A Moment with Matt Tomerlin

Guys, the Twitter has done it again. I got a follow request from a fellow author, and the synopsis of his book intrigued me. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with pirates, but I do have a soft spot for Peter Pan and Pirates of Penzance…okay, and Pirates of the Caribbean, while we’re at it. I don’t get to hand these questions over to many men, so I was excited to see what Matt had to say. I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about him, and then enjoy the brief excerpt from his book, The Devil’s Fire, at the end.

As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”

“The Devil’s Fire: Pirate’s Bane #1” is about a young woman from London, Katherine Lindsay, who is kidnapped by pirates in the early 1700s. The phrase “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” definitely applies, as Katherine is forced to find an inner strength she otherwise would never have realized she had. She evolves throughout the story, and by the final chapter she is barely recognizable from the woman in the beginning. I wanted to write a realistic pirate story without all the supernatural stuff that did not shy from scenes of brutality or sex (though it is not a romance novel).

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?  Can you tell us about it?

Yes! In my mid-teens I wrote a screenplay about a rich man who fakes his death and then spies on his wife to find out if she really loved him. It was ambitious, but at that point I hadn’t had enough life experience (particularly relationship experience) to make it convincing.

Do you prefer plaid or stripes?

Stripes, because Smee wears a striped shirt in Peter Pan.

Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before? (Independently being defined here as NOT one of the Big Six.)

Like so many others, I grew tired of agents/publishers rejecting my work without bothering to read a single paragraph. Bottom line is I wanted people to be able to read the story, and self-publishing was the fastest way to guarantee that. Amazon hasn’t let me down. I’ve sold over 5,000 copies of “The Devil’s Fire” so far, and that’s 4,999 more than I thought I would.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I’m nearly finished with the follow-up to “The Devil’s Fire,” which is called “The Devil’s Tide”. The second book is open ended, and there will likely be a third.

Do you have any rituals before writing?  Music or silence?  Coffee or tea?  Twizzlers or M&Ms?

Total silence. Lots of Pepsi or Mt. Dew, and sometimes wine (later at night). Too many varieties of snacks to list… although you’ve inspired me to add Twizzlers into the mix.

Have you ever based a character on someone you know? 

Not specifically, but I do incorporate personality traits from everyone I know into nearly every character. In “The Devil’s Fire,” Katherine Lindsay has elements of the strongest women I know, who have faced hardship and emerged stronger, chin held high. The main antagonist, Edward Livingston, contains the very worst traits of humanity; a personification of those dark thoughts we never entertain. Nathan Adams is very much the naïve youth I was and many other teenaged males were. Captain Jonathan Griffith represents blind ambition, and proves to be the most difficult obstacle in Katherine Lindsay’s path, because there’s an undeniable attraction between them, despite the horrible things he has done.

What color is your umbrella?

I have a blue one from Disneyland, with Mickey Mouse on it. Don’t judge me.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Yikes. This is the hardest question yet. At the moment it would be Mark Twain, because he’s one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud.

What was the last book you read?

I’m currently reading “Hunger Games,” because all my female friends insisted. It’s surprisingly addictive. Before that, I read “The Holy Road,” by Michael Blake, a very depressing but exquisitely written follow-up to “Dances With Wolves”.

Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research?  Or do you make up entire settings in your head?

With historical fiction, I have to do thorough research. I think it adds to the authenticity of a story, even if it’s only on a subconscious level. For example, much of “The Devil’s Fire” takes place in Nassau during the golden age of piracy, so I did extensive research on what Nassau was like at that time. I peppered the narrative with little details that may seem inconsequential, but hopefully help in transporting the reader to that time period.

After the last word is written, then what?  Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over?  Do you begin query letters immediately?

First I read it and edit it myself, and then I send it to a select group of friends who are very detail oriented. My sister is an editor, so that is a big help. Query letters are the last part, though I must admit I’m not really bothering with them anymore. The book seems to be finding an audience on Amazon, so that’s good enough for me.

What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?

“Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” by U2. The lyrics totally fit Katherine’s character.

Where can people find your book?

It is currently exclusive to Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.com/B005GL93LA

The second book will be out in 2012, hopefully by June.

Can we read a little excerpt?

It was six hours before the pirates discovered her cowering beneath the bed.

Several pirates spilled into the cabin, laughing and cursing. She glimpsed only their feet. Some wore boots, but most were barefoot. She watched through a hole in the heavy quilt that was draped over the bed as they thieved most of her clothes and jewelry. They took whatever perked their interest and then left, their boisterous laughter fading into the roaring pandemonium that had enveloped the main deck.

After what she presumed to be two hours, she heard a loud scuttle and a subsequent shriek that was abruptly cut short. A riotous commotion lasted for nearly five minutes before it broke into uncontrollable fits of laughter. For the next hour she was left to ponder her husband’s fate. Her mind played out a relentless torrent of ghastly possibilities, with Thomas meeting a grisly death in every one of them.

And then, with a glorious flood of relief, she heard his voice. Her eyes burned. She squeezed them shut, refusing to allow any tears to burst free; there would be time enough for that later, when she held him in her arms again, and the present ordeal was nothing more than a memory.

Thomas was conversing with a man whose voice held a distinctive air of authority. As this man spoke, the pirates gradually calmed. Katherine found herself transfixed on the voice, even though it was far too muffled through the cabin walls for her to distinguish words. He possessed a tranquil tone that she rather liked, and she temporarily forgot her peril while listening to him.

Thomas and the man with the fair voice eventually ended their conversation, and the pirate uproar started anew. This went on at some length, and the cabin remained empty over the next few hours. Gradually, the clamor outside grew even louder, and the unmistakable sound of a shattering bottle prompted her to wonder if the pirates had discovered the cases of wine in the cargo hold.

The endless ruckus numbed her senses, and she found her eyelids growing heavy. The floor’s wooden planking seemed to stretch away from her. Her vision thinned to narrowing slits that soon receded into darkness.

The door was thrust open, and the ruckus outside flooded the cabin like a tidal wave. Katherine lifted her head and smashed the crown of her skull against the underbelly of the bed. Her eyes shot open in accordance with the jolting pain.

A pair of buckled shoes marched deliberately for the bed. The man who wore them reached down and tore the quilt away, spoiling her hiding place. With the velocity of a striking snake, his hand shot under the bed to grasp Katherine’s hair, dragging her painfully from cover.

“This ship’s treasures never cease,” said the man with the voice that she had liked so much. But his pleasant enunciation was no match for the hunger in his eyes.

Be sure to follow Matt on Twitter, “like” him on Facebook, and check out his GoodReads profile. You can also follow his blog for updates on the series.

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