Tag Archives: interview
About the Book:
The storm has come. Homosexuals, once an ostracized social minority, have taken over the world. They understood the dangers of an overpopulated planet, usurped government power, and created a culture of perfectly engineered families. But Grace Jarvis and Dex Wheelock are heterosexuals–part of the government’s highly controlled backup plan for reproduction–and they have a problem: Grace is pregnant. Dex is the father. It is a crime that has only one consequence: banishment to the Antarctic Sanctuary, an isolated biological reserve where reproductive criminals are allowed to exist in peace, without disrupting the rest of civilization. Yet there are rumors that genocide has already begun and that the homosexuals are finally setting natural breeders on a path to extinction. This leaves Grace and Dex with only two choices: to succumb to the tyrannical regime, or run. They choose to run.
Matthew Beier’s debut novel tells the intimate story of two people bound by the force of life itself as they set out to protect their unborn child and find value for themselves in a world that has rendered them worthless. This rainbow-tinted reflection of our own society–part political satire and part dystopian thriller–is a novel you won’t want to miss.
Content warning: This book contains explicit material including strong language and graphic sexual content and violence, and may be disturbing to some readers.
About the Author:
Matthew J. Beier is a novelist, screenwriter, photographer, and graphic designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he was nine years old, the film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” (and, subsequently, the novel itself) inspired a passion for storytelling in him that branched in two directions: writing and movie making. This led him to film school at Chapman University in 2003, where he spent three semesters studying screenwriting, film production, and English before spending a final semester abroad at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. When Matthew isn’t working, he enjoys tea, exercise, watching films, and spending time with his friends and family.
Interview with the Author:
TM: What sparked the idea for The Breeders?
MJB: The Breeders was a fusion of two unrelated things: my [gay] friend’s well-purposed use of the term “Stepford fag,” and the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 ad campaign equating gay marriage to “a coming storm.” When my friend made the “Stepford” joke in reference to gay male couples nesting in suburbs, I imagined a whole neighborhood—and then society—of them, complete with controlled, engineered families and all the usual stereotypes. Then, I saw the NOM’s ad, which portrayed alarmed heterosexuals commenting about gay marriage against billowing thunder clouds. Being a gay male myself, I’d spent a lifetime on the social fringe due to my sexual orientation, and I couldn’t help but think that the people responsible for the ad hadn’t even bothered to put themselves in the place of the people whose lives they were trying to affect. When that sentiment collided with my visions of gay suburbia, the book bloomed to life. At first, I thought it would be a satire with straightforward humor, but that changed as soon as I started rationalizing the world. I found it a bit more chilling to take an ambiguous approach—to juxtapose the satire with the darker, more serious story elements in a way that would challenge readers to make their own assessments. I didn’t want to spoon-feed them anything. Not everyone will like that approach, but it allowed me to write exactly the book I wanted to write.
TM: Do you think the world as portrayed in The Breeders could really happen?
MJB: I did a lot of research to sell the concept presented in the book, but I’m fairly certain any biologist would tell you that combining same-sex genes to form functioning human beings is complete science fiction. Thus, I don’t think a society kept afloat by homosexuals will ever happen. That said, most of the scary stuff in the book—overpopulation issues, prejudice based on sexual orientation, sexism, hate crimes, and genocide—is happening in the world right now, which is why the book may be relatable for a lot of people. As for the future, I could see a “liberal” movement toward sterilization happening, if human population continues to grow at the rate it has in the last century. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually decreases drastically by some disaster—possibly a man-made one like the Bio Wars. Who knows?
TM: I see that you are also a photographer. What are the similarities between photography and writing?
MJB: Here’s a roundabout answer: I’m happiest when I’m producing something, whether it’s a book, a photo, a painting, a video, or whatever. It has been that way since I was a kid. When I was about three, my sister Mara supplanted me as the youngest child, and I was distraught. On the day of her baptism, I was so bereaved that I snuck off and painted twenty watercolors (which my mom apparently saved) to make myself feel better. Nothing really has changed. Creating stuff, whether it’s good or terrible, gives me a sense of purpose, and thus makes me happy. Photography is similar to writing—and anything else I make—in that it’s just another way for me to interpret my world. I love adjusting light and color to create images that somehow move me, which isn’t much different than adjusting words on a page to tell a good story. It’s all about that final feeling of enjoying what has come out of me, and hoping others will, too. I still haven’t figured out what the drive to create art really is, but it definitely has to do with feeling contentment at having shared my best efforts with other people.
TM: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
MJB: Learn all you can about the publishing business, and listen to people’s feedback. Your vision is your vision, and certain aspects of it are going to be set in stone. Even so, bend wherever you need to in order to make your book a product that people will want to read. If you want to make a living writing novels, you’ll need to sell them, whether you publish traditionally or independently. Get test readers who won’t be afraid to tell you where your book needs work. After that, realize that your book probably does need work and that your words aren’t always gold fresh from your fingers. Some might disagree with this, but I think a healthy dose of self-doubt can help writers strive to be better—and as a result, have a better chance at success. Just be careful not to be so much of a perfectionist that you get lost and never finish the work.
