My next guest oozes a personal attribute that one finds abundant amongst many of my favourite authors and past interviewees; not only is he an excellent story teller praised by other, highly celebrated, story tellers for his School of the Ages series. He is also what I would term a genuine “helper”, not in the quid pro quo sense that most are accustomed, but rather by his proactive approach to assisting others…
To fans of the harry potter books out there, this is an interview for you…
Who is my next guest…
Matt Posner, author of The School of the Ages series is my next guest. Matt has been involved with several other publications and has a highly respectable repertoire of 9 books (in various genres) available on amazon.
School teacher by day, Creative fiction writer by night…. but not lured like so many others to the lucrative, yet over populated, genre of vampire stories! His latest project and book; How to Write Dialogue is now available on amazon and his departure from the favoured fictional genre a sure sign that Matt is willing to help others when he can.
The Harry Potter Fan and Famous Parapsychologist Charles Tart says of School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal; “A great parallel to the Harry Potter books (I’ve read them all at least twice), and a fascinating contrast that our young hero here grows up in New York rather than England and has decent folks for parents rather than the horrible Dursleys….I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book in this series!”
New York Times Bestselling Author Piers Anthony says of The Ghost in the Crystal;
“The magic is impressive. I got the feeling I was attending the school by correspondence, and that the magic was authentic.”
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I announce Matt Posner has run the gauntlet of Simons 10 Q Interviews, and may just have given the fans of harry potter books a reason to smile again and continue reading similar, yet distinctly original, works to that of our own J.K.Rowling.
Here’s how we got on….
SD Q1: What is the storyline of School of the Ages, who inspired you to write the series, and since J.K. Rowling concluded the Harry Potter series, have her fans come knocking down your door eager for an alternative to get that young magician fix?
MP A1: The storyline of School of the Ages is to depict the events in the coming-of-age of my protagonist, Simon, and an ensemble cast of his friends and foes. They don’t have some dramatic role to play, some world-changing destiny ordained by Fate. They are normal kids plus magic. Simon is a flawed hero who suffers terrible losses and must fight his way through them.
I specialize in interesting characters. The other student magicians are all strong enough characters to helm their own stories; the villains are three-dimensional and complex, not dark lords or moustache-twirlers, but believable foes who are neither stupid nor obvious in their behaviour.
I have always preferred wizards to warriors when writing fantasy. I was going to write a wizard-and-apprentices book, but I adjusted it because I was working then at a mesivta (Jewish high school) and wanted to incorporate the interesting subculture I was learning about. I decided to create a magic school that was half Jewish kids studying Cabala and half non-Jewish kids studying the rest of traditional European magic.
I would love to get fans of the harry potter books at some point. I would like to think my books are more sophisticated than Rowling’s, and I have even had some reviewers (whom I don’t know) say that in comparison they prefer my books.
SD Q2: You co-wrote the book Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships with Jess C Scott in 2012. Given you are a school teacher yourself, this would appear to send out a clear message that you believe there is a lack of sex education within schools of today. Is that indeed your opinion, and if so have you attempted to address this by highlighting it to those who set school curriculums?
MP A2: The City of New York teaches health, including sex education, so it is available to kids, but knowing as I do that kids get pregnant early, sometimes right out of middle school, I don’t think they can possibly get the information soon enough. I’m not a health teacher, but an English teacher, so really I can’t talk about these topics at all. We have a pretty dangerous situation for outspoken teachers in NYC. Anyone can make an anonymous call to the city hotline 311 about anything in the schools, and every single call must be investigated by someone like a crusty old police detective. Phooey! I prefer to write books.
See also this video in which I explain how I developed the idea for Teen Guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txJtU0MCAZY
SD Q3: You are clearly comfortable writing within any genre, but given the time to indulge yourself, what would you consider to be your own favourite Film, Television Series, Book and Verse of all time and why?
Favourite Film: I couldn’t even write an honest top ten list, as I am a big film fan. For drama, The Godfather probably. The acting, cinematography, music, drama are all unparalleled. For comedy, The Princess Bride is excellent in acting, plotting, and humour, plus it has Andre the Giant, my all-time favourite wrestler, in an essential role.
Favourite TV Series: The Sopranos is just the best, for characterization, plotting, and drama. I also just adored the first season of HBO’s Rome, the first two seasons of The Wire, the first season of True Blood. My wife and I watch a lot of cooking competitions, of which Chopped and Sweet Genius and The Next Iron Chef are especial favourites. In non-US TV, I must point to B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata (India, 1989-1990) as especially riveting for me.
Favourite Verse: My favorite poet is Ezra Pound. “Canto 81” makes me cry. I love some of his earlier stuff, such as “In Durance” and “Alchemist’s Chant for the Transformation of Metals.”
SD Q4: Many authors talk of becoming unstoppable when “in the zone”. Conversely, “writer’s block” can often seem like an equally unstoppable condition for some authors! Do you have a set of conditions that more often than not will determine whether you are in or out of the zone, and if you hit the block with deadlines fast approaching what will you do to spur yourself on without damaging the quality of your writing?
MP A4: Writer’s block is in my opinion the consequence of either low self-esteem or poor prewriting. I have suffered from both problems in the past, but I don’t have either at present. Nevertheless, I am tired and distracted and that does slow me down. It is hard to be a teacher right now, especially in New York City. ‘Nuff said.
Do I get “in the zone”? Yes, sometimes I do, but usually that only lasts a day or so. I have found myself cold, shaking, weepy, daydream-y from time to time. That said, I can get absorbed in writing anytime I write something that is interesting to me. It’s very slow only if I am in the situation of knowing where I want to go but not how to get there. Being absorbed is a self-deceptive experience anyway: I’ve spent 25 minutes or 45 minutes, thought the work was epic, and upon review discovered fewer than 100 words on the page.
