In this week’s episode, Marissa chats with Matt McMann about his TWO debut books in the Monsterious Series: ESCAPE FROM GRIMSTONE MANOR and THE SNATCHER OF RAVEN HOLLOW. Other topics discussed: having a spouse who is also in the business, not rationing your ideas when writing a series, writing several books in a series in a tight publishing schedule, figuring out where to draw the line in scary content for kids, the pros and cons of writing an anthology-style series, the difficulty in naming characters, and more!
BONUS: Matt is giving away 2 copies of ESCAPE FROM GRIMSTONE MANOR - listen for details on how to enter to win.
Check out Matt’s wife Lisa McMann’s Episode #33 - Guest: Lisa McMann - The Unwanteds Quests: Dragon Slayers (buzzsprout.com)
R.L. Stine’s Masterclass - https://www.masterclass.com/classes/rl-stine-teaches-writing-for-young-audiences
Find out more and follow The Happy Writer on social media: https://www.marissameyer.com/podcast/
[00:10] Marissa: Hello, and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and to help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer. Thank you for joining me. One thing making me happy this week is that in about what are we at? In about five days from now, I will be running my second half marathon. If you've been listening for a while, you know that I ran the Disney Half Marathon. What was that? That was like a little over a year ago, I think. And I'm now running my second. The Tacoma half marathon. And yes, I am happy about that. I am proud of myself for coming this far. I'm fairly certain that I'm going to be able to beat my previous time, so that's always cool. But truly, the thing that actually is making me happy about it is that it is almost over. I have been training for this for months, and the long runs, oh, my gosh, they take up so much time. I am not a speedy runner, and so for me to do a 13 miles training run, it takes literally 3 hours. Plus there's like the warm up and the cooldown and the stretching and the foam rolling and you have to drive to where you're going to run and drive home and it takes all day long. So I am so glad that it's almost over and I am going to get my Saturdays back, so that is a big celebration for me. I am, of course, also so happy to be talking to today's guest. After performing as a professional musician for over 20 years, he has now turned his attention to writing books. The first two books of his debut middle grade series Monsterious, which are Escape from Grimstone Manor and The Snatcher of Raven Hollow. Both are coming out tomorrow. Please welcome Matt McMahon.
[02:11] Matt: Thanks so much for having me.
[02:13] Marissa: Marissa, thank you for joining me. I'm so excited to be talking to you. How are you feeling about the almost debut of not one but two books?
[02:27] Matt: It is a strange feeling after wanting to be an author for basically my whole life, to go from zero books to two on the same day, it is a little bit weird.
[02:37] Marissa: I don't think I've talked to an author here on the podcast that has done this that has released their debut two debuts on the same day. So I definitely want to talk about that and ask how that came about. But before we do, first we have a really exciting announcement for our listeners that you, Matt, are giving away two copies of your book. Two copies of Escape from Grim Stone Manor. That's so exciting. I've never been able to do a giveaway like this from one of my guests before.
[03:14] Matt: Well, thank you for doing it. That is wonderful. I'm so happy that you're able to facilitate and glad to get some free books in the hands of your listeners.
[03:22] Marissa: Everyone likes free books. It is definitely a perk. That's pretty much why I love doing this podcast. I mean, it's nice talking to authors, but also I get a lot of free books. It's my favorite thing ever. So listeners, if you want to win a copy of Monsterious Escape from Grimstone Manor, here is what you do. You follow both at Happy Writer podcast and also Matt on Instagram. His handle is at Matt McMahon. Is that correct?
[03:55] Matt: Yes.
[03:56] Marissa: So follow us both on Instagram and then track down the post on our feed for this episode and leave us a comment telling us what your favorite part of this episode was. And that's all you have to do. You will be automatically entered to win one of these books, and the giveaway is going to run from today when this post goes live through May 18, 2023. So definitely do that. And two of you are going to get a free book, which is awesome. Thanks, Matt.
[04:27] Matt: You bet. Happy to do it.
[04:29] Marissa: Okay, so you mentioned that you have always wanted to be a writer. So that's perfect, because the first thing I like to ask is what's your origin story? Clearly, being a musician for so long, writing was not, it sounds like, at the forefront or at the top of the plan. So how did you get here? How did you become a writer? How were you having your debut novels out?
