Interview, Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic

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Author Interview #37, with multi-genre writer (and NYC teacher), Matt Posner!

This is a customized Q&A in line with the author’s latest eBook: “Tales of Christmas Magic.”

matt_posner

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[Q&A with Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic (7 questions)]

Jess: I like how the collection presents the magic that features in School of the Ages (magic which is based on the mind and spirit). What was the inspiration for presenting magic this way (realistically in “our world”)?

posner_xmas

Matt: I have read a lot about magic and the paranormal. Although I was interested in the subject from childhood, I took up the study more systematically when I was 21 as a result of feeling turmoil in my life. Learning to read tarot and understand Hermeticism gave me some structure at a time when other things weren’t helping.

Shortly I discovered the writing of Colin Wilson, beginning with The Occult and moving on to various other similar books, like Mysteries, Poltergeist!, and Beyond the Occult, and from these I became aware of how many amazing phenomena there were in the world that could be incorporated into fiction.

At first I tried to put them into an epic fantasy novel, which was agented for a while in New York around 1993, but then I left the subject alone for a while. When it came time to return to writing about magic, I used all that I had studied and learned to create the School of the Ages magical system.

Jess: Epic fantasy is a great foundation ;) I thought the underlying theme(s) in the story “Goldberry vs. Santa Claus” were very smoothly handled. Incidentally, the characters featured on the cover are from this story. Any reason for this? :)

Matt: I consider this the centerpiece story of the collection. It’s the one that is most Christmas-themed and has the strongest dramatic tension. Having a teen girl magician fight Santa Claus makes a good blurb also. Using that story enables me to get the school (actually Toronto’s Casa Loma castle) and Santa on the cover. Adding to that, my cover artist Eric Henty found a girl on a stock photo site who looks perfect as Goldberry, and then a boy on the same site who looks perfect for Simon.

What luck: the resulting image is just great!

Jess: Your School of the Ages project contains a very unique blend of elements (ranging from history, to religion, spirituality, and education!). Does it get confusing at times or does working with these themes come very naturally to you as a writer?

Matt: It comes naturally to me because of my multicultural past. My parents socialized with Indian immigrants beginning when I was a small child, and I read Amar Chitra Katha comics about the Ramayana and other Indian mythology.

In high school, I focused on Spanish classes as much as English. In college, I took a course in ethnomusicology and listened to world music while getting my bachelor’s in Humanities. It was one of my favorite courses.

Years later, getting married to Julie, who is from India, really strongly activated my desire to know more about non-Western cultures. Working in yeshiva high schools caused me to build some Jewish cultural identity (what they call Yiddishkeit).

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly taught a college course called World Civilizations (shoutout to my students!) which caused me to reflect on the vast range of cultural heritages there are and fed me ideas. I taught some art history in college too. I’ve been to some of Europe’s greatest art museums, although not enough of them yet in my opinion, and not to mention the great ones in New York City, where I live. These things have only whetted my appetite for multiculturalism.

Jess: Speaking about multiculturalism — something that I (and many other readers) like about the STA series is how it is multiculturally-inclusive. How would you define multiculturalism (along with its strengths and disadvantages, to be more specific)?

Matt: I define multiculturalism as the view that the world is made up of many traditions, faiths, arts, languages, societies, and that all of them are interesting and have some way to contribute to the lives of other human beings. I want to write about the interaction of these cultures and I want to draw cool stuff from all of them to make the School of the Ages books distinctive.

I’ll give you an example. In Level Three’s Dream, the students go to Paris where they have an unexpected battle with a group of older students from Paris’ magic school, Citadel d’If. Some of them are fairly unsurprising French ruffians, based loosely on the gang in the original La Femme Nikita, but pumped up with magic powers. However, one is distinctive: Arnaud le Vampire is an Algerian Arab. I know from studying history about the long and uncomfortable connection between France and Algeria, which was so severe that it nearly caused a civil war in France, and I wanted to reflect this history by putting a French-speaking Algerian into the school. He’s not a typical undead vampire, either; he’s fully alive, about 18 years old, and has the abilities of a psychic vampire, who can drain your energy by staring at you. (Many people believe this type of vampire actually exists!) When he fights, Arnaud shouts the Takbir, an expression used by Muslims for both prayer and battle: “Allahu Akbar!”

