School of the Ages

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indie author interview: Mande Matthews and the Army of Swans

Posted by Matt Posner on February 2, 2012 at 5:55 PM

What's your name, where are you from, where do you live?

Matt, thanks for having me over at your blog! I bet you thought this was a simple question, huh? First, for my name; my actual name is Amanda Lynn, however, as a kid I was called Mande. When I decided to publish, I did some Google searches and discovered about twelve million search results for my name (no exaggeration). So I opted to go with Mande Matthews since I love the alliteration, and the numerology rocked. Yeah. You heard it right. But don't make fun. After all, Oprah changed her name for good number vibrations too…and if it worked for Oprah? Why not for me?

Though born and bred in Washington State, I've lived in Boston, NY, Los Angeles, and Arizona. I currently reside in the foothills of Glacier National Park, on the Blackfeet Indian reservation, but most of my time is spent inside my own head.

What do you write and why do you write it?

I fell in love with the fantasy genre at thirteen. My brother lent me his copy of Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I was hooked.

Yes, I first read that when I was ten. I read it in one day, all seven hundred pages. I just reread it in 2011, and it still holds up, though the sequels don't do anything for me. As you were saying.

I've always been imaginative as far as "never being in the real world." I was a dreamy kid—into art, music, mythology, magic, saving misfits (in fact, Rudolph's misfit song is still one of my all-time favorites). But Terry Brooks showed me a new world where heroes and magic existed, and I can still remember the feeling of pure joy I had when I finished book one of the Sword of Shannara series. I think, as a child, I always had the inkling that something existed inside of us—some potential—something akin to magic. And it's that discovery of self, through a hero's journey, that fascinates me.

I used to wait for weeks to watch that Rankin-Bass Rudolph show. Seems like we have similar taste. Please go on.

After high school, I ended up going to a music performance school (big mistake—mainly because I am terrified of being on stage, and I stink as a singer). I was the only "girl next door" looking girl in that college, which tended to make me a target for a lot of the punk-rock girls! As a result, my love of fantasy worlds turned into a refuge at this time in my life. I started spending endless hours at the library in Boston, then when we moved to New York City the library there was magnificent—I can still remember the Greek sculpture hall!—and I discovered Joseph Campbell's Masks of God series. Joseph Campbell shed so much light on humanity for me—on the archetypal mind and how story-telling is an essential component of the human condition trying to figure out our place in this world. I was already reading the big men in fantasy at that time: Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Robert Jordan, and a few women were getting into the fantasy boy's club as well, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley. Fantasy and mythology clicked into one devoted love at this moment in my life, and I began creating the world of ShadowLight.

I reread Donaldson over and over also!  Sorry I keep interrupting. Go on.

I had detours—mainly life (read as "school of hard knocks")—which kept writing in the wings as I studied the craft, and tried different forms, such as screen writing. When I moved out of Los Angeles, I decided to return to novel writing, as screen writing had proven to be too hectic and felt empty and devoid of some internal need for me. During my Los Angeles time, my favorite shows were Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess. I think, because LA was the dark days for me—ten years with a controlling, abusive man—the idea of female empowerment and not being a victim were impressed upon me by these types of powerful figures in pop culture.

When I moved to Arizona and married my hubby, I returned to novel writing, particularly fantasy because my love was so deep for the above-mentioned things. The influences visible in ShadowLight are a combination of: my brief time as a singer, my rocky life experiences, my love of epic, my devotion to mythology and the human mind, and on the lighter side, my draw to females who can kick some behind.

Wow, we share a lot of popular culture taste. For the first few seasons, I rarely missed Xena. Recommend to readers a book you have written.

My debut novel, Bonded, is first book of the ShadowLight Saga. Additionally I will be releasing a free, short prequel to the series in a few weeks.

The ShadowLight Saga is about many things, but most of all it's about the bond between two forces – whether that's human to human, human to animal, human to earth, human to the divine – and how we reconcile ourselves within a relationship with one another. Now that's the philosophical take…the other take is that it's an emotional rollercoaster ride, a thrilling action spectacle, with some incredibly kick-a heroes and heroines, who discover their uber-cool abilities as they learn their destinies intertwine in a beautifully dangerous realm of magic and intrigue.