[04:52] Matt: When I was twelve, my English teacher passed out a picture of a creepy house to all of us in class. And then we had to answer questions about this creepy looking house, like, who do you think lives in this house and how would you describe this house and would you want to live in this house? And then after we answer these questions, there was a story prompt and we had to write a short story based on this house. So I write this short story about two kids who on a dare, spend the night in this supposedly haunted house. And suffice to say, things did not go well for them. I think one of them ended up decapitated, if I remember correctly. So I went quite dark at age twelve with this particular story. And I thought, wow, this story isn't very good, but I had so much fun writing it. And then in 7th grade, we had a creative writing contest where everyone in the 7th grade had to write a short story. So I wrote the best short story I could and I won from the 7th grade story Creative Story Writing contest. And then the 8th grade we had did the same contest again, and I won again. And my English teacher said, read the beginning of my story to the class, saying if it had continued at this level, which it obviously did not, I would suggest that this be published.
[06:19] Marissa: Oh, wow.
[06:21] Matt: And I thought in that moment, I can still remember sitting there in class in 8th grade going, wow, I think I want to be an author. And then in high school, I really got into music and I decided to pursue music. I got a degree in college and vocal performance. And then I went out touring and bands and doing all kinds of crazy things. I did a lot of music work in big churches, working with their bands, and I sang in Austria and in an NFL stadium and at the International Twins Convention and on a cruise ship and all kinds of wild stuff. But after 26 years, I was getting really burned out of performing. And my wife, who is the amazing New York Times bestselling author, Lisa McMahon, she said, hey, why don't you go back to this dream you had when you were a kid of writing novels? And I thought that sounded great. But I am a habitual over planner. Like, I do not just dive into projects. I have to think about them and plan them. And I was dragging my feet on doing this overanalyzing it. And so Lisa and I went to a hotel for a weekend getaway. And when we arrived, she said, we are not leaving until you write the first chapter of your book. And so it was under that threat of never coming home that I actually started my first book. And it was great because it was exactly the kind of push that I needed. So I was completely pancing this middle grade fantasy adventure thing. I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing, but it got me going. So a few months later, I'm still working on this book. And Lisa says, okay, listen, we're going to go through Los Angeles on this upcoming trip. We're going to stop. We're going to have dinner with my agent Michael. And over dinner, at some point, Michael will turn to you and say, so, Matt, what are you doing these days? And you are going to say, I'm working on a middle grade novel. And then he will ask you about it, and you will have an answer ready. And I said, yes, ma'am. So I started, I worked really hard, and I crafted this really tight two sentence pitch. And I memorized it. And sure enough, over dinner, just like she said, michael turned to me and said, so, Matt, what are you working on these days? And I said, I'm writing a middle grade novel. And he rolled his eyes and he said, you and everybody else, okay, go ahead. You don't have to listen to this pitch. And he's like, no, this is what I do all day. Go ahead. So I gave him my two sentence pitch and he said, all right, that sounds interesting. Go ahead and send it to me. So I send him the manuscript, he reads it, he calls me, says, okay, look, I think this has potential, but it needs a lot of work. If you're willing to do the work, I'm willing to read it again. And I was shocked and going, absolutely and he incredibly graciously. Just so you know, your listeners know this almost never, ever happens. He took the next hour to tell me everything that was wrong with my book. And I took copious notes and I literally just did everything he said and I sent it back to him. And after the second read, he offered me representation. So he then helped me get the book in shape for submission. Went out on an exclusive submission to an editor. I believe it's Simon Schuster at the time. And she read it. Same thing came back. You know what, I think this has potential, but it needs a lot of work. If Matt's willing to do the work, I'm willing to read it again. And she gave edit notes, which again, normally does not happen. And I was like, floored again. Fantastic. Did everything she said, sent it back. She said, I like this, I'm going to take it to the team. And at this point I'm freaking out because I thought this first book that I imagined would just be a throwaway practice novel. Not only got me an agent, it's going to get me a book deal on my very first submission. But then it didn't.
