Free Author Interview: Mark Matthews

Author Name:  Mark Matthews, Author of Stray and The Jade Rabbit

Where can we find your book?  The Jade Rabbit is available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Createspace, as well as a handful of other ebook sites.
How much does it cost?  Currently The Jade Rabbit is 4.99 for an ebook download and 10.99 for paperback.  The paperback is on Amazon for 10.99, but if you go through Createspace, , you can use the coupon EGQ2PSM2 for 2 dollars off.
Tell us a little about your book.  Visceral and emotional, is best two words I can come up with.  If the novel had a soundtrack, it would be to Florence and The Machine.
The main character drives the novel.  She was abandoned in China as an infant, but adopted and raised in the United States. She becomes a social worker in order to help other abandoned and neglected youth in a Detroit area runaway shelter. 
Questions linger in her brain from being left by her ‘China-mama’, and a small but serious ‘primal wound’ remains into her adulthood.  Why was she given up? Does her birth-mother remember her?  These fears drive her to become an obsessed marathon runner and much of the novel follows her training. She becomes incredibly strong, yet at the same time fragile and near her breaking point. The challenge of unanswered questions, the chaos of trying to help other abandoned children, her unmet goals of running a sub 3 hour marathon, and her failed attempts at pregnancy (so she can finally know her own flesh) all get played out in a torturous marathon training program.  The end is a physical and emotional catharsis. 
I think of it as Once A Runner meets The Secret Life of Bees, which, I realize, means little if you haven’t’ read both of those books.
Why did you choose to self publish?  My first novel, Stray, was accepted by a traditional publisher.  They assisted with editing, discussed changes (some of which I successfully resisted) and finally, Stray was on the ‘coming soon’ list. Well, it remained ‘coming soon’ for years. Seven years to be exact, while I was busy starting a family. The novel never moved off the coming soon list and the company went out of business.  So, I finally decided to self-pub, but didn’t know a thing about marketing and the novel didn’t get much attention.
It did well sort of by mistake. I wanted to be read so I made the novel Free on smashwords, upon which Amazon then followed suit, and it went viral to a degree and was listed all over the place. The novel was then downloaded ten thousand times plus in just a few weeks and I was on the top ten non-paid kindle list.   I was thrilled, so after I priced it again, very positive reviews started coming in, random fan mail, and the seven years seemed to have some sort of divine purpose to it.  I spoke with two traditional publishers about The Jade Rabbit, but the deal did not seem like a good fit. I wanted autonomy.

What is the message of your book?  The universal ties of family, and how sharing blood is only a small bit of what connects us.  We are all mothers and fathers, doesn’t matter if we ever conceived, and the dandelion seeds that are blown our way and land nearby are ours to nurture (to paraphrase the novel).  In addition, in order to deal with our baggage, I am of the belief that when you squeeze yourself physically, all your insides come out. Makes sense, cause if you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice.  Psychological issues can be dealt with by beating the body down, and when we take ourselves to our physical limits, we can blast through emotional, mental, and psychological barriers as well.

Do you have a favorite character and why?  I love Janice from The Jade Rabbit, Sharleen, the Ghost of Moonlight.  I’m also very fond of some of the supporting cast of Stray, like Jason Boston Sr, ‘the ancient heroin wizard’.  

Hmmm, I just realized something that I never have. All my favorite characters have nicknames. Check that out. Thanks for the question.

What is your greatest joy in writing?  When my characters develop their own personality, and handle situations without me. I love each and every one of my characters, and they are still making decisions in my mind long after the novel is over.  I hear them and talk to them.  And I realize how crazy that sounds.  In the thick of writing, I live in both worlds, and usually wish I could stay in the world of the novel.

How did you create your characters?  I keep sprinkling on new ingredients to heighten the potential conflict.  That’s how I created Janice Zhu Woodward, who is certainly ’32 flavors and then some’. So, when I created Thomas Cleaves, I thought, let’s make him in recovery from substance abuse.  Yeah, that’s it.  And wait, I know, he had a seizure the day of his father’s funeral, and that was the first day he got sober.  And wait, I know, let’s add that he still has seizures sometimes and hears voices, and wait, let’s add….” You get the picture.

Who is your favorite author and why?  Oh boy, so hard to say.  Without having read Jack Kerouac, I don’t know that I would ever have tried to write myself.  But writers have always been my heroes.  I think Richard Ford writes like he made a mystic deal with the devil, and I’ve recently been reading Dan Simmons. I like smart entertainment, such as Justin Cronin’s The Passage, or existential dark stuff, anything branched out from the roots of Kafka.

What drives you to write?  I’m going to sing that one for you…
“If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me, Threatening the life it belongs to… “
Writing is a place to direct my energy and obsessions. It’s an outlet where I can be in a different world, set free from this one, and can splatter whatever I want on the canvas.  It is a very vulnerable feeling to write something and set it free in the world.  Try it. Write a small poem and let someone read it. Its like opening up your chest cavity and giving someone a spear to puncture your beating heart, should they choose. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What time of day do you write best?  I think of the best stuff and am most inspired while I run. Usually about 45 minutes into a run my ideas are explosive and grand.  It is much like being drunk where you are filled with passions and high ideals.  However, when the passion turns to practicality, life gets in the way, and it takes effort to turn the ambition and ideas into pages.
How do you plan to promote your book?  I have been doing increased social networking, and also have been in contact with various blogs who will be featuring the novel on their site.  Look for information cross-posted on my own blog soon.
Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?  I tend to ‘write what I know’ so both of the settings in my novels are 100 percent true. I am an avid marathon runner and also worked at a runaway shelter such as the one depicted in The Jade Rabbit (it was just north of an area known as Little Saigon) I also worked at a treatment center that shared a parking lot with an animal shelter, such as in Stray.  I also volunteered for 100 hours in an animal shelter and did tons of research to learn how they operate.  
Do you have any upcoming projects?  I’m working on a novel about a psychiatrist who, after realizing that most research shows that psychotropic medications are no more effective than placebos, becomes a little ‘rogue’ and invents his own placebo drug to give to patients  (Called Bosplace) He finds as long as he can increase the patients expectations, there are positive results.  When a lost love he had always considered his soul-mate gets admitted as a patient to his psychiatric hospital, the effectiveness of his interventions are put to the test.
Any contact information you would like to leave us with?
Sure, all over that one.
Twitter: @matthews_mark
Also on LinkedIn, but currently facebook free.

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