Monday, September 26, 2016

Interview with Matthew S. Cox, NINE CANDLES OF THE DEEPEST BLACK

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Nine Candles of Deepest Black is the story of Paige Thomas, a sixteen-year-old girl with a special gift. Her grandmother had it, and everyone thought the old woman bonkers, so whenever Paige experienced something strange, she kept quiet about it… until the night she got a premonition that someone dear to her would die. No one believed her when she tried to warn them, and tragedy struck. In the wake of that death, her family is falling to pieces around her. Dad’s become a hollow shell of a man unable to cope with the loss. Her mother has gone the other direction, doting over her little sister Melissa while all but ignoring Paige. For her part, Paige just wants the world to go away; she’s happy sitting in her room tuning everything out.

In an effort to help his family heal, Dad moves them out of the city to a quiet little (fictional) town in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Valley. Paige resents being moved away from the home she’d grown up in, and becomes more sullen. However, on her first day of school, an outgoing girl strikes up a conversation which leads Paige to falling in with the group of local outcasts who have been experimenting with witchcraft for some time, to little  noticeable effect.

With Paige (and her gift) added to the mix, their spell winds up working, but ancient demons have a strange way of granting wishes―in ways that the girls never planned on. Despite the danger inherent in working against her own spell, Paige sets aside her grief to stop what she set in motion before too many innocent people suffer.

Do you have a favorite character?
In general or for this book? In general, I’d say Althea from Prophet of the Badlands (and the Awakened series). For this book, it’s kind of a toss up between Sofia or Melissa. (I’m deliberately omitting Paige from the running as it seems wonky to pick the main character :P)

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
Yes, but it wasn’t in Nine Candles. When I first started working on the Daughter of Mars series, my intention was for Risa (the main character) to become romantically involved with a man from Earth. This would conflict with her die hard loyalty to Martian independence, as her feelings for this guy deepen and it becomes clear his political leanings are the polar opposite of hers. In the first chapter, there’s another guy who is new to the independence movement who seems like a police infiltrator. In the first draft, I had Risa unceremoniously killing him in the middle of a meeting with an underworld figure from whom she was purchasing a bomb. She had no more reaction to this than swatting a fly that had landed on her arm. What I had intended to show her total loyalty to the independence movement wound up putting off some early beta readers who said it made her  unlikable. I wound up keeping the man, Pavo, in the story – and rather than being a police infiltrator that her boss wanted her to kill, he became a member of another sympathetic faction who Risa winds up falling in love with instead of the guy I had initially planned on. So that wound up having a massive effect on the remainder of the series.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
I spent a couple of months sending out queries for my first novel, Division Zero, but I kept getting back the same “this is great, but I don’t think I’m the right agent for it” responses. I was part of an online writer’s chat group (that has since gone down) where another author, AW Exley, frequented. I knew she’d been published, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking a look at my first 5 chapters and letting me know if she thought the reason agents weren’t biting was my query, my writing, or just the fickleness of the business. She got back to me in about a week, said she loved it, and told me to query her publisher directly. I did, and they eventually signed me. So far, Curiosity Quills has published all of my novels.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
All of my novels are under traditional contracts with Curiosity Quills. I have not self-published anything yet. I don’t know if I will, but at the moment it doesn’t look like it’s likely.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
When I’m writing a draft, I need silence. I find even instrumental music distracting in most cases. Though while writing Nine Candles of Deepest Black, I did have on a background track of mood music:

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
Something like twenty years ago when I first got the bright idea to try and write a book, I just sat down and started writing. I didn’t finish. I don’t think I even made it a third of the way through the length of a novel before I got lost and gave up. It took me years to feel like trying again, and when I did, I decided that I needed a road map / outline to know where to go. I developed an outline, and found it much easier to finish the book. I have a lot of respect for people who can just sit down and bang out a cohesive story without an outline, though I find it far easier to fix all those little consistency and logic problems when I only have to rearrange small paragraphs instead of huge chapters. One advantage to outlining is I don’t paint myself into a corner or wind up with characters in situations that I hadn’t planned on happening or that feel random.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Before I got signed, I looked into hiring an editor… but the one I found was way out of my price range. I was looking at Virtual Immortality at the time, and the guy wanted $10 a page… which would’ve been about $6,000. Fortunately, when Curiosity Quills signed Division Zero, they provided the editing. (Bear in mind I now know that not all editors are that expensive. For anyone who is considering self-publishing, you should have an editor look at it. They can see issues with plot and characterization that the writer will never notice because you’re too close to the story.)

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I’ve got Twitter (@mscox_fiction), Facebook (, a blog ( that I have a lot of trouble thinking of stuff to post on, and I sometimes do the Google Plus thing. It’s a battle for me as I tend to hate spam, but being a small press author where the publisher doesn’t have a massive advertising budget requires that I participate in marketing to a point. I’m constantly arguing with myself about if I should post or not post, feeling spammy and then feeling delinquent for not ‘doing enough’ to try and get people to notice my books.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes. I’d always rather be writing or reading. I always feel a little bit unclean whenever I partake in something marketing related. I know it’s a necessary evil but I have to force myself to do it.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Get an editor. Get a real cover artist. They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but that’s not true. If your book’s cover looks like it was made in five minutes with MS Paint, people are going to assume the same lack of effort/care went into the writing too.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
I’m fond of computer games, though don’t throw the kind of time at them these days as I used to. I also like tabletop RPGs, and sci fi / fantasy movies.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
Cats. Chocolate. Coffee. Text. Does “late afternoon” count?

What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing The Harmony Paradox, a sequel to Virtual Immortality. After that, I’ll be working on Emma and the Silverbell Faeries – book 3 of the Widowswood series. (MG Fantasy). In November, an anthology of my short stories is coming out (The Far Side of Promise), and in December, One More Run, book 1 of the Roadhouse chronicles – a post nuke-apoc romance… with a dash of zombies – releases.

Nine Candles of Deepest Black
Matthew S. Cox
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: September 15th 2016
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult

She saw it coming. She knew it would happen―but no one believed her.

Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore.

On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work.

Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.

Author Bio:
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (