Thursday, February 16, 2012

Law and Order : A Chiseled in Rock Staff Interview

We’ve been asked, so today we’re offering answers to questions such as: Chiseled Staff? Are they really that chiseled? Are they completely off their Rockers? And what do they do behind that closed door?!

Over the next few months you’ll see interviews with our own Chiseled Staff, and today we’re talkin’ to Matthew Swihart, Esq. He is providing this interview in lieu of this month’s legal article. Be sure to tune in next month for a new legal article by our tame attorney.

CIR: How do you describe yourself (the top three things that come to mind)?

MS: Awesome. Stunningly good-looking. Amazingly talented. (Hey, it’s a poor dog that can’t wag his own tail.)

CIR: Please describe the path of your writing career.

MS: Meandering. I, “knowing how way leads on to way,” took Robert Frost a little too much to heart. However, I’ve never looked back, as my writing has only benefited from the maturity and depth of perspective my life experiences have wrought.

CIR: What are your current writing goals and challenges? (What are you working on?)

MS: My debut novel, “The Rings of Fate”, the first in an epic fantasy trilogy, is currently under consideration by an editor (I’ll reserve saying whom, lest I jinx it). This is directly attributable to a successful pitch session at the last RMFW Colorado Gold Conference and all the wonderful writers, agents, and editors who have helped me over the last few years. Currently, I’m approximately halfway through the second book in the trilogy. I’m also working on an urban fantasy which presents a new twist on the therianthrope theme.

CIR: What are the two toughest things about writing?

MS: Finding time to untie my muse from the tight bonds of stress, then finding more time to let her sing to me. Generally, by the time I’ve freed her, I’ve run out of time to actually write. But I’m told obtaining the winning Powerball ticket frees up a lot of the time we waste at our day jobs.

CIR: Do you prefer igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary?

MS: My love of Franz Kafka inclines me toward the metamorphic. My life is layered like gneiss: I have lived an amazing life, and been blessed with traveling the world and experiencing uncountable blessings and trials alike. Life must be a continual metamorphosis; if we ever stop growing and changing, we either become trapped like cooled granite, or wither away like sandstone in the wind.

CIR: How has RMFW helped you advance your career?

MS: I have been writing since I was 17 years old, but I have done so in a vacuum. I never felt a bond or connection with any writers, and was never an active part of any private critique groups for truly serious writers. All this, despite the fact that my BA is in Creative Writing. Three years ago, after deciding to relocate to Colorado from Florida, I attended the AWP conference in Denver, where I met a few RMFW members. On their recommendation, I attended the RMFW conference later that year, and was hooked. RMFW is unique in providing support, acceptance, and mentoring. As a result, I have grown more as a writer and a writing professional in the last two years than in the previous twelve.

CIR: As we know, RMFW is an all-volunteer organization. Have you or do you volunteer elsewhere in the organization?

MS: No. I hate you all.

CIR: What writers inspire you?

MS: For me, it’s less about the writer, and more about the writing and story-telling. It’s all about the story—what John Gardner describes as the “vivid and continuous fictional dream”. I want to be transported somewhere and partake in an enthralling story. I want to lose track of time. Dan Chaon is the reigning King o’ Craft—a truly masterful writer I encourage everyone to experience, especially his collection of short stories, “Among the Missing”.

CIR: What genres do you read?

MS: As with selecting writers, I have difficulty selecting a specific genre, for the same reasons. To me, genre is nothing more than an organizational tool. Like the aisles at Home Depot. In order to create something truly masterful, I must obtain tools and supplies from a multitude of sections of the store. I tend toward literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and Gonzo journalism.
CIR: Do you ever get writer’s rock, er… block? If so how do you break through?

