Friday, August 7, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of Daniel R. Mathews, author of The Demons of Plainville

Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I have chosen to become an author to preserve what precious little sanity I have left. It’s difficult to focus when I have dozens of characters exploring my grey matter in an effort to escape out my ears. And they won’t shut up either! They’re always complaining about getting their stories done, and when I do let them out, they raid the refrigerator. Ingrates! Well, I guess I can’t be too hard on them, they keep me company even after I subject them to ravenous adolescent eating monsters so I suppose it all works out in the end.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

There is an enormous satisfaction in clutching that first print proof in your hands. Until reality kicks you in the unmentionables and you realize that you still need to market that book. Whether someone else is publishing your book, or you opted to self-publish, I don’t think you can appreciate the amount of effort and emotional strain that is required to both get the book written, and then to try gain a readership. The reality is that it’s a never-ending process of creation and marketing. And people wonder why writers frequently end with a bottle of whiskey as their best friend!

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I opted to tie one hand behind my back and flagellate myself by self-publishing. In all seriousness, I’m primarily doing genre fiction for the LGBT Young-Adult market. Something that some publishers have actually clamped down upon the past couple of years. I see it as an opportunity to attempt to own a niche market, with the hopes that my writing and packaging will be compelling enough to appeal to readers outside the LGBT market. The Demons of Plainville is somewhat an exception, where the subject matter includes anyone concerned about abuse, bullying, and homophobia. 

The fundamental problem with self-publishing is that you, as the author, take on all the responsibilities that any publisher, large or small, normally handles for the author. This includes cover and interior design, editing, securing distribution, entering metadata and then marketing to your intended audience.

Once you’ve established some relationships with reliable vendors, this isn’t so bad.  Since I’m not an illustrator, nor do I trust myself to edit my own work, I make use of professional illustrators and copyeditors to polish my work. I think the most difficult task for any author, but especially that of the self-published author, is finding cost effective means to market his or her books and that is certainly true in my case.

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.) 

Well, since I’m self-publishing I can’t be too snarky about the publishing industry in general. However, I’d love to take a couple shots at the supply chain side of the industry. Authors, self-published or otherwise hope to find their books inside more than just their local bookstores. And in my experience, most bookstores don’t appreciate you tying rocks to a bundle of books and tossing it through their front window, which means you need to deal with the supply chain.

There are two fundamental problems dealing with the modern book supply chain. Excuse me, did I say modern? I meant to say woefully antiquated, my mistake. This is an age where Amazon can deliver nearly any product from the warehouse to its destination for a few dollars, on the wings of a predator drone. Getting books into the hands of bookstores should not be such a traumatic process. Especially when it comes to the matter of book returns. I’ve crunched the numbers multiple times, at the supposedly industry standard return rate of 25%-30%, any small publisher would likely take a financial loss on bookstore sales. This is especially true if they’re leveraging print-on-demand digital presses which incur a higher unit price than using an offset print run.

I’d blame bookstores for this, but from their perspective of limited shelf space, I can understand their reluctance to take on the mounting volume of books without the safety net of returnability. Personally, I’d rather give the bookstore the full wholesale discount either in lieu of the returns, or actually have Ingram step up to the plate and create an efficient means of handling returns and directly injecting them back into the supply chain.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Well, in The Demons of Plainville I killed them off, so I don’t think they are too concerned about my publishing tasks. Kidding aside, since my memoir is about that dysfunctional family, I’m on my own with my little venture. I am certain that my Grandfather would be behind me, and would hold my nose to the grindstone to do whatever it took to make this venture successful.

Now, my friends, on the other hand, find the process fascinating. And when I say fascinating, I mean in the same way that you find driving by a roadside accident to be, fascinating.  Their eyes usually begin rolling behind their heads about the time the discussion turns to metadata. But, I really couldn’t do it without their enthusiasm, encouragement and reminders about why I’ve undertaken this publishing endeavor in the first place.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

I’d say me drooling like a rabid dog, while typing prose on my computer like Jack Torrance on a bender was technically the most insane part of this process, though I’ve not put my axe through any doors. The day isn’t over yet though so I won’t discount that as a possibility just yet.

