"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Dangerous Minds: Ngaire meets New York teacher and YA writer, Matt Posner

Hello everyone! Well, Easter Sunday … what did you do? Relax, chit-chat with the family, a walk in the country ... Me, I cleaned my car. The first time in … oh, about a year. 

Yes, it was filthy. Absolutely disgusting. The collection of unidentifiable organic matter was mind boggling. The assortment of lollipop sticks and a  blobs of chewing gum added to the pile. I lost a 10 euro note up the hoover and nearly my driver’s licence – naughty Henry!

I did, however, get round to cleaning the dog pee off the carpet in the boot (trunk); it had been there for 3 weeks. And you know it didn’t smell. Don’t ask how I know that … '

Anyway, that's enough of that - on the show this morning, flying in on the overnight Jumbo, is New York YA and Sex Education writer, Matt Posner.

Matt Posner auditions for "The Sopranos"

Hi Matt.

Hi Ngaire...nice to meet you...

Tell us about yourself. Where were you born and where do you call home?

Well, I was born in Glens Falls, New York. I grew up mostly in Miami, Florida and have ties to North Carolina, but I am now firmly settled in New York City.

The world's greatest hot dogs - (with the exception of that
shop in Underwood, near Nottingham, 
that uses home made chilli made out
of chillis and serves it up in a tin foil wrapper.) 

So, when did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I started writing as soon as I was young enough to do so. I have poems and plays from elementary school days. However, my decision to be a novelist was made at age 13 as part of a 7th grade "Gifted" class. 

I wrote a novella for that class (about 80 pages) and started a full-length novel the following year. That novel wound up being my practice piece till I was 21 -- it was an epic fantasy.

Do you have a day job as well? If so, please tell us about it.

I'm a teacher. I was a college professor for a while, but that's a lousy job these days in terms of pay, benefits, and security, so I retrained for high school, and that's what I'll do for the foreseeable future.  

Working in a Brooklyn school is very draining. The positives are about the kids and the colleagues who give much energy with their wonderful personalities. 

Classic NY School Picture - Dangerous Minds

The negatives are the Department of Education, the Mayor, and the politicians nationwide who are promulgating the myth that teachers are incompetent and that unions protect the jobs of the undeserving. It's bullshit.

(It can't be all bad, Matt. There's a plus side to everything...especially if she's one of your colleagues - Ed)

"Bad Teacher Car Wash Sequence"

That's enough from you, Wiz! (Sorry, N! :-(  ) Matt, tell us more about your young adult fantasy series, School of the Ages.   

America's greatest magic school is New York City's School of the Ages... Growing up magical... is hard. It's a dark urban fantasy series with more realistic magic, mostly mental, linked to real-world occultism and paranormal events, focused on incorporating multiple cultures. 

School of the Ages is located on a hidden island in New York Harbor and is half traditional magic students and half Cabala students who are mainly Chasidic. 

Nice Matt Posner cover

"They can be friends, these two schools, but they clash a lot, too. School of the Ages can also shift in time and space, which provides the plot for the first book, and the upcoming fourth also. The first book has a lot of Jewish content...the fourth will have a lot of Hindu content."

Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or is it all purely imagination?

Well, I don't work at a magic school, but I went to school, and I remember those feelings. I remember being intense, and I remember being different, and I use those memories to craft my characters. I have incorporated personal experience in certain ways. 

I worked at yeshiva high schools for several years during the earlier drafting of The Ghost in the Crystal, and was motivated to adapt the amazing culture of Orthodox Judaism into my books in order to share my intrigue with readers.  

Similarly, having worked as a teacher with students who have learning disability, I wanted to have a learning-disabled magic student in my second book:  thus Level Three, who has Asperger's Syndrome. 

Overall, I love to use places I have visited as settings for scenes, which is why the books have such a strong New York theme, and the third novel, The War Against Love, is so firmly rooted in cool places in Europe like Paris, Prague, and Hamburg. 

Magnificent Paris from the air

In book four, Simon Myth, you get a heavy dose of Indian culture, ancient and modern, when Simon joins with his family in Mumbai (Bombay) India to face villains there, but is diverted into the land of the Mahabharata.

You have written a non-fiction book aimed at teenagers called Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships. What spurred you on to write in this genre? Did you feel many teenagers were unaware about the sexual aspects of growing up and matters concerning first relationships in teen-hood?

I got the idea to write Teen Guide because as a teacher, I can't talk about these issues to students with whom I work. There are legal and ethical obstacles to doing that; it's pretty much excluded from my job description. All this said, I wanted to do something to help young people through an intensely challenging period of changing options, higher stakes, and sometimes life-changing risks.

There is information in Teen Guide that even adult readers have told me they didn't know before! We tried to be comprehensive while brief so that we could meet as many different needs as possible. I can't say what any particular teen knows or doesn't know, but I am sure there are a lot of questions. 

Classic Hale and Pace Sauna/Sex Education Sketch

The question and answer format of the book allows readers to skip directly to the topics they want to know more about. Also, since it is an advice book, my co-author Jess C. Scott and I provide ideas to help teens interpret situations and make decisions about to handle them.  Hear us discuss and read from the book here 

Are you traditionally published or self-published? And has your publishing experience  been what you expected it to be? Would you change anything?

I started out as a self-published author in November 2010, and I still consider that to be my identity. The first few books of School of the Ages are traditionally published in India, with edited content and different covers, but we will have to watch together and see what happens there.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Advertising DOES NOT work; readers are resistant to advertisements because they have saturated the market, and the usual book ad is a kind of "look at me! look at me!" experience that turns people off. 

"We know that 50% of our advertising works. We just don't know which 50%!" (Clever bloke at detergent and utilities conglomerate, Unilever. Or Proctor and Gamble, and that - Ed.)

I follow the business philosophy of my writing partner Jess C. Scott which is to keep putting out material, diversify genres (more of that to come), and let the work sell itself over time. I would love to make good money as an author, but I have a full-time job in teaching which is very demanding, so I focus on that. The traditional advice given to indies like me is to make your work as professional-looking as possible, to write a blog, and to promote with twitter. I don't think twitter works unless you are already successful and are announcing new products to people who want to know about them. I'd like to explore some web optimization tools, too. Overall, though, my strategy is to meet people and co-promote with them. I genuinely like meeting people and doing interviews like this one, and I really like the fact that social networking has all these small networks of friends and partners that I can enter and connect to, finding genuine and cool individuals like you whom I can host, who will host me, and whom I will introduce to each other for more of the same.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not anymore. In my view, writer's block comes from two sources.  One source is trying to write without having planned out what you are going to write. 

Another source of writer's block is lack of confidence in what you are doing. If you want to get rid of writer's block, there are three solutions, all derived from what I said above.

a)      Make an outline of the project you are working on. Give yourself up to a week to add to it a little at a time. You can always discard parts of it later; the outline is there to get your creative energy flowing.

b)      Tell your subconscious, "Subconscious, solve the following creative problem." Then do something else for a while, such as sleep or watch TV. Repeat this process as needed until you find the solution to your problem.

c)      Work on another project. Change projects as needed; while you advance in one, another will become unstuck.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Hundreds of books have been fundamental to my development. I list different ones in different interviews, but I always mention Tolkien and Jane Austen and I usually mention Colin Wilson. 

What project are you working on now and do you have a new book coming out soon?

I am trying to finalize School of the Ages 4:  Simon Myth, in time for a June or July publication date. 

A cover reveal event should occur some time this month:  Mande Matthews and I are working on the cover. 
A villain drawn from Indian mythology -- a rakshas, or demon-wizard -- provides the 21st-century threat, but before he can deal with this, Simon Myth gets lost in time and winds up in ancient India, where he receives guidance and training the heroes of the Indian epic Mahabharata -- the Pandava brothers.

When you’re writing, do you shut-off all social networks?

No. More's the pity. I do write in notebooks in odd places where there is no social networking, but if I am at my computer, Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter are generally open.

Tell us one of your favourite quotes …
"How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly — and letting the world see into us." (Roshi Joan Halifax).

Matt, whilst on holiday with your family to visit the temple of Lakshmi the Hindu Goddess of fortune and prosperity, you travel deep into a Khajuraho jungle. Unfortunately your mode of transport, the elephant, has decided to take it easy and has actioned a strike! What 4 books and 2 CDs did you bring along for the journey?

Mahabharata in English

The paintings of Belgian Surrealist Rene Magritte

The Lord of the Rings

Something by Andre Jute; 

James Asher Tigers of the Raj

The Best of The Beatles

...and where can fans of Matt Posner find out more?

http://schooloftheages.webs.com - my main base, Ngaire.

Youtube channel is schooloftheages  

Photos and Book Covers and other great stuff: http://schooloftheages.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=14211101

Matt, it's been a pleasure to speak to you and I wish you the best of luck for the future.

It's been great, Ngaire. Thank you.

Fan Research: Prior interviews with Matt





More information - including links - on Cauldron co-host, Ngaire Elder:



  1. Great job - I tend to agree with Matt's take on advertising. Advice to authors is head-on - Kudos.

  2. Thank you Mary Ann - hope Matt enjoyed himself as much as I did n x

  3. A question for,Matt ... your School of the Ages series I know is for YA ... what age range??? thanks n x

  4. I would say ages 12 and up. The third book is more mature than the first two.

    1. thank you, Matt ... a treat for my daughter n x

  5. Once again, thank you for a great interview you two! Nice to meet you once more, Matt! :-) Great views for this one too...:-)


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