This week I had the privilege of interviewing American author Matthew Peters about his debut novel, Conversations Among Ruins.
Your first novel, Conversations Among Ruins, was released last week. What’s it about?
Conversations Among Ruins is a novel about addiction and mental illness. It is about the effects these conditions have on the life of the main character, a college professor named Daniel Stavros. It tries to show from the inside just what hell addiction and mental illness can be. At the same time, the book offers a message of hope for those who struggle with such conditions, or know of someone who does.
Obviously the book is a work of fiction, with a serious subject matter at its core. Are you hoping that any success will help raise awareness about the dual diagnosed?
I certainly hope so. It is estimated that 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis. It is estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem. Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Sigmund Freud. Robin Williams was also dual diagnosed.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
I look to meditation, music, and nature for inspiration. I also look to the stories of people I know as harbingers of hope. I also reflect back on my own struggles. The difference between what my life was and what my life is today provides me with continuous inspiration.
How do you organise your writing day?
My writing day is organized into two major parts. In the first part, from the time I first get up, which is very early, I do all the creative stuff that needs to be done. This includes writing, rewriting, and editing. I do this for about four hours, before moving on to the second part of the day, which consists of research, marketing, and publicity.
Do you have any advice for young writers just starting out?
Yes. First, read the classics and as much good literature as you can get your hands on. Read widely, too, from poetry and plays to science and politics. If you don’t read well, you can’t write well.
Second, realize that you may have several stories or even novels in you that you must write to get out of your system. In many cases, these will not be salable. That’s okay. Most of us have a lot of bad writing inside of us that needs to get out before we get to the good stuff. Growth for writers is a process. Be patient with it.
Third, don’t be a perfectionist. I think perfectionism kills. Realize that unlike other professions, say neurosurgery, writers don’t have to get it right the first time. We have the luxury of being able to revise our product as much as we wish. Realize that, and let it free you up in the writing process. Write junk if you have to, but write. Anne Lamott talks about a “shitty first draft.” Indeed. Most first, second, and third drafts are pretty lousy. But that’s okay. Give yourself permission to write and to not be perfect. You can always revise later.
Fourth, it’s okay not to be in love with writing every second of every day. It’s natural to resent it at times. Don’t stuff these feelings. Take a break if you can, and then come back to it.
Fifth, join a writing group. Make sure others read and give you feedback on your writing. Make sure someone other than your parents or significant other reads your work. But also be wary of taking too much constructive criticism from too many people—too many writers can spoil the plot (among other things).
Sixth, and I’ll stop here, before you submit your work to an agent/publisher or self-publish, make sure it is free from typos, grammatical, and factual errors. If you can afford it, have a content editor and a copy editor go through your work and polish it until it shines. Don’t submit anything for publication until it represents your absolute, best effort. I think you’ll be surprised how much that will help distinguish from among other writers.
E-book or printed book?
I still prefer a printed book, but I got a Kindle for my birthday and I have to say I’m liking it much more than I thought I would.
Harry Potter or Twilight?
Neither, but if forced to choose, then Harry Potter.
Literary fiction or genre fiction?
Thank you, Matthew, for becoming my first interviewee. I downloaded Conversations Among Ruins yesterday and have to say that from reading the opening chapters, I get the feeling that this is a powerful piece of storytelling. Where can readers purchase a copy of Conversations Among Ruins?
Conversations Among Ruins can be purchased in the following places:
Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1phAi7v
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1oASGcG
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1t6Q31L
All Things That Matter Press Paperback: http://bit.ly/1rBiB1e