Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ashley Matthews and Pausing Apocalypse

On this chilly Canadian morning, I would like you all to meet Ashley Matthews, author and member of the CIR group. I really love sharing my page with other authors, and with you. Hope you find his interview as interesting as I did! Enjoy :o)


Born in Sussex in the mid 60’s, he grew up and went to school on the coast of the south of England in the UK. Following that and a move to Kent, writing was just a personal hobby only seen by a few. Various job roles including - gardener, porter, nursing, shop assistant and office assistant kept it that way. A family of two sons left little time for much else. When a period of unemployment and family break up followed, the thought of writing became more than just a dream. Having completed two novels and self published one of them, he is currently looking towards writing full time.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him recently, this is what he had to say:

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

I guess it would be a bit of a cliché to say I had always wanted to be a writer but one of my earliest memories of it comes from an English lesson. School in the 1970’s was a very different place to schools now a days and would never really think of myself as the academic type - unlike my two sons who have succeeded very well.

It was never my favourite place, but there was one small light in that very dark tunnel. An English teacher I had a bit of a crush on.

I remember she set us homework to write a short story from an opening line she gave us. In fact it turned into a bit of a competition between my friend Mark and me to see who could write the longest story. By the time we handed them in, I had filled three exercise books. I wouldn’t say it was any good - actually I can’t even remember the story, but my teacher being very diplomatic gave us both ‘A’s.

Various girlfriends after leaving school prompted the usual flow of poetry. Stories though eluded me. I would start something then have another idea and move on to that. So nothing ever got finished.

A family and two children put everything on a permanent hold as life’s priorities changed and it wasn’t until after that relationship had broken, that writing rose its little head again.

I began writing ‘Pausing Apocalypse’ with the encouragement of a friend. My main aim was just to finish it and two years later I completed the last page. Initially, I sent it out to three agents - though only got two replies, while I moved on to my next novel ‘The Postbox’.

Not having enough self-confidence to line a matchbox, Pausing Apocalypse got forgotten about until I ended up talking to a girl on the bus who asked to read it. So I dug it out and started editing. A year later I had my first novel on Amazon.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

Living in the UK, I am currently classed as unemployed so can’t officially spend more than 16 hours a week writing. I received my first payment from Amazon this week and will have the job centre take most of that off me. I want to write full time and am in the process of trying to become self-employed. Then I plan on spending 30 hours + on writing and marketing.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Pausing Apocalypse tells the story of two children, Jen and Luke who’s lives are falling apart around them. Although ultimately aimed to be epic in scale within the trilogy, the story opens on a more personal level as the two children discover they possess the souls needed to save humankind from destruction.

Jen, bullied at school and hating her home life, is handed a letter that may have the address of her real father. Following a violent confrontation with her step father, she decides her only option is to run away. But nothing ever goes to plan.

Luke also finds himself in the middle of an argument that has fatal consequences and leaves him lost and alone. An old man who calls himself Barak finds him wandering in the woods and spins tales of destiny, souls and a deadly darkness that threatens to consume all in its path. The only thing that can save the world are three souls. Luke possesses one, Jen the next, but the third is lost.

Luke has to save Jen before they can hope to save the world.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

Planned as an epic trilogy under the title ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’, Pausing Apocalypse is set in a modern contemporary world that is slowly being distorted by an approaching darkness. The sequel, Standing At The Edge Of The World planned for a 2014 release will expand that world into the past, while the final book will stretch out into the near future and a final confrontation with the darkness that threatens to consume everything in its path.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

Inspiration for the overall story stems from many sources. I would say a big guiding light for me would have been ‘His Dark Materials’ by Phillip Pullman. Like his story, I wanted to write something set within an epic background, but from an individual and personal perspective.

The initial idea was also to have a mini cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter much like the old Saturday morning children’s TV shows. Successive edits and rewrites may have lost some of those, but hopefully the need to read the next chapter remains.

I would say the basis of the main character Jen - although a girl - was initially based on myself, while Luke’s character was designed as a foil for her. Much like the story, they each grew as it developed.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

I watch a lot of films as well as reading books and the message a film contains will to some extent govern how much I like it. For example, one of my favourite movies is ‘Magnolia’ and the message I feel that contains is - How much can someone do and still be forgiven for?

With my book I would like to think the message would be - How far are you prepared to go to save those you love?

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

My stories tend to evolve on their own which can be a very scary thought as I never know where they are heading or where they will end up. They can also start from very unlikely sources.

One of my more recent projects ‘Not Every Cloud’ took just a girls name to spark it. My son posted something on Facebook, this particular girl I don’t even know ‘liked’ it and from just seeing her name, a story evolved.

It’s not always as easy as that, but generally I’ll start with a title or opening line. Next, I usually come up with an ending and writing the story becomes a journey from one to the other.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

Pausing Apocalypse began many years ago as more of a hobby than anything and was a personal test to see if I had it in me to write a whole book. I think in that I succeeded.

