"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

Thursday, 24 October 2013

In and Out of the Shadows...with Mande Matthews

Mande Matthews
In the penultimate Matt Posner interview, the  Cauldron is today graced by the multi-talented  Mande Matthews

Graphic designer, company owner, animal lover, Mozart buff, prolific fantasy writer and author of the lauded ShadowLight Saga. Mande is another of those people who manage to do everything but build the ark on any given day and whose productivity is an inspiration to us all. 

Sagas, prequels, mini-series, the kitchen sink: Mande is a testament to hard work and application and proof that spending ten hours a day on social networks isn't always the best use of a writer's time.

This is one of the most absorbing interviews I've carried out and there is a free copy of the prequel to her saga available to everyone who reads it.   So without further ado, here's what Mande had to say from somewhere deep in the US.

Hiya Mande,

Hi Wiz!

Tell us a bit about yourself...

Not much to tell, really. I’m just a normal gal with a lot of imagination and a burning desire to write down what I make up. I run my own graphic design company for years, and adore my author/publisher clients. Working with other people in the publishing industry makes me realize how many wonderfully talented people are in this world. In general, I’m just plain blessed since I get to wake up every day and pursue my dreams, and help others achieve theirs. What could be better than that?

In what genre do your books most comfortably nest? 

Fantasy. Probably won’t ever matter what I write, it will (most likely) always contain an element of fantasy, whether the subgenre straddles other genres or not.

The greatest fantasy epic of the early eighties - 
Hawk the Slayer: An entire film in three minutes.

Tell us about your writing. What books have you published? 

ShadowLight Saga is epic adventure and the Queen’s Honor miniseries is a Historical Fantasy Romance. 

Broken is slated for release late this year. The Queen’s Honor Miniseries is an experiment of sorts. 

I set out to write episodes, like a television series, and will continue with the series as soon as book two of ShadowLight is released. 

What’s the difference between YA fiction and er, everything else? Is there a method to writing YA fiction?

I never intended to write YA for ShadowLight, or Queen’s Honor. In retrospect, I’m writing more New Adult than anything else, and I’ve also found that my demographic (from my website signups) range from 13 to 75 year olds with the main bulk being the 20-50 category! 

Since New Adult isn’t really embraced as a category by the reading public yet, I started marketing my books under Young Adult, simply for their age factor and the “discovering” oneself character arches that the books contain. 

My beta readers suggested teens would enjoy the adventures the characters faced, so that’s where I initially placed the books. I believe, however, that true Young Adult is much more than age and arch, which is why New Adult may be more appropriate for my category. 

"YA contains a specific tone that teens can identify with and relatable problems as well. Though my current projects cross age boundaries, I have some concepts on the backburner that will target the teen audience more purposefully."

I love your website. Do you recommend writers should always have a website? (It really is a lovely looking website, readers. I'm not just doing a Jonathon Ross impression here...Ed).


Thanks! Back in the day, I designed websites. When you had to hand code HTML. Yeah. Back in THAT day. It was tough and if you weren’t both a tech and a graphics person, a site was just plain tough to pull off without professional help. 

Nowadays, Wordpress and Blogger makes is so incredibly easy for anyone to have a website that there’s absolutely no reason I can think of that an author shouldn’t create a website to promote their work, show more of who they are, and connect with their readers. 

"I’ve seen a few authors become successful with only Facebook sites, but I’ve discovered readers will have their own preference on how they want to connect with you." 

A website also allows you to collect the most valuable thing an author can have: a reader’s email address. If someone goes to the trouble to give their email, that person is priceless to me. So, a resounding yes on authors getting websites!

I noticed you wrote a free downloadable prequel to your saga. Did that help visibility?

ShadowLight contains the 10k prequel, The Light Keepers along with Bonded, the first in the trilogy. 

"Bonded was basically invisible before I wrote the prequel. After the prequel, sales slowly started to take off." 

After a cover redesign and some keyword tweaks, both books climbed to number one in their respective categories. 

Download Lightkeepers for FREE here!

I’ve tried other promotions, such as Kindle Select, and so far, free first book trumps all. I figure it’s a win-win proposition: the reader gets to try before they buy, and I get to reach a bigger audience and find readers that like what I’m writing.

Is Goodreads just for the under twenty-fives? What could be done to improve Goodreads, vis a vis usability, access and bullying issues.

Honestly, I haven’t had much luck with Goodreads—I’m simply not social media savvy and not sure what to do there. 

I’m grateful for anyone who reads my books and reviews them, and I will sneak on there once in a while to read reviews, but my most scathing review was a Goodreads reader so I try and steer clear as my ego is easily bruised haha! 

