Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Matthew J. Kirby

A few months ago, Kathy from the Book Loft gave me a stack of books, including an ARC for one called THE CLOCKWORK THREE by Matthew Kirby. The cover fascinated me with its golden automaton and as I dug into the story, I was pulled into the imaginative world Matthew had created.

So you probably won't be surprised to hear that when I met him at SCBWI-LA this summer, I may have gone a bit fangirl. (Yeah, shocking, right?) Unfortunately, I didn't have my book with me. Fortunately, Matthew said he'd be happy to do an interview on my blog.

One of you will be lucky enough to win my (unsigned *sniff*) ARC (read through to the end to find out how). First, let's talk a little to Matthew...

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I still have copies of a few stories written in those old composition notebooks with the covers that look a little like TV static.  But in terms of serious writing as an adult, that is, writing with the intent to be published, I’ve been at it about ten years.

Did you query other stories before THE CLOCKWORK THREE?
For a while I tried breaking into science fiction and fantasy for adult readers, and during that time I accumulated a lot of rejection letters, and a drawer full of short stories that will never be read.  When I switched to writing for young readers, I attempted my first novel-length story, which I submitted to my agent.  He didn’t sign me for that book, but he did sign me for the second novel I wrote, which became THE CLOCKWORK THREE.

How long did it take you to write THE CLOCKWORK THREE, from idea to sale?
The ideas for THE CLOCKWORK THREE had been simmering for quite a while before I sat down to write the book.  For the two years I was in graduate school I put active writing aside, though I kept mulling over the ideas and the stories to which I wanted to return.  That time and distance helped me in the end, and after I sat down to write THE CLOCKWORK THREE, I had a draft ready for submission in about 10 months.  It sold really quickly after that.

I'm impressed that you had it ready for submission so quickly. But I guess it just goes to show how important time and distance are for writers.

You’ve said that the character Guisseppe was inspired by a real boy named Joseph who was imprisoned in New York in the 1870s. How did you find out about him and what went through your head when you got to visit the place where he lived?
I first read about Joseph in a book on child street musicians that I checked out from my university library.  Then I went to the original newspaper articles to learn more about him.  I knew there was a story there that I wanted to tell in some way, even if it didn’t turn out to be strict historical fiction.  When my publisher flew me out to New York City, I got to go to the real Crosby Street where Joseph was imprisoned for many years (Crosby Street is actually just a block or two away from the Scholastic offices, a fact I didn’t know until I got there).  The original building at Number 45 where Joseph lived is long gone, but the street still has the old cobblestones, perhaps the same stones Joseph walked over.  Standing there, I imagined the sound of his young footsteps echoing as he returned to his master every night.  It was a very touching and sobering experience.

Scholastic seems to be putting a lot of promotional effort behind your book. As a first time author that has to feel great. Has the buzz been growing for this book?
Scholastic has been amazing to work with, and I’m so grateful.  The marketing and publicity teams have some great promotions planned that you should start to see in the next few weeks.  One of the things I’m most excited about is a website for the book, which will go live when the book is released on October 1st of this year.  As a debut author, I could not be more thrilled.

I read about your epic trip to New York. Can you talk yet about the video you were filming there?
Scholastic flew me in to film a promotional video for the Scholastic Book Fairs.  If you want to watch the video, you can see it here. Scholastic is also making a book trailer that will be out soon, and I’m really excited to see it.

Me too! Sounds like they're putting together some awesome promotions for your book.

The cover illustration for THE CLOCKWORK THREE is awesome. I read the ARC which didn’t have the children on the front. Why’d they decide to make that change?
The artist, Brian Despain [no relation to Bree], and the book’s designer, Elizabeth Parisi, did an amazing job, didn’t they?  You’re right; the original cover did not have the children.  They were added later to appeal to a wider, younger audience, and I think to also illustrate or reflect the title of the book.

You work at a school, right? Do your students realize that you’re now a famous author or are you still just Mr. Kirby?
I’m a school psychologist, and I have the deepest respect for teachers.  I work with them on a daily basis, and witness first-hand how much they do for the children in their classrooms.  Teaching has become a sorely undervalued profession. A few of the students I work with know about the book.  I suspect more will realize it as soon as the Book Fairs come to the school.  The kids who know all think it’s really cool.  But yes, I’m still just Mr. Kirby at the end of the day.

How cool that your book will be at the book fair! Yeah, that will pretty much blow your cover as the mild mannered school psychologist :)

You’re such a fan of Dr. Who and Battlestar Gallactica. Have you ever written sci-fi?
Yes, as that drawer of stories will attest.  I like thinking about possibilities, and implications, and extrapolating from our world today into the future.  But those same impulses also inspire me to take a different look at the past.  When it comes to science fiction, or even fantasy, I prefer the term “speculative fiction,” because I feel it better captures the broader sense of what I’m trying to explore when I write.

