Today we're taking part in the blog tour for THE SUMMER THE WORLD ENDED by chatting with author Matthew S. Cox. Grab a seat and a cool beverage and get to know all about Matthew and his book. Don't forget to enter the rafflecopter at the end of the post!
Hi, Matthew! Welcome to We Do Write. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! Thanks for having me on your blog! I’m in my early forties, have two cats, a fondness for writing, video games, roleplaying games etc. I suppose one could argue I’m a ‘geek,’ but for whatever reason I never got into comics. Once, my addictive energies got sucked into the vortex that is World of Warcraft, but I jumped ship shortly before the panda stupidity occurred. Now, I throw that same energy into writing. Most of my books are sci fi/cyberpunk, though I’ve written one other YA, and I have a middle grade fantasy coming out toward the end of this year as well.
Tell our readers a bit about THE SUMMER THE WORLD ENDED.
The book is about Riley McCullough, a shy, introverted fourteen-year-old who has retreated into her bedroom and the safety of video games to escape teasing at school. (She’s got a high metabolism and gets picked on for being anorexic even though she isn’t.) Being non-confrontational, and already dealing with emotional issues stemming from her father leaving them when she was eight, she preferred to hide.
Her epic summer starts off on a sour note when her best (only) friend is taken on a surprise graduation gift/vacation to Mexico for two weeks, leaving Riley “alone and bored.” Before she can bemoan that too much, her comfortable suburban life gets turned on its head. With no choice in the matter, she winds up going across the country to live with her estranged father, who – much to her shock – wants and loves her.
Riley’s shy, but she’s not stupid. She can tell he’s hiding something, and she’s hurt that he wont trust her with the truth about why he left her and her mother. He lives out in the middle of nowhere, a few miles outside of a fictional town in New Mexico. With nothing but horizon on all sides of the house, Riley feels more alone than ever before. Cut off from the Internet, and everyone else she knew, she attempts to fit in with the local kids but feels like a duck hanging out with swans.
One of the locals, Kieran, shares her interest in video games. Despite her father’s disastrously tactless attempts to be helpful, the two become friends. The news paints a scary picture of an unstable world, and Riley witnesses military convoys driving through her new home town on the way to Holloman AFB, carrying nuclear missiles. Soon after, bombs knock her out of bed in the middle of the night.
Fortunately, her father had been preparing for such an event – and saw it coming. He hauls her out the back door to the safety of an underground shelter he’d prepared with enough food to last them five years. Huddled in the dark, staring at the red-glowing light of a radiation sensor, Riley struggles to deal with everything that’s happened, everything that’s turned what was supposed to be the best summer ever into the end of everything.
Cool. And I really like the cover! How did the idea of the story come to you?
A while back, I wrote another young adult title, Caller 107. The original cover that book released with didn’t go over too well, so I was looking for ideas. I had met another author, who also makes awesome covers, in a writer’s chat room. I asked him what he’d do for a cover for a story with Caller’s concept, expecting he’d give me some advice on layout or themes. A couple days later, he sends me a cover. I thought it was awesome, though it had a strong post-apoc vibe to it that didn’t fit well (and CQ agreed) with the tone of Caller.
So I had this great cover that I couldn’t use. Caller had been a one-off as far as I’d thought, being YA, compared to my other writing. However, I had this girl staring at me (not the release cover for Summer btw – we ran into some issues using his cover and had to redo it) and I wanted to put a novel behind that cover.
At the time, I was elbow-deep in the writing for the Awakened series, but I kept ideas simmering around the back of my head. I was searching for a story with a post-apoc feel, a young female protagonist, and something to do with a radio. (The original cover suggestion he sent me had radio stuff on it.) Once I finished writing the Awakened series, I sat down and stared at this cover for about two weeks. The story formed in my head from the picture. While I was writing down the outline, I had an a-ha moment that wound up changing the direction of the entire thing. I don’t want to say anything about what that a-ha moment is, but when you read the book, I’m sure it will jump out at you.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter. Though, perhaps I’m a bit of a hybrid. At least ten years ago, when I sort-of wrote a novel, I had a lot of false starts. Back then I just sat down and tried to write. It didn’t work for me. I’d get stuck in a snarl of ideas and wind up being unable to decide how to proceed. I read something about outlining, and decided to give it a shot. With a road map to follow (or a spine upon which to layer the meat of the plot), I found I had the ability to finish the story.
What I mean by hybrid is that I don’t slavishly outline every tiny little detail. Some chapter notes can be as simple as “fight with demon here,” while others can be quite long and detailed. I don’t think I could’ve finished a book like Virtual Immortality without an outline as there are a lot of complex threads going on throughout the story.
Also, I am open to changing things. Althea (the MC of Prophet of the Badlands) got mad at me for the direction the outline was supposed to go. About 60% of the way through (approx) she put her foot down and demanded I change the story. I wound up pausing in my drafting and reworked the outline to suit the direction she wanted to go. Considering that story was about her transition from timid, meek little thing that does whatever people tell her to someone with the courage to protect herself (and those she loves), I couldn’t not change it. That change wound up affecting the entire series in a not-small way.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting started on page one of the draft. For some reason, the urge to procrastinate is high there. Like I’m standing at the top of a rollercoaster and afraid to push off. Another issue that complicates the start for me is that I’ve somehow come up with this habit or quirk where I have to have the first word of a novel (heck even my short stories do this) be something meaningful to the character.
For example, the first word in The Summer the World Ended is ‘oblivious.’ Riley starts off as oblivious to the world around her. She’s a sheltered, shy, “forget the world, I’m just going to stay in my room” sort of person. She doesn’t care about the news, the world at large, or anything that doesn’t directly affect Riley Dawn McCullough.
Another example would be from Division Zero. The first word of the book is ‘adrift,’ which describes the main character’s feeling about her life at that point. She feels adrift in a sea of humanity, with no clear idea of who she is or where she’s going.
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
Blood of the Sacred Bean. (Coffee.)
Haha. I worship at the same church. ;) If you could have any super power, what would it be?
The ability to heal others.
What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
“Goat Hugs.” – CQ has this thing for goats… and some times strange conversations on Facebook require stranger images.
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
Sleep? What's that? Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
As a relative unknown, I have to thank everyone who has purchased a copy of any of my books. It’s not an easy thing to get started as a writer, and I truly appreciate the support of people who find my work interesting enough to read. Also, a massive thank you to anyone who takes the time to post an honest review. Reviews help a lot.
Second, I had a lot of support from the people at CQ (Lisa Gus, Eugene Teplitsky, Andrew, Nikki, Clare, and everyone else) as well as some writerly friends I’ve made online along the way. Thanks go out to Ann Noser (author of How to Date Dead Guys) for her feedback reading an early draft. Tony Baker (author of Survivors of the Dead) who helped out with keeping the police characters realistic [he’s an ex-cop.] Joe Cautilli was an invaluable help with the psych stuff. Last, and most significant, Sam Hunt (author of the Outlaw King series) who made the original cover that inspired the story.
Thanks for stopping by the blog!
You’re welcome ☺ Thanks for having me.
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