[10:49] Marissa: Okay. What a twist. Plot twist, what a twist.
[10:52] Matt: She came back and went, you know, the team wasn't really excited about it. I'm going to pass. So Michael, my agent goes, sends it out wide on a first submission. First wave to about twelve editors or so, they all passed. Send it out on the second wave, they all rejected it. Send it on a third wave, they all rejected it. Book one was out on submission for over a year. Never sold. But as you know, the traditional publishing industry can be absolutely glacial in terms of its speed of movement. So I followed the advice that I got from my wife who said, always be working on the next thing. You can't control the speed of the publishing industry, but you can control what you are working on. So during this long slog of a submission process, I wrote another book. And my agent read that, helped me get that in shape and said, you know what, let's stop going out with Book one. Let's go out with book two. Went out wide with book Two. Another long list of rejections of book Two. But while that was out on sub, I wrote book three. My agent read that one. He's like, the second half is the best thing you've ever written. The first half needs a lot of work. While he was reading book Three is when my wife was reading an article out loud to me and she said, well, this is getting into the story of how Monsteria started. So is this yeah, no, keep going.
[12:21] Marissa: I'm hooked. Yeah.
[12:22] Matt: Okay. So she's reading this article out loud to me, and she mispronounces the word mysterious and instead says, Monsterious. And I thought I said immediately, oh, that sounds like a great middle grade book title. And she said, no, it's a whole series, and you should write it. So I went, I love those things. I think I'm going to take a shot at this. So I brainstormed what it would look like and began to put together a package of a vision for a spooky middle grade monster mystery series called Monsterious. And I wanted to do it in a different way because my first book single submission thing didn't work out. And I really had a passion for the vision for the series as a whole because at the beginning, I didn't even have any ideas for stories. It was just this series idea. So I decided to package it in a unique way. So I put together a whole pitch package where I wrote a vision letter for the series. I wrote one full manuscript. I wrote two more full outlines, six pages each. And then I came up with ideas for five additional potential books in the series. One paragraph each, summary, pitches.
[13:48] Marissa: Wow.
[13:49] Matt: I put all that together in a big pitch package, and I sent that to my agent, and he was like, Love it. We're stopping. Going out with book two. We never even went out with book three. Let's go out with this. I think this is the one. And he pitched it to an exclusive submission to an agent at Penguin Random House, and it sold immediately in a four book deal.
[14:11] Marissa: Amazing. That was a really fun origin story. So you have the four book deal, and do we think that all eight are going to eventually exist, or is it too soon to tell?
[14:26] Matt: Well, yes is the short answer. All four will exist. I've only got a four book deal. The first two come out simultaneously, and that was Penguin's call. They thought because the books are short and because they're going to come out on a fast pub schedule, they thought it would launch stronger with two titles than with one. So books one and two of my four book deal, escape from Grimstone Manor, the Snatcher of Raven Hollow, come out May 9. Book three terror in Shadow Canyon comes out August 22. And then the fourth and final book under contract, The Beast of Skull Rock, comes out in January of 2024.
[15:11] Marissa: Okay. And then are you still hoping that the series will continue beyond that?
[15:17] Matt: Absolutely, yeah. One of the reasons that I decided to go with one of the cool things that happened because I had the idea for the series before I had the idea for any individual story, it gave me a chance to actually think, well, what kind of series do I want to tell? What kind of series do I want to write. And there's the more traditional dynamic style series, which is where you have a consistent cast of characters that goes through a multi book story arc. Allah, Lord of the Rings. Then you've got a static style series where you've got consistent group of characters that go through episodic adventures, one per book allah, Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes. Then there's the anthology style series, which is less common, where the books are tied together by a theme or a place or an idea, but each book is a standalone adventure with a unique cast of characters. Example Goosebumps. So I was intrigued by this anthology style model because I loved the idea of being able to write about any monster in any place with any kid characters, anywhere I wanted, and to not be constrained by a meta story arc. I knew that if I could sell, get a publisher to buy this series, and then if the series could find a readership that I could write as many books in this series as I could dream up spooky monster mysteries and I dream up a lot of them.
[16:59] Marissa: No shortage of ideas.
[17:01] Matt: Hopefully these first four will catch and then I would love to write a lot more.
[17:07] Marissa: Well, I hope so as well. Obviously, I grew up with Goosebumps, as so many of us did, and I have no doubt that that's going to be the big comparison, which is big shoes to fill, of course, ARL Stein being amazing. But reading Escape From Grimstone Manor, it brought me back to that time period of my life when I was just devouring Goosebumps books. And it has the same sort of vibe, same target audience, readership, and I think the world is ready for it. I'm so excited. I could see it going forever and ever.
[17:46] Matt: Oh, thank you. That means a lot.
[17:48] Marissa: So I do have to say the big takeaway from your story that I was picking up on is that we have Lisa to thank for everything.
[17:58] Matt: 100%. When people ask me, hey, what's your best advice for breaking through and getting published? My response is marry a New York Times bestselling author. It's really handy. She has given me so much great advice. I was the luckiest aspiring author in the world to have her as my writing coach and mentor. So yeah, she's been great.
[18:27] Marissa: No, she is fantastic. I adore Lisa. She has been on this podcast so people are done listening. I would definitely encourage them to go check out our episode, which was a long time ago. I looked it up. She was on way back in episode 33, like 120 episodes ago.
[18:49] Matt: Yeah, that's a minute.
[18:51] Marissa: Yeah. Okay, so with that, now that listeners have heard so much about how this series came to exist, would you please tell them a little bit about Escape from Grimstone Manor? Book one of Monsterious so, Escape from.
[19:09] Matt: Grimstone Manor is the story of three friends, mateo, Zari and Taylor who sneak away to their local amusement park for the day. And they manage to get on the very last ride of this spooky grimstone manor ride at the end of the day. And while they're on the ride, it breaks down. And through a unique series of circumstances that I won't reveal here, they end up trapped overnight inside this spooky haunted house amusement park ride. And no one knows that they're there. They weren't supposed to be at the park that day. They don't have their cell phones. They're locked in a locker at the beginning of the ride, and they have to try and find their way out. While they're trying to get out of the ride, they discover a secret staircase that leads down to a spooky maze like crypt. And in the crypt, they discover these strange monsterious looking statues, monstrous looking statues. And they find mummies laid out on stone slabs and skeletons, strangely standing at attention with swords in their hands and freaking out as they are, they get in a fight and accidentally release a magic that brings the monsters to life. So now they are trapped inside a crypt, inside a spooky haunted house ride with a bunch of monsters. Chaos ensues, and their goal is to survive the night.
[20:52] Marissa: So there are a lot of classic horror tropes here. We've got our haunted house, we've got our crypt deep in the earth. We've got mummies and skeletons. There's a werewolf. There's this creepy lizardy creature thing. Knowing that you plan and hope to continue this series for as long as possible, was there ever a point where you felt like, maybe I need to save something for future books?
[21:26] Matt: I did actually think about that when I was creating that and wondered, am I just throwing too much into this right now? But I thought, you know what, I'm just going to go for it. Because in the context of the overall story, it made sense to me. And I was writing to my 1011 year old self, and I thought, I would have loved this book, kid. And I also took some great advice that Lisa has given me, and she said, don't ever save your ideas. Don't ration your ideas. Put them all out there. You'll come up with more. And so I took that to heart and went, I'm not going to hold back. I'm going to throw everything into this that I'm excited about. That seems to make sense to me for this story. And just trust that the other ideas will be there for future installments.
[22:30] Marissa: Yeah, no, that's great advice. I know, since now I have RL Stein on the brain. I watched his was it a master class? I don't know. He did one of those online classes. Yes. Have you seen it?
[22:44] Matt: Oh, I devoured his RL Stein. Highly recommended. It was fantastic.
[22:50] Marissa: Yes, agree 100%. And that's one thing that I remember him talking about. That's like, how many Halloween books can a person write? Well, it turns out a lot, actually. So don't be scared about repeating ideas or about, like you say, don't be scared to use your ideas when they're there, because there will always be more.
[23:14] Matt: 100%.
