Matty Dalrymple, The Indy Author, discusses the first Lizzy Ballard Thriller, “Rock Paper Scissors,” the evolution of characters across multiple books, and how to juggle writing with a day job.
Sandy Wollenberg: Hi, welcome back to Channel 20. This is Sandy Wollenberg and we have another episode of Meet the Author. Today, we have someone that we met before: Matty Dalrymple. The last time we saw her, she had only one book out, with the second one on the way. Now, she has three and the third one is a brand new series. We thought it might be interesting to touch base with her again and see what she’s been up to.
Hi, Matty. Welcome and why don’t you let us know what you’ve been up to? Tell us a little bit about your bio again, in case people have missed the first interview.
Matty Dalrymple: Well, as you mentioned, my name is Matty Dalrymple and I’m a Chester County resident. I published my first novel, The Sense of Death, in 2013 and the second one, which was a sequel, The Sense of Reckoning, in 2015. Those are both the Ann Kinnear suspense novels, both largely set in Chester County in the Philadelphia area.
My third book, Rock Paper Scissors is even more intensively Chester County-based. I published that in March of this year, 2017, and I’m working now on the second Lizzy Ballard book. My hope is to have two series going, the Ann Kinnear series and the Lizzy Ballard series, and alternate between them each year.
Sandy: Wow, that is very aggressive. To keep all the characters straight and one every year, you must be a very creative lady. The characters are different in a lot of ways, one is little bit older, one is very, very young. Lizzy is very, very young. What is it like being another person that has sensitivities that you don’t have, I’m assuming. Maybe you should tell them a little bit about Ann and her sensitivities, and Lizzy and about hers. Will that spoil the plots for us?
Matty: No, I don’t think it will spoil the plots. In all my books, I’m really interested in the idea of someone with an extraordinary ability making their way in the ordinary world. In the case of the Ann Kinnear suspense novels, The Sense of Death and The Sense of Reckoning, that ability is the ability to sense spirits. I always like to add the caveat that I have many Amazon five stars reviews that start out, “I don’t normally read books like this, but…”
The whole idea is how does someone who has this ability get along in the ordinary world and Ann deals with it by sort of withdrawing from society. She’s uncomfortable with her ability. She and her brother run a business based on the ability but nonetheless, it’s something that sets her apart from people and that she’s uncomfortable about.
In the Lizzy Ballard thriller, Lizzy has an ability—I maybe don’t want to say too much about it—but it’s something that endangers other people, but Lizzy is very different in the sense that her tendency is to be with people. She’s a very relationship-oriented person, whereas Ann withdraws from society, despite the fact that she could operate perfectly well in it, if she chose to. Lizzy wants to operate in society even though her doing that poses some hazards to herself and to other people. They share that extraordinary ability aspect but react to it in very different ways.
Sandy: Yes, they do. Lizzy is much younger. She’s just a teen.
Sandy: Is that difficult to write another voice when you’re not a teen any longer?
Matty: I didn’t find her as a teenager too difficult to write. Most of the action of the novel takes place when she’s 16, but there are a number of scenes leading up to that that describe her childhood when she was very young. One issue I did find with that is that I knew exactly what I wanted Lizzy to be doing at a young age so I would write a scene with that in mind and then I would send it off to the editor and she would say, “That’s fine, but no six-year old would do that. No four-year old would do that,” so I would have to adjust the surrounding events.
I might have described her as getting ready to go to daycare but it was really more appropriate for her to be going to kindergarten. I had the action I wanted but I wasn’t matching it up effectively with the right age for her so that was a little bit of a challenge but that’s why you have an editor, that they catch things like that.
Sandy: That’s cool. You’re not focusing on this all by yourself.
Sandy: That’s interesting that you do that. Other than their extraordinary abilities, they’re very normal and they’re people—they have faults and they have good qualities and bad qualities. I’m assuming that you wanted to do that for both of them, make them just like normal people other than their abilities.
Matty: Yes, the thing that interests me is the normal context of the world. Ann has the ability to sense spirits and yet she’s not operating in this sort of spooky, science fiction-y world. She operating in the same world that we all are and I try to even present her profession that way. She shares that profession with a small group of other people. She puts that ability to work in a consulting business. It’s a business just like any other. You hire her for an engagement. There’s a contract involved. I try to make it very straightforward in that way.
Sandy: Yeah, even though it was kind of reluctant, she’s really doing this a little bit on the reluctant side. Her brother seems to be the driving force in that.
Matty: Yes, that’s true.
Sandy: How do you balance that then? Lizzy, especially being a teenager, teenagers are a mixed bag in terms of traits and there are good days and there are bad days, so how do you balance that out so we don’t end up hating her? “Wow, she’s a teenager and she’s a brat,” or something like that.
Matty: I didn’t find that difficult with Lizzy. I think Lizzy was a pretty likable character. It’s an interesting question with some of the other character because you don’t want a character that’s all good or all bad. Lizzy has her moments and even the villains of the piece have their better moments. I think it’s much more interesting when you have a more complexly drawn characters and the reader can become more interested in their motivations than if they’re just painted as totally black and white or good or evil characters.
Sandy: Yes and you do have some evil characters in that last book, I have to warn you all. But it’s interesting, from the beginning of the book to the end, you can see some growth in Lizzy in terms of her character. I’m assuming throughout the series, you will see more growth and more control of her issues.
Matty: Yes, I think that Lizzy’s ability has tempered her teenage angst a little bit, or maybe a better way to say it is she’s grown up before her time because of the things she’s had to deal with as a result of her ability.