There are loads of vampires in the books these days, but I feel sure that there are no others like mine, and that readers will be excited by Arnaud’s contradictions and want to read his future appearances in my narrative.

Jess: I wouldn’t doubt the existence of such vampires either :P. I enjoyed “The Sphinx” (the last story in the collection, written when Matt Posner was 16 and bored in Honors English!). What are some of the things you notice with regards to your writing at that age, and in the years thereafter?

Matt: When I go back to my much older writing, my juvenilia such as “The Sphinx,” I’m struck by the fact that my prose style — sentence construction and such — has not changed tremendously. That’s why you can read “The Sphinx” in the same book as stories I wrote in 2011. The themes and meaning are immature, but the quality of the prose is much the same.

Maybe I should feel bad that my style hasn’t advanced as much as my content has, but I’d rather say that I knew very long ago what kind of writer I wanted to be. The truth is that I wrote more fluidly and confidently then, when the troubles of the world and the brutal pressures of limited time to work didn’t distract me from my voice and ideas. I put this story into the collection for a lot of reasons, but one of them was to show that not only do I have it, but I always had it.

Like Lady Gaga, “I’m on the right track, baby. I was born this way.”

6. Excellent! Writers/creative types have to have confidence in their own work :) Please share your favorite excerpt from this collection:

How about this:

Santa Claus had stopped laughing and was now closing in on Simon, who was between them. “Out of the way, or I’ll feed you to Mrs. Claus,” he said, not very jovially. “She gains about ten pounds a year from eating children on the naughty list, you know.”
Tales of Christmas Magic, Matt Posner

7. Comment on writing versus teaching, in your experience (Matt is a teacher in NYC):

Teaching has made me a better writer in that I understand better what goes into literature structurally. I have gotten more out of teaching literature than having it taught to me, or studying writing in graduate school, where I found that my experience was more about politics and personality, both of which I wasn’t good at then. I use writing skills in teaching. The other day I needed a simple example of an ironic poem, so I wrote one myself and then put a fake author’s name on it*.

Writing is solitary, teaching very public, and I need to be public part of the time, or else I will become too self-centered; it’s the phenomenon of the only child at work there. All this said, I feel that if I could only do one of the two, I would much prefer to write. If I were suddenly wealthy enough to quit working a teaching job and focus on writing, I would still want to teach, but I would just be more selective about it: do less of it and exercise more control over the details of the job than I can at present. As a teacher, I work with special education students, who are needy in a lot of ways, and often, though not always, difficult. It’s important to me to feel I’m the kind of person who can love those who are hard to love and who can make a difference in the lives of those who are hard to help. I want to test myself that way and I want to prove to myself day by day that I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t think I should give up doing this, but I wouldn’t mind if I did it a little less…

* My Dog
by Alan Smithee

My dog smells sour.
My dog has fleas.
She barks at night.
On the floor she pees.
She’s the best dog
I ever had.
For how could such
A dog be bad?

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Now go check out some of Matt’s work(s) — after reading his eclectic bio!

Author Bio + Website Links:

Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, FL, Matt lives in Queens with Julie, his wife of more than ten years, and works in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Matt is also the Dean of School of the Ages, America’s greatest magic school, located on a secret island in New York Harbor, and is pleased to tell stories about its people in the five-book series School of the Ages, which will be published between 2010 and 2015.

As the child of classically trained musicians, Matt is a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York’s premier avant-garde multimedia club band, along with the painter Eric Henty and founding musician and impresario Scott Rifkin. Matt teaches high school English, with a fondness for special education students, and teaches world civilizations at Metropolitan College of New York. His interests include magic and the paranormal, literature, movies, history and culture, visual arts, world music, religion, photography, and professional wrestling history.

