents also paid to publish the book in print and in digital format. It’s currently available at Amazon, BN.com, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd, Oyster, and several Rhode Island bookstores.
Although Wolfe likes independent publishing and believes that it is going to grow and get easier to self-publish, he says that he is “blown away” by the effort that it required. At the same time he calls traditional publishing “a double-edged sword.” “In order to get traditionally published, you need luck,” he explains. “In order to get noticed if you’re self-published, you need luck. The three things you need to succeed are: talent, perseverance, and luck.”
Despite the extra effort that independent publishing takes, it is working for Wolfe. The paperback edition of volume one currently ranks in the low 7,000s at Amazon, a number many older, traditionally published authors might envy. Wolfe’s local independent, Wakefield Books in Wakefield, R.I., is also doing well with it and has sold close to 200 copies. “Everybody’s eagerly awaiting the next book,” says bookseller Sue Martin, who notes that volume one is shelved in the store’s local author display and Wolfe comes in regularly to sign copies.
Librarian Pat Horton, at the Blue Hill Public Library in Blue Hill, Maine, has been equally enthusiastic about the book. She posted this comment online: “I have been a Youth Services librarian for over 12 years and have never had such a successful Young Adult program as I did when Sean Wolfe came to the Blue Hill Public Library. Yes, Minecraft and pizza seem like a sure hit, but Sean’s presentation was way beyond what I had expected. The 40-plus boys and girls were excited, engaged and educated during the evening and I haven’t seen the two copies of his book since!”
As for Wolfe, in addition to the finishing touches on book two, he’s also completing his college applications. His “ultimate goal” he says is to be able to write fulltime. He would like to attend a school where he can study creative writing and computer programming, as well as make time to finish book three.