Name Matthew Peters
Where are you from
I’m from New York State, but live in North Carolina.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Dual diagnosed* from an early age, Matthew Peters dropped out of high school at sixteen. He went on to obtain an A.A., a B.A. from Vassar College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught various courses in a variety of disciplines throughout North Carolina. He is committed to increasing the awareness and understanding of the dual diagnosed. Conversations Among Ruins (All Things That Matter Press, 2014) is his first novel. His second novel, The Brothers’ Keepers (MuseItUp Publishing, 2014), is a political-religious thriller that capitalizes on his love for history and research. Currently, he is working on a sequel to The Brothers’ Keepers.
*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news is that I have two books available, Conversations Among Ruins and The Brothers’ Keepers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing fiction in 2006. Prior to that, I’d actually read very little fiction. So for the past decade I’ve sort of been playing catch-up. I started writing because I had an insatiable need to write. However, it wasn’t until 2009/2010 that I was able to write full-time.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve considered myself a writer for several years, all through college and graduate school. But at that time I was reading and writing non-fiction. I didn’t start reading fiction seriously until a decade ago. Then in 2011 I changed careers and started writing full-time. I have considered myself a writer ever since.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was inspired to write my first book, an early version of Conversations Among Ruins, because of the tremendous pain I was in from a relationship ending.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style is usually concise. I do like description, but I don’t think I do it over the top. Also, I tend to use dialogue to develop (and move) the plot (along).
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title Conversations Among Ruins is inspired by Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Conversation Among the Ruins.”
The title The Brothers’ Keepers is inspired by the plot of the book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’d like that to be determined by each reader.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I spent a lot of time trying to make the books as realistic as possible.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The protagonist in The Brothers’ Keepers, Nicholas Branson, is based partly on me. Though he is smarter and more accomplished—I mean, he speaks like ten languages–we share the disease of alcoholism. I would say I have some of Branson’s tendencies to approach things on an intellectual basis, and I’m not always comfortable with expressing my feelings, though I’m trying to improve.
Daniel Stavros, the protagonist in Conversations Among Ruins, is dual diagnosed, like myself. The term dual diagnosed generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine, heroin or prescription medication). I have Major Depressive Disorder and alcoholism. Part of my work consists of raising awareness of dual diagnosis, a condition that affects 6% of the American population.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I consider several writers, rather than books per se, to be major influences. I’d love to write with the philosophical and psychological depth of Dostoevsky, the spirituality of Hesse, the soul of James Baldwin, the clarity of Hemingway, the plotting of Richard Wright, and the lyricism of William Styron.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Spy Who Came in the from the Cold, by John le Carré
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Tyler Johnson, Susan Bernhardt, Cynthia Ogren, Virginia Gray, Justine Erler, and Jennifer Ott.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Currently, I’m working on my third novel, which will be the second installment in the Nicholas Branson series.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My girlfriend and her family, though they are like family to me.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as something I must do, first; second, I see it as an art; and finally, I see it as a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not that I can think of.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, and throughout my life, have been I’m good at it. However, it wasn’t until a decade ago that I truly discovered what writing and literature meant to me. I’d had an earlier experience, where the poetry of the Romantics, especially Shelley and Wordsworth, got me through a difficult period. But in 2005 things really bottomed out. An important relationship ended, and it was then that I turned to fiction for hope and inspiration. I truly submerged myself in great literature for the first time in my life, and it redeemed me. Ever since, my heroes and heroines have been writers. I consider myself with a tremendous debt to repay all those who’ve come before, and all those who may turn to literature in their darkest hour.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I can say that Branson and Jessica will be going on another adventure. That’s about all I’ll say at this point.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I faced challenges in bringing both novels to life. With regard to The Brothers’ Keepers I had to master a good deal of history, both of the early Christian Church and the subsequent sects that developed out of the Roman Catholic Church. Second, I had to familiarize myself with scripture, not just the Bible, but also books excluded from the Code of Canon Law (the various Books that make up the Bible). Third, I had to describe places I’ve never been to—in this I was greatly aided by books, dissertations, YouTube and Google Earth. Fourth, I had to tackle a very controversial subject matter as respectfully as I could. Finally, I had to deal with some challenges to my own faith over the course of the research and writing.