I will be reading Bonded soon:  unfortunately I am too slowly making my way through my backlog of books by friends. I promise! Meanwhile, recommend to readers a book by someone else.

My favorite book of all time is The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Shannara is a classic for me, and though it is decades old, I don't think it dates. Of course, I also highly recommend a fantastical romp into School of the Ages, by the one and only Matt Posner.

Does that mean I get a review? (Cough, cough. Just kidding.) Tell an interesting experience from your life as a writer.

When I decided to self-pub, I couldn't figure out which book (or series) to put out first. I have a literal pile—stacks upon stacks, notebooks upon notebooks, computer jump drives upon jump drives—of stories I'm longing to tell. I'd pulled out my old binder containing all my research for ShadowLight, and read through the manuscript I had already had written—which blew chunks.* I knew YA Epic wasn't exactly a market hot-point, and rewriting the story seemed daunting, yet something pulled me toward the project. So I stewed on the subject without making a decision.

I had to pick up my husband from the airport, which is about a two-hour drive through a rural area. As I was driving along, a pale field flooded my view off to the right. I could not fathom what would be white in the middle of June, though everyone had warned me, winter in these parts could be unpredictable. Still, as I drew nearer, the whiteness stretched out to the horizon without an end in sight. Then their forms came into view. Swans. A massive flock of swans covered the ground. How many, I could never be sure, but I had never in my life seen so many birds in one place. And there was my answer. If any of you have read the book yet, you’ll know why—I have two main characters in ShadowLight. One is named Swan.

Wow. A flock of swans. Amazing story. From the sublime to the less than sublime… Would you tell an interesting experience from a non-writing job you've had.

Did you really have to remind me about non-writing jobs? Geesh, Matt! I try and forget about that on a daily basis!

I wish I could, but I'm going back to work at the high school again tomorrow. Had fun teaching "Annabel Lee" today. Speaking of which, if you had a brush with death, describe it.

Uh…which time?

What are your views about love?

I am afraid if I answer this question I will sound like a Beatles song.

Write about your favorite teacher.

This may be biased, but my husband is a faculty member at the Blackfeet Community College. He's my hero and best promoter. However, if I have to be completely fair, my high school English teacher would fit the bill. She'd laugh every time I performed a skit. Wait! Maybe that wasn't such a good sign after all.

Give me a link to a funny youtube video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE6ZD9UlLDo

Give me all the links you want to post to promote your work.

Amazon Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Bonded-Book-ShadowLight-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B006M40YWM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328224196&sr=1-1

Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bonded-mande-matthews/1108193396?ean=2940013757370&itm=1&usri=mande+matthews+bonded

Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114153

My website:  http://www.mandematthews.com/

Since this is an author interview, Mande didn't mention that she is also a professional cover designer. She didn't even tell me that! I found it out because I always Google the author's name before posting an interview. If you like her cover and want to hire her, contact her at her website above.

* ROTFL!

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3 Comments

Reply Mande Matthews
9:21 AM on February 4, 2012 
Matt! Thanks for having me over. I am digging your photo gallery. How fun to see you reading in Brooklyn! Wish I could have seen it in person. ;-) And of course you'll get that review...like you, I've got a ton of "to reads" on my ever growing list. I've already got you in my Kindle though, and ready to roll.
Reply Mande Matthews
9:34 AM on February 4, 2012 
Oh, Matt! I forgot to say thanks for the shout out on the cover design! Yes...I've been a Creative Director for over fifteen years, and have recently made the decision to see what I can do to share that branding and graphic experience with my fellow indies. We've got to stick together, you know.
Reply Matt Posner
6:40 PM on February 6, 2012 
It was a pleasure, Mande. A lot of my friends from school came out to the reading in Brooklyn. Bay Ridge is a great place to eat Italian food also. I would like to be a Creative Director. Being a professor and then a high school teacher has not prepared me for marketing and branding, and I'm learning by trial and error. Ouch -- lots of error.