On your blog you wrote about taking some graphic novel workshops at SCBWI this summer. Will that be your next writing project? If not, what are you working on?
I do hope to one day write graphic novels.  I love the medium, and the opportunities it presents for storytelling, but I don’t think I’ll write one for a little while.  I have at least two other novels I plan to write first.  One of them I’m currently revising with my editor.  It’s a Viking story, and it will be published next year in the fall.  I have an idea of what my third book will be, but I haven’t started writing it yet.

I'm excited to read that one. I live in Solvang so I'm partial to Vikings :)

Utah seems to have such a great writing community. How do you think being part of that community contributed to your writing?
Utah’s writing community is truly remarkable, especially the children’s writers.  Everyone is so encouraging and supportive of one another.  For most of the time I’ve been writing, I wasn’t actually aware of what a great community it is.  But since selling THE CLOCKWORK THREE, I’ve gotten more involved, and my fellow writers have been so welcoming.  I truly feel like I’m a part of something bigger, a group of authors and illustrators who are all devoted to making the best books for kids.  That’s pretty inspiring and motivating.

Thank you so much, Matthew. I have a feeling THE CLOCKWORK THREE will capture a lot of young readers.
Thanks for the great questions. You really put some thought into them, which I appreciate.

You can keep up with Matthew
  on his blog, Kirbside:
  on his website (after Oct. 1):
  or watch the trailer:


Matthew mentioned how supportive his writing community is. If you would like to win my ARC of THE CLOCKWORK THREE, leave a comment telling me where you find support for your writing journey. Get your answer in by midnight (PST) on Sunday, September 26. One winner will be randomly selected and announced on Monday, September 27.

Here's the blurb for THE CLOCKWORK THREE.

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. . . Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. 

Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it. 

And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head. 

Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.


Christine Fonseca said...

Thanks for this interview. Looks like another book I need to add to my reading list!

Kristan Hoffman said...

Great interview! And man, what is in the water in Utah? I need to move up there...

Which would sort of affect my writing support network. :\ Two of my crit partners are in other cities anyway, so we do everything online/via email. But two are here in Cincy with me, and we meet almost ever week. I would hate to lose that... because they're not just writing buddies, they've become my good girl friends too!

Unknown said...

Great interview! That sounds like a book my kids would like to read. :D

Sheri, I'm partial to Vikings, too.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love the cover art - so cool!! You are so good at interviews, Sherrie. You always have such great questions.

I find the majority of support for my writing right here in blogland. This is where I found my CP's. This is where people understand the process and empathize with the waiting game and query wars. This is where I find my encouragement. :-)

Susan R. Mills said...

That cover is amazing! Great interview too. Thank you both. I get support in my journey from so many places, but the best is right here blogging. I've met the greatest people who are going through or have gone through the same things as me. It's a great community.

Yat-Yee said...

Sherrie: yet about fabulous interview. Thanks.

Tess said...

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this ARC and really loved did my 10 y/o son. Matthew is a local (to me) author and a true gentleman (I got the ARC through a charity auction).

Thanks for this great interview :D

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome! I love reading about debut authors! I find support from my crit group and blogger friends. No way I could do it all alone... well, I could but not as easily.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, that is a beautiful cover. I'm adding this one to my TBR pile.

Carolyn V. said...

What a great interview Sherrie! I'm adding it to my tbr pile! Sweet! =)

Brodi Ashton said...

I love this book! And Matt is such a down-to-earth great guy. Excellent interview.

Dawn Simon said...

Wonderful interview, Sherrie and Matthew! THE CLOCKWORK THREE sounds great and the cover art is super cool!

Since I've already won a book here, I won't enter, but...I'll tell you I get lots of support on my writing journey. :) Between my husband and kids, my crit partners, writing buddies, and some special civilians (Hee! That would be non-writing buddies), I have oodles of encouragement. Thank goodness!

Kimberly Derting said...

I just picked up Clockwork Three at my daughter's bookfair today (the bookfair version also doesn't have the children on the cover), but I was so excited to see it on the shelves! Congrats, Matthew! And great interview, both of you!!!

Kimberly Derting said...

THE Clockwork Three. There is a "The" in the title. I totally knew that ;)

Lori W. said...

Oh, I want this book! I also kind of want to move to Solvang solely for the perfect book store you've got up there.

Thanks to you both for this interview.

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