Book Nerd Interview
A musician by trade, Matthew Mainster began writingGiggleswick on the backs of his piano scores while holed up in practice rooms throughout college. He is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College and Yale University, and lives with his family in Maryland.
Giggleswick is currently available in the United States and over a dozen European countries. For more on Matthew Mainster or to listen to his recordings, visit www.matthewmainster.com
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I am also a musician. I’m a concert pianist and organist, and I give recitals throughout the year. Additionally, I teach lessons. My musician friends and colleagues were likewise surprised to find that I write. I have an equal passion for both, however, and have no intention of slacking off in either pursuit.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Probably discipline. Both in music and everything else, you need to put in the time. You have to get good at juggling all the balls in the air and keeping a schedule. When I was in college, I would practice 6-8 hours a day on top of homework, meals, my job, and hanging out with friends. Now I juggle practicing several hours a day with writing. In order to succeed in school, you must do what needs to be done without question. This is harder when a teacher’s no longer peering over your shoulder or assigning deadlines, but I still try to set goals and schedules for myself to keep from getting lazy or off track.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I don’t know her personally, but Nora Roberts is known to have said "You're going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder." I think this is the case with every discipline. Sometimes I can’t wait to sit down at the piano to practice, or at the computer to write, but other times it feels like bloody work and I’d rather just read or watch sitcom after sitcom on the television! But you have to develop the habit -- sit yourself down at the same time every day and just do it. Both practicing and writing are the most enjoyable types of jobs to have -- it’s wonderful getting paid to do something you’d be doing anyway! You can lounge around the house and make your own schedule, but just like everyone else who has a job, you have to sit down and do it whether you feel like it or not. Plus, I always find that once I really get into a day’s worth of writing or practicing, I fall in love with the process all over again and the inspiration eventually comes.
What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
There are so many writers out there -- more than would ever be necessary to enjoy a lifetime of great literature. But, for those of us who feel compelled to be one of them, I think you have to find some way to stick out, some way to make a brand for yourself and your work. I’m still working on this of course, and will be forever, but I keep studying all the really big authors to see what they’re doing that makes them stand out in the crowd. One thing that I think is immensely important (besides writing a really good book!), is having a great cover. I adore my illustrator Lindsey Loegters’s work, and I’m hoping that having her on board for all of my books will make for an eye-catching, unifying body of work.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; Giggleswick: The Amadan Map, how would you introduce it?
Escapist. Whimsical. And hopefully fun. At the risk of sounding conceited, it’s exactly the type of book I’d want to read on a rainy day, or when I’m feeling down or on overload. I've always been fascinated by books in which children escape to another world via everyday means such as wardrobes, rabbit holes, train platforms, Kansas tornados etc., and I drew on these sort of stories for inspiration. The first idea that came to me was of a nation completely hidden by a circle of fog. The fog is always there, and yet other countries are much too absentminded to notice, and even if they did, they'd never make it through the fog alive!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Elliot?
He’s much more like me than I’d initially intended. Though I think he’s braver and quite a bit more adventurous!
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I have always written. Whenever I’d finish reading a good book, I was all the more inspired to write one myself. I wanted to create my own place to escape to ... like Oz, Hogwarts, Narnia or Wonderland. Once the idea for Giggleswick came to me, I was dying to escape to it. Now I’m dying to return for books two and three!
Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?
Again, I turn to Nora Roberts. Ironically, one of the most inspiring things she’s said is “I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. It’s my job to sit down and figure out what to write.” She also added, “Don't say, 'I'm going to write when I find the time'—that's the most irritating thing I ever hear. Nobody finds time, you have to make it.” I’ve found this to be absolutely true and I remind myself of it every day. I make a writing schedule and stick to it. It’s a job -- a wonderful job, but one that I have to force myself to sit down and do from start to finish, nonetheless. Now, if only I could write as fast as Mrs. Roberts!
If you could introduce Elliot to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Albus Dumbledore, because everyone could use a Dumbledore to go to now and again for a kind smile and a spot of good advice!