Website: www.schooloftheages.webs.com

Twitter | Facebook “School of the Ages Series” | Goodreads

Author Interview, A.P. Fuchs

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Author Interview #28, with “writer, artist publisher guy,” A.P. Fuchs!

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Hi A.P.! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Christian, writer, artist publisher guy.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Kissing Rose was like kissing blood: warm, smooth, sweet; a gentleness to her lips that made Zach cry out for more. When their lips met, his heart held hers and she his; her life flashed before his eyes and he knew her better than she knew herself.

As their lips playfully melded, separated, merged, he held her close, his embrace gentle and careful, yet firm enough so she knew he’d never let go. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, he sensed that if it was possible, she’d pull him deep into herself and make their bodies one. Instead, Rose’s hands tugged behind his neck, her fingers stroking its nape, letting him know how much she loved him.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

From Stephen King’s On Writing:

“Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

(This pretty much sums up my creative lifestyle — note from A. P. Fuchs)

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Writing the book is easy. You just do it. Getting it ready for publication is the hard part, that is, turning the story from your first draft upchuck into something palatable for the reader. From there, taking that finished story and turning it into a paperback or eBook is just a matter of formatting, which is a lot of fun.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Whether fancy or simple, good writing is simply storytelling that makes you forget you’re reading and instead transports you into whatever’s happening on the page, Holodeck-style.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Perseverance.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

My personal website/blog, which I update 5 days a week, is: http://www.canisterx.com

I can be followed on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/ap_fuchs

My publishing company, Coscom Entertainment, where we focus on monster and superhero fiction, is at http://www.coscomentertainment.com, and its Christian imprint, Torn Veil Books, is at http://www.tornveilbooks.com

Coscom Entertainment can be followed on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/mrcoscom

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Much thanks to A.P. Fuchs for the chat! Check out the Blood of My World series (Discovery of Death, Memories of Death, and Life of Death).

Author Interview, Katie Salidas

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Author Interview #12, with Las Vegas native & paranormal author, Katie Salidas!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Quixotic, Quirky, Quizzical, Quotable, Quick.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

My “baby”, my debut novel Immortalis Carpe Noctem was released in March.

BLURB: Bleeding to death after brutal mugging on the campus of UNLV, twenty-five year old Alyssa is rescued by the cold and aloof vampire, Lysander. Taking pity on her, he shares the gift — and curse — of immortality.

She awakens as a vampire and is soon devastated by harsh realities of her new way of life: the loss of her friends, her independence, and her humanity.

As if having her humanity stripped away was not enough to make life interesting, Alyssa finds out her “turning”, did not go unnoticed by the rest of undead society. Old enemies; an ancient sect of vampire hunters, known as the Acta Sanctorum, as well as a powerful Vampire mistress, each set plans in motion to destroy both Alyssa and Lysander.

Only by accepting her newfound immortality, seizing the night, will Alyssa hope to survive. She and Lysander must fight together against two sets of enemies bent on destroying them both.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I’m a huge fan of Patricia Briggs. The book that hooked me was Cry Wolf.

Product Description (from Amazon) — Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack — and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member — and as his mate.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Writing is definitely the easy part when you compare it to publishing. While writing encompasses plotting, critiquing, editing and rewriting (a huge task all to itself), publishing is a much harder process. With publishing, you not only have to create the physical book for people to hold, but you must also convince people to read it. The marketing aspect, often overlooked by new authors, is the hardest job of all. It takes time, effort, and a lot of courage to get your baby out there into the world and read by others.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Good writing means crafting a story that really draws readers into your world. It means using all five senses to make your readers step into the characters shoes and become them for the time they read your work.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Just write! Lots of people talk about wanting to write but they have a million reasons why they can’t do it. The writing part is easy. Sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keys. Like the Nike ad says, “Just Do It!”

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Find me online at the following links —

Amazon.com
Author Blog
Facebook
Publisher’s Website

Much thanks to Ms. Salidas for the chat!