Research wise, not a lot was really needed. Mainly just the origins of a couple of names I used within the book. With the sequel being set mainly in 1941, that will need a lot more and I am looking forward to doing that part.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

I have completed three novels so far, two of which are Young Adult. I enjoy writing for that age group and have three other stories, including the sequel to Pausing Apocalypse, in some form of written progress at the moment.

My other novel ‘The Postbox’, I would class as adult drama. I am probably going to release that in the new year as a series of novellas.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

Although newly introduced to Amazon’s self-publishing service, it has definitely given me the inspiration and urge to write more. Previously only ever having something I had written being read by someone I know, getting positive feedback from total strangers is the best feeling to someone like myself with low self-confidence.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

I think a plan for marketing is definitely the best way of going about it, unfortunately that escapes me at the moment. I tend to just wing it - as you say, take one day at a time. That can be a bad thing, as other commitments and setbacks will distract from the constant need to sell yourself to who ever will listen - and even those who won’t.

Social media is these days the main marketing tool, but I am trying also to raise a local profile to with plans to donate copies of my book to local libraries and schools.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I would say to ‘read, write, read, learn and lose yourself.’
Writing is more than just putting words together into sentences. You have to be able to attach a little emotion and a tiny part of yourself to each of them.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I have a few projects in the pipeline that I am really excited about.

‘Not Every Cloud’ is a young adult novel about a 10 year old boy struggling with everything life throws at him, until a girl moves in next door who appears to hold the answers for him. But in his hour of need, is she all she seems to be?
Due for release in January.

‘The Postbox’ is about a family struggling to survive following a tragic accident. Told in 8 separate novellas from the individual perspectives of those left behind.
The first is due to be released in January.

‘Meg Knows’ is also a young adult novel I am currently writing and tells the extraordinary life of a 14 year old girl. Told through her unique voice, you will meet all the important people in her life that made her who she was. Because without them, she would never have been able to do what was needed in the heart-wrenching climax.
Due for release February/March

‘Standing At The Edge Of The World’. The highly anticipated sequel to Pausing Apocalypse is due for release summer 2014.

I have other ideas and stories rolling around in my head, so as long as the words keep flowing, so should the novels.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, it was quite interesting to read what you had to say. 

Pausing Apocalypse

How far would you go to save the ones you love?
Would you be prepared to do whatever it takes?
For 13 year old Jen and Luke life couldn’t get any worse 
- then destiny shows its hand and the world tumbles around them.
Before they can save anyone, they have to save each other, but would either of them be prepared to make that ultimate sacrifice?

“How can something so important be just down to me … to us? We aren’t anything special.”

The first thirteen years of Jen’s life have not been happy, so how could anything get any worse? Then the appearance of a letter lead events spiralling way beyond her control.
Luke is also thirteen, but holds a secret that won’t stay hidden. One moment of a fateful evening changes everything for him.
Then there is the old man Barak, who seems to hold answers to questions they didn’t even know existed.
They are just two children that seem to have been abandoned by life itself, until they discover they have a destiny that could not only save their lives, but change the world forever.
So with the world on the brink of destruction from forces beyond imagining, events out of their control are about to lead them to a point even destiny hides away from.

from chapter 21

Jen was a little girl again running down the stairs in her Winnie-the-Pooh pyjamas. She came like a whirlwind into the living room only to be halted instantly by the sight before her. The lights, the sparkling tinsel. The wonder and awe of the Christmas tree with all the brightly wrapped boxes spread out underneath. But mainly the colours. Lots of colours.

She could see the smiling faces of her mother and father together. Her sister looking so young and excited. A special day in so many ways. She could smell the pine mixing delicately with her mother’s perfume and the remnant aroma of last night’s dinner.

Then she was moving again towards the sparkling bows and ribbons and glittering paper. One big box caught her eye and as she went to grab it, her mother’s voice rang out.

“That’s my girl, that’s my little Jennifer. You open that one.”

Within moments she was ripping off the wrapping. The small scraps of shiny paper danced about her as she tore and threw the bits off until all she was left with was a plain white box. There were no pictures or writing on it to give a clue to the wonders she knew would be inside. After all, this was Christmas and every parcel contained something special, didn’t it?

Unable to resist the temptation and desire to open it, she pulled off the tape that held down the lid and prepared herself to extract the treasures inside. But all she found was emptiness and her enormous disappointment. Jen’s smile disappeared and she thought about trying another parcel, but found herself unable to put down the one in her hands.

“What you got then?” Liz asked with unknowing enthusiasm.

But Jen couldn’t answer. She just stared at the nothingness inside until it appeared to burst out like a Jack-in-the-box and consume all around her. The tinsel and baubles, the lights on the tree, the smiling faces. They all faded away until she was left with just the voice of her mother in the darkness.

“Wake up, please wake up!”

Jen was no longer that little girl with Christmas in her eyes. She was older, knew things she didn’t know back then. Like the fact her mother was dead. She had put flowers on her grave, got angry, wept in secret so no one would see. She couldn’t be here.

“Wake up, please wake up!”

How could it be her voice?


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