Matthew Quick, author of the wonderful Sorta Like a Rockstar
ME: What inspired you to write something as unique as Sorta Like a Rock Star? How was your writing experience? How long did it take to complete?
Once I figured out Amber’s voice, this book rushed out onto the page. I wrote the rough draft in three months—which is super fast for me—and Little, Brown purchased it shortly after. Then my editor and I worked on the manuscript for another few months, which was a great experience.
ME: You’ve masterfully blended humor and seriousness into one story without obliterating one or the other. As a reader, I continuously felt the underlying solemnity as a result of the problems Amber faced throughout, and yet I laughed incessantly. How did you manage to convey such differing emotions/feelings simultaneously?
Laughter and tears are the products of strong and often unexpected emotional experiences. I believe there is a line in an old Morrissey song that goes, “And I’m laughing to stop myself crying.”
I think I was able to simultaneously convey the sadness and hilarity of Amber’s world because I truly love Amber. Fiction writers have to place their characters in conflict, and Amber goes through a lot, but we also need to give them the tools that we all have in real life—the tools to save themselves. Laughter is a powerful tool.
Matthew: I sort of believe that my characters are a mixture of me and people I know. That’s not to say that they are non-fiction, but they are definitely inspired by people in my life, and usually people I love and admire very much. I’m kind of a quirky guy and I admire people who do their own thing without completely turning their backs on their communities. So my characters are usually quirky people who very much want to be a part of things—people who have to work hard to be accepted as they are.
I’m not sure I have a process for creating my characters. They grow out of my own personality and life experiences. I think that’s all a fiction writer can do. Hemingway used to talk about his work being true. What I think he meant was authentic, or without pretense. The people who know me best, know that THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR are me to the core. True.
ME: Who is your favorite literary character of all time? What novel most affected you or the way you wrote?
Matthew: Wow. A hard question. There are too many to pick just one. But I will say that reading SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE many many years ago made me want to be a novelist. Reading Vonnegut was very freeing. At the time I had never read anything so inventive, fun, important, and yet down-to-earth—well, nothing that people called ‘literature.’ Vonnegut is my hero.
ME: The book gave me hope regarding so many things and ultimately taught me that giving up said hope is practically synonymous with curling into a ball and shriveling up. Hope enlivens us. What one thing would you like readers to feel or learn from your book?
Hope is a very powerful emotion. Amber puts a lot of positive energy into the world, and that changes the lives of others for the best. I really do think that positive thinking can change lives. When I was teaching, one negative student could really poison the classroom—completely alter the attitude of thirty students and suck the life right out of the room. So I would work hard on trying to win over those few negative people. And when I was able to make them enjoy my class, they often became the most enthusiastic students.
I’ve found that there are some hurting people out there who will roll their eyes at the idea of championing kindness and positive thinking. But most of these people would prefer that you be kind to them and offer them encouragement rather than scorn, and I think that is always telling.
I hope my readers learn that our actions and words have consequences, pretty much always.
ME: I know that you’ve been published before. What was your experience the first time around? How was it altered when you went through the publishing process for Sorta Like a Rock Star? Was there anything in particular that you were especially glad you knew coming into the second round?
Matthew: The leap from hopeful aspiring writer to professional novelist with a book contract is pretty wild. I love writing and sharing my work with the world, but, with my first published novel, I don’t think I was prepared mentally or emotionally for the process.
We fiction writers tend to be a sensitive lot, and I’m no different. When you publish a book, no matter how talented you are, you are going to get all sorts of responses. (Check out the one-star Goodreads reviews of your absolute favorite books, or even the best novels of all time.)
When you publish, you take something very special and important to you and you offer it up to the world. There are nice people in the world and there are people who are hurting. And, of course, people have different tastes. You can never write a book that will please everyone, including your friends and family.
When I published THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, I wasn’t prepared for some of the strange (and sometimes mean) responses I received. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for all of the fantastic and kind responses I received either.
The second time around, I know what to expect and have more experience dealing with all the different responses. I think I’ve gained confidence too.
ME: What’s next? Are you simply fiddling with ideas, or are you already writing another book?
Matthew: My next YA novel has been purchased by Little, Brown & Company. It’s called BOY21 and is about friendship, basketball, kindness, outer space, growing up, love, and so much more. I’m really excited about BOY21. I’m also working on a new novel about a fourteen-year-old boy who thinks he has a very unusual power, but I’m thinking that one might be an adult book, rather than a YA novel. We shall see.
ME: What do you wish to accomplish as a writer, and what do you believe is the most rewarding aspect of a writer’s life?
Matthew: Back when I was teaching, front and center in my classroom was a picture of my hero, Kurt Vonnegut, holding a baby. Underneath was a quote by Vonnegut that read, “Why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it’s been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with … humanity, and however you want to poison their minds, it’s presumably to encourage them to make a better world.” I believe Vonnegut did this, and I’m trying.
The most rewarding aspect of the writing life is when a reader completely understands what I’m trying to do and celebrates it. When this happens I feel less alone in the world.
ME: Do you have a book trailer, and, if so, may I post it on my blog?
Matthew: I do have a book trailer! Thanks for asking! We had so much fun making it. I worked with a film company called Emerald Productions. They specialize in horror films, but they love and get my work, even though I don’t write horror. They cast Amber. I cast BBB (Amber’s dog). And I think both our actress and doggie star were perfect! Here is the trailer in HD:
Thanks for interviewing me! Thanks for reading. Please visit me @ www.matthewquickwriter.com
He’s pretty cool, huh?
And his book honestly is outstanding. Read my reviewgiveaway