Welcome to the four hundred and twenty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet, biographical fiction author and political journalist Matthew Abuelo. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Matthew. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Matthew: I’m based out of New York City which I have used as a source of inspiration over the years. I first decided to become a writer while living in Washington St. in the early 1990s, shortly after graduating from high school. At the time I really had no work skills and writing seemed the only thing I was good at as far as having a trade was concerned. Even then I had no allusion that it would be easy and figured it would take years to hone by craft. But my main inspiration came in the form of the fact that I was starving most days, only occasionally having the money to by food so I figured I had to do something but seeing it was going to take some time to reach my goal I started taking one low paying job and went to college in order to really learn the rules of writing so I knew what laws I was breaking at the time. Since then I’ve published three books: Last American Roar, Organic Hotels and The News Factory.
Morgen: Wow, the epitome of an impoverished writer. I didn’t have a clue when I was devouring Stephen King books in my teens that writing could be a profession – it took me another 20 years to twig. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Matthew: Most of my journalist writing is of a political nature, this is the writing I actually get paid for, from time to time but my three books are poetry and short fiction with a biographical base. I use to write blogs but have come close to giving it up, too close to opinion writing which I tend to hate since its mostly gossip garbage anyway.
Morgen: Maybe you could do what I do and fill it with guest pieces – you get to ‘meet’ so many wonderful people. You mentioned your three books, have you had anything else published?
Matthew: I’ve published several community-based articles with the local New York paper, The Times Square Chronicles. Organic Hotels and the Last American Roar can be found at lulu.com. The News Factory was released by the publishing house, Plain View Press, which is more of a non-for-profit progressive co-op of and for writers. I’ve also published several poems in various magazines and journals.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Matthew: Every writer has faced rejection at some point. It just goes with the territory. There is only one thing to do in those situations, move on to the next publication or project.
Morgen: Absolutely. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Matthew: I won the 1996 poem of the year award at Nassau Community College.
Morgen: Yay, well done. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process, and do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Matthew: Last American Roar and Organic Hotels can be bought in ebook form. The News Factory is not at this point but maybe sometime in the future. I was not involved in the process, lulu did it and I would have no idea how to even go about conducting such a project.
Morgen: I’ve self-published six eBooks (four shorts, a writing guide and short story collection) and really it’s not that difficult. I did a talk on the subject to one of my writing groups having created a 9-page handout. I’ll probably fatten it and put it out as a free or 99c eBook. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Matthew: My favourite book is The News Factory since it is really what I had in mind as the book I would most like to write when I first started by endeavour. Since all my characters are based on people I know, I can’t really pick just one. Though I do have to say, there is a character named Otto in a piece called “Otto And The Bug” who I have particular fondness for. He really represents the dark side of me which has helped my through many a writer’s block.
Morgen: I say I write ‘dark and light’ but my dark side tends to overtake. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Matthew: I have quite bit to say about my covers. My wife designs them which is really great since she is a graphic arts designer and overall artist. But I have the final say on what is used and not used. These covers are being used to represent my work so having the final say very important to me.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Matthew: I’m going to be dusting off a few older writing projects very soon. This includes a play that I started about two years ago and now seem to have a better idea on where to go with it. Other than that, just been promoting TFA.
Morgen: I have loads of short stories that I want to look through again – I’m hoping that I’m older and wiser so they’ll all be tweakable. Do you manage to write every day?
Matthew: I wish I could say that write everyday but between by 9-5 job and a fairly healthy social life, my writing has been somewhat slow these days. Also being my own publicist has not helped.
Morgen: That’s the thing, apart from the day job, that takes the time, doesn’t it. Most of the authors I’ve spoken to have seen it as a necessarily evil although most (myself included) love the interaction with other writers / readers it brings with it. You mentioned Otto, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Matthew: I don’t have any real method in creating my characters. The names usually come from an aspect of the characters personality. For example, my character Harvey Gray gets his name from the fact that he spends much of his time in the background of any given event which occurs in one of my shorter stories. He is really nondescript much, like the color nothing to catch your eye.
Morgen: I love that, maybe he could come to the forefront, get married, and have a brighter double-barrelled name. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second-person?
Matthew: I usually prefer third person, it helps move the story a little quicker but it also allows you to get deeper into the environment governing each character. I have yet to try writing in the second person.
Morgen: Do have a go. You may not like it (many don’t) but I love it so it might grab you. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Matthew: Oh god yes, several in fact. I have a few pretty good starts to some stories which petered have out at some point. I don’t see myself going back to most of them.
Morgen: Time is a great asset (and lack of it a curse) to a writer, maybe you could finish them with ‘fresh’ eyes but it sounds as if you’re pretty busy anyway, maybe one day. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Matthew: My favourite aspect of being a writer is that it allows me to tell the stories of a lot of great people and places which unfortunately will go un-noticed despite their presents in their community. Most of them I have been given a bad rap for not being what the new image of New York is suppose to be. It’s really sad. But the great part is that most of the people who I write about just don’t give a damn about what other’s think of them. The part of writing that I like the least is that it takes an unbelievable amount of time to get any of my works done. The other thing I find less then desirable is the politics that govern many a poetry contest, unless you sound like someone else these days, there are many ‘need not apply’ signs behind these events.
Morgen: I don’t really enter poetry contest but that’s a real shame. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Matthew: Take time to learn your craft. This could take years but spending time honing really makes you a better writer and will help you find your own voice. Also write what you know and be honest about your subject. There is no better way to lose an audience then lying to them. Everyone knows enough about something that they should have more than enough material to get started and sustain a presents as writers. Also expand your horizons, it opens you to new experiences to write about. Finally do your research when looking for a publishing company, there are many scams out there.
Morgen: I totally agree about ‘experts’ – if something isn’t right, there will always be someone to pick you up on it… but then that’s the great thing about eBooks, you can change them in an instant and re-upload. No-one’s pointed anything out to me yet but I do hope they would if there was anything that wasn’t right. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Matthew: Eugene Debbs, Nelson Algren and Noam Chomsky. I would feel like a midget in the room but hey the conversions would be unbelievable.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Matthew: Poets and Writers magazine.
Morgen: Ah yes, a popular magazine in these interviews. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Matthew: Nothing Binding, Writers Out and Goodreads, all three have been very useful in connecting with other writers.
Morgen: I’ve not come across the first two but am vaguely active on Goodreads – I should be more so (my books are listed, and generally slated, sadly, on there but I get regular ‘friend requests’ through which is lovely ). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Matthew: You can check out my website: http://deadrabbitnews.blogspot.com.
Morgen: Thank you, Matthew.
I then invited Matthew to include a synopsis of his latest book…
“The News Factory’ has been released to the general public. This collection of poetry and short stories is about the part of New York City which is quickly disappearing due to gentrification and exorbitant rents. These are residents of SROs, along with the buildings themselves, which continue to disappear at an alarming rate.
Matthew Abuelo is a writer, professional blogger and award-winning poet. He has two books out, Last American Roar and Organic Hotels, both can be found at lulu.com. He is also a former journalist for the online news site Examiner. He currently writes for the Times Square Chronicles. His third book “The News Factory” has just been released by Plain view Pre.
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