I first met Sean when I did an article about his nonprofit, Women's Assistance Fund, which raises and donates money to organizations that work to end violence against women worldwide. Violence against women has always been an important issue to me as a journalist, and it's not often that I meet a man who is involved in the problem. We made the appointment for an interview over the phone.
When he showed up for the interview, I remembered that there are perks to being a journalist. But because I am a consummate professional, Sean had no idea that while I was asking him thoughtful, intelligent questions about his work, I was thinking, "Someone put him on a book cover!"
That was a couple of years ago. During the intervening time, we kept running into one another-at the coffee shop, at the gym, at the local brewpub. We discovered we knew a lot of the same people and had been involved in the same issues. I learned that he had helped to raise money for Prairie Wind Wildlife Refuge, which takes care of big cats, bears, and other wildlife that have been rescued from "canned hunts" and other abusive situations. I had written an article about Prairie Wind in 2002 and had even petted and fed one of the tigers, a male Bengal tiger named Angel, who got slobber all over my silk shirt. Then I learned that Angel had tried to eat Sean's arm, and I didn't feel so bad about a bit of tiger spit.
About a year ago, I finally mentioned to Sean that if he wanted to raise money for women, one way to do that might be to model for romance novel covers and underwear ads. (Okay, so I didn't say anything about underwear ads. I'm just mentioning that now. Sean, consider underwear ads.) It's not the sort of thing you can just come out and say to someone: "Yo, dude, you're hot. Ever thought of modeling?"
Besides, I'm kind of shy, and I can't just come out and say that to a guy. (So, none of you are buying that, given the detailed penis questions I asked that guy in the bar last year in Reno. But I'd had 11 glasses of pinot noir that night.)
I have no idea what Sean thought at that moment, but now a year later he's exploring the idea in hopes that he might be able to draw attention to the brutality women suffer around the globe.
New to the world of romance novels, Sean wasn't certain he was cover model material. (I know - you're all laughing.) As a solution, I suggested we get some photos and post them on the RBL Romantica message board where the women, all discerning romance readers and connoisseurs of men, would be happy to offer feedback.
(Bit of trivia: Sean is a HIGHLANDER fan and knows who Duncan McLeod is. Of almost pure Scottish descent himself, he blames Adrian Paul for making dark-haired men more popular with women than blond-haired men. I assured him the lasses at RBL would forgive him for not being born with brown hair.)
So you've seen the photographs. Now why don't I let Sean speak for himself?
P.C.: Where are you from, and how did you end up in Colorado?
SEAN: I was born in a small town in upstate New York. I've spent most of my life traveling the country, working for humanitarian/environmental causes. I've spent equal amounts of time on the east coast, west coast and the Midwest, but Colorado is my favorite. There's something about Boulder...the mountains, all the sunshine...good food, good people. I just love this place.
P.C. If you were going to take a woman to see one thing in Boulder, what would it be?
SEAN: If I was going to take a woman to see something special in Boulder, I'd go to this place just a short way into the foothills where you can take a nice romantic hike for only about 20 minutes or so. There's a secret spot I know where an enormous rock that must weight a thousand tons is balanced on a tiny little stone. You can climb up on the big rock and it will move back an forth. You have to see it to believe it.
P.C. I've lived here almost all my life and never seen that place. (Hint.) Tell us how you got bitten by a tiger and how you came to be working with tigers?
SEAN: The tiger bite… Well, tigers aren't always very predictable. I was taking one of them down to the pool on a hot day, and there was no water in the pool. He started getting really agitated, and things escalated to the point were he finally decided he'd better just chomp me on the arm and get it over with. I sweet-talked him out of eating it and for me, it was another happy ending. I started working with the big cats fundraising and helping with volunteer projects years ago.
Editor's note: He's being modest. He kept the tiger from ripping his arm off by holding onto it's neck. The tiger, which stands more than seven feet tall on its hind feet, has a neck that is all muscle and very thick. I know because I held its neck while I fed it a bottle of milk - which it devoured in a matter of seconds.
P.C.: Have you studied any martial arts?
SEAN: I've had four years of jujitsu, but I've been slacking lately. The only people who can kick my ass in this town are my friends.
P.C.: What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
SEAN: What's the scariest thing I've ever done? Hmm, well, getting mauled by a couple of dogs freaked me out. I've been held up a couple of times at gun point, but that wasn't scary. Paragliding off the side of a mountain for the first time was scary. Asking a girl out for the first time was so scary it was funny. I went up to her and said, "Hey, you want to go..." and that's all that came out. She said, "Go where?" My friend Billy saved my ass and stepped in and said, "He's asking you if you'll go out with him." Funny. I can't think of anything really.
P.C.: I heard you mention once that you'd gone to prisons to teach nonviolence training. What was that about?
SEAN: I didn't really teach the nonviolence programs. I just participated in them to see what the prison system is like. It sucks, as you know.
P.C.: Yes, I did an undercover stint as a felony arrest so that I could write about conditions for women behind bars. It's another world-a very dark and tragic. You've participated in lots of wilderness survival programs. What did you get out of doing that?
SEAN: I can track nearly anything. I've tracked foxes right to their dens and followed them as they hunted and caught mice and ate them. I can name every bird, tree and tons of plants. I've touched foxes, deer rattle snakes and copperheads (scary) and even a bird in the wild. I've come within eight feet of mountain lions and otters.
P.C.: What do you do for a living?
SEAN: I'm a nonprofit fundraiser. I go door to door and give people a chance to help out with either the tigers or with my other, much more evolved project, the Women's Assistance Fund.
P.C.: How did violence against women become such an important issue to you and how can people help?
SEAN: I began to become aware of the emotional and physical violence directed toward women when a few years ago my girlfriend at the time would talk to me about her abusive ex-husband. The relentless verbal abuse and fanatic control issues had the man harassing her about everything. She couldn't even pour flour into a bowl without a reprimand. So I started working to support safe houses, etc. I put together the Women's Assistance website (www.womensassitance.com) to introduce people to that wonderful world of misery. If anyone would like to help they can give with a credit card online or have a potluck party in their house to raise money. I would be happy to call in to any speaker phone and answer questions during parties.
Why is this so important to me? Well, I tell people over and over that the subjugation and abuse of women and the oppression of the feminine is the most critical social issue in all of human history. You can track nearly every major problem facing the human race - war, famine, environmental degradation... everything can be traced, at least in part, to the oppression of the feminine.
P.C.: When you're talking about worldwide oppression of the feminine, what kinds of things are you talking about?
SEAN: Things like the burning alive of women in India and Pakistan, so-called honor killings in Jordan, 12-year-olds having babies for 50-year-old husbands, the torture of women who've violated local customs for chastity, genital mutilation, the public floggings and executions of women for having had the gall to "get" raped, and so on. In some parts of the world, women are beaten for laughing in public. Of course, we have our problems here, too, with domestic violence, rape, etc.
P.C. Why do you think romance readers will be interested in your work?
SEAN: Many of the women reading these books can probably empathize with the pain of other women being oppressed or abused anywhere on the planet.
P.C.: What attracts you to a woman?
SEAN: Besides the wonderful feminine shape and scent? It could be a hundred different things, and I could go on and on... but I think the sound of female laughter. At a certain frequency, I find it intoxicating, especially if she's laughing at something I said.
P.C.: What's your favorite sexual position?
P.C.: Scratch that question. I don't want to have to think about the answer when we're climbing Bear Peak next week. I might get flustered and fall off a cliff again.