Patricia A. Matthews, but now write under the name E. A. Irwin.
You are never supposed to ask a woman that question, though I’m old enough to know better and still young enough to mess that scenario up.
Where are you from?
I live in Fresno, CA, a town located in the Central San Joaquin Valley, home of the Dancing Raisins and known for our two seasons—Heat and Fog.
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc.
I am single with no children, and have a mother, sister and a nephew who was recently killed. I’m second generation Irish here in the United States. My grandparents met here in Fresno after travelling thousands of miles from Ireland, never knowing each other, and ended up living on the same block, which to me is interesting. I now live on that same block.
In college I was a microbiology and vocal performance major. I eventually left school without graduating to work, but continued singing solos and sang with several groups which travelled, as well as sang with choirs involved with our local symphony. Singing was my true passion. I’ve also worked in several aspects of the health care field from convalescent hospitals to in home care and have taught some classes in medical terminology and medical assisting. Although I will admit my terminology skills are rusty.
I also paint land and seascapes in oil and love taking pictures to use as potential subjects for paintings or to frame.
Fiona: What is your main job?
I fix other people’s mistakes for eight hours a day, longer if I have to do overtime work.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
First, let me thank you, Fiona, for allowing me to do this interview. I really appreciate your interest in my work.
The most current writing news is the inclusion of six pieces of flash fiction, three pieces each in Pill Hill Press’s Daily and Daily Frights Anthologies published for 2012. I also have three stories out there, lying in a publisher’s slush pile, which haven’t been either rejected or accepted, but I’m holding out hope for the latter.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Honestly, I never intended to write anything other than letters or whatever needed writing on previous jobs. However, around seven or eight years ago, I was laid up with an injury for quite awhile and read several books a week because I couldn’t do much else other than go to physical therapy. I kept thinking I could write something at least as good as some of those books. Of course you have to remember I was in bed with not much else to do and my brain was obviously over thinking my ability at that time. But, I had this continuing story in my head which I kept growing to keep my mind from getting too bored at work, so I just started writing it down. After several years living with those characters at work and elsewhere I knew them and their storylines so I could go almost anywhere with the stories, which I did.
Two hundred thousand plus words later I finally put The End on the page and cried. I had finished the tome and I hadn’t given up and also started which would now become the third book in that series since I know that first endeavor needs to be divided into two books. I haven’t worked on that series for awhile but that was my first huge work and became the Shamrock Series, an umbrella under which the Riley McCabe series will fall when out there. I stared big due to my ignorance at not knowing anything regarding writing. I laugh all the time at my grandiose adventure. But since then the writing bug bit and here I am.
Fiona: Do you consider yourself a writer?
Not really even after that previous long answer. I consider myself someone who puts a pen to lined paper and scribbles thoughts until they make some sort of sense. I know I’ve put author on several things since I’ve written them, but in my head writer means a person with a vast repertoire of work behind them and who has made it in the world as “writer.” Perhaps storyteller with a pen would be a better description since I haven’t made it to the big time.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Most people who have read my work have said I do. Not quite sure what it is but apparently others recognize it more easily.
Fiona: How did you come up with titles for your work?
Usually, I begin with a title which interests me and is perhaps the theme of the story. As I write sometimes the work changes and so does the title. I try to make the title a bit intriguing so I am able to get people to read. There are lots of stories out there to compete with so often a title makes the difference.
Fiona: Is there a message in your poems and short stories?
Not always, it just depends on what I’m writing and if it is for a certain anthology or book. The criteria is different if you are submitting short stories or poetry to anthologies since often you have to write within the publishers idea of the book and not strictly for your own pleasure.
If something is particularly important to me I may work it into the piece and try not to make the story a “cause” story. I think you can write effectively and make people think without hitting them over the head with your ideology, unless you’re writing non-fiction, which I don’t write. I do have several stories in the works which do have strong messages because I have very strong convictions on the subjects, but I am hopefully writing them in a way which will be entertaining fiction and allow the person think about the subject for themselves.
