Thanks to the wonders of modern technology you don’t have to be in the same town as someone to interview them even more. You don’t even have to be in the same time zone, thanks to email, which is how Just Heard, Just Read, Just Seen‘s managing editor was able to catch up with Matt Patterson, author of the incredible My Emily. The JH, JR, JS review of My Emily will be posted tomorrow – in the mean time….
Angelique Jurd: Thanks for talking to Just Heard, Just Read, Just Seen. To get started can you give us a snapshot of who you are:
Matt Patterson: I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland (U.S.), but have called the Phoenix, Arizona area home for the past 12 years. Over the years, I have also lived in Kansas, Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia. So I guess one would say we have hopped around a bit.
AJ: Are you a full time working writer or do you have a ‘day’ job?
MP: I am a free-lance writer with a specialty in marketing communications and media relations. I wouldn’t mind a real “day” job though. In the meantime, I’m also in the process of another project and creating a foundation. I can say I am not bored.
AJ: Are you married? Do you have children? Do you have pets? We are nosey here at JH, JR, JS.
MP: I am married – celebrating 27 years in April. I have had three daughters – Emily, Lauren and Kimberly. We have one dog – a cockapoo, named Isabelle (I call her Izzy.)
AJ: You have just published a book – can you tell us a little about it, without giving away too many spoilers? What is the target audience?
MP: I released My Emily shortly before the holidays. It tells the story of our first daughter Emily, who was born with Down syndrome and then shortly thereafter (two years) was diagnosed with leukemia. It walks you through our journey – from Emily’s birth, diagnosis, treatment and eventual passing – and how we reacted and continue to move forward.
I believe this book can touch many target audiences. I think any parent could be interested in this type of story – obviously those who perhaps have a special needs child or one that is or has battled cancer, as well as parents who are grieving the loss of a little one. I also think that this is a book that teens should sit down and read. I think our young adults need to be reminded it’s not how you look or what you achieve that makes you valuable. It’s because you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
AJ: What inspired you to write it?
MP: This book started out as a newspaper column almost 20 years ago. I covered the courts and crime beat and wanted my weekly column to be as far away from those stories as possible. I wanted my readers to know I’m just a regular person just like them. I had daughters and a life beyond the newspaper. I also did my best to inject my sense of humor in these columns. In this particular column, I just wanted to share with my readers how much a difference Emily made in my life. It was well received and I said to myself that maybe one day I may just write a book.
Today, it’s my hope and prayer to reach down and help those who are experiencing what we have. I just want to share our story and hopefully it can touch or teach the reader some small lesson.
AJ: Is this the genre and style you usually write in? If it isn’t, what moved you to make a change?
MP: Actually, it is. I want someone to be able to sit down with my book and feel like I’m sitting right across from them telling the story.
AJ: Is this a ‘sit back and read for pleasure’ book or is there a message in your book you want readers to grasp – or is it a bit of both?
MP: There are numerous messages attached to this book. It depends on who’s reading it. At the end of the day, I would readers will come away not taking each day for granted. I hope a parent will call their child who has grown and gone and tell them that they love them. Or go straight to their son or daughter’s room, open the door and give them the biggest hug, then look them deep in the eye and tell them how much they love them.
As odd as this may sound, I think people can read this book for pleasure. Sure, it is a sad story, but I do try to inject humor throughout. When someone turns that last page, it’s my hope they have been touched emotionally or taught some small lesson.
AJ: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?
MP: When I was younger, I had aspirations to be a sportscaster and did television news for the first few years after graduating from college. It wasn’t until I became I newspaper writer that I knew deep inside that I could perhaps do this. Working on deadlines really helped me focus on writing clear, short sentences. When someone picks up My Emily, they’ll see what I mean – a lot of short sentences.
AJ: What books have most influenced your life most?
MP: Tuesdays With Morrie and Have A Little Faith – both by Mitch Albom.
AJ: What book are you reading now?
MP: LIVESTRONG: Inspirational Stories from Cancer Survivors – From Diagnosis to Treatment and Beyond
AJ: What type of music do you listen to when you write?
MP: I actually need it pretty quiet when I write. If I do have music playing in the background, it is normally classical. More often than not, I like it nice and quiet.
AJ: Do you have any little ‘things’ you do or traditions you follow when you write?
MP: Once I’ve established my quiet surroundings and given my subject matter, I pray before I write. It gives me clarity – an open mind and heart.
AJ: Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated space, a particular office or piece of machinery?
MP: Now that we are empty-nesters (children are now old enough and have moved out), I use our large, high-sitting kitchen table as my desk. I love it! Lots of room, space. It’s dedicated and it’s all mine!
AJ: Mac or PC?
MP: I write on a PC, but I’m a Mac fan. (Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone.)
AJ: Do you ever write longhand?
MP: I do carry a beat-up notebook and jot down notes if they come to me, but 99 percent of the time I’m on my laptop.
AJ: How long does it take to finish a project?
MP: I hope the next project won’t take 20 years, that’s for sure!
AJ: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
MP: I have worried and wondered about this quite often. Given the response to the book thus far I guess I can say no … for today. It doesn’t mean I won’t think and worry tomorrow though!
AJ: What do you love most about writing? And what do you dislike about it?
MP: I love how writing allows me to share my heart, emotions, as well as my humor. I hope that when someone reads my work they can walk away from it and say, “You know, I’d like to sit down with this Matt Patterson and have a chat.”
AJ: What are the three pieces of advice you would give a new writer?
- Don’t let anyone and I mean ANYONE – especially friends and family – discourage you. Don’t listen to their negative chatter.
- Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people – especially other authors/writers.
- This may not be for everyone but pray or meditate before you write. Take a moment to think quietly – clear your mind. It will make your writing time more productive