Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Matthew Merrick Interview
9/25/2011 6:40:00 AM
Debut YA Fantasy author Matthew Merrick discusses his novel 'Exiled' and the writing life!
LTS: For todayís guest blog, Iíd like to introduce you to YA Fantasy author Matthew R. Merrick, a fellow Canadian and Twitter pal. Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Matthew. What do you like to do when youíre not writing?
MRM: Hey Lorna, thanks very much for having me! I work full-time and have two little girls, one four, and the other is two months old, so they keep me pretty busy. If I do get any time to myself that isnít reserved for writing, I love watching movies. Before kids and writing, Iíd dedicate entire days to movies. I do have the occasional night out where I find myself doing karaoke. A guilty pleasure I canít resist.
LTS: Karaoke? Okay, whatever floats your boat! I like to think of it as just another way to express your Ďcreativityí. Now, has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
MRM: Writing has always been a very important part of my life, but not storytelling. The dream of publishing is actually new, and the creative juices really started to show themselves once bedtime stories made it into my daughterís nightly routine. Before that, I just enjoyed writing. Speeches, articles, journals, anything!
LTS: I understand your debut novel, ĎExiledí has received many rave reviews. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Chase Williams?
MRM: The reviews have been unbelievable. Each time I get one, it makes my head spin. I have a permanent glow that surrounds me most days. On days when I doubt my ability to write, sometimes Iíll go back and read one or two of them, to remind myself there are people out there that appreciate what Iíve created Ė so far.
ĎExiledí was inspired by a few different things. My love for all things paranormal played a huge part. Iíve always been a fan of creatures that go bump in the night, and the different mythology behind them.
The main magical aspect came from a long-running obsession Iíve had with controlling the elements. Iíve always loved the idea that someone might have the ability to influence them. To look at a glass of water, and be able to reach out with some invisible force and manipulate it, excites me. I have a deep appreciation for all them. Each element holds such power, and beauty, itís hard not to respect them.
Chase Williams. Where to beginÖ He started out a lot like me; prideful, stubborn, with a witty backlash that usually gets him in trouble. As the story progressed though, he took on a personality of his own. He still holds onto those basic traits from his foundation, but now heís turned into someone totally different, itís hard to see myself in him at all anymore. Heís really come into his own and become his own person.
Chase has this major reality check, where everything he knows comes into question. His entire life, things have been black and white, and after a small turn of events, he quickly realizes the world isnít that simple. Chase discovers sometimes you have to look between the lines, into the areas that are shaded grey to find the truth.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open ĎExiledí?
MRM: Action. From the first sentence, to the end of the book, there is always something happening. Itís not just in your face fighting, but a roller coaster of events and emotions.
Chase goes through such a transition in this book. You get to really see how his character changes from one point to the next, and youíre right beside him the entire way. Youíre there when he discovers truths he never knew existed. Youíre in his head when heís lost and confused, and when everything is against him, youíre fighting alongside him in hopes heíll prevail.
Exiled is a journey that will take you to another world, where the creatures you thought you knew, are totally different, and the ones you never knew existed, are walking down the street.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide to take the initiative by going the indie route?
MRM: To be entirely honest, I hated the process of traditional publishing. I struggled to write my query letter. I found it entirely too difficult to sum up my entire novel into a paragraph. Iím a perfectionist who was new to the publishing world and the ďrulesĒ of writing. So I spent as much time researching and learning, as I did writing. I let everything I read own the process for me, and in turn, it took everything I loved about writing away.
When I discovered the indie option of publishing, the love came rushing back. I opened myself up to the idea of breaking the rules, and then everything became easier. Now I can sum up my story into a single paragraph, or a few words, and enjoy what Iíve written. I donít have to answer to anyone but my readers, and Iím in control of the entire process.
All that being said, I would still consider traditional publishing. I have a huge respect for anyone who journeyís into the publishing world, regardless which route they choose. Going indie means doing everything yourself, and to say itís a lot of work is a massive understatement. I really like the idea of just writing, and letting someone else handle the rest. I know with traditional publishing itís not quite that simple, but to sum it up generally, I would love to just write books. But for now, Iím happy with the choices Iíve made.
LTS: Would you recommend self-publishing for other aspiring authors?
MRM: Thatís tough to answerÖI wouldnít not recommend it. I know that sounds strange.
Self-publishing has some incredible advantages, and I think itís great that authors have a choice. It isnít traditional, or nothing, anymore. Not that writers didnít have a choice before, because self-publishing has been around forever, but itís more widely accepted. Now itís easier than ever to put a book out, but I do try to encourage aspiring authors to research both.
Each writer and each book is different, and just because itís easy to click upload, doesnít mean itís the right choice. Itís both a personal and a business decision. I think everyone needs give it a lot of thought before they choose. For some writers, the simpler way isnít always the best.
LTS: What is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
MRM: Donít rush. As someone who is unusually impatient, this was a hard lesson for me to learn. Once Iíd decided to go indie, I had to really fight against my nature to push the process and get it done. I did it, but it wasnít easy.
