Monday’s Friend: Matthew Peters
Today I’m pleased to welcome Matthew Peters to the blog, who has not one but two novels released this year. He also has some frank things to say about mental illness, so let’s chat to him now.
MP: Thank you for raising the issue, Sara. I have a dual diagnosis. And I’d like to take a moment to tell what that means.
Though there are some variations in definitions of dual diagnosis, the term generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine or heroin). For example, I have depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and I have alcoholism.
It is estimated that 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis. It is also estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem. Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Sigmund Freud. Robin Williams was also dual diagnosed.
And, to answer your question, yes, I have often used writing as part of the healing process, not only in difficult times, but in good times as well. My experiences with depression have led me to develop empathy for suffering, which I’m often able to use to understand the motivations and actions of my characters.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
MP: First, read the classics and as much good literature as you can get your hands on. Read widely, too, from poetry and plays to science and politics. If you don’t read well, you can’t write well.
Second, realize that you may have several stories or even novels in you that you must write to get out of your system. In many cases, these will not be salable. That’s okay. Most of us have a lot of bad writing inside of us that needs to get out before we get to the good stuff. Growth for writers is a process. Be patient with it.
Third, don’t be a perfectionist. I think perfectionism kills. Realize that unlike other professions, say neurosurgery, writers don’t have to get it right the first time. We have the luxury of being able to revise our product as much as we wish. Realize that, and let it free you up in the writing process. Write junk if you have to, but write. Anne Lamott talks about a “shitty first draft.” Indeed. Most first, second, and third drafts are pretty lousy. But that’s okay. Give yourself permission to write and to not be perfect. You can always revise later.
Fourth, it’s okay not to be in love with writing every second of every day. It’s natural to resent it at times. Don’t stuff these feelings. Take a break if you can, and then come back to it.
Fifth, join a writing group. Make sure others read and give you feedback on your writing. Make sure someone other than your parents or significant other reads your work. But also be wary of taking too much constructive criticism from too many people—too many writers can spoil the plot (among other things).
Sixth, before you submit your work to an agent/publisher or self-publish, make sure it is free from typos, grammatical, and factual errors. If you can afford it, have a content editor and a copy editor go through your work and polish it until it shines. Don’t submit anything for publication until it represents your absolute, best effort. I think you’ll be surprised how much that will help distinguish from among other writers.
Finally, write as often as you can, but don’t be afraid to take breaks.
SJT: Who would you cite as influences?
MP: Well, I’d love to write with the philosophical and psychological depth of Dostoevsky, the spirituality of Hesse, the soul of James Baldwin, the clarity of Hemingway, the plotting of Richard Wright, and the lyricism of William Styron. I consider them and many others to be influences.
SJT: Your novels are clearly well-researched. Have you ever had to do anything really strange in the name of research?
MP: I haven’t had to do anything really strange for my research yet, though I’m sure I will at some point. Most of my research consists of poring over books from a local university library. In addition to books, I’m a fan of using YouTube and Google Earth J
SJT: Tell us about your latest release.
MP: I’m promoting a religious mystery/thriller called THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS and a literary novel called CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS.
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?
Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.
It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.
Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.
How will it end? Read The Brothers’ Keepers … if you dare.
Here is a brief description of CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS:
Conversations Among Ruins is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of finding salvation there.
While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.
Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself.
Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward self-destruction?
MP: You mean there’s something else? LOL I love reading and listening to classical music. I also enjoy hiking.
SJT: What writing project is next for you?
MP: Currently, I am working on the next book in the Nicholas Branson series.
SJT: Thank you, Matthew, for taking the time to talk to me today.
To find out more about Matthew and his books, see the links below.
The Brothers’ Keepers:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1qNxMnO
MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG
Conversations Among Ruins:
Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1phAi7v
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1oASGcG
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1t6Q31L
All Things That Matter Press Paperback: http://bit.ly/1rBiB1e