TM: Tell me about any upcoming projects.
MJB: I’m in a project flux at the moment. The book series I have been working on since high school—the story I’m really, really excited about—just isn’t working in its current form, and I’m not yet sure how to fix it. I’ve been rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting, but I decided in December to shelve it temporarily. On the bright side, a new book idea came to me over Christmas, and I’m quite excited about it. All I can say is that it’s about a bunch of twenty-somethings who return to their hometown for the funeral of a high school friend who died under very strange circumstances. It won’t be as dark as The Breeders, but it will still examine some of life’s biggest questions. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will work!
Follow Matthew J. Beier on:
Author, CD Harper is pleased to announce his book, Covenant. This work is a historical fiction novel set during slavery and the Civil War and looks at the relationship of the slave master and his slave love. The story also delves into the impact of slavery, the war and the human impulse to love on lives of everyone on Covenant Plantation. Covenant is told from the perspective of a slave.
The Civil War provides a smoky background for this debut novel that delves into the uncomfortable friction that exists between the waning power of the Southern plantation culture and the emerging identities that lie beneath. The naive Seth Hunter Jr., whose existence has been mapped out for him by domineering patriarchs, finds himself forced to confront his life as pressures from the past and future force him from his pedestal. The divine nature of the American ideal of Manifest Destiny led earlier generations of Hunters from humble Northern beginnings to a precipice of Southern power embodied in Covenant Plantation, Seth Jr.’s inheritance. As the Civil War unseats the stability of the South, Seth’s own life unravels. The estate, the lifestyle and the woman he was given all become harder to hang on to as he struggles to fulfill his destiny.
About the Author:
Dr. Clifford D. Harper is a respected theatrical executive producer and playwright. His written works include Curse and Neva’s Tale. Neva’s Tale was produced by Theresa Larkin, directed by Ted Lange, and earned actor Larry Gammell Jr. an NAACP Award and another from L.A. Weekly in 1993 for his supporting role.
A retired Professor of Theatre Arts and Dance at California State University, Los Angeles, Clif served as the Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts where he established the “Theatre of the Twenty-First Century” and revived the Dance Kaleidoscope program in the LA community. During his tenure, he became the founding Executive Director of the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex, where he developed the world-renowned Luckman Jazz Orchestra. Dr. Harper’s commitment to the arts was instrumental in facilitating the art retrospective: “African American Artists in Los Angeles, A Survey, Exhibition, 1945-2003.”
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Clif taught for a year at Sangamon State University before moving on to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he served as Chair of the Black Studies Program and Dean of General Academic Programs. Dr. Harper received an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, a Master’s in Theatre and Speech and became one of the first African Americans to earn a PhD. in English from St. Louis University
Born and raised in a segregated neighborhood of East St. Louis, Illinois, Dr. Harper graduated and later returned to teach at his high school alma mater, Lincoln High. Dr. Harper found this experience to be significant and rewarding. During this time, he discovered his passion for theater and found inspiration in his students, many of whom went on to have gratifying careers.
Dr. Harper’s many accomplishments have included: working with the renowned Katherine Dunham, receiving a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Award, earning one of the earliest Certificates in Black Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and starting a “Forgivable Loan” program for female PhD’s at CSULA.
Clif and his lovely wife, Linda, have migrated north to the Oregon Coast, settling in the charming town of Gleneden Beach. Clif continues to write and is working on his next novel.
Interview with the Author:
TM: Please tell me about the path to publication for Covenant.
CDH: I have always wanted to be a novelist. Now that I am retired I can
give my full attention to creating a world that reflects my thinking
through characters and stories. There nothing more exciting and fun! The
creative process is a full body, mind, soul activity. I can not think of
of anything so fulfilling. So Covenant is number one! Frankly I had not
thought much about the publication of my work. My wife, Linda,
encouraged me to to take that step!
TM: What prompted you to make the switch from writing plays to writing books?
CDH: Most of my work life, I have written parts of novels between
the writing of plays. It was fun!!! Now the table is switched! I write
plays between the novels. I just completed the “working draft of a
play,” while I’m waiting to hear from a publisher about my second novel.
TM: What inspired you to write from the point of view of the plantation
CDH: I think the slavery experience in this country offers a
wealth of opportunities for exploration of the American character. The
literature of this country is lacking in this area. Was it censorship,
self-induced? The fear of really looking at the entire history of the
American character from a variety of points of view? Think about it!
What do we know about who we were during this time? And what impact did
or does that have on who we are today!!! Perhaps nothing at all!
You can read more about CD Harper and Covenant at http://www.cdharperbooks.com.
For my review of insight – go here: “Insight” Book Review
About the Author
Diana Greenwood is a full-time wine and food writer, whose work has appeared in publications such as California Visitor Review, The Napa Valley Register, The San Francisco Chronicle, the American Booksellers Association Newsletter, Napa Valley Life Magazine, and Wine Country This Week Magazine.
