I am so glad that I met up with Maria Matthews at the BookGoSocial Children’s Group and got to know her work. She has such a wonderful imagination.
I read the Runaway Schoolhouse. After being a decade in an Irish village, this small schoolhouse, called Clearie, wants to travel to France. He starts wandering with small steps to the beach. But with the help of the sometimes hilarious twins John and Sara, of Lancelot the crab and Aldo the Frenchman, Clearie lives the most amazing adventures. While reading, you know it is all fantasy, but at the same time, you believe everything did really happen as we see it going on before our eyes.
I really adore Maria Matthews fantasy and hope she will continue daydreaming forever.
- Can you introduce yourself, what’s your name, where are you from… ?
My full name is Maria Monica Matthews. I was born here in Ireland, in the capital city, Dublin but I have always felt more at home in the countryside as it fed my imagination from an early age. I work as an admin/event coordinator for a community stadium for 20 hours a week, the remainder of my week is divided between volunteering, training dogs and my family.
- Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
I am a soft hearted, emotional individual but I volunteer with a river rescue and recovery crew.
- Give 2 things about yourself that you think matter the most?
a) I married my soul mate and have 2 incredible kids.
b) I believe that the whole point of living is to show you love others by helping in whatever way you can, or at the very least make them laugh which is why I volunteer…
- Identity Card
- Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I remember vividly is an illustrated version of Snow White, I loved the large book, the illustrations and the very smell of it.
- What makes you laugh/cry?
TV shows like Father Ted, The Big Bang Theory and conversations with friends usually gets me laughing. The crying bit is easy, soppy films, add a sick child or a dog and I weep … I am a sucker for them.
- In which genre do you write?
I began writing short stories for womens magazines and moved on to writing romance novels but have discovered the amazing world of writing for children. So I suppose my answer is romantic novels, and childrens fiction. I would love to write a who dun it, an ambition yet to try.
- What makes your book special, how is it different from other books in your genre?
I often overdose on Irish humour with regards to writing for children. Because I have read too many books for kids which lack the whackyness that adds sparkle to their genre.
My romantic novels are a developing genre, with a sprinkle of the humour I witness around me.
- How do you feel when you write, do you have a special ritual?
No ritual involved in writing, it does help to have my oldest and furriest 4 legged friend snoring at my feet. I simply relax and go along with the idea rolling about in my head. Too often I forget about a plot outline I may have done, and that is why editing is such a big thing for me. I can let words and feeling flow on paper but then when I read it back, I realise I have literally lost the plot and need to edit and re edit to get back on line.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a romantic comedy, which I wrote after reading too many books set in Ireland but written by foreign writers who had a mythical idea about irish romantic men and the women who fall in love with them. Fact is : A romantic Irish man is a rare gem most are honest, hardworking and practical with a great sense of humour.
- How did you come up with the title?
I struggle with titles and I think I always will. My method is down to pure work and is time consuming, I grab a notepad and begin to write titles, in random orders then I systematically go through them and eventually am left with two or three and from there the title is eventually decided on.
- If you could be any famous book character, who would you be and why?
As a young girl I read and re read Little Women and loved Jo, she always had an answer in a tricky situation, something I am bad at doing. I just emm and ahh my way through it and afterwards the answer pops into my head. But I would also like to be Bridget Jones, who wouldn’t?
- Is there a message in your book that you hope the readers will grasp?
Simply put the message in The Runaway Schoolhouse began as: Often we get the nagging feeling we are missing out on something or that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence only to discover much later that we had it good all along.
- What are your top 3 books of all time?
1) Roald Dahl: The Twits – I just adored how wrong they were and how funny they came across.
2) Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend; RJ Wallers tale of a man chasing that which he should not even consider: a woman who is already married. For me it is a stronger book than the one who brought him to fame: The Bridges of Madison County.
3) Pride and Prejudice. I know it is a cliché but really it is a template for romance writers everywhere. I read and re read it many times swooning and dreaming about Mr. Darcy, and then of course there is feisty Elizabeth Bennett who reminds me of an older version of Jo in Little Women is another favourite character of mine.
- How important is marketing and social media for you?
Unfortunately, they are hugely important because I realise it is the way to attract attention and find an audience, though I wish I possessed a superhero’s ability to slow time down as marketing and social media eat into writing time.
- Is it important for you to get book reviews? Do you read them?
Book reviews rock my world, because only through them can I gauge if I am connecting with an audience. I don’t mind the amount of stars I am given, I just prefer to know if the book was read and liked or disliked and why.