[23:15] Marissa: Yeah, it's a very fast paced, action packed book. Are you a plotter? Did you outline in advance, or how did you keep it moving along so quickly?
[23:30] Matt: I'm glad it hit you that way. I am more of a plotter than I am a panther. I've got a little panther in me. But I lean harder into the plotting. And because of how I structured that whole pitch package with one complete manuscript, two complete outlines, five more ideas, really. It necessitated doing some planning and some outlining in advance. And then, in fact, that master class that you mentioned, if you remember ARL Stein, talks about his outlining process that he still uses today, which is he writes one paragraph per chapter for all of his books. And I thought, Good enough for Arles Stein, it's good enough for me. And that's the approach I took to this series in particular, of definitely doing some outlining. Now, as you know, even when you do outline, a lot of that can go out the window in the drafting process because your characters will take you in unexpected directions, or you'll get a new idea that's better than what you had in the outline. So you toss out the outline and you go with a new idea. But it definitely helped doing the outline, especially with the rapid pace of publication, because all four books under contract come out within nine months. I was having to work on all of them at different stages of the editing drafting process simultaneously.
[25:04] Marissa: Yeah.
[25:04] Matt: So the outlining really saved me and enabled me to hit those deadlines.
[25:11] Marissa: So how did that work? Were you, like, drafting this one in the morning and then outlining this one in the afternoon and then researching in the evening? Or how did you balance all four at once?
[25:24] Matt: It was definitely tricky. And there were seasons, as you know, in the course of a publishing calendar of a book, from the drafting stage to you get your first round of edits, developmental edits, and then it goes through multiple rounds of that, and then it goes to your copy edits, and then it goes to first pass pages, second pass, third pass. So basically, I had a good starting point. I had a good foundation at the very beginning of the deal of one completed manuscript, two completed outlines. So the completed manuscript became book one, Escape from Grimstone Manor, one of the outlines became book Two, The Snatcher of Raven Hollow, one of the outlines became book four, The Beast of Skull Rock. And then in the Flow of everything, I ended up coming up with a new idea and writing another one from scratch, which became Terror and Shadow Canyon, which became Is going to be book three. That comes out in August. So I had a good base going into the deal. And then once the deal got rolling and then the edit process started, honestly, I would let the next deadline drive what I was working on. So if what came through is developmental edits on book one, I would focus on developmental edits on book one until that was done and I turned it in. And then I might be in the middle of drafting book three, but then I get edits on book two. I would stop drafting. I would do the edits on book two until they were complete, turn that in. And then while I was waiting for my editor to hit her next deadline, I would go back to whatever was kind of next in the queue. So that's kind of I danced around quite a bit, purely dependent on what did my editor need from me next.
[27:15] Marissa: Yeah, that takes a fair amount of willpower. And I say that because as of this recording, I have copy edits for one book sitting in my inbox. Which naturally means I've spent the last two days working on a totally different project because who wants to go do copy edits? Like suddenly this other thing sounds really appealing to be working on.
[27:38] Matt: I definitely feel that.
[27:41] Marissa: Yeah, kids love scary stuff. Of course, I think so many of us, whether we grew up with goosebumps or for me, dark fairy tales were huge. Kids gravitate toward the weird, the creepy, the dark, the gory. You mentioned your twelve year old self writing about decapitation. So when you're writing horror stories for this age, how do you know where to draw the line when it comes to horror and scary and violence and all of that?
[28:19] Matt: That is a great question. The short answer I think, is there is no hard line. I think you need to feel that line is more felt than seen. And you need to have other people help you determine how close you are to that line or if you're over the line or not. Like your beta readers, like your editor, like your agent. I'm fortunate to have Lisa be my beta reader, so she always gives me great feedback. Then my agent has great editorial sense as well about kind of that fear level, how far you can push it. And then my editor, of course, is also great at that. And it also helps that I was a scared kid. I can remember so clearly being afraid of almost everything when I was a kid. I was afraid of bullies, I was afraid of the dark, I was afraid of the woods, I was afraid of the basement. But I love spooky stories. And there was something about reading those spooky stories when I was a kid where seeing characters in books find the courage to face their fears somehow gave me the courage to face my own. So that was one of the things that motivated me. When I did decide as an adult to shift into writing novels, I decided those were the kind of books I wanted to write. Those spooky monster mysteries that I loved so much and had so much fun with as a kid. But it also that helped me through a really fearful time in my life and so I wanted to be able to give that to kids today that same kind of fun and also finding that same kind of courage. And so as I write and as I find those lines, I think there's a natural barometer that I have internally maybe shifting back to how would I felt about reading this as a eleven year old? That helps me to go, you know what, I can push this pretty spooky but this is where I want to kind of pause. This is where I want to hold back and I don't want to go any farther than this. So I think it's more of a feel, it kind of a situation than a see it and then trust good people around you.
