Thursday, March 4, 2021

Matthew Newman Interview - Kingdom of Ink and Paper

Photo Content from Matthew Newman

Born in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina, Matthew Newman grew up on fantasy. Whether it was the Harry Potter series, The Golden Compass, or any of the hundreds of books he read throughout his childhood, he was raised to believe in the impossible and the spirit of adventure. In the third grade, he was reprimanded for writing stories in Language Arts instead of paying attention, which just made him do it more. In high school, Matthew established himself as an author with the self-publication of two novels, stories that helped introduce him to the joy and excitement of publishing as a business. After graduating from Duke University with degrees in sociology, markets and management, and creative writing, Matthew returned to his roots and established Sandcrest Publishing, the indie publishing house responsible for the release of Kingdom of Ink and Paper. Matthew currently lives in New York City.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and grew up in a suburb north of the city, called Cornelius. I currently live in New York City.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There was an opportunity to get early access to the novel, and I’ve had a number of early readers come to me and say how much they loved it, and how excited they are for the sequel. I think it’s rewarding and heartwarming to know that not only are there people out there who enjoyed the book, but there are people who are excited to read what I’ve got coming next. It feels great to know that there’s an audience out there.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
One of the interesting things about Kingdom of Ink and Paper is it’s technically not my first novel. Sure, it’s the only one that I’m actively selling on the market, but it’s the third in my repertoire. When I was in high school I published two other novels, medieval fantasy stories that centered on a fictional castle called Sandcrest Castle (which is where my publishing company, Sandcrest Publishing, got its name). I always wanted to write my own book, and when I was in fifth grade, my dad encouraged me to just try writing one down and seeing what happened. It took a few years, but I was able to self-publish my first book in ninth grade, and then its sequel my senior year of high school. The Betwixt and Between Chronicles are my focus right now, but it’s my hope to go back to my first babies and rewrite them one day (now that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a little better at my craft).

Tell us your latest news.
As of now, my life is all about getting Kingdom of Ink and Paper out into the world! But outside of the literary, I’ve recently gotten very into TikTok. I resisted joining for the longest time, but as far as social media goes, I’ve found it’s the easiest for me to update and the one I’m best at. I don’t have an aesthetic for Instagram. I don’t have enough one-liners for Twitter. But book-related skits? I can pull that off.

Let’s see, what else ... I’m going through a big Phoebe Bridgers phase right now. Currently binging the anime Attack on Titan. I’m in the midst of rereading Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass in preparation for the third season of HBO’s His Dark Materials.

Can you tell us when you started KINGDOM OF INK AND PAPER, how that came about?
I don’t remember exactly when I first had the idea for Kingdom of Ink and Paper. The earliest, proper example of it written down is a play I wrote the first act of when I was fourteen. But the story has been around way longer than that. I’ve always enjoyed thinking about fantasy universes, and which ones I’d like to be a part of. My parents have videos of me running around my childhood backyard, swinging long sticks and pretending I’m fighting invisible enemies, or waving a magic wand and pretending to cast spells. The obsession and desire to enter the universes of written fiction is engrained in me, and I think that just natural passion is what fueled me to finally put ink to paper, as it were. But I’ve been familiar with the story and premise for as long as I can remember.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope it’s something fun that takes their minds off whatever’s worrying them! I don’t write to produce profound words or paragraphs that readers need to read over and over again to understand. My goal is to produce a fun, easy, and enjoyable universe that lets reader have an escape, as long as the cover of the book is open. If the reader finishes the book, is happy they read it, and is looking forward to the sequel, then I’ve done my job.

