Mara Valderran: You describe Paradise Earth: Day Zero in the blurb as a "deconstruction of faith at the end of the world and beyond". This is some pretty heavy material and quite the journey for your main character. What can you tell us about where he is at and how he feels when the story begins?
Anthony Mathenia: The story begins with an individual whose world is his religion. He’s made some serious sacrifices for his faith in the religion, believing that at the end of the day the reward would be worth it. However, as his foundation crumbles around him during the apocalypse, seed doubts blossom. When the smoke clears he is left with a clean slate to figure out what he really believes in.
MV: Most writers draw inspiration from their own personal lives and experiences, and it seems you have done the same with your experience as a Jehovah's Witness. What can you tell us of your own experience dealing with religious fervor and how it might parallel your character's journey?
AM: I was raised as a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness and fully believed the religion’s teachings were absolute truth. Their highly regimented theology provided a lens through which I had to view the world. When the looking glass shattered and I found out that the religion wasn’t “the truth” it really affected me. It was a difficult adjustment to make. Like the narrator in Paradise Earth, I went from a situation where all of my beliefs were spoon fed to me to a situation where I had to figure out what exactly I really believed in. I think this is common for lots of people who face experiences in life that radically alter belief systems.
MV: Do you see any of yourself in your character? Does he make the same kind of choices you might have when you were entrenched in the religion? If he does, do you find that therapeutic or frustrating to have to reenact similar encounters and situations?
AM: In many ways writing Paradise Earth served as a personal catharsis. It took a long time to be in a situation where I could look objectively at my past and be able to put my feelings into words. While, the narrator’s experiences are different, the emotions are the same. It definitely resonates with those who have been in high-control groups.
MV: The Paradise Earth series isn't your only project. What can you tell us about the comics you are working on?
AM: I’m collaborating with local artist Barry Lincoln on a sci-fi comedy called Human Wrestler. It’s the madcap adventures of a semi-professional wrestler from Tennessee who gets abducted to wrestle in an intergalactic wrestling league. The artwork for the first issue is almost done. It’s very funny!
I also have a graphic novel I’ve been writing called Pretty Face. It’s a love story between an anorexic supermodel and a pop star in a world where the cult of celebrity is America’s last remaining export.
MV: Your first book, Happiness: How to Find It was first a web serial by Curiosity Quills. What has your experience been in dealing with Curiosity Quills?
AM: As a new publisher there have been some growing pains to work through. However, I’ve found Curiosity Quills to be very writer friendly and they have treated me fairly. I especially love the supportive nature of the Curiosity Quills author community.
MV: Tell us about your process as a writer. Are you more of a panster or a plotter? Do you have soundtrack or need silence?
AM: I’m a percolator. I’ll come up with an idea or concept that will develop in my mind over time. When I write I generally have the story in mind, though the details get fleshed out as I go. Sometimes the story turns into something else in the process.
I enjoy writing in high-energy environments, like bars. Music is good for setting the mood and I usually have Spotify running in the background. Sometimes I’ll create playlists for whatever I’m working on.
MV: Most people say that writing a first draft is only half the battle when trying to become a published author. What was the other half of the battle for you? What can you tell us about your editing process?
AM: I don’t mind editing. My first drafts tend to be pretty close. From there I just spend time refining the language and distilling the work down to accentuate the main themes.
For me as an indie writer, the other half of the battle is the marketing and promotion. It is so time consuming and distracts from actual writing.
MV: Who are your writing heroes, or writers that you look up to?AM: I like the writers who adventured and lived hard. Hunter S. Thompson. Bukowski. Hemingway. Dudes like that.
MV: What is ahead for your writerly future?
After that I’m looking forward to finishing Week One, the next volume of Paradise Earth. My readers are eagerly awaiting that and I don’t want to disappoint.