I did receive an email from a reader telling me she wouldn’t give me a review as she felt she would only give me a three star review because she didn’t understand the book. To me that was a loss as every single star and review is a reward for work done. I understand that we all think differently and we can’t please everyone.
- What advice do you have for other writers?
Write as often as you can, and don’t stick to one genre as time goes on so our writing evolves and it is only after trial and error you can find the genre you are meant to write. Also find a good on line critical writing group where you will get honest opinions from those in the world of writing, don’t just ask your mum to read your work. Above all never quit and read as much as you can…
- Can you give your book information: blurb, link, genre (for children’s book, please tell for what age)
Title: The Runaway Schoolhouse
Hook: Clearie has dreamt for so many years of travelling beyond his small village to have adventures and experience the wonders of the world, but even with the help of two young friends and some luck or magic, will this schoolhouse manage to run away?Blurb: Clearie, a one-hundred-year-old schoolhouse, is fed-up.
For so long, he has helped children get educated but been rewarded only by their complaints about how much they hate school.
He longs to get away.
His dream is to go to France, a country he has heard so much about in geography lessons over the years – but how could a schoolhouse possibly travel? Eventually, he comes up with a plan and enlists the help of two students, the Buggy twins; but not everything works out as he had hoped. With an attic full of crazy crabs, led by the fearless Lancelot, his journey is less than enjoyable and, in his absence, the school system falls apart.
Will Clearie’s dreams come true and the children get their wish for schooldays to end forever? Or has everyone bitten off more than they can chew?
Asin (Amazon): B019C9J2OY
Age: 7 – 10 y
Title: Moving On
Hook: With her marriage over, Ally believing, love is not her destiny concentrates on her family of five loving dogs, and her friends but when Tom meets her he realises they are meant to be together forever, and pushes himself to do whatever it takes to convince Ally of this simple fact, one way to the other.
Blurb: Ally O’Brien’s world has been knocked sideways by the death of her father and her failed marriage. For this romantic Irishwoman being a divorcee is not a trophy. Ally wishes to move on with her life. She believes love is not for her. If she needs companionship she has it in her friends and her five dogs.
Her love of dog sled racing becomes her focus. Competing in a male dominated sport Ally enjoys competing and winning.
Tom Lynch is everything Ally should avoid, handsome and charming, with a different woman beside him each day of the week. He is used to winning. Finishing behind a woman who is indifferent to his charm creates a challenge. If there is one thing Tom loves it is overcoming the impossible.
Ally is certain of one thing, love is not for her.
However, Ally is everything Tom has been searching for.
Asin (Amazon): B00LFNR60S
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- QUICK POP-QUIZ. (You can choose one or both, and please feel free to add a very brief comment)
Snow or Sun- Snow I am more used to dealing with wet and cold than blistering hot.
Soccer or Ice Hockey – Ice hockey – We love to go to see the Belfast Giants play, in their home arena of course. Though I admit if it was rugby or ice hockey….rugby would win.
Dogs or Cats – Dogs of course – Bob would never forgive me if I even looked at a cat.
Ice cream or fruit. I love ice cream, especially Italian Ice cream …I could cheerfully spend a week eating Ice cream …any flavour will be tried and tested with great reverence.
Fact or Fiction? Fiction always, it doesn’t matter the age it is written for I will dive in and lose myself.
Music or silence – Silence. In this noisy world I love to sit and just be.
Sport or reading – ah both are great loves of mine. I am hopeless at sport so I will choose reading.
Sea or mountains – I am lucky I live close to the sea and not far from the Cooley Mountains and there is always the Wicklow mountains, but Bob loves chasing sea gulls so it will have to be the sea.
Groundhogs or squirrels – I have never met a groundhog but after reading about Margot I will have to say Groundhog. Besides I rarely see squirrels here.
Books or movies: I love both but prefer to read the book as I can create my own vision of Mr. Darcy, thank you.
Ebooks or print; I love printed books, the smell and feel of them though ebooks are becoming a handy alternative.
- Is there anything more you want to tell your readers?
Getting a message or email from a reader makes my heart sing and getting a review is like Christmas Morning, a surprise you hoped would come your way. I would love to hear from anyone who reads anything belonging to me, as it gives me confidence to keep trying to improve. So if please stay in touch; firstname.lastname@example.org or via any of the social media links.
Thank you so much Maria Matthews