What part of Will did you enjoy writing the most?
The thing I love about Will is that he really is, at his heart, a genuine person. He’s incredibly eager to learn about the world around him, and even more eager to help Tam solve Arthur’s murder. It’s not necessarily out of a desire for power or adventure, but because he knows it’s the right thing to do. It’s easy to channel heroic energy through him, even though he can be naïve and (at times) downright foolish. For me, he’s a great protagonist. He gets a feel for his magic powers quickly, though there’s plenty he still doesn’t know or understand. He’s easy to root for.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
The deuteragonist of Kingdom of Ink and Paper is a man named Tam Desmond. In Will’s world, Tam is a fictional character who comes to Will and teaches him that everything ever written down by humans comes to life a universe parallel to ours called the World of the Written, and becomes Will’s mentor and teacher. Tam is a well-meaning guy, cares about Will, but can be incredibly type-A. I think he’d benefit from a nice long chat with Dumbledore or Gandalf, some powerful mentor-figure who’s figured out how to toe the line between a wise adviser and friend without being an annoying stick in the mud. I love Tam, but come on man ... loosen up! Sure, I know I’m the reason you are the way you are, but still!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Oh gosh, there were way too many. But I’d say the biggest was college. I started seriously writing Kingdom of Ink and Paper my senior year of high school, and when I started at Duke, it was hard. I definitely fell off the horse a little bit. What was more, every time I went back to the book, I found that I had grown up and wanted to write in a different way. My tone changed, my style changed, and the plot changed, all to reflect the growing up I did in between ages eighteen and twenty-two. By the time I graduated and started my first real adult job, the book was pretty much finished, but it still took another year to iron out some of the finer details and have it ready for editing. I guess the real answer to this question is life! Also, watching all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the matter of six months didn’t help.

I’m a little interesting, I suppose, so here are some facts about me!
  • 1.) I’m a huge dog person. The first time I didn’t live with at least one dog was my freshman year of college. My parents currently have a short-leg Jack Russell terrier named Murray, who I go home and see as often as I can.
  • 2.) I went to college at Duke University, so I am an aggressively passionate Duke Basketball fan. My little sister went to UNC-Chapel Hill, so basketball season is ... tense.
  • 3.) In school I majored in sociology, so I spent my days doing pretty much the opposite of creative writing; however, I did get a minor in creative writing, though those classes were mostly spent crafting poetry.
  • 4.) I’m allergic to pitted fruit, which means I can’t have avocados or guacamole. I’ve never even tried them!
  • 5.) I collect medieval weaponry! I currently have five swords hanging on my wall, and I try to buy a new one every time some big life event happens. I’d like to have an armory of some sort in my future office.
  • 6.) I play the saxophone! Primarily alto, though I do own a soprano. I also have a piano in my apartment, though I unfortunately can’t play it particularly well.
  • 7.) My favorite movie of all time is Zootopia, though The Lion King (the original) and Arrival are both up there.
  • 8.) My favorite television show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, I recently finished binging The Good Place and Sense8, both of which I highly recommend to literally everyone who asks me for TV recommendations.
  • 9.) The book that made me want to be a writer is the novel Marlfox by Brian Jacques; however, my favorite book right now is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
  • 10.) My favorite band/artist is a three-way tie between Coldplay, Phoenix, and AJR.
  • 1.) Morrison High School, the school the main characters attend, is based on my own high school in my hometown!
  • 2.) The town, Alexandria, North Carolina, is based on Davidson, North Carolina. The name of the town was actually inspired by a classmate, who during Calculus class senior year, asked me if I could put her in the book. I actually was trying to think of a name for the town at the time, so it worked out perfectly!
  • 3.) There is only one deleted scene that didn’t make its way to publication: a conversation between the main character, Will, and the older brother of Will’s favorite author (who is murdered in the opening pages of the story). The scene actually moved to the second book, where it’s more relevant.
  • 4.) The book was originally written in the first-person present point of view; however, my editor thought it would be better if it were written in third-person omniscient, in order to give me more freedom when it came to telling the story from other characters’ points of view.
  • 5.) Will’s name changed several times throughout the editing process. He was originally named Henry, then James, and his last name switched from Williams to Wilder until I settled on Morgan. In super early drafts of the story, Will’s name was Harvey (very glad I changed that).
  • 6.) Will’s name wasn’t the only one that changed. Jaser was originally called Thomas (Tom in early drafts), and Raina was originally Maria.
  • 7.) In the earlier phases of the book, there was an entirely different villain. The role Simon plays was originally held by a character named Onat, who was a more nefarious version of Will’s beloved Familiar. The character originally was more of a pestilence to Will than anything else, and favored teaching him about the Writer’s Eye in a way of trial-by-fire. He died at the end of the novel, snuffed out by the book’s actual villain. Some of my first test readers felt he didn’t really serve a purpose (they were right), so I ended up nixing him completely.
  • 8.) During the portions of the book that aren’t imbued with magic and danger, Will has a friendly albeit competitive rivalry with a fellow band member named Dane Richardson. The relationship between Dane and Will is based heavily on a relationship I had with a friend from childhood, who played the sax and proved to be a source of competition and growth throughout pretty much my entire high school experience. Though I’d never admit it to his face, he is 100% a better sax player than I am.
  • 9.) The final climatic battle of Kingdom of Ink and Paper was written entirely to the Kingdom Hearts II video game soundtrack.
  • 10.) Kingdom of Ink and Paper’s original title was The World Only They Could See. It had that title up until very late in the editing process, when my editor suggested I explored changing it. I was up late for several weeks trying to think of a different title, but one day it just hit me in one fell swoop.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
An extended backpacking trip. I’ve gone on several 1-2 week long backpacking trips, and I always come out of them feeling extraordinarily rejuvenated. There’s something magical about being out in the woods alone, with nothing but the sounds and feeling of nature to keep you company. Not to be too granola, but it really helps put life into perspective. Plus, it’s an amazing workout and a great excuse to eat a ton of carbs.

