Saturday, June 1, 2013

Author Spotlight - Araminta Matthews

Posted by LD Keach on Saturday, June 1, 2013

Araminta Star Matthews is a writer borne of two very different geek traditions—Stephen Kingian and classic sci fi/fantasy—and she produces fine fiction that reflects this upbringing. She writes with flavors of quirky spec fic mixed up with dark, bloody horror; concepts she employs with aplomb in her novel Blind Hunger published by Dark Moon Books.

Also an accomplished educator, Araminta has her MFA in Creative Writing and enjoys the occasional scholarly pursuit, such as helping writers in the realm of horror with her co-authors Rachel Lee and Stan Swanson. We caught up with Araminta to probe her a little about her writing habits.

DM: Tell us about your writing style and your book Blind Hunger.

I try to write in avalanche-style. That is, I start with a snowflake of an idea, and then I sit at my computer and pack on the snow until I’m hurtling down the mountainside with a story. The first draft of Blind Hunger was finished in just over a month. The second draft, or the editing phase, took about a year as I fine-tuned things between submissions to publishers. It went through a major metamorphosis when it was picked up by Dark Moon Books and changed shape pretty dramatically right before publication.

One thing I will share is that I write from the body a lot. I have a background in theatre and I draw on that frequently when I write. If a character is afraid, I pull up fear in my body so I can see where it strikes me—if it’s in my stomach, then I put that sensation into concrete terms (not abstract) to describe what my character is going through. For example, when I was writing Max, he often felt discouraged or frustrated, and a little indifferent because he expected to be treated badly by most people he met. That sensation, when I pulled it up for myself, was mostly in the jaw and shoulders. I’d be sitting at my keyboard and my shoulders would slump and my jaw would tense.

DM: What is it like working with Dark Moon Books?

Stan Swanson, the owner of Dark Moon Books, has become much more than a publisher to me; he’s become a friend. We went onto coauthor two more works after he published Blind Hunger: Write of the Living Dead and our newest which has the current working title of My Boyfriend is a Zombie. Working with Dark Moon Books was easy—Stan is a real professional, he understands both the critical and creative side of working with writers, and he’s very easy-going and accommodating. It’s the main reason I’ve stayed with Dark Moon Books so long. I have worked with other publishers, as well, on different projects (I write several genres, and I publish scholarly for my academic life), but Dark Moon Books has been and probably always will be the publisher I call “home.”

DM: What's the best piece of advice you've ever given a new writer starting out?

I think my best advice for new writers is clearest put in my coauthored work, Write of the Living Dead. I wrote this with Rachel Lee, a doctoral candidate in English and Stan Swanson, owner of Dark Moon. The book is primarily a writing guide, both scholarly and creative for students and writers and laypeople alike, but it uses undead characters to “teach” good writing. In it, I suggested (and will reiterate) three key things for new writers: write no matter how much it hurts, develop a thick skin, and get good at being alone. For the first, I mean that the only cure for writer’s block is to write no matter how much it hurts. I recommend setting an egg timer and writing until it dings. If you get it on the page, you can shake it up like a snowglobe later; but until it gets to paper or screen, it’s all hearsay. For the second, I mean to point out that writers will get rejected a lot. A. Lot. Even if you find a publisher, you’ll have critics who hate your work. You need to learn to take criticism, shuffle it into revision or reject it as you see fit, and move on without letting it get inside your heart. For every publisher that hates your story, there’s one that loves it. And for every ten publishers that love it, there are twenty that can’t publish it “right now” because of several possible reasons completely unrelated to the quality of your work (too many books to print this year, not the right fit for the brand of the publisher, another book with a similar theme came out a month ago, etc). Toughen up and keep submitting. And for the last, I’ll credit my undergraduate writing advisor on that one, Award-winning poet, Wes McNair. He told me all those years ago that I’d need to become an accomplished hermit to write well, and he was absolutely right. The best words come to me when I’m entrenched in the avalanche, all alone. When I can channel the muse in my head with a direct transmitter. When I can lose myself in the page.