Today we sit down with Irish author Maria Matthews. She shares with us her unique perspective on writing, her inspiration and a bit about her work.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
While I was in Secondary School, about the age of 15 but I didn’t have the confidence to follow the dream then.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I have done the nanowrimo challenge and succeeded each time. But the research and development of the idea takes place before I sit to write the idea down. Truthfully approximately three months to write a novel.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write as often as I can. However when I have an idea that I am working on I write before going to work, and write in the evenings on my return. I blot out all housework until the first draft is completed. My logic decrees that I spent enough time chasing dust bunnies from the house when my children were young, so now I should put my passions first and housework last.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love writing with Bob (Norwegian Elkhound) at my feet. His soft snoring and his warm body at my feet keeps me writing for hours at a time.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
My first adults book was accomplished during the nanowrimo challenge, I self published it. I learnt a lot about editing with this book. My children’s book was accomplished thanks to an assisted publishing house: Emu Ink
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
From conversations I overhear, from stray random thoughts that pop into my head and the actual process begins when I apply that favorite line of all editors and teachers, what if?
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first self published book was written four years ago when I was fifty three, though in the previous three years I completed three books but they remain in need of editing and attention. My childrens book was written at fifty five years of age. Before that I had short stories published.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love reading, and gardening. I am passionate about dogs, keeping fit, and I volunteer with a local rescue and recovery group.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
My favorite children’s book is The Twits by R. Dahl
My favorite adult book is really two books: Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend by RJ Waller
& The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I believed for a long time they simply tolerated it but when I launched my children’s book I was surprised to learn they would have been disappointed if I didn’t have a launch as they loved the book.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That you really are never to late to learn a new skill.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Editing. I am dreadful at sitting and concentrating on grammar, so this is a chore for me. If I could write one long sentence without, comma’s or full stops, it would be easier.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have four books written, but The Schoolhouse is my favorite because I let my humor take over at certain points in the book confirming that I really am seven years old in my heart and mind.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Read outside of your genre. Everything you read will help you learn what you like and what you don’t like about other people’s writing. Join a writing group who will critique your work.
Never assume your book is finished. In particular focus on the plot and adding as many twists and turns as you possibly can.
Write something, then put it away for a few days at least. When you come back to it with fresh eyes you will make changes and so improve it.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I was delighted when I received a phone call from a friend of seventy seven who told me she loved my children’s book as did her grand children. This phone call left me grinning like an idiot for days afterwards.
I tend to get simple remarks like: I love Lancelot but why did you make him a crab?
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
Children of 6 years to 9 years as they are honest in their remarks. I quickly learn what they like and dislike.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Strong believable characters mixed with a strong plot sprinkled with humor and remember your characters should have flaws. You should either hate or love the main characters, emotions have to feature in a story to keep us hooked.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to work in Disney as an artist, but lack of art training soon swept that idea to one side.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
On Amazon and on Emu Ink’s website www.emuink.ie or you can find examples on my blog sites. For children’s short stories: https://mudpilewood.wordpress.com & adult views etc https://decidinglybob.wordpress.com
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
I love so much of the prose in The Last September. It centers around a time in the history of Ireland as the landed gentry struggled to hold onto their old ways despite the Irish troubles raging havoc outside of their normal social life of afternoon tea parties, tennis parties etc.
Lois is struggling with leaving childhood behind and entering into adulthood. The young girl is witness to the discord of the locals beyond the confines of the big house.
Meanwhile her views on men are colored by her friend Livvy, who confides to Lois her thoughts on the two men they are attracted to:
“If they should only be ill,” she said, ” there would be so many little things we could do for them. It does seem in a kind of way an opportunity. I often think it is only when a man is ill that he understands what a woman means in his life.”
Lois said that her own impression of a man ill was one of extreme crossness and of inability to find the nicest woman attractive at all.
I find while reading her novels I spend a lot of time stopping and chuckling, while considering that life and love does not really change at all.
I was born in Dublin and lived there until my family moved to County Meath. I married a Meath man and we settled here. It was while my children were at school I discovered I had some time on my hands and I began to write. I joined a poetry group but discovered I had a love of creating characters so I began to write in earnest. Having some success with short stories being published I was encouraged to try to write novels. When I resumed working I found there was less time to write and though I continued it wasn’t until my children were grown that I began to write with determination. I took up the Nanowrimo challenge and self published my first attempt.
When my first submission to Emu Ink was rejected I tried again by sending in the first draft for the Runaway Schoolhouse and they liked the quirky story line. I loved working with them and learnt a lot about the writing process.
The Runaway Schoolhouse
Adult Rom/Com – Moving On: