Yes, that’s right, folks. It’s time for another scorching HOT SEAT interview. Today’s
victim willing participant is J Matthew McKern, otherwise known as Matt. Matt is very special to me. He designed the cover for my first novel, The Big Smoke, capturing the essence of the story in a way I could have only dreamed. So I figured, what better way to pay him back than by burning his toosh!
Let’s get started…
What genre(s) do you write, Matt?
Young adult & middle grade.
Tell us about your current WIP, I Didn’t Go Looking for Trouble, in 25 words or fewer!
A road trip adventure starring a sixteen-year-old picker and a six-inch-tall sprite trying to save the family home from being repossessed by the bank.
[CJ: Haha, sounds like fun! However, compound adjectives such as 'sixteen-year-old' are not one word, which means you've used 28 words. Guess I'll let you off this time... ;)]
Well, I could have said that it’s about Willy Storey, a girl with an independent spirit. All her life, all she’s known is antiques. Every summer since her mother died, Willy has traveled the midwest with her father buying antiques to resell at the family store. When the bank comes after their family home after Willy’s father is disabled in an accident, Willy takes matters into her own hands. She goes out on the road in her dad’s beat up old pickup truck to try to save the family business. But it’s going to take more than luck to succeed, it’s going to take a little bit of magic. Visiting small town midwest, Willy discovers something else that catches her by surprise, a devoted friend who might be able to lead her to treasure rumored to be hidden in a picture frame somewhere in Iowa.
[CJ: Yes, that would have been way more than 25 words!]
Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
In my day job, I’m an Art Director, creating publications for the healthcare market. 16+ years now!
[CJ: So you've been in your current job for the same length of time your main character has been alive. Don't worry, that doesn't make you old or anything... :P]
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I begin with a scenario and strong characters. I definitely plot things out well in advance, but I find myself deviating from the path on a regular basis. One way or another, it’s all about the journey.
[CJ: Sounds a bit like my process, actually!]
Coming from a fine-arts background, I believe I possess a very visual sensibility. I’m sure this will lead me into world-building projects in the not-too-distant future. But it’s the characters that engage me. Taking them apart and putting them back together again is what keeps me up late and wakes me early in the morning. It is my hope that the resulting combination results in stories that are impossible to put down.
Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?
My golfing and fishing partner, Patrick Carman, is right up there. It’s definitely a plus to know someone who’s lighting the way. Going way back, Steven King was key to showing how to flesh out a world. For quirky characters, I’d say John Irving’s work was an inspiration. In the world of middle-grade fiction, Ingrid Law has been a recent favorite.
[CJ: You lost me at golf. ;)]
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
Finding time to do it all without short-changing my family. I love to write on vacations, which has both upsides and downsides.
[CJ: Ah, yes. I know the feeling of not wanting to short-change the family. Especially now I have a bambino!]
Time for the HOT SEAT questions!
*Insert scary music here*
If you were given a glimpse of the future and knew nobody would ever read your writing, would you continue to write?
I would. I’m definitely one of those people for whom creative endeavors are a way of life.
Finish this sentence from Willy Storey’s perspective:
Willy: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the death of my mother, though I suppose in some ways I’ve always tried to pick up where she left off, trying to keep things from falling apart.
[CJ: Aww. Very sad...]
Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.
Matt: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the fact that my college professors failed to even attempt to illustrate the synergy between creativity and business.
[CJ: Okay... I'm intrigued. Why does that still bother you?]
Well, most of the blame should fall squarely upon my shoulders, but if I could go back and do it all again, I’d double-major. At the time, I felt what I’d describe as a cultural difference that I wouldn’t even imagine trying to bridge. If you’re talented and creative, don’t assume that someone will be there to provide a path to financial viability. You should learn at least a little about how to manage your own career. [Stepping down from soap box]
[CJ: Haha. Soap boxes are always welcome. Just make sure it doesn't get too close to the HOT SEAT or it might catch fire! ]
If you’d like to hear more from Matt, check out his website or like him on Facebook.
If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning.