Author Matthew Kirby grew up in various locales across the United States because of his Navy dad’s career, but the common thread of his life has been the love of a good story. Matthew’s books include the fantastical “The Clockwork Three” and the mysterious “Icefall,” and he is also the author of the fifth book in the Infinity Ring series, due out this fall. Enjoy this interview with Matthew and find out about his latest projects.
Q: You had a full time job as a school psychologist for years. What was your typical writing day like then? What is it like now?
Matthew: Well, I’m not working as a school psychologist anymore. I quit last year, and that was a very hard decision to make. I loved my job, but it had reached a point where I couldn’t keep doing both. I just didn’t have the bandwidth. Back then, my writing took place mostly at night, after work, and then on the weekends and during summers. Now that I’m writing full-time, I try to put in full work days. I’m not going to lie. That doesn’t always happen. But I try.
Q: You mentioned in an interview that you have kept in contact with your old critique group after moving away. At what point in your writing process do you feel ready to present something to the group for critique?
Matthew: They see it hot off the presses. I trust them completely, and I take work I have sometimes printed almost as soon as I’ve written it. That means they see some pretty rough stuff, but that’s okay with me. That’s a part of what having a critique group is about. We all grow and learn together.
Q: What aspect of your writing group has been most valuable to you as a writer? Were there times that they challenged you to attempt something you weren’t entirely comfortable with at first, but were later glad you tried?
Matthew: There are layers to what a critique group brings to my process. There’s the obvious stuff, like clunky writing, but the thing I’m really looking for from the group members is their emotional reaction to what’s going on in the story. Are they invested in the characters and compelled to keep reading? Do they believe it? If I reach the end of the pages I’ve brought, and they wish they could keep going, that’s the best standard for a story that’s working.
Q: How do you approach critiquing when you look at work from your group? Has this helped you evaluate your own writing?
Matthew: I try to keep my reading focused on the big picture. As I read, I’m asking myself some pretty consistent questions. What is my emotional reaction to this piece? What is this scene accomplishing for the narrative? Do I believe what’s going on with this character, this moment, this choice? I share my answers to these questions with the writer, which sometimes generates discussion and sometimes not. But in the end, I’m very conscious of the fact that I am only one reader. This is just my personal reaction, and others, sometimes everyone else in the group, might feel differently.
Subscribe by clicking on the button at the top of the page so you don’t miss part three of this interview with Matthew. Learn more about his books, “Icefall” and “The Clockwork Three,” online or check them out at our local libraries: Gail Borden, Schaumburg, Batavia, Bartlett, or Poplar Creek.