I took the time to get the right people involved with my book. I made sure I proofread and edited it myself until I was sick with my own words. I had beta readers, and they werenít just other writers. I had people who had never written, and just enjoyed books, because sometimes, as a writer, itís hard to separate your inner writer from the reader who loves books. I hired a professional editor and cover artist, and I surrounded myself with supportive people. This process can be extremely draining, the last thing you need is other people bringing you down. As an artist, you doubt yourself enough for everybody, you need to have those people in place to help hold you up when you canít stand on your own.
LTS: Iím curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
MRM: Both. It depends where Iím at in my work. If Iím writing the first draft, I donít stop. Iíll write every day until itís done, and if I get stuck, Iíll walk away until Iím ready When Iím writing the first draft, everything else suffers. Marketing, social media, blog posts just donít happen as much as they should.
If Iím in editing mode, Iím all over the place. I try to dedicate a little time each day to my work. Sometimes it isnít working on my book per say, but maybe connecting with other people, writing blog posts, setting up giveaways, interviews, reviews, or working on outlines. In editing mode, I try to make sure I work directly on the book a few days a week, and I try to take one day off where I donít do anything, but Iím usually unsuccessful.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
MRM: As of my new project, Iím a plotter. Exiled was a fly by the seat of my pants experience. I didnít even mean to write a book. I had no plans of publishing. Iíd never written a novel, a novella, or even a short story. I just sat down one day and wanted to escape the world I was in, so I created a new one. After about six hours of straight writing, I came back to reality and realized I had something I thought was really incredible. That was the night Chase, Rayna, Marcus, everything was born, and I just wrote from there.
With my most recent project, I used an outline and it made a world of difference when it came to editing. I didnít have to rewrite half the book to adjust for plot holes because there were none.
That being said, with my most recent project, the world already existed, as did the characters. If I were to start an entirely new book, with new characters, Iím not sure what Iíd do. I would probably try to outline it, but I think in the stage of initially creating everything from nothing, ďgo with flowĒ is a good motto for me.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
MRM: None. Nothing I do to prepare for writing anyways. I always listen to music when Iím writing the first draft, or editing for character development and action scenes. If Iím doing more grammatical work, then Iím a no music type of person.
Actually, one thing I do is set up playlists before I start writing. I make a few different ones that reflect the scenes that Iím going to be working on. I guess you could consider that a pre-writing routine.
LTS: Thatís a great idea! I think a playlist would work for me too. Now, at one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
MRM: Iíve recently discovered two things that work for me.
The first is time away. Itís difficult at times, but I have no issues walking away from my book for the sake of progress. Iíd rather not force the words, frustrate myself, and make twice as much work for myself later in the process. If itís a day, two days, or two weeks, I donít care. Whatever is needed to get the required inspiration.
The second thing that helps is daydreaming. Before I wrote books, I used to take this obsession of controlling the elements and dream about it. Now, if I run into a roadblock, I visualize that world. Iím a camera following my characters. Iíll start at the beginning and run through the entire book like a movie in my head, until I get to whatever is stalling me. Once I get there, itís so much easier to see what my characters will naturally do next, versus sitting at the computer and typing what I ďthinkĒ they should do next.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
MRM: I loved, loved, loved, the entire Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling did such an incredible job with her characters, but what really inspires me is her world building. She created such a deep and astounding world, with so many fantastic creatures. Iím in awe of her creation. I aspire to one day be able to create that kind of depth in the worlds I make.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery youíve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
MRM: Iím not sure Iíve reached that point yet. Iím a new author, with only one book out. The response to Exiled has been phenomenal, something I always hoped for, but never actually expected to receive. I donít think Iím anywhere near touching otherís lives with my stories though.
So since I can speak for others, Iíll speak for myself. Writing has provided an outlet for me that I never knew existed. I love disappearing into this world Iíve created, and Iím constantly inspired, always making notes for a potentially new story. Writing has given me a passion, something I look forward to diving into each and every day. My own writing actually makes me proud of myself, and to see other people enjoying it Ė especially to the degree they have Ė has made this entire process even more special to me.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
MRM: Iím not reading anything right now, but next on my TBR list is City Of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare. The first three books were just amazing to me, and Iíve been waiting impatiently for the fourth. Iím sad to say I havenít read it yet, as I am such a fan of the series, but finding time to actually sit down and read is difficult these days.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from YA into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ĎExiledí in the near future?
MRM: The Protector series will definitely occupy a lot of my time over the next few years. There is a sequel! Shift, which will hopefully be out early next year. The series was originally planned as a trilogy, but Iíve recently been inspired and it may run longer.
I have another series in the works that Iíve been imagining and writing ideas down for a while, but I havenít actually begun plotting yet, because Iím 100% focused on the current series. That and I donít believe I have the talent as of yet, to work on two series simultaneously. Iím not entirely sure if it will be YA or a more adult geared series. Exiled is one of those books that can appeal to anyone from the young teens and up, and since thatís such a wide spread fan base, I think Iíd like to stick to that, for now, but only time will tell.
LTS: I sense many more great stories still to come from you, Matthew! Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your novel and for giving us peek into your writing life! For more information about Matthew and his novel ĎExiledí check out:
Follow Matthew on Twitter: .MRMerrick
Where to buy the book: Amazon (Kindle/Paperback), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Smashwords(All other eReaders), and CreateSpace (Paperback)
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