Saturday, May 5, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Mathew Harmon

This is our final installment of the Launch Week edition of Soapbox Spotlight.  Thank you so much for being with us this week!  Our special guest today is Mathew Harmon, an aspiring indie author, to talk about his upcoming novel Unfortunate Destiny.

Nice to meet you Matt!  Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’m 34 years old, and currently serve in the United States Navy as a yeomen (administrative assistant).  I’ve lived all over the west coast, but I spend the most time in a little town in Oregon called Albany; maybe about 50,000 people or so in it.  It’s a nice little place…in the summer.  Most of the time it’s grey and rainy though.  To me, it’s definitely a place to visit and not live, unless you like the rain.  I really didn’t start writing until high school, and only a little bit at that.  I took creative writing assignments and essay’s more seriously and put a lot of effort into them, but it took a unique high school class senior year for me to realize I actually liked writing.  It was called Senior Project and was an only slightly supervised class that less us be on our own.  The assignment was simple:  pick a project and see it to completion at the end of the semester.  So I choose to write a novel, and though I only finished 80 to 90 pages, it was the start of the novel I eventually finished titled Unfortunate Destiny

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Personally, my interest in writing began with an interest in reading.  I’ll never forget the first time I realized reading was fun.  One day in the summer, at the age of thirteen, I complained to my dad about being bored.  He had a look in his eye that said I might have gotten some chores to occupy my time, but instead he handed me his copy of The Hobbit and told me I couldn’t watch TV or play Nintendo until I finished it.  Sure enough, I fell in love with reading after that, and I eventually began to tell myself that I should write my own material, and found I really loved it when I took my own advice.

What inspires you to write and why?
Inspiration comes from everyday life for me.  You might catch a bit of overheard conversation here or there, or look out your window and see a bird landing on a tree branch.  It might sound cheesy, but I think the littlest, most inane things that happen every day can be inspirational.

What first attracted you to the [sci-fi/fantasy] genre?
Fantasy novels are primarily what I tend to read leisurely.  It’s about the only thing I like to write, although I have ideas for venturing outside the world of swords and sorcery, and do occasionally dabble in other types of stories.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? 
J. R. R. Tolkien‘s works are probably my most influential fantasy pieces.  If only one person loves my books as much as I love Tolkien’s, then all my hard work and effort were worth it.  If that one person keeps coming back to my works as I do to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then I can truly call myself a successful author.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I write short stories, and it mostly seems an easier process than writing a novel.  I think writing novels is a fun but difficult challenge in entwining different characters and ideas into a smooth and well written work of fiction.

Can you tell us about your main character?
There are only so many stories to be told in the world, am I right?  That being said, Jovost is a seventeen year old man-child, somewhere stuck in the middle of both of those phases of life, who lived in a sheltered world all his life.  The inevitable danger that befalls all main characters who once lived peaceful lives forces him into an unknown world alone, at first, and gaining friends along the way to help him.  Though he doesn’t know it until later, they all help him in ways he doesn’t recognize at first. 

How important do you think villains are in a story?
Often times the villain is like a twisted sort of hero, in the end.  If not for the villain, Jovost would not have left his sheltered life in the Monastery he grew up in.  He would not, in the later novels, find out about his heritage and how his life will turn out to be, if he was not forced to find these things out.  Thank the villain, my friend, for if not for them, who would shape our heroes into what they become as opposed to their humble and meek beginnings?

What do you love about independent publishing?
It seems to be that independent publishing is just that--independent.  It might be a simple statement, but here’s what I mean.  Sometimes, the major publishing companies can stem the ideas of the big authors and not allow certain novels into their publishing line, because it ‘doesn’t fit the mold’.  In that way, publishing a novel independently can more readily assure that your novel will remain more untouched and truer to the original vision you had for it.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Some people like to criticize video games, but it really is a new platform for telling stories, and more interactive ones at that, though they can’t take anything away from the imagination inducing experience that reading a novel can give you.  That and indulging in the moving story, in the form of movies and TV are what I’ve been doing to unwind from my long days aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

What are some of your favorites (foods, color, musicians)?
My favorite color is green, don’t know what that says about me, but there you go.  Who doesn’t love pizza?  If I was on the proverbial desert island and could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, provided I could put different toppings on it, I think pizza would be the go-to food.  As far as music is concerned, I’m a diverse kinda guy.  You have different styles for different moods; some people might not like heavy metal, but it’s nice to put on when you’re angry and don’t want to take it out on anyone.

Can you share a little of Unfortunate Destiny with us (blurb)?
Please bear with me, with this small excerpt of Unfortunate Destiny.  Though I have done a few rounds of editing and re-writing on the entire novel, you will still find some spelling and grammar issues; my apologies.

