Sorcery for Beginners: A Simple Help Guide to a Challenging & Arcane Art
1- What is your favorite snack or drink that's only available in autumn?
I know most people would go with the Pumpkin Spice Ice Blended on this one, but there’s an amazing pumpkin cake my family makes every Thanksgiving — pumpkin pie mix, yellow cake with streusel and pecan topping — that I look forward to every year. Now I’m hungry!
2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity — and Cake
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
I was interested in writing from a very young age. As early as third grade, I was writing neighborhood newspapers, short stories, and plays. In seventh grade, I wrote my first novel (which was 120 pages of terrible). Somehow I convinced my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Werner, to meet with me after school once a week to discuss my writing. One day he sat me down and showed me a letter — he’d secretly sent one of my short stories to a local literary magazine, and it had been accepted for publication! I had never before considered that writing was something I could do professionally, and I’ve been pursuing it as a career ever since. Sadly, Mr. Werner passed away last year, and though he knew Sorcery for Beginners was being published, he never knew I dedicated my first book to him.
4- Which time period do you believe had it easier -- pre or post 20th century?
Definitely post 20th century. For starters, until the last 100 years, 50% of all children died before age 10. Most people never went beyond 20 miles from their own house. The food was terrible and repetitive, unless you were royalty. In the last 50 years, our advances in science and technology have made the average person smarter than the most educated genius of years past. There’s definitely growing pains and push back to all our advancements, but I feel lucky to be living in such an amazing, progressive time. That said, it would have been incredible to see the great herds of buffalo in the pre-settled American West.
5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
One of my recurring fantasies is that I could stop time so I can finish all my projects. Short term, I’d like to complete my latest book, which has been going slowly but takes place in awesome, unique fantasy world. I’m also developing Sorcery for Beginners as a TV show, which I’ve been pitching as “Stranger Things with magic.”
Long term, I have at least three more ideas for sequels to Sorcery for Beginners, as well as a couple of other novels in various stages of completeness. I just need to stop time so I can write them.
6- Have you read many (nonfiction) "for Beginners," "for Dummies," "Idiot's guide to," or other simplified instruction books? Do you have a favorite?
Several! In fact, I got the idea for Sorcery for Beginners while reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Einstein. I thought, if these guys can make incredibly complex ideas like the theory of relativity look easy, what if they could do that with other difficult, supernatural topics? Magic immediately popped into my head as an option, and the book wrote itself in a week. (Just kidding, it actually took me five years and 11 drafts to finish. So much for making things easy!)
7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
Sorcery for Beginners hasn’t been seen by that many people yet, so currently our biggest fan is our seven year-old son. He was very excited to learn “real” sorcery and keeps trying to cast the Spell of Suggestion on me so I’ll give him extra dessert. Luckily, I know the counter-spell.
8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I hope readers will be excited and encouraged by the way my characters stand up to bullies in the story. I was bullied when I was a teenager, and I know how hard it can be to find the courage to say the right words or do the right thing in those situations. The key is knowing that they’re just as unsure and fearful as you are. It also helps to have a few magic spells at your disposal.
9- Twitter tells me you scored #HamiltonLA tickets. What most excites you about seeing the show?
I have a background in theater, so I know that every performance is unique. I can’t wait to be in the room where it happens, sing along with all the songs, and hopefully not upset my neighbors with my constant cheering.
10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?
I had a lot of help from writing mentors throughout the years —teachers, friends, and family who took the time to read my work and offer notes and encouragement. But I think what most improved my craft was just writing. Writing as much as I could, then rewriting and rewriting. If you keep at it, you can’t help but get better.
11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
My favorite character in Sorcery for Beginners is Perry Spring, a diminutive but very moral and intelligent eighth grader. However, she has the bad habit of frequently saying “Think about it” when talking to others. She doesn’t understand that it can be annoying, but I kind of love that about her —she’s too excited about learning new stuff to realize other people might be ticked off.
12- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?
Of the three main characters in Sorcery for Beginners, Perry is an African-American MC, and Trish is a Korean-American MC (who also happens to be gay, though it’s never mentioned in this book).
13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?
I love Hermione in the Harry Potter books. She’s incredibly smart and good-hearted, but she can also be egotistical and superficial. Like when she uses magic to fix her teeth, then gets all embarrassed about it. She knew it was a cheat, but couldn’t help herself.
You're the first debut author, other than myself, to answer with characters someone else wrote. High five! ;)
14- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to potentially benefit hundreds of other authors or readers?
Four words: AI beta readers. I struggle sometimes with finding enough friends to read (and re-read) the books I write, so I propose inventing artificially intelligent readers than can digest your novel in moments and provide literate, cross-referenced feedback, in varying degrees of toughness. (The settings could go from “Mom” to “Feared Professor.”) And you wouldn’t have to worry about putting your friends out. Get on it, Silicon Valley!
15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
There are authors whose books I buy as soon they come out, but my biggest purchasing motivator is story. Does the idea intrigue or excite me? I’ll spend twenty bucks on anything if I think the idea is cool.
16- How will you measure your publishing performance?
Honestly, I’m not sure yet, since this is my first published book.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I had an offer from a traditional literary agent for this book, but she was “a little nervous” about the unusual formatting. I went with Inkshares because the CEO Adam Gomolin was incredibly excited about the project from the first moment we spoke. He was also one of the only people to immediately embrace the “help guide” format, which was time-consuming and finicky to execute. But he never wavered, and I think the finished book looks amazing. Thanks Adam!
18- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I’d love to hear what motivates other people to spend money on books these days.
19- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
ABOUT SORCERY FOR BEGINNERS:
A Booklist Notable YA Novel for Fall 2017
What if you found an easy-to-read help guide … for magic?
Thirteen-year-old Owen Macready doesn’t think he’s particularly special. But when he finds a how-to guide for sorcery, he unwittingly becomes the target of a ruthless millionaire and secret society of anti-magic mercenaries, all of whom wish to steal the book for themselves.
A fresh take on the modern fantasy genre, Sorcery for Beginners features illustrations, timing charts, and actual spells to draw the reader into the world of magic. This is the first book in a proposed series that presents ancient topics such as spell casting, alchemy, and cryptozoology to the modern young person in a fun and exciting way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Harry has been writing since he was a middle grader. He learned to make movies at the University of Southern California, which was the closest he could get to attending Hogwarts in the real world. He has worked as an editor, screenwriter, director, producer, and college professor. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons, all of whom (thankfully) like to read. SORCERY FOR BEGINNERS is his first novel.
Sorcery for Beginners: A Simple Help Guide to a Challenging & Arcane Art