Best date you've ever had?
Summer 2017. Random Tinder match while I was interning in NYC. We went to the Museum of Natural History, then drank a $30 mojito pitcher at a random dive bar in East Village. We then trekked 50 blocks through the city at night until we inevitably said goodbye. We didn’t end up together, but the first date was definitely one for the books.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I know this is going to be cliché, but I don’t believe in yearning for the past. I’m very happy with where I am now, and feel like I’m at the top of my game. Every moment of my life so far has led me to here, and I really love where and who I am. Though if I had to pick, I guess I’d say my second semester of my senior year of college. I already had a job lined up, my classes were easy, and I was living with my best friends. It was paradise, and I didn’t have a care in the world. And then adulthood hit.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
My phone and wallet are two that I absolutely need at any given time. I also refuse to go more than five minutes outside my apartment without my headphones, because if I’m not with someone I’m always listening to music. I also try to always have a bottle of water with me, because I know the second I don’t have one with me, I’m going to feel like I’m trapped in a desert.

First Heartbreak?
Fourth grade. I told my friend I had a crush on her, and then he told her! The nerve! She didn’t feel the same way and my classmates made fun of me.

My first real heartbreak was freshman year of college. I had recently come out, and was still trying to navigate my own sexuality and figuring out who I was. Dating shouldn’t have even been on the table. But I went on a few dates with a grad student who inevitably wasn’t looking for something serious. It was my first foray into gay dating, and threw me through a loop as I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve definitely been through worse heartbreak since, but something about the first time hits differently, you know?

What is your most memorable travel experience?
My junior year of college I was studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland, and my group took a weekend trip to the Isle of Skye (a remote portion of the Scottish Highlands). It truly was like being in Middle-earth. To get there we had to take an hour-long ferry across this gorgeous stretch of water, with endless mountains on all sides. When we eventually hit land, we had to drive for about an hour to reach the town we were staying in, which reminded me of a medieval village, with all of the buildings made of stone. The biodiversity and just general variance in the landscapes made me feel like I was seeing multiple places over the course of the weekend, and my mind was blown. It’s at the top of my revisit list.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love with a guarantee of a heart break, easily. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There’s a quote that reads, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Every moment you spend in love is a learning experience, even if it’s learning about what you need from a partner or what you want from your life. Being in love brings happiness, but it also brings growth, and I think that’s a really powerful thing. So, if you get your heart broken, you can grow from it. You can learn. And then, if you want, you can look back on that love with reminiscence and gratitude.

Where can readers find you?
Instagram: @MatthewNewmanAuthor
TikTok (if you’re feeling brave! I’m funny!): @MatthewNewmanAuthor
Twitter: @MNewmanBooks

Every book you’ve ever read. Every story you’ve ever heard. What if they were all true?

When high school student Will Morgan goes on a school trip to Boston, he doesn’t expect to witness a murder. But when best-selling novelist Arthur O’Neill is found dead, Will realizes there’s more to this writer’s books than just words.

After O’Neill’s death, Will receives a mysterious package: a copy of The Redstone Keep, one of O’Neill’s famous novels. Upon reading the book, Will passes out and is introduced to a man named Tam Desmond, The Redstone Keep’s protagonist. Tam explains that he is a resident of the World of the Written, a universe parallel to our own where everything ever published by humans comes to life.

Through his conversations with Tam, Will learns that something was targeting Arthur, and that same force is now after him. Armed with his new powers and a magical sword, Will sets out on a journey to solve the mysteries surrounding the murder; however, all the while, Arthur’s death may have just been the start of something much more sinister.

You can purchase Kingdom of Ink and Paper at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MATTHEW NEWMAN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Kingdom of Ink and Paper by Matthew Newman.


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