…Captain Jahymes should be just up ahead, guarding the newborn prince’s chambers, or perhaps over his majesties chamber itself.  A kindly man with the best stories, [Marina] had often been saved by a falsehood or two, if it meant saving the hide of his favorite chamber maid.  She felt something like the daughter he never had, and like he was a second father she could confide in; often enough, he had helped her with some problem or another, if she had not felt up to asking her real father.
A strange thing, as [Marina] drew closer to the chamber doors of the King and the Prince. Neither [door] was guarded, and a sliver of open air stood between the hallway and the King’s chamber; just what exactly would keep the diligent, old Jahymes from not posting duty as he always had? It was puzzling, and just who had been careless enough to leave the door open? Yet, at the same time, she stared at the gap with a strong temptation starting to bubble within her; a sickening feeling came up in her stomach, one in which comprised equal parts of excitement and fear. In the end, the cunning thing called temptation had wrapped its arm around her, pulled her from the street of normality into the black alley of blasphemous thoughts; a place that Santos could not forgive one treading for too long, or for willingly going back more than a few times. He knew those unfit for His kingdom, on the Beyonder Plain, and he would cast away those he knew to be unworthy.
Despite admonishing herself, Marina soon came to be listening at the strange conversation she started to here; she didn’t at all like the sound of the voices coming forth, now that she was paying attention to the tones.  These coldly strange voices were far too low and…and there was a strange quality to them, despite the chill every portion of word brought on. A raspy, scratching quality to them, they didn’t seem at all to be Welsian in the least, though she could understand them, as they spoke the King’s Word.
“Well then, doesss the child prove strong; will he prove a proper connection?” one voice asked, not as deep; to say this voice was not threatening wouldn’t have been true, and yet sounded peace-loving, compared to the thin, deathly quality about the next voice.
“The young one will bleed mossssst ssuficcently Lord Dolsssta, yes; the next eve will be a gloriousss day for ussss; finally will I be finisssshed with hiding thingsss longer.” Marina did not like this voice in the least. Both would likely strike her dead, should they have discovered the young maid standing there; she’d thrown her ear onto a conversation where it wasn’t meant to be cast. The second voice sounded of pure evil though; the black of night up against the relatively tame darkness of a shadow.
The first voice, the Shadow she named it, spoke again to the other, which she thought to name the Darkness.
“The King iss firmly under your control then, Delsssta du’ prajadi? I do not want room for error! Too long hasss our Lord Assssai lain without our reach; no longer! The Blood Moon will cassst uss back to our old glory again!”
She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard the Darkness gurgling in response. The darkness seemed to be here, in the castle, though the Shadow seemed elsewhere. Was this magical talking, like she had heard the royal seers could do? She had heard prajadi before, and she thought she heard the men saying it talk of such things like an evil variation of a Brother of Santos. She had seen only the healing magics they could perform, had never seen such things like magic or the white, blinding energy of Santos himself, that He bestowed on those who practiced His faith enough to have a tiny measure of Him flow through their bodies, and into their hands for healing, amongst other things. She was a common maid, so what did she know of such things; what would she have ever encountered of such things, until now, it seemed?
                The Darkness finally stopped gurgling, could this have been some sort of laughter on its—surely these things must have been the much spoken of, and little seen Asailian folk; half snake, half Man? Again, she thought she would never see one in her life time, though now she listened to two speak about her, and her kind as if refuse to be burned sometime, lest it pile up too high and make erroneous amounts of stink. Before she heard anything else, she padded off as quickly as she could, towards Mistress Kaitlin’s chambers, mindful to make as little noise as possible.
“Jovolin dances to my tune like a well made marionette my Lord, all is well. Tomorrow eve, the young Gralias prince will have his bloodshed, under the Blood Moon, that the ancient blood mixes with our own. I will have sufficient power, then, to bear the strain of the spells necessary to bring Asai back over us. He will rule dominantly amongst the Gods, as he will be the sole celestial force; none can ever free the other Gods again, Asai will rule all; we will ride the windsss again, with none of the othersss to bother us again. We will have Chemlaka unto ourselves again, assss we have alwaysss meant to! I bid you an excellent evenin…,” Delsta paused then, thinking he heard slippers upon the polished stone used in the hallway, yet he couldn’t have been sure; continued on, as he could not anger his king, Dolsta va’ Vaja, “…ahh sorry Lord, I was momentarily distracted. I shall bid you well my Lord; until we speak tomorrow evening, as something closer to Gods then mere mortals, as we now remain. Until that prominent evening!”…

Wow, that sounds exciting!  I can’t wait to check that out!  Well, thanks for joining us today, Mathew, and we hope you’re enjoying the party!
Thanks for having me, Ray, and congratulations on your new release!


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