[30:43] Marissa: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And it's interesting because writing for whether it's teens or younger readers, there is a part of us that has to find a way to connect with who we were at that age. And I know for me writing young adult, I'm always thinking about teen Marissa. Okay, what did teen Marissa find interesting? What did teen Marissa find romantic? And it's always kind of in the back of my head for you, do you feel like because you didn't start writing until quite later in your career, in your adult life, has it been like, wow, reconnecting with younger you all of a sudden or do you feel like you've just kind of always had that?
[31:27] Matt: I feel like I've always had that. I don't feel like I've ever lost that sense of childlike wonder, especially when connected to story. There's something magical about stories. I think that's why you and I do what we do. We just find stories to be magical in and of themselves regardless of whether they have quote unquote magical content. Just a story has such power and it brings us back to our past easily when we focus on story. And I've always loved story ever since I was a kid and through my adult life I never lost that connectedness, that passion for story in whatever form. And so when it came time that I made that decision to shift out of my music career and shift into a different creative career, a novel writing career, I feel like I was just plugging back in. I was just shifting my focus and my medium for communicating my passion and love for story just on a page instead of through music.
[32:32] Marissa: Yeah. So you'd mentioned that this is what's called an anthology series and that this is probably the rarest form of series. It's not episodic, it's. Not I don't remember the word you used, but a series.
[32:48] Matt: Series. When I was researching series, those were the three kind of themes that I found. A dynamic series, a static series and an anthology style series.
[32:58] Marissa: Okay. I always thought of static as episodic is kind of the word that I use in my head, but no, that's interesting. So writing more of this anthology where it is different characters, different setting, different story, but all connected by a theme in this case, what do you feel are some of the pros and cons to doing a series this way? Some of the maybe unique challenges to it?
[33:25] Matt: Oh, that's a great question. Well, obviously the pros that led me to do this was one, I love the freedom it gave me to be able to write about any monster anywhere with any characters. It gave me a lot of creative freedom. I liked that. Yeah. I liked it that I thought, honestly, at that point, someone an aspiring author trying to break in, trying to get your first book deal, I thought, you know what, an anthology style series is the least common of the types of series, but it has been proven successful. Goosebumps is the second highest selling children's book series of all time, behind Harry Potter.
[34:07] Marissa: Oh, interesting. That's not surprising. Yeah, for sure.
[34:11] Matt: So the model has proven successful, but it hasn't been often replicated. I thought if and that's a huge capital I if I could pull this off and get a publisher attention, I thought because it was an anthology style series and it was different, maybe that would help me stand out from the crowd.
[34:35] Marissa: Yeah.
[34:36] Matt: And then I was drawn to the idea of, again, if I can find a readership for Monsterius, that people are excited about it and they want more entries, want more books in this series, that it would give me the capacity to write for a long time in the series without being constrained by a meta story arc. So those were the pros, the cons. I think the hardest one, I believe, is character driven.
[35:03] Marissa: Whereas I was going to ask about characters.
[35:05] Matt: Yeah, it's tricky because in a dynamic, traditional style series, you build these characters and you invest in them and you develop them. And then when you sit down to write book two and book three, or book four, whatever, you're going back to familiar established characters that you can just run with. Whereas in an anthology style series like Monsterius, you are starting from scratch every single book in terms of characterization. So the challenge is coming up with fully formed, engaging characters in one short book, because books are short too. They're only like 23, 24,000 words, which is roughly the same length as a Goosebumps book. So there's not a lot of real estate there in order to develop these characters. And you have to keep coming up with names, so you have to keep vetting new names for kid characters all the time. So I think that's the biggest challenge that I've found in writing this type of series.