For the most part, the overall process from writing to final proof has been relatively smooth. That was up until a few weeks ago when I was divorced by my editor. I think this is something that most authors would never envision, but it does happen. The editor I had retained to copyedit my horror novel The Unseen Kingdom had run into a variety of health and scheduling-related issues and opted to leave faster than a skimobile from the Overlook Hotel. That was a really jarring and emotional process because as I was left pondering whether my manuscript was really that bad or was it just an unfortunate set of circumstances. The frustrating part is that the editor had gotten about a third of the way through the project when he opted to quit.

Think about that for a moment. If you were producing a movie, and your director quit a third of the way through the project, would you hire another director and have them pick up where they left off, or would you start all over again? Every editor has his, or his or her own style, but the reader is normally insulated from this because that style is applied in equal measure across the entire manuscript. However, change the editor in the middle of the book, and readers will suddenly detect a stylistic shift in the book and it will become distracting just as it would in a movie.

Fortunately, I didn’t lose any money and my original production schedule remains on track, so the only damage was a few fried synapses and a couple empty bottles of gin.

How about the social networks? 

I’m primarily using Twitter because that seems to generate the most interest. That is to say, the interest a cat has with a laser pointer. Of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the fastest growing and perhaps because of that, offers the best chance for reward. But to break through the noise and short attention spans is difficult.

Facebook seems to serve as a pretty placeholder and has not garnered any interest. Maybe I need to reevaluate that whole having friends thing? At least then someone might like my page!

Since I’m not exactly photogenic, I’ve not jumped into the YouTube or Pinterest craze at this point.

Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I’ve been making use of an author-centric service called Bublish that allows me to take excerpts from my book, and share comments or insights about them. I can automatically then post links to these excerpts called “book bubbles” through Twitter. This combination does seem to be generating real sales, at a low price point.

I’ve tried a couple of these Book Tweet services but don’t believe that has resulted in any sales. I paid for Twitter Ads, but the cost per conversion just doesn’t seem worth the expense. Right now I’m on a blog tour and I suspect that will offer the best bang for the buck over the long term. The rationale is that I get to share unique content and evangelize my brand and beliefs, all the while avoiding tomatoes being thrown at me. 

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? 

The Demons of Plainville has only been out for a month at this point, so sales are fairly limited. One of the reasons I’m conducting this current blog tour is an effort to garner legitimate reviews, and get excerpts of my work in front of readers who would otherwise obliviously pass me by without as much of as a second glance.

How are you making the sales happen for you? What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

Right now the combination of Twitter with Bublish is the only thing that is overtly converting into limited sales, but at a very efficient cost per conversion.  The effectiveness of the blog tour really won’t be known for a couple of months, but that is more part of a long-term strategy.

Overall, I see marketing as a brutal war of attrition. There is no single magic bullet or virgin sacrifice that is going to push my books into the hands of readers. My attitude is that as an author, I need to build a library of well-written, professional packaged novels. Meanwhile, I will continue to grow my social media platform, do blog tours, podcasts and whatever else it takes to eventually dominate my niche and garner a livable income from doing what brings more joy and meaning to my life than anything else I’ve attempted.

Can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
Everyone’s read how something like 300,000 new titles were published last year. Guess what?  In a nation of 300 million people, if you’ve published a novel then you’ve done something that only 0.001% of your fellow Americans have done. It is an accomplishment to write a novel, and if it’s enjoyed and loved by only one anonymous reader, then I believe it is a worthy accomplishment. Now granted, I’d starve to death with one reader, but at least I’m appreciated!

It’s important to do what you love in this one life that you’re given. It gives me joy to breathe life into an empty page, and entertain, titillate, infuriate and sadden a reader with something I’ve written. It’s something I’ve done all my life, and it’s the one thing that gives my existence some sense of purpose and meaning. And I will fight to make this work, to improve my craft and make this a living because doing what you love, and having a life of purpose, is something worth fighting for.  

About The Book

Title: The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor's Story of Storms and Reconstruction
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 292 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710745
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction

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Book Description:

Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.

As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.

But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.

Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1: Telling The Truth

Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.

I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.

My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation

would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.

“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.

“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.

“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”

I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.

My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.

My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.

“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.

“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.

I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.

We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.

The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.

Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.

Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”

She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.

She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.

She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.

I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.

That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of

Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.

As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.

Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.

I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.

“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.

Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”

I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
began blushing.

The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”

This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.

Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.

Book Trailer:    

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

    About The Author

An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom. For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.   

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 Virtual Book Tour Page

1 comment:

Tobiath Tendaze said...

Thanks for the interview! I loved this set of questions.