Thanks for joining us at the book club Daniel. Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing?
I had started something of a writing career around age twelve when I began writing my own little newspaper and selling it to my classmates and teachers. That little endeavor ended a bit traumatically, so it would be awhile before I did anything outside required academic essay writing. In my adult life, I had begun writing some roleplay adventures and scripts for friends, who began encouraging me to turn those scripts into actual novels. It would be some years before I began taking those calls seriously. Ultimately though, it was the encouragement of my Grandfather who fervently believed that I was “meant to be” a writer. Not long after his passing, I decided to honor that belief and began working on several projects. The first of these projects is my memoir, The Demons of Plainville.
Where is your book set and why did you choose that location?
Since The Demons of Plainville covers my childhood between the ages of ten and twenty, the setting occurs across several locations. Though, most of the events described occur in Dorchester and Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, in some sense I grouped all these locations under the banner of Plainville. You can think of it as much of a state of mind, as a specific geographic location. There is always a war in Plainville, but those battles are occurring in your mind. And wherever you are, you’re still trapped in Plainville until you find a way to escape.
I’d like to know more about your story. Can you give us a little more in depth reason for writing The Demons of Plainville?
I think nearly every author feels compelled to tell some story that is locked in his or her mind. I’ve heard that characters created in the mind of an author call out for their release, for their stories to be told. However, in The Demons of Plainville, in some strange sense I was that character, trapped within my own head. For all my life, I’ve questioned my own identity and purpose. I seemed a strange character, trapped inside the head of an author, longing for freedom and for his story to be told. At some point, I released myself and finally summoned the courage to tell the story.
Beyond that though, I wanted to let others who are suffering similar situations that life can and does get better and that adolescents have the right to fight for themselves and find happiness. You don’t have to suffer in silence, and you don’t have to be alone. You have the right to be who you are, and to live life in safety and happiness. However, this is not a struggle you can win on your own. Only the power of friendship and mentorship can make the difference to a troubled child or an adult struggling to find their place after years of abuse and hardship.
They say all non-fiction books have pivotal points in the book where the reader just can’t put the book down. What’s one pivotal point in The Demons of Plainville?
That’s a tough question since the events that I perceived to make the biggest difference in my life may differ from that a neutral reader approaching the material for the first time. That being said, I think the first major pivotal point is when my father comes into my life, presumably to save me from my mother. However, the reader soon discovers a more nefarious motive behind my father’s appearance, leading to a great deal of tension. How is the situation going to unfold and how am I going to escape yet another emotional betrayal? I hope these questions will compel the reader to continue forward.
What’s next on the agenda for you, Daniel?
My debut LGBT young-adult Lovecraftian horror novel The Unseen Kingdom is currently in post-production and should be available for purchase in early September. The Unseen Kingdom pits a close-knit group of New England teen boys against a widening dimensional portal that begins in their dreams but becomes terrifyingly real. The boys are forced to fight for their sanity, their lives and the fate of their town as Halloween night approaches.
What would you like to say to your readers and fans?
I would like first and foremost give you a heartfelt thanks for giving me a chance to entertain and inspire you. An author has no purpose to exist without an audience willing to hear the tale, so thanks for being there for me. And I sincerely hope that if you take anything away from The Demons of Plainville, or anything else that I publish in the future, that you will give your support, your friendship and to your love to troubled and endangered kids. Let them know that there is a future for them, and then help them find it.
About The Book
Title: The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor's Story of Storms and Reconstruction
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 292 pages / eBook / PDF
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction
Buy The Book:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-demons-of-plainville-daniel-r-mathews/1121966956?ean=9780990710745
Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.
As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.
But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.
Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.
Chapter 1: Telling The Truth
Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.
I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.
My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation
would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.
“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.
“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.
“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”
I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.
My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.
My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.
“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.
“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.
I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.
We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.
The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.
Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.
Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”
She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.
She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.
She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.
I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.
That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of
Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.
As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.
Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.
I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.
“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.
Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”
I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”
This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.
Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.
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About The Author
An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom. For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
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