[36:08] Marissa: Do you have a list of names that you've used?
[36:11] Matt: Oh, I do.
[36:12] Marissa: Yeah.
[36:13] Matt: And I actually have a notes app on my phone where if I'm out meeting with kids or talking with kids or sitting in a coffee shop and I overhear an interesting name, I go, oh, I got to write that down.
[36:25] Marissa: Yeah, I keep a list of names that I hear and that I like. But just a few days ago, when I was working on my new book, I realized that I had used a name that I used a long time ago in a different book. And I thought, okay, I might be at the point in my career now where I need to start keeping track of this.
[36:43] Matt: That's a wise decision. I found myself inadvertently in early drafts using the names of some of Lisa's book characters just because they pop into my head, because she's written 29 books, so she's got a lot of characters out there.
[36:57] Marissa: Sure.
[36:58] Matt: So I'll be editing my first draft and go, wait a minute. That's one of Lisa's main characters in book 13.
[37:09] Marissa: Some names are just good enough to be used twice, though.
[37:13] Matt: You're right. You're absolutely right.
[37:15] Marissa: All right, my last question before we move on to our bonus round. So you talked about having the challenges of writing, trying to write four books at once, but now you're in the extra unique position of trying to also promote four books at once or at least two to three at once, I guess. How are you managing that? And do you have any tips for people who are trying to promote their debut novel and also stay productive?
[37:46] Matt: That is a lot of material in that question. Yeah, let's see. Let's start with in terms of how I'm approaching marketing multiple books at once is I don't market multiple books at once. I market one series. That's how I think of it in my brain. So when you talk about Goosebumps, for example, what do you think of when you think of Goosebumps? Do you think of the werewolf fever swamp or the dead house or whatever? No. You think of Goosebumps. You think of series as a whole much more than you think of individual titles within that series. So in the same way that I approached the pitch of this series to publishers, when I created that pitch package, I really made it that way. So the whole focus and the vision was on the monsterious series as a whole versus any one title underneath that series. So that's how I'm approaching my marketing. I'm hammering monsterious, monsterious. Monsterious versus the snatcher of Raven Hollow and Escape from Grimstone Manor and Terror and Shadow Canyon. Now, there's a natural bent to even though it is an anthology style series, my publisher, Penguin, was putting more emphasis on escape from Grimstone Manor, because that's technically book one in this series, even though the first two come out the same day. And those are the ones I had physical arcs of, and I did not have physical arcs of book two and all of those kinds of things. So there's more emphasis on Grimstone Manor, but that's my focus. Focus on the series as a whole versus an individual title is how I'm navigating those waters. Yeah, you also had like two other questions tucked in there, and I have completely forgotten them at this point.
[39:38] Marissa: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think it was all kind of tied together. Yeah. Tips. Tips for marketing and writing at the same time.
[39:46] Matt: That's actually been a huge challenge for me. And it was almost fortunate the way that this worked out in that I had to write at a really rapid pace, edit at a really rapid pace to meet all four of the deadlines. But because the entire process was so compact, I actually probably six weeks ago, finished copy edits on book four book deal. So I talked to my agent and I was like, well, what do we do now? What do I do now in terms of do I continue to work? Do I write more monsterious books. But I don't have a contract for anymore at this point, and I'm so far ahead. It's so odd to have finished your fourth book when you're months away from.
[40:37] Marissa: Your book coming out so unusual.