In both of the novels, it’s more apparent with Ann Kinnear because now we’ve met Ann through two books and her spirit-sensing ability progresses through the two books. In the first book, she just has this sort of general sense of spirit as lights or scent even. But as the novels progress, she becomes more and more adept at identifying and even communicating with spirits, so that opens up whole new opportunities for suspense and mayhem to ensue.
Sandy: As an author, do you plan all this or does it just happen?
Matty: It’s much more a trial and error process. With both of my books, there was a lot of rewriting because I would think, “Oh, this is a great idea,” and I would write that for a while and then I have a better idea and I’m going to write that for a little while. A lot of back and forth, a lot of rewriting. Especially with Rock Paper Scissors, I realized that the book that I initially pictured is very different than the book as it ended up.
For example, when I first had the idea, Lizzy was going to be able to create heat or start fires. I was talking to a friend of mine and I said, “Oh, I have this great idea. This is what’s going to happen,” and she said, “Have you ever read Firestarter by Stephen King.”
I said, “No. Is it good?” and she said, “Yes, and you just rewrote it.”
I realized that I had read the Firestarter decades ago and it must have still been percolating in my mind but fortunately she identified that for me, before I went too far down that path. So I switched Lizzy to having a different kind of ability. Also originally, it was going to take place in Arizona. There’s a part where Lizzy is hiding out and I must have been thinking about that part when my husband and I were vacationing in Arizona.
We usually stay in Phoenix for a day at either end of our vacation. Much of Phoenix is just these very generic hotel chains, very generic shopping centers, and I thought, “Well, if you want to hide out, that would be a great place to hide out because no one would know you.” The very fact of it being so generic makes it a good place to disappear into.
But then we got done with our vacation and I came back to Pennsylvania and I thought, “No, I really still want these books to be very much Chester County- and Philadelphia-area based,” so instead of hiding out in a generic Phoenix hotel, Lizzy hides out in the Smoketown Cottages in Smoketown, Pennsylvania, which is just outside Lancaster. It’s actually the Spruce Lane Lodge. If you ever go to Spruce Lane Lodge in Smoketown, you’ll be staying where Lizzy stays.
Sandy: I was wondering about that since I’m not familiar with anything in Pennsylvania. It’s fun to identify things in West Chester. But doing a book every year, you work also so you must write very quickly or spend hours and hours at a time at this.
Matty: I don’t do anything other than work and write books. For a while, I was taking flying lessons. This was years ago. I had to stop doing that because it was just too much to try to do it. I really jettisoned a lot of the other things that I used to do in my spare time. I’ve also started hiring other people to help me with the non-writing things.
I recently hired someone helping with promotion. I do a podcast on independent publishing. I’ve hired some people to help me with that. I think it’s important to treat it like a business and then decide what part of the business you can’t outsource, and writing the books is the part of the business that I can’t outsource. I’m trying to be very conscious about what I pick to do myself and what I ask other people to do.
Sandy: You know, I can tell, having read all three books, that you’re definitely growing as an artist. If I just picked up the last book, I wouldn’t have pegged Matty as just a local artist. You look like you’re very serious about it and you are developing. Who knows? Maybe, if you’re going to do something every year, maybe we’ve got our own little West Chester Lee Child happening, with our own Jack Reacher in female clothes. Who knows?
I would really strongly recommend that you start her both series because there’s obviously much more to come and a little disappointing we have to wait like four years for another book.
Now, with all these other people, I see that you’re doing a lot of promotions and speaking engagements and things of that nature. Is there a way that we can find out about them, if we want to go?
Matty: Yes. The two best places to look are my website, MattyDalrymple.com. If you’re from the Philadelphia area, an easy way to remember “Dalrymple” is Clay Dalrymple, who was a catcher for the Phillies, so that’s a little memory boost for you. Also, Matty Dalrymple on Facebook would have all my upcoming events, both about my fiction works and also talks I do on independent publishing.
Sandy: We’ll put something up on the screen that has all that information for use so it would be easy for you to write down. In closing, is there anything else would you like to tell us about this or to look for when we’re reading the story, you know like special themes. I see one theme is about differences in an ordinary world and how people react to them. Anything else that you’re planning on covering in the books that we should notice or keep an eye out for?
Matty: I always love to hear from people about secondary characters that they really love. In all of my books, I start out obviously focused on the main character. But in the course of writing the book, there’s always a character who I fall in love with and who ends up having a much larger role. I love hearing from people about who those characters are for them, who are the people that you think, “Oh, I really need to see more of this person in the coming book.” That’s always very helpful to me.
Sandy: Okay, so you’re willing for some feedback so that’s cool.
Matty: I love feedback and I also, as we had discussed, love book clubs for that very reason. I always try to solicit Chester County area book clubs and that is just a great place to get that kind of input that you really don’t get in any other way, other than a conversation with people who have read your work. Anyone who is interested in an author appearance at a book club, you could go to my website and contact me that way and set something up.
Sandy: Oh, that would be fine. We have several book clubs in Hershey’s Mill. We do get quite excited about visiting authors.
Matty: That would be fantastic.
Sandy: I guess that’s it, other than to tell you that this is really an up and coming author that we have here and I would encourage you to support her and read her books and you can get them on Amazon. Is that the best place?
Matty: They are on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retail sites.
Sandy: Wow, busy lady. Thank you so much for tuning in and we’d like to hear how you feel about her books and I’m sure she would appreciate reviews on Amazon if you do like them because those are very helpful in terms of other readers looking for the book and delving into a new area. It’s always nice to find new series because you do fall in love with the characters and you want to see how they develop and move along.
From Sandy Wollenberg and Channel 20 and our wonderful guest, Matty Dalrymple, good bye and happy reading.