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Well, there are two more Giggleswick books to come, so those are first in line to be written. I’ve just finished another children’s book outside of the trilogy entitled The Periwinkle Turban which comes out this October. After Giggleswick, I have folders full of ideas -- mostly still children’s books. There’s even a series that would probably be for slightly younger children that I hope to get around to in the next few years. I doubt I’ll ever run out of ideas.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Well, it’s a bit cliché, but write what you know and feel. Just write -- you’ll never know what your voice or style is until you’ve written something. Likely the first attempts won’t be your best work, but I’m so thankful for my early attempts at writing novels. The two novels I finished prior to Giggleswick were just awful, but they helped me to find my niche, and I’m now much more confident in my writing. Another word of advice: Dissect your favorite books ... what does the writer do that you like so much?
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
I’m lucky to have been many wonderful places, but I think my most favorite spot on earth at the moment would have to be the quaint little town of Camden, ME in which the beginning of Giggleswick is set. I have been many times, and it is the most homey, endearing, relaxing destination I’ve ever encountered. I’d pack up and move today if it weren’t for my family -- I’d miss them too much!
What book are you reading now?
I’ve just begun The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne. It was his one and only murder mystery for adults. So far, the writing is typical of Milne’s charming and clever style. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“Who ate all the m&m’s?!”
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I was lucky to never have to work at a McDonald’s, or as a bus boy at a restaurant. As a musician, there was always a host of odd jobs here and there that were at least of mild enjoyment to me. So, I’m sorry, but it’s kind of a boring answer for this one -- no horrible summer jobs.
When was the last time you cried?
When Judi Dench cried in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. That woman is such an actress! I’m not much of a crier at all, but as soon as her face squinched up, I instantly felt her pain and couldn’t help but cry myself! It wasn’t buckets or anything, but it was slightly ridiculous anyhow haha.
Where can readers stalk you?
I have twitter, but admittedly, I hate it. I’m such a visual person, and Twitter is all text! And poorly written to boot! Plus, I refuse to have a phone glued to the end of my hand. Therefore, I rarely tweet. I much prefer Facebook and Goodreads, and I keep up with both on a regular basis. Readers can find links to all of my social media via my website at http://theworldofgiggleswick.blogspot.com. I’d love to keep in touch and interact with my readers!
It’s a natural phenomenon -- a small country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean hidden from the rest of the world by a circle of unnavigable fog. It’s called Giggleswick, and twelve-year old Elliot Bisby has never heard of it, that is until he and his family are approached by an unusual man and asked to move there. Before they know it, the struggling Bisby family finds themselves on a tiny boat captained by a man who prefers a singing parrot to a compass, and they soon embark on a journey that no other seaman could make and live to tell about.
In Giggleswick, Elliot and his parents find themselves mingling with a colorful set of locals the likes of which include an Irish-Arabian bagpiper, a man who thinks he’s a knight, and a woman who does her exercises on the roof in high-heels.
At last, Elliot has found the happiness he’s been waiting for and a place to call his own, but what he doesn’t know, is that helping Giggleswick to remain hidden from the rest of the world may prove far more difficult and dangerous than he could have ever imagined ...
The imaginary world within Matthew Mainster’s Giggleswick is magical and full of surprises. It is truly a feel good book with an exciting and adventurous plot. Once readers are immersed into its captivating story, they will never want it to end. Although the town of Giggleswick is bursting with magic and mystery, it will feel like it is a real place.
The combination of Matthew’s imaginative mind and writing prose has produced a very vivid imagery of a world that is over and above of what we know. Readers will discover that Giggleswick is a magical town with very peculiar people living in it. The characters are absolutely amazing, unique, and unforgettable. Matthew has done a remarkable job of capturing the magic and mystery of Giggleswick. The illustrations are a great addition to its already captivating storyline. With each word, it was like a paintstroke, painting a very vivid picture
Matthew is a skillful storyteller. The way he describes the things inside an imaginary city is simply incredible. There are plenty of surprises from beginning to end. This is the perfect book to kickstart to what it is certain to be an amazing series.
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