[40:41] Matt: So I was in this weird limbo, and I talked to my agent and he's like, well, it doesn't really make sense for you to write more Monsterious books because you don't know if Penguin is going to want more Monsterious books. They're going to make that decision once books one and two are out and they'll decide what they want to do. So he's like, this is a time where you can work on other projects, where you can think of new ideas. And so I said, well, all right, that sounds great. But then I personally feel so passionately about Monsterius and I believe in it so much, and I love it so much, I decided to put all creative writing aside for this kind of two to three month stretch and just focus on marketing. Nice. So that's really what I've been doing. I've been talking to people and I've been doing blog interviews and doing podcasts with wonderful people like you and trying to make people aware of my series. I've been talking with a lot of booksellers over the last twelve months. I've pitched the Monsterious series in person to over 100 bookstores and done follow up emails to them. Got their contact info and done follow up emails to these bookstores, sending them information about the Monsterious series, all in an effort to establish those relationships with bookstores, which, as you know, is so important. Getting them to know you, getting them to know your series and all to try to just get to help this new debut series of mine have the best chance as I can help it, have to land on its feet and find a readership. So that's really what I've been focused on over the last few months that.
[42:28] Marissa: Is so great and so smart. And it's one of those ironies of the publishing business that authors, of course, are expected to take on so much of the marketing and so much of the publicity, and yet nine times out of ten, they're trying to do it while also under deadline for the next book. And it just can turn into this huge headache. So being able to have a little bit of breathing room to really focus on the marketing, I'm glad that you're using that time. Sounds like really wisely, because yeah, what a great opportunity there.
[43:04] Matt: Yeah. Thank you.
[43:06] Marissa: All right, Matt, are you ready for our bonus round?
[43:09] Matt: Absolutely. Let's do it.
[43:11] Marissa: What book makes you happy?
[43:14] Matt: Oh, wow. I'm going to say the book I just finished, which is Miracle by Karen Chow, who is one of my 2023 debut group buddies. It's a fantastic book about a prodigy musician trying to process her dad's recent death and find hope and find her music.
[43:36] Marissa: Again, you've obviously kind of touched on all this, but I always ask, what are you working on next? So do you want to maybe talk about the next books in the series or what can you clue us into as to what's next?
[43:50] Matt: Sure. What I hope is next is going to be more books in the mysterious series. So we talked a little bit about Grimstone Manor, the Snatcher of Raven Hollow that comes out also on May 9, is about two friends who learn that a mysterious monster is behind the disappearance of babies in their small town, but no one believes them.
[44:13] Marissa: Oh, creepy.
[44:14] Matt: And then Terror and Shadow Canyon, which comes out August 22, is about five hikers lost in a remote wilderness who are stalked by a flesh eating monster. And then in January, book four in Monsterious, The Beast of Skull Rock is about brother and sister twins who try to save their grandfather's spooky cabinet of curiosities museum from a rampaging werewolf hyena.
[44:44] Marissa: Love it. I love it. And I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us with the monsterious books. I'm reading Grimstone Manor to my kids right now and they are loving it. So I have a feeling we are going to be all fans.
[44:58] Matt: Oh, that means so much. I really appreciate that.
[45:02] Marissa: Lastly, where can people find you?
[45:05] Matt: The best place to find me is my website, Mattmcmahon.com Matmcmann, and it just got newly refurbished. I had a homemade website and I am not a web designer. And so I thought, you know what, I really need someone who knows what they're doing to take a whack at this website. And Deena Warner did such an amazing job. It's so fun, colorful. There's spooky stuff to do, so please check out Mattmcmah.com, and then I'm at Matt McMahon on Twitter and Instagram.
[45:37] Marissa: Awesome. Matt, thank you so much for joining me.
[45:40] Matt: Oh, it was so great to be here, Marissa. It was really an honor. Thanks for having me.
[45:44] Marissa: Readers. Definitely check out the Monsterious series. The first two books, escape From Grimstone Manor and the Snatcher of Raven Hollow. Both come out tomorrow. Of course, we encourage you to support your local indie, but if you don't have a local indie store, you can check out our affiliate email@example.com, shopmarissamyer. And while we're at it, do not forget to go enter our giveaway on Instagram. You could win escape from Grimstone Manor. That Matt's giving us. Be sure to check out. And on that note, also be sure to check out our merchandise on Spring and Tea Public. You can find the links for those in our Instagram profile. Next week, I will be talking with Melissa Blair about the second book of her halfling saga, A Shadow Crown. If you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at Marissa Meyer, author and at Happy Writer Podcast. Until next time, stay healthy, stay cozy, and whatever life throws at you today, I hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.