When it came to writing Conversations Among Ruins the emotional terrain was extraordinarily difficult to navigate.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Fyodor Dostoevsky. His philosophical and spiritual insights, particularly in The Brothers Karamazov rendered many subsequent books superfluous.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Yes, but it is all done vicariously through research.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Deb Harris took the photo and designed the cover of Conversations Among Ruins. Carolina Bensler designed the cover for The Brothers’ Keepers.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
From writing The Brothers’ Keepers I learned that Jesus had siblings, brothers, and perhaps even a sister. This may be well known to other people. But having been raised Catholic, there was very little discussion on the role James and other siblings may have played in early Christianity. Hence, the book.
Writing Conversations Among Ruins brought me face to face with the whole issue of dual diagnosis, about which I learned a good deal. The term dual diagnosed generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine, heroin or prescription medication).
Approximately 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis.
It is also estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem.
Having a dual diagnosis differs, in terms of recovery, in that it is not just about refraining from alcohol, or taking anti-depressants. It is a synergistic condition where one illness exacerbates the other.
Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, and Robin Williams. I, myself, am dual diagnosed with major depressive disorder and alcoholism.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
How much time do you have? J
Seasoned writers don’t need my advice, I need theirs. But I would like to offer the following advice to new writers. These are essentially things I was told or wish I had been told when I was just starting out.
Read, read, read. 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.
Don’t be a perfectionist. 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.
The first draft stinks…but write it anyway. Anne Lamott talks a lot about the shitty first draft. (If you don’t know who Anne Lamott is, check out her book Bird by Bird). Indeed. But that’s okay. Give yourself permission to write lousy first (second and third) drafts. They’ll improve in revisions.
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, and don’t be afraid to vent them. Writing is not all sunsets and rainbows. Any writer who is really working will understand your frustration.
Join a writing group. Make sure someone other than your parents or significant other gives you feedback. But also be wary of taking too much constructive criticism from too many people, especially too early in the story writing process—too many writers can spoil the plot (among other things).
Don’t be overly eager to submit to an agent, or a publisher. Before you submit your work , 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 distinguish you from the slush pile. Save all of your perfectionistic tendencies for the final draft. You’ll be glad you did.
Always strive to improve. Constantly hone your craft by taking courses, going to workshops/conferences, and by reading books on writing. Too many times, I’ve seen writers who think they know it all stop learning. These are often the same writers who refuse to get feedback on their work. Don’t fall into this trap. Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Set a modest word count. Avoid setting unrealizable goals, thereby setting up false expectations. I shoot for 500 words a day on the days I write. That’s two pages a day, ten pages a week (taking weekends—or any other two days—off). This may not sound like a lot, but in a year, I have 480 pages, a good-sized novel. Slow and steady often wins the race.
I’ll stop there. I hope some of this helps.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my books. I think the bond between writer and reader is unique. Some famous writer said that books aren’t complete until someone reads them. And I believe that. I have the utmost respect and admiration for you. I love hearing from you, so please feel free to drop me a line and let me know how I’m doing. Also, reviews are much appreciated. Reviews are often the only form of feedback we get. All the best, Readers!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, it was Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Irony often makes me smile. I actually find a great deal of humor in life in general, so I try to laugh as much as I can, most often at myself. Sad movies or books make me cry, especially when there is the death of young ones or parents.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
The historical Jesus. It would help answer so many questions.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I really have no idea. I try not to look that far ahead.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Reading and watching old movies.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love Downton Abbey. In terms of movies I adore old musicals and Disney films. They are secret weapons in my fight against depression.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Italian and Indian. My favorite colors are red and green. I pretty much live by Classical music, especially Bach, Beethoven, and Mahler.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would like to have tried neurosurgery.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is www.matthewpetersbooks.com. My blog is there as well.
Here are my links:
The Brothers’ Keepers:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1IzYbPm
MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG
Conversations Among Ruins:
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