Age of users? Well, I find that users are spread among the age demographic. I think the 30 and 40 something are just a few percentage points behind the under twenty-fives. 

"The female demographic far outweighs the male, however." 
As far as improving the forum? Goodreads tends to attract avid readers, whether cliquish, catty or honest book enthusiasts, avid readers spread the word for your titles. If I had all the time in the world to hang out there and chat about books, maybe I would, and maybe I could have better advice to offer, but the only thing I’ve figured out at the moment: ignore the naysayers and just write. 

"Focus on writing the best book you can, put it out, and you’ll eventually draw the audience that aligns with your stories. If bullying (ganging up with negative reviews or marking with negative lists) occur – report it and move on. You can’t control Goodreads or their readers, but you can control your own mind-set. Realize that you might pull negative attention regardless of your efforts—whether it’s deserved or not". 

You’re in the business so of writing, so write. Lick your wounds and move on. (Since I tend toward sensitivity, this is what I tell myself on a daily basis.)

More classic fantasy 
from the eighties - see if you recognise it!

The Evil Black Knight takes one peek at the cover of your second book while shopping for big swords in the town square and is offended at the very handsome Prince you showcase.  

Causing havoc at the Target while you shop for groceries, he races down the canned goods aisle on his giant charger, scoops you up and carries you into yonder. Back at his foreboding Castle of Evil, he throws you in a rat-infested swamp/cellar while he decides your fate. A kindly elven-creature brings your foetid water and bark bowl of gruel, but also a sack, which contains two books, a CD and a DVD. What would you like them to be?

Well, given the situation, a “How to Escape from Evil Dungeons” guide might be appropriate, and I’m pretty ticked off at that Evil Black Knight for making me choose, but, for books? 

The magnificent Jack Palance - the Evil Black Knight in
classic early eighties fantasy action adventure "Hawk The Slayer"
Maybe the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica set (how could you get bored with that?),

 the DVD would be either Shakespeare in Love, or Amadeus, or maybe even … seriously? 

I have to choose? As for the CD, here comes the geek in me: any Celtic Woman CD, or maybe any Irish Whistle CD since you can’t be depressed listening to an Irish Whistle. See, I’m just not great at choosing! ;-)

Have you a pet dog? What function does he serve for you as a writer?

Actually, I have three dogs, two parrots, one cat and three horses. The parrots served as inspiration for a middle-grade book I have on the backburner, and a possible pen name (still noodling whether to launch a secondary brand, but if I do, the birds’ names put together make the perfect pen). 

The dogs, well, they do tend to remind me to get off the laptop and eat. Jessie, my border collie, is rather demanding and much smarter than me, so I pretty much do what she demands. Sam, our rescue boy (he only had 2 hours to live before they put him down in the Maricopa County Humane Society), he reminds me that every moment is precious, and Bo, a blue-heeler mix with an attitude to match, alerts me to any unwanted visitors pulling up the driveway. You might find the cat in a book in the near future too. And once of my secondary characters in the ShadowLight Saga, Emma, is a Caller (animal telepath). 

"Animals pretty much rule my world, so you’ll find them everywhere in my writing".

And finally, what can fans of Mande Matthews have to look forward to in 2014

Broken, book two of the ShadowLight Saga is releasing end of year. 

I have some shorts, and novellas in the works for ShadowLight. These will be “side adventures” for secondary characters that don’t get the page space the main characters do in the trilogy. 

These stories will both stand alone and work into the main plot of ShadowLight (meaning you wouldn’t have to read them to understand the trilogy in its entirety, but you could read them to see how they tie to the overall story). Queen’s Honor will get another instalment, if not more.  

"My biggest personal goal is to write faster (and better) and get much more product to readers than I have in the past".

Mande, it's been very informative and a lot of fun. Thank you for visiting us here at the Cauldron and we wish you the very best of luck with your upcoming releases.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Mark! I appreciate your time and enjoyed my visit!


Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mande-Matthews/e/B006SJ1VDC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1382555075&sr=8-2-ent

Barnes and Noble:


Stuart Aken Review of Lightkeepers


  1. Love the choice of video clips and the graphics, too. Best of luck with sales, Mande. Kudos, Wizzy, for another exceptional post.

  2. Fabulous interview and thank you, Mande, for the Light Keepers freebie; downloaded it for my daughter. n x

  3. Mark! Love what you did with the videos! And thanks so much for having me over. Thanks to both Mary (for the luck...like to get as much of that as I can) and Ngaire for downloading The Light Keepers.

  4. Mary Ann/Ngaire thank you for your comments - always much appreciated. And Mande, you're welcome any time - lots of good feedback and a really nice interview. It was fun. You also learned a new English word - (Plonker, for anyone reading this!!) :-)


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