7 Questions With Author Paul W. Mathews
Dr. Paul W. Mathews is still an academic in anthropology & sociology, with interests in Southeast Asia. He spends most of his time now writing both fiction (eg. The Magical Shahua and fifty shades of fur….) and non-fiction (eg. Are They Serious? The Discourses of Family Planning, Bio-Citizenship and Nationalism in the Philippines). His fiction often draws on issues he has covered as a researcher. He is driven to illustrate in a more meaningful way the lives, hardships and also joys and good nature of people, especially in Asia, and to recognize their value. This and commenting on social issues is what makes him special. Paul W. Mathews has about 22 books published with Warrior Publishers via Smashwords and Amazon/Kindle.
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How does a day in your author life look?
I usually don’t do any writing until after noon, often starting about 3-4pm, but occasionally may have an inspirational idea and start earlier. Most days I get up at varying hours and phase myself into the day, reading the news, subconsciously thinking, jotting down notes, doing chores, always thinking about where I left off the day before and how I might develop a plot or character.
I like to write at least something everyday, but with no set target, or at minimum go over what has been written and fine tune, edit, develop. I think my academic training gave me this approach.
Authors vs. Social Media. How do you approach the tools you have at your disposal?
With trepidation. I am a writer, not a PR person, never have been. I am not a luddite, either, but a lot of the social media is overwhelming, and time consuming. I list my books wherever I can and rely mostly on Smashwords for promotion and sales.
Each new book I post on Facebook (several accounts) but most people don’t buy; I also have an email listing of 5,000 that I direct send. It’s all overwhelming. In fact, with traditional (paperback) self publishing the problem was getting a distributor and promoting a book; with e-books distribution is no longer a problem, but promotion/marketing remains an issue and a whole new industry.
In a way it’s worse, because with all the new e-books available the competition is greater, and one needs marketing expertise. But I am a writer, not a salesperson.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your journey?
Learn everything you can about all facets of writing, publishing and marketing. Take courses in writing, join a book club or similar group, network, and open conversations. Make contacts and networks for the different aspects of publishing.
What’s the best advice/feedback on writing you’ve ever received?
Just start writing. Anywhere… One of my books, Mabait: A Foothold in Life, I knew the ending, the plot, I knew where I wanted the story to be in the end, so I wrote the conclusion first, then asked, how do I get to that? So I wrote the 2nd part of the book, but then, who was the protagonist? So I had to rite the first part. When I was writing my PHD thesis (about how peasants resist the state), my supervisor said, just start writing.
So I did, and that chapter where I started is now Chapter 5 of 11… Just start. Nothing is set in concrete. Oh, and writing my first ‘non’-fiction book, I learnt that I could play God…Your characters are your puppets. So be God, and start where you are comfortable.
Also learn how to develop characters and situational descriptions. Last, read. By reading you encounter those who have come before you and through their work can teach you. And what you do, teaches the next generation. Capimus sed tradimus—we take but we pass on.
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
I don’t have one favourite genre. If the book is good, then I like it… But I tend toward 19th and early 20th century romantic/historical dramas, that also often present a social issue.
One of my favourite writers is Somerset Maugham, who is good with detail and characterization and whose protagonists/antagonists draw out familiar social issues and conflicts. Similar writers are D.H. Lawrence, Orwell, Shaw, Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy….
Does the genre you normally read have a direct influence on your writing?
Yes, absolutely. I take things from and get inspired more so by different authors rather than genres. I have read all of Maugham’s books and try to include his style and characterization and the way he tells a story into my own work.
Other writers, even contemporaries, I examine their characterizations and dialogues to understand their styles and how they move their story along with dialogue.
What are the 5 immediate tasks you hope to accomplish in the near future?
- Finish the book I just started; it’s a novel version of a non-fiction book.
- Start thinking of a next book. One might be exploring how people actually end up sleeping on the streets, homeless, a kind of biographical vignette.
- Read a lot more
- Learn more about marketing and promote more my work, better learn how to describe characters, scenes, give depth to characters through their dialogue. It’s all about learning….
- Try to get one of my books made into a film.
Last, some final advice on Conclusions (pun intended): I have read a few contemporary books lately, and while they were rather mediocre but still “ok”, several of them seemed to flag toward the end; the conclusion was brief, predictable, unstartling, but also just “tired”—it were as though the authors had tired of writing and just wanted it finished. Authors need to keep their own and their reader’s enthusiasm until the final syllable.
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