As much as Diana enjoys freelancing, her leading love is writing stories for teens, traveling through the eyes of her characters as they embark upon life-changing journeys. She is a member of SCBWI, a member blogger with the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors, and can be found on Facebook. Diana is a college football fan, loves to ski, dabbles in mixed media collage, and collects illustrated antique children’s books. She is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, California, where she is Youth Group Leader and active in many facets of the church community. She has a thousand favorite books but if she could only pick one that influenced her along the way, she would choose I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven. Diana’s tattered copy lives on her nightstand in case she needs it in the middle of the night. Insight is her first novel.
Interview with the Author
TM: Tell me about your path to publication for Insight.
DG: Well, it was a long and winding road, for sure. I’ll give you the condensed version. I wrote two middle-grade novels before I wrote one that I thought might sell, and that novel was Insight. Writing fiction is a combination of ability and training like any other art form and people don’t always realize that lots of practice and intense study is the only way to improve. I’m a firm believer that you have to write a novel to learn how to write a novel.
It took about eighteen months to write the first draft of Insight, another six months to polish it with reader and critique group feedback, and six additional months from pitch to signing with my agent. The manuscript first went out on an exclusive, which took almost a year and ultimately ended in rejection. That rejection resulted in a revision that improved the story and my agent sent the manuscript out on a first round to editors. Insight got positive comments along with the rejections from some amazing editors so I jumped back into the story and did a complete re-write. During that revision the story changed, became more of a spiritual journey for the main character, and the family dynamics and conflicts deepened.
When it was ready, my agent sent it out on another round. One editor that I highly respected requested a revision, sending editorial notes that made perfect sense to me, so we accepted the revision request. This meant that Insight couldn’t be sent out to anyone else until that editor had seen the rewrite. As I began that revision, the very same week, actually, my husband and I split up so I made the decision to put aside writing and focus on raising my daughter alone. Sometimes what’s good for the author is bad for the book. I had to get a second job and life was busy with little time left over for creative endeavors. During this time my church, Covenant Presbyterian in Napa, was extremely supportive and I think that without my church family I may never have picked up this book again.
I did finish that cover to cover revision although it took a year and a half. I added a character, grounded the story in detail, changed scenes and added scenes, and then it went back out to the requesting editor. It took her about three months to reject it.
I quit. *laughs*
But my agent had another editor in mind for Insight. The second editor to see the final version, the right editor for this story, bought it. We have no control over the timing; we only have control over the quality of the work. The timing is up to God. That final revision made Insight a better book and now, looking back, thank goodness this was my path to publication because Zondervan is amazing to work with and I can’t imagine this book with any other publisher.
TM: What’s your best advice for getting past writer’s block?
DG: Writer’s block is really about fear. It’s an internal censor that lounges in the brain with its feet up, intent on messing with your mind. The censor constantly whispers, “you’re not good enough, you’re too old, you can’t really write, you’ll never be able to speak in public anyway, so give up this fantasy now.”
You have to kill the censor. You have to acknowledge that the fear is real and write anyway. Anne Lamott writes down these little fears, puts them in a jar, screws the lid on tightly, and hides the jar away. Whether a writer does this metaphorically or physically, the censor needs to die.
Working with a good critique group is critical because the support from other writers who “get it” is so valuable. Read a lot but read critically from a writers’ viewpoint. Stay active and creative in other ways, crafting, painting, sewing, gardening, wherever you feel most at home. Trust that if you’re supposed to write a book, the words will come if you do the work.
TM: Did you have to do any special research for the book?
DG: I love research and I also very much dislike research. For one thing, I tend to go off on tangents, finding new story ideas in the strangest places, which does not improve one’s daily word count. (Not that I actually do a daily word count.)
I’m a collector of vintage books and magazines, in which I can get lost, but are invaluable for advertisements, fashion, popular products, pricing, and other period information as well as language of the day. One of my most well-used research books is Look at America, Houghton Mifflin, 1946, a “look” in big, bold pictures at every region’s industry, landscape, history, landmarks and people. For Insight, I spent hours in the reference section of the library checking WWII timelines, rationed items, when rationing was lifted, and general details of the time period.
For help with Wisconsin terrain and 1947 Portage city and street details, I used a primary source, a friend who grew up there. Her mom once worked with the historical society and had saved maps, newspapers, and photos, which brought the town to life for me. Although much is fictionalized in this story, street names and landmarks are real.
In Insight, there’s alcoholism and since I didn’t grow up in a family dealing with the disease I had to interview adult children of alcoholics in order to ensure that the details of a character growing up in an uncertain environment were consistent and truthful, yet also portrayed compassion.
You can never do enough research. Trust me here. When the book was in final review, my editor pointed out that a car model I’d mentioned had not been introduced until after the story took place. Oops. I thought I’d fact-checked that. Thank goodness my editor caught that mistake and also has a sense of humor.
TM: What are your upcoming projects?
DG: I’m currently working on two projects. Another historical fiction called Three-Penny Poet where the main character in the untamed Chicago of 1933 is forced to confront mental illness in his family, and the second project is a Sunday School at Home series of picture books. The first book in the series is ANY DAY RAINBOWS, which is just about ready to go to my agent. Wish me luck.
Check out Diana Greenwood on Zondervan to learn more about the author and Insight.
I was not compensated in any way, nor did I receive any review copies of the book for writing this review post.