I don’t consider myself a crusader in my writing life, however, there are times when fiction and reality collide and a story springs to life with a message imbedded.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
The Bible, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Winnie the Pooh and the Nancy Drew series, plus many I can’t remember the names of since I’ve been reading a long time. One other book sticks out as well. I believe the title was a children’s book, “The Phoenix and the Carpet” or something similar. I don’t actually remember the story but to this day I remember the feeling of adventure as I read. I read at a very early age so most of these books gave me ideas about what I wanted to be or thought I could become. Mostly, I wanted to be a secret agent when I grew up so it was fitting that I fell in love with mysteries and thrillers and knew locations and all the trappings of a spy.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
You mean which writers would I like to mentor me? Jeffery Deaver because I like the non obvious way he approaches a mystery and thriller, yet is intricate and cunning, and Stephen White, who writes the Alan Gregory series and is a psychologist, who could really get inside my head and help me figure out all the intricacies of human behavior I want to write about.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Currently I’m reading Vince Flynn’s first book “Term Limits” and look forward to reading all of his work. I really enjoy listening to him discuss real non-fiction topics, such as terrorism, and I love reading good thrillers. I am also continuing to read through Patricia Cornwell’s “Kay Scarpetta” series because I like the character and subject matter. Can you tell I’m a series junky? Probably why I want to write a good mystery series.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
There is Blaze McRob, who is not new to writing, but is writing under a new name. I enjoy reading his work. There are so many new indie writers out there I’m sure I would miss someone. I don’t get a lot of opportunity to read since my work schedule is hectic and I’m trying to write, so I tend to play catch-up with writers I am familiar with so I can relax.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am working on writing the first novel in my short story series “Myth to Life: The Rise of Riley McCabe.” The working title is the “Blood-filled Kiss” as well as writing on other short stories or novellas which are screaming to be finished in my computer.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Not exactly sure what you mean by entity. But I have been lucky to be supported by a few people I work with who have read the Riley McCabe series and give me feedback, as well as a few writing forums where I have been able to post stories and poems for feedback. Honestly, I can’t do any of this without readers and helpers, nor do I want to. Writing is difficult since you’re alone with your thoughts for endless hours. It helps to occasionally have someone willing to have ideas bounced off so you can tell if you’ve been living inside your head too long.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest work?
Probably. The latest work I submitted could most likely go deeper in the characters approach to the story since I like to get inside the character’s heads and mess with their thoughts and psyches, but I was working against a strict word limit so there were parts I couldn’t expand. Most likely I’d change most of my work but there comes a time when you have to stop dinking around with it and say done. Perhaps this is just me, but is anyone ever satisfied with their work and doesn’t want to tweak it?
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was always an avid reader, especially of mysteries. The genesis, as I stated earlier, for writing came out of wondering if I could actually write since I was bored and doing little else. Could I keep myself interested in what I wrote?
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Working title: The Blood-filled Kiss. Riley McCabe is a psychic and occasionally works with the police to solve crimes. Her current case takes her from her home in Scotland back to England to help solve crimes committed against children by a serial killer. While there she encounters an entity other than the killer who she knows is keeping track of her efforts. She isn’t sure if the entity is friend or foe, but senses protection from them. Eventually, she meets this entity and her world is turned on its head. Not only are some of her secrets revealed but she discovers there may be more enemies hunting her than she realized even though she has a vast array of enemies already coming after her from her past. Who gets to use whom and for what reasons plays into the theme here.
I am taking the readers of the short story series back to the beginning of where Riley McCabe met Braedon Carlisle and far beyond since this is a series. Each short story will eventually work into novel length or get combined into a novel.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Everything. From sitting down and facing a blank piece of paper to doing final edits, there is nothing which doesn’t challenge me. But in that is the prize. If I weren’t challenged I probably wouldn’t do this. There are far easier ways to pass the time and not get judged for it.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favorite author since there are so many, but I do love reading Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt and William Monk series, respectively. You actually feel as if you’re in Victorian England and living their lives with them. Likewise, I go back to Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series because he’s made the lead, who is also a psychologist, vulnerable to every human emotion while having to perform his job. I also like P. N. Elrod’s vampire series with P. I. Jack Fleming, which is set in 1930’s Chicago.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing poems and short stories?
Staying focused with the subject. Novel writing allows a bit more leeway with subplots and such, more than short stories and definitely poetry. Not rambling in poetry is challenging in keeping it succinct.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your poems and short stories?
I’ve learned quite a bit. I was on a writing site and entered both short story and poetry contests. One poetry contest lasted three weeks and you had twenty-four hours to write a poem to a specific prompt. That was a huge challenge. Sticking with that taught me discipline to the craft, not that all the poems were stellar, but working through a variety of forms and meters to get a finished product. I also was on several flash fiction writing teams there and had to produce a piece of flash every day to a prompt for several weeks. Another hard adventure, but I am now rewriting or editing some of those flash pieces and submitting them, as with the poetry, to different outlets and some are now published, such as the six for Pill Hill Press.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep hacking away at the forest in front of you. Success truly lives between your ears and nowhere else. Don’t be afraid to admit you know absolutely nothing; people will eventually respect you more than coming in with a huge ego and proving you know nothing. Seek people who will give you an honest appraisal of your work, not who will agree with everything you’ve written, there is a huge difference. Always work toward being your best no matter what, find a good editor because everyone needs an editor, and don’t settle for “that’s good enough” it usually isn’t.
Fiona: Have you any of your poems or stories published?
Yes. I’ve had several poems and short stories published, as well as my short story series “Myth to Life: The Rise of Riley McCabe.” If anyone is interested in what has been published I would love for them to drop by my website and find out and read the items I’m currently participating in, in my blog.
Fiona : Do you have a blog/website
Thank you, Fiona, I do. You can find me at http://www.eairwin.webs.com