I used to think that “inspiration” made writing better, but I learned from experience that it doesn’t. I write about the same quality all the time, and the subjective feelings that come with the process don’t indicate anything about the finished product. My favourite parts are not always the ones written heatedly. In The Ghost in the Crystal, one of my favourite sections is a meeting the kids have on a ferry boat going around Manhattan Island. It’s not like the big dramatic fight near the end, with life and death decisions and lots of special effects; it’s just the kids talking, but I like it because they are talking rather than posturing, and so they change their relationship in a way that reveals they never wanted to be enemies in the first place. I wasn’t impassioned when I wrote that; it was just another session with my notebook.
If I have a deadline, all I have to do is not be distracted. Nothing actually damages the quality of my writing. I can’t really rush; I only have one writing speed, and the difference is just how long I can concentrate, not what speed the words come out. I can’t write badly. Either I can write, or I can’t.
SD Q5: I read somewhere that you have always wanted to become a novelist. What or who inspired those early thoughts and what would you say to inspire todays youngsters who believe they share the same calling?
MP A5: I decided to be a novelist when I was twelve or thirteen. I was already writing for fun, and I was a big fan of reading, not only chapter books but comics; I also loved narrative TV and game shows. Even playing with toys, I made cartoons and movies with them. I would have to say, then, that I was born suited to the profession, although maybe being born with a little more resiliency and toughness would have been a help also.
You didn’t ask me to give those youngsters solid, practical advice, which would be to learn marketing and develop another source of income. You asked me to inspire the youngsters. Okay, I will. Attention young writers! You have to develop your craft, but once you do, you will be able to get into the market right away and start finding your readership. For a young, high-energy person with stick-to-itiveness and media savvy, this is the best time in history to be a writer. It won’t be easy, but as soon as you are good enough (a variable length of time) you can start finding readers and making some money.
SD Q6: You agree to be sent to a desert island to complete your next School of the Ages Novel. Unfortunately we can’t allow you to take anything with you as we are clean out of space! However, all is not lost as you manage to stow away a magic wand on your person fuelled with enough magic to grant three wishes. Bearing in mind you are on the island voluntarily, how would you use the three wishes?
Wish One: Unlimited supply of cheese.
Wish two: Continuous health despite the diet of cheese.
Wish three: Transport me to my new house in Amsterdam containing a million Euros in cash.
SD Q7: You have recently published the book “How to Write Dialogue”. Without giving too many spoilers, what are readers going to find within this book that will make it stand out from the rest?
MP A7: I really know my stuff, and I get very in-depth with examples and analysis. The examples are written to be humorous, whereas most fiction manuals seek an authoritative tone or have some other sort of distancing quality to the style.
Besides the above, the book is not only by me. You also get full essays on the same subject by Tim Ellis and Jess C. Scott, and examples of dialogue, with analysis and explanation, from eleven superb independent authors (Jess, Stuart Land, Georgina Young-Ellis, Marita A. Hansen, Rochelle Rogers, J. A. Beard, Ey Wade, Junying Kirk, Cynthia Echterling, Mysti Parker, and Chrystalla Thoma). You won’t believe how great they all are!
SD Q8: You are quite active in promoting authors on your own School of the Ages website. What has been the most challenging interview for you, why was it so and how did it turn out?
MP A8: Most interviews are pretty easy to do, because I am very flexible. I let the interviewee make any necessary changes and additions to the questions.
The main thing I worry about is that the author be satisfied. With some of the bestsellers I have interviewed (Jake Needham, Mainak Dhar, Aiden James, Eden Baylee, Ron Felber, Robert Bidinotto) I have been on pins and needles to see that they were happy. Robert Bidinotto gets my special thanks, by the way; he was the first official bestseller to sign on with me, and his name has probably gotten me some attention since. All of those people were very easy to work with, by the way.
The most rewarding thing about the interviews has been finding promotional partners and making new friends. The least rewarding has been having the occasional author move on and not stay in touch after the interview is done. Maybe some of those instances are actually my bad, but I think some people view me as a journalist, which I am not, rather than as a colleague.
SD Q9: As a school teacher, I am sure you must have witnessed all manner of pranks? What has been the funniest prank you have ever encountered during your teaching career, what made it so and what was the outcome for the prankster?
MP A9: One day a pupil of my English class at Sinai Academy entered my classroom riding a child’s tricycle. The entire class dissolved into raucous rowdiness. The outcome was that he got away with it and my complaints to the rabbi were as fruitless as a joshua tree. May it never happen again, Chas V’Sholem.
SD Q10: If you had the powers of the grandest magician of all time, fictional or otherwise, and had the opportunity to cast one spell, what would it be and why?
MP A10: I find the lack of compassion in my fellow human beings almost intolerable, so I would wish for widespread compassion — in other words, a universal desire to oppose human deprivation and suffering. Other desirable events would follow.
SD Comments: Matt, for one reason and another the interview has been a long time coming, but worth the wait. Best of luck in 2014!
For those readers and fans of the harry potter books who might require guidance for what to read as harry potter is concluded, before you go why not check out Matt’s latest book; How to Write Dialogue and of course the School of the Ages series using the following links;
Simon Duringer is both a Goodreads author and Independent Interviewer. If you have enjoyed reading this interview, why not download a copy of The Word: The Best of Simon’s 10Q Interviews, featuring 28 equally interesting and exciting interviews, available on Kindle, Prime (#Free) and Paperback. Links to Simon’s Amazon Author Page are as follows;
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The Matt Posner interview took place on 07 February 2014.
Simon Duringer © 2014.