New Author Showcase: Thom L. Matthews
Thom was born in the northeast US where he has lived his entire life. His parents divorced when he was young and both remarried by the time he was 10. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and went to Catholic school from 1st-12th grade. He no longer practices any religion and identifies as agnostic but is always learning more about faiths of all kind to better understand others, himself, and the world.
Throughout his entire adolescence, Thom struggled with depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem following various issues at home and school. His mother, father, and step-mother all helped him receive the psychological care that he needed. The friends who supported him through his difficult years are still his closest friends to this day. He still makes sure to maintain his mental health by seeking professional help, listening to music, playing instruments, and, of course, writing.
His mother grew very ill when he was finishing college, and he was faced with making many of her health decisions that on more than one occasion meant life or death. After receiving a phone call telling him that she could die within 2 weeks, Thom’s perspective on life shifted radically. In the end, she lived another 6 months, and they were exceptionally difficult. She fought death the entire time even though her mental capacity for such decisions was often questionable. When she was finally placed in hospice care, it was predicted that she would die within the next two or three days--granting a strong possibility that she would pass on Thom’s birthday. Yet she was strong-willed and survived another 2 weeks, baffling her hospice nurses.
Thom has an 11 year younger half-brother through their mother. Thom’s brother is the most important person in his life and he tries to see or call him as often as possible while away at school. Thom is in his final year of graduate school studying to become a healthcare provider with aspirations of working in psychiatry. He lives with his two guinea pigs and roommate. He spends much of his free time with his girlfriend, writing, reading, or slowing making his way through a video game or TV show.
What does a writing success mean to you?
Success to me means that my work has helped someone who is struggling--whether they’re having difficulty at work, home, or themselves. I try to write about diverse characters facing real issues affecting us in our current age--climate change, social justice, internal conflict, and acceptance. I hope that readers can identify with characters on some level and feel a connection that makes them grow or better understand themselves. Stories become a part of us and have a lasting impact on who we are and how we think. They stay within our conscious and nonconscious minds as part of a pool of experiences that we draw from as we try to learn or approach a problem. If my story has entered that pool in the back of someone’s mind, then my writing has been a success.
Who or what influences your writing the most?
I would say that I am greatly influenced by any story that has had a lasting impact on me in some emotional level. I am a lover of stories in many forms: books, graphic novels, video games, movies/television--you name it. Of those that have had the greatest influence, I would list the following:
• Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show and the comics)
• A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones (books and show)
• The Lord of the Rings (books and movies)
• Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (anime; I still need to read the manga)
• Harry Potter (books)
• The Witcher (games and books)
• Fallout video game series (namely, #3, New Vegas, and #4).
What each of these have in common are real word themes, immense world-building, and they all demonstrate rich and well developed characters who feel, grow, and make difficult decisions.
My 11th and 12th grade English/Literature teacher also had a profound influence on my writing. I struggled more in her classes than any others in high school but I like to think her classes had the biggest impact.I learned how to better understand stories, pick out symbols, and understand the themes by breaking apart the architecture of a story--and stories are everywhere.
Do you have a system for writing?
I think so, though it’s probably not the most efficient or organized. I divide my system into two parts: how and when.
How: I use a broad outline that I follow casually. It just helps guide my writing and gives me something to move toward, such as key events. Sometimes the story follows the outline, and other times it naturally deviates into something else--and usually that’s for the better. I keep notes on various word files and a physical notebook, and make comments on my draft for things that I want to make sure are consistent or potentially problematic.
When: School comes first--that’s how it has always been for me. My schedule can be rather hectic and I often go home exhausted or with a full load of homework. When I have time off, or enough energy, I try to sit in a quiet environment and let my imagination take over. I like to do at least 500 words per sitting, but I tend to do more than that unless I’m facing some kind of block. When I have a block I either move onto something else or let the idea sit for a few days until it clears. Sometimes I go weeks without writing, either because I’m busy or have no motivation or inspiration. I don’t count this time as wasted; instead, I constantly go over ideas in my head or jot down notes.
If you could sit down with anyone (living, dead or fictional) and have a long conversation, who would it be?
Wow, that’s too many possibilities. I’m not good at making decisions with so many choices. My first instinct is to say my mom, since there is so much I never knew or understood about her before she died. I have questions that gnaw at me nearly every day that I don’t think I’ll ever get answers for.
What is the one thing that you find challenging in your writing work?
I find keeping up with my imagination to be the most difficult. There are so many things that I want to discuss, themes I want to address, or scenarios that I want to play with. It often gets overwhelming and makes it difficult for me to figure out where to go next. And, because I’m quite the perfectionist, I find myself overthinking nearly everything I write, doubting that it’s good enough or that I chose the right plot/theme/symbol to work with. I suppose it would be worse to have nothing to write about, but then I wouldn’t want to write in the first place.
Book Title: The Kings Gambit
The Lord of the Rings carried you on an epic journey. Game of Thrones made you fall in love with rich and complex characters. Star Wars threw you into the action and pulled you to the edge of your seat with its twists and turns. Now it’s time to the let The King's Gambit follow in their footsteps, but this time in your own backyard. No more fantasy worlds--this time you're going to the future, long after the collapse of modern civilization. You'll follow a young hero on his quest in a dangerous world, and discover a sinister plot revolving around the mysterious Vaults that were left still standing after the apocalypse. Are you ready for your next adventure?
Synopsis: It has been centuries since Earth's societies crumbled, leaving the planet a nearly barren wasteland. Since then, the remnants of humanity have slowly rebuilt isolated civilizations with new cultures and ideas, all seemingly unaware of how the world ended. It is a world ravaged by war, illness, and famine. To Benedict Limmetrad, the outcast son of Freztad's former chief, that world is about to get much bigger. When the mysterious forces of a faraway land capture a beloved member of his village, Ben embarks on a quest to bring her home-only to discover that the world is far more dangerous and mysterious than he had once thought. His journey proves perilous, and he is faced with death and danger at every turn. Throughout his quest, Ben's values and sense of self are pushed to the limits as he uncovers the secrets of the world, its past, and himself.
Other author links:
Final thought: Any additional information you want readers to know about you or advice you'd give to an aspiring writer?
Even though I published my first book this year, I still think of myself as an aspiring writer. As with anything in life, it takes lots of practice, and trial and error. There is always room for improvement. So to other aspiring writers: Don’t give up. If you have a story that needs to be told, then tell it. I’ve found that many writers aren’t people who just want to write for fun--they’re people who need to write. Whether it’s to explore a new idea or discuss a topic you find intriguing, it’s something that matters to you. So write about it. Don’t concern yourself with whether or not others will like it. That’s what editing and marketing are for. At the beginning, focus on your own needs and dreams.
To readers: Learn something from what you read. Use the opportunity to consider the author and what kind of person they are. Reading gives us a unique experience to get into someone else’s head in a paradoxically intimate yet private way. Many of the issues we face today are due to a profound lack of empathy. I believe reading gives us the tools to exercise our innate ability to care for and understand our neighbors. If you’re reading a book, it means that the content within it was important to that person. Try to take away some kind of message from it and understand why it is important. Perhaps it’s not important to you, but it is to many others, and respecting that difference can go a long way.