MS: Some writers are sculptors, constantly chiseling at the block until something beautiful emerges. Others, like me, are botanists, patiently coaxing a blooming flower from a seed and soft earth. For me, there is no such thing as true writer’s block. The story is always growing and changing—what others consider writer’s block, for me, is the roots of the story growing underground, unseen but not without affect. During these times of background development, I must either work on another part of the project, or walk away until the scene or character blossoms in my mind. For me, this makes my actual time writing more productive; but it also means I live with my stories 24-7.

CIR: What do you feel your stories are born of?

MS: Absinthe.

CIR: What one piece of advice would you offer to new writers?

MS: Learn to see all sides of an issue, and the merit in all points of view, regardless of your own. This allows you to craft truly three-dimensional characters, and not just cut-outs of yourself and those like you.

CIR: What’s your favorite rock and roll song?

MS: It’s a toss-up between Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Kenny Rogers’ “Condition”.

CIR: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

MS: At times, I still don’t.

CIR: Do you also have a “day” job? Other interests or hobbies?

MS: By day, I work as an attorney (in other words, I’m a full-time writer, just often of boring things called “Pleadings”). I’m also a martial arts instructor. I am a 4th degree black belt in Chito-Ryu Karate, and have also earned the titles of Renshi (technical expert) and Deshi (disciple). I also have rank in Shotokan Karate and Ryu Kyu Kobudo Hozon Shin Ko Kai. In addition, I love to climb rocks, play at playing my guitar, and geek out about cars. Finally, I’m an Apologeticist for

CIR: What books have most influenced you?

MS: John McNally (author of a great short story collection called, “The Troublemakers”) once told me to read and re-read the classics and anything which either wins a significant prize or remains on the bestseller list for longer than two months until I understood what it was about them that made them resonate with their audience. While I’ve not lived up to this charge (Twilight Series. Really?), I’ve often been surprised at the books, short stories, and poems which have influenced me, and how they have done so. However, not to sound like That Guy, but the Book which has had the most impact on my life has been The Bible.

CIR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

MS: I have always been a storyteller, creative exaggerator, and reader. There is a famous sculpture of a samurai, though I know neither title nor sculptor. The samurai is kneeling against a rock, naginata planted in the ground behind him, katana and wakizashi sheathed on his hip. His back is straight, and his eyes are focused—on the book in his hands. The samurai were required to be more than just warriors; they were also required to be authors, poets, sculptors, or painters. To be well-rounded, to be a true man (or woman), one must be more.

CIR: Do you like rocking chairs?

MS: No.

CIR: If you could time travel, when and where would you go?

MS: Despite all the romantic and exciting depictions of the past, I find myself unwilling to go to any time or place which lacks toilet paper, q-tips, or digital music and books, or where women don’t shave the majority of their bodies. So the past is out. As a Christian, I have a sincere fear that with my luck any trip into the future would deposit me squarely in the Tribulation, so that’s out as well. So, I’ll stick with traveling back to right before the SuperBowl, and betting all my money on the Giants.

CIR: What do you predict for the future of the publishing industry and where you fit into that?

MS: “In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find,” brick-and-mortar bookstores are obsolete, just like video and music stores, as all entertainment is fully digital and on-demand. Traditional publishing will still exist, though in a far different form than any of the current models. I will fit into this future as a Neo-Modern Classic author whose works are mandatory reading in High School English classes. This is because, as stated above, this is the year 2525, so of course I’m not alive, and this is my imagined future, so there’s also a statue of me somewhere important.

CIR: And lastly, what did you dream of doing when you were twelve years old?

MS: I wanted to be the first person to set foot on Saturn (still my favorite planet). To accomplish this, I was going to be an interplanetary geologist, since at even my young age of twelve, I was pretty sure Buck Rogers needed some talent beyond shooting lasers and flirting with alien women in order to get selected to visit distant planets. In case you’re wondering, this dream never materialized into reality. Because we haven’t landed on Saturn. Yet.

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j.a. kazimer said...

Whoo Hoooo! Matthew rocks!!!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Matthew is a lot more interesting than I imagined a lawyer could be. Funnier too. And probably deadly with all that martial arts training.

Very excellent and fun interview.