Thursday, 27 October 2011

Author Interview: Matt Posner

Matt Posner has written the School Of Ages series.

1. What is your name and where do you call home? Do you use a pen name?
My name is Matt Posner -- that's my real name. It's not a super impressive author name, like, say, 'Ransom Riggs,' but it's easier to do business with my actual name. I hail from Queens, New York, which is one of the outer boroughs of New York City.

2. What is the name of most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or less words, what would you say?
My latest book is School of the Ages: Level Three's Dream. In this continuation of the School of the Ages series, Simon and Goldberry take on the challenge of Level Three, an autistic magician with the power to trap them in his magical worlds.

3. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Yes, the School of the Ages series will be five books. The next book is due out next year. It's in second draft and I will be getting it ready for beta readers soon. Book three, The War Against Love, is about a teen romance set against the backdrop of a bloody magicians' war, with School of the Ages taking on a cabal of Nazi wizards in many places in Europe.
My wife and I are seasoned European vacationers. Every place we have visited there will be in one or more of the books.

4. What inspired you to start writing, and how long have you been doing it?
I like to quote Lady Gaga, who is also from Queens. "I was born this way." The impulse and the raw abilities were there at an early age. I was reading avidly and prodigiously when I was six. I wrote for pleasure when I was a child, and decided when I was 12 to be a novelist. I wound up developing an academic background in fiction writing, which has caused me to become a teacher as a career. I'm forty-two, so I've been a novelist for 30 years, although most of those years were formative. 

5. How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book?
The covers of both books were designed by my cousin Mike Cohen, who is a videographer by trade. He uses stock photos which are assembled into the complex and colorful images you see. My contribution is to list elements he might want to include, and then we kick things around based on what he can find and how the elements look. The castle in these two covers is Casa Loma, in Toronto, Canada. The one thing we agree upon is that the covers should be similar enough to be recognizable as part of the same series. It will be exciting to see how books 3-5 covers look.

6. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Once I had decided that I was going to use the concept of "bound" spirits that were linked to objects, it was easy enough to move to the word ghost, which is a sure-fire attention-getter in any title, and to add another such power word, crystal, which has all kinds of magical and New Age associations. Making a title out of evocative nouns is a pretty safe bet. My second book has one too: Level Three's Dream contains "dream." (Not a Sandman reference; I wish...) The third book, due out next year, is called The War Against Love. We can see the two intriguing nouns in there, I imagine.

7. Is there anything you would change about your book? And why?
I would like to do an editing pass through The Ghost in the Crystal to update it in terms of style and details to match the later books. I might add in some material. Most likely I will do this as a five-year anniversary edition, or some such commemorative edition, maybe to correspond to the release of book five in the series, although to be fair, I haven't even plotted that one out yet, and only have about thirty pages of drafted scenes from it. 

8. Do you have a book trailer? And what are your thoughts on book trailers?
I have a youtube channel, which is "schooloftheages" (no spaces) at and on that channel are various book trailers, some better than others, as well as other videos that I have made using Windows Movie Maker and, more recently, PowerDirector. I think book trailers are useful if you need something to show people, but there's no evidence of them going viral or coming up on lots of searches, so I consider a book trailer a fairly low-level sales tool. Most authors don't use them. 

9. Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hardcovers or audiobooks?
If you mean for my writing, my answer is standard: I prefer whichever one is going to make me money. As for what I buy, I am trying to shy away from physical books because I own too many of them, and most are in storage and I should be throwing them away, Yet throwing away a book is for me, as with many people, like giving away a piece of self. I don't have this problem with ebooks, which don't occupy physical space, so going forward, I would rather buy ebooks if I am just going to read the text, and only acquire paper books if they are graphic novels or books about visual arts. 

10. Are you a self-published / Indie author?
Yes. I sought the acceptance of agents and legacy publishers for years, and was never treated properly by anyone in the industry, and I went indie in 2010, corresponding somewhat to a time when the mainstream publishing industry has reached a new low in its treatment of authors and its compulsion to serve capitalistic imperatives. I have crafted a new insult expression for literary agents, as I occasionally state that I invite any literary agent to show me that she or he is not a feckless, self-involved dufus. So, I here on this blog again say that a typical literary agent is a feckless, self-involved dufus, and I am still waiting to meet one who is not. 

11. Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so what was it?
Yes, I think rereading books is necessary to get all the juice out of them, and I design my own books to be reread by adding layers of detail that you won't spot the first time around but that will emerge through repeated reading. Because the plot and situation drives you forward, you start off skimiming sections of a book (in my favorite books to reread, and in my own books), and then when you go back to reread, you see things you didn't see before - themes, motifs, hidden meanings, memorable expressions, and so on. Obviously Shakespeare is best for this, but I will cite Tolkien and Austen as two more writers who have that quality for me. 

12. What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
Like many avid readers, I read about five to ten things at a time. I have multiple books in progress on my Kindle 2. Most of them are by indie writers and were given to me to read and review. I update what I'm reading on Goodreads, and for the sake of making this interview a little less dated, I will invite those who are interested to find me there -- where you found me yourself, Rachel. 

13. Do you have any advice for other writers?
I advise fiction writers to focus on character and de-emphasize concept. Character matters most. A story needs an interesting person with a problem, or at novel length, many problems. Because of how I write, it's even hard for me to say in a blurb or plug what's best about my books: the ensemble cast. There are so many characters, all with motivations and quirks and senses of humor and problems of their own, that a lot of interest comes out of the mix of people and the contrasts in their behavior. 

14. Anything else you wish to add?
To answer an issue that was raised by your review -- you stated that it was not made clear why my character took the magician name Simon Magus. The answer is -- he thought it sounded cool, but later he learned that taking the name tied him in to events in the past. 

Thankyou so much for taking the time to do this interview and allowing us a glimpse into your writing world!

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