Tuesday, November 17, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Daniel R. Mathews, author of The Unseen Kingdom

Thanks for joining us at the book club Daniel.  

Why did you choose to write novels in the YA, LGBT, Horror genre?

I enjoy cross-genre stories, so I don’t consider myself strictly a horror author, although admittedly it’s one of my favorites. However, I am focusing primarily on Young-Adult LGBT oriented stories.

When I was growing up, like most gay kids, I didn’t have any books or movies that featured people like myself. There were no gay teens fighting monsters, resisting alien invasions or saving the prince. There were few identifiable courageous, action-oriented young gay characters for kids to establish as positive, affirming role models. I decided to buck the trend of stereotypes and clichés that dominate popular media because LGBT kids need fictional heroes. So I wrote The Unseen Kingdom to furnish those valiant, compassionate and relatable characters for them. It is my hope that other authors will join me in this endeavor.

Where is your book set and why did you choose that location?

The book takes place in northeastern Massachusetts, in H.P. Lovecraft’s world. The town of Plainville is off a tributary of the Miskatonic River, not far from the New Hampshire border. The town lies between Innsmouth to the east and Dunwich to the west. The town is based on the many mill towns of the region, and the closest analog is to the city of Lawrence, only Plainville is much smaller.

These mill towns have a fascinating personality, and some of the smaller towns have struggled economically for years. You can still find abandoned, dingy brick mill buildings with shattered windows and hollow interiors in some of these places. They’ve come to represent a sense of hopelessness and emptiness, one that many children must endure both literally and metaphorically. Toss in a pervasive swamp around this urban blight, and you have the perfect allegory for loss, fear, misery, and death. What better setting to toss in a dangerous cult, insidious creatures, and genuine adolescent problems? While Plainville is fictional, the social ills that inform it are unfortunately quite real.

I’d like to know more about The Unseen Kingdom. Can you give us a little background into why you wrote the novel?

My original plan was to write a straightforward Young-Adult horror novel set during the Halloween season. My intent all along was to highlight the plight of five young teens, struggling against this Lovecraftian menace, with a small element dedicated to the boys’ emerging sexuality.

However, as I actually began the project, I realized that I had the opportunity to turn this novel into a coming-of-age story. While this added considerably to the length of the manuscript, I believe that my five main protagonists evolve from boys into courageous young men who learn to confront their fears and weaknesses and emerge stronger for it.   

I’d like to know more about your main character. Can you tell us more about him?

The main character of The Unseen Kingdom is thirteen-year-old Tommy Wilson. He’s a horror movie buff and has a fanatical devotion to the holiday of Halloween. He’s otherwise a normal kid with loving parents and great friends. Tommy lacks confidence in himself and his abilities and needs to become more assertive. He’s in love with his best friend Brian but struggles to admit what he really wants to himself, let alone his friends and family. If he hopes to save himself and those he loves, he’ll need to overcome these obstacles and a whole lot more when The Unseen Kingdom comes for him. 

Can you tell us a little about the other supporting characters?

Brian is Tommy’s best friend and love interest. Brian shares the same feelings for Tommy but is waiting for some sign from him that he’s ready for something more. However, Brian carries his own burden in his heart. He lost his father during the Iraq War and was forced to become the man of the house. While emotionally mature and responsible, he carries with him the fear of losing someone else he loves when the war seems to come home. Brian will have to learn to love without fear and let go, or he may lose it all.

Kevin is Tommy’s next-door neighbor and close friend. Unfortunately Kevin is a troubled youth, living in constant fear of his father’s drunken rages and saddled with guilt over his mother’s apparent abandonment. Kevin is a kid running out of hope and time. However, he cares deeply for Tommy. When his friend is put in danger by the events unfolding in the town, he’ll need to summon the resolve to make a stand for his friends and himself. Because if he doesn’t, he may become lost in the void.

Finally, we have Carlos and Jacob. Jacob used to suffer from severe anxiety attacks and suffers from self-doubt stemming from the years of abuse he and his mother suffered at the hands of his sociopathic father. However, when the supernatural events come to his home, he receives a terrible warning that his father will soon be returning to “settle his accounts.” Will Jacob be able to hold himself together to save everyone he loves? And might Jacob have a secret fear that even Carlos doesn’t know about?

Luckily, Jacob has his boyfriend Carlos to comfort him and strengthen his resolve. Carlos is a popular basketball player on Plainville Academy’s varsity squad. Despite his relationship with Jacob being known by some of his peers at school, he is still highly respected and liked. However, Carlos is leading a double life, where he must hide his feelings for Jacob from his deeply religious parents. He knows all too well that one careless word could set his world tumbling down. Carlos is suffering from a crisis of identity and places much of his inner strength in protecting Jacob. However, it may be time for Carlos to see Jacob as something more. 

They say all 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 Unseen Kingdom?

That’s a tough call as there are more than a few pivots where the nature of the story takes a turn and the stakes are increased. From an emotional standpoint, I think the moment that Jacob receives a chilling warning “from the other side” in the form of a shadowy image of his father that confronts him while he’s home alone. This gives the reader a glimpse into the real terror that Jacob had been forced to endure as a youngster and a bloody warning of what the consequences could mean with his return. At this point, he doesn’t know if the supernatural forces invading his life are playing him to their own ends, or if there is a terrible truth in their warning.

What’s next on the agenda for you, Daniel?

I’m working on the first book of a fantasy series tentatively titled The Druidic Chronicles. This series will focus on a young Druid teen who is something of a lone wolf. While on his final ceremonial hunt, he’s attacked by large spiders that hunger for magic. He’s sent to a young master Warlock for training. Unbeknownst to him, his old Druid Master was playing matchmaker, and soon the sparks and magic fly between the two teens.

For the first time in his life, Tobiath finds himself surrounded by an eclectic group of friends and has the chance to experience love. However, he will need to learn to unburden his heart to let love inside once more. All seems to be going well, when their island state is invaded by a rogue pirate alliance thought long since dead. As an evil force rises up, Tobiath and his new found friends will have to stand against seemingly impossible odds to save themselves and their land.

Look for The Druidic Chronicles sometime in the second quarter of 2016.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans?

I’d like to thank them for giving The Unseen Kingdom a chance. And please support our LGBT kids out there. They need to know that they’re normal, loved and that a good life becomes more possible for them with each passing day. Your support helps make that better life possible.   

About The Book

Title: The Unseen Kingdom
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: September 19, 2015
Format: Paperback - 562 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710721
Genre: YA / LGBT / Horror / Science Fiction

Book Description:

A group of friends must band together to defeat an ancient evil in Daniel R. Mathews’s terrifying debut, The Unseen Kingdom.

In a small New England town, thirteen-year-old Tommy Wilson’s biggest worry is coming out to his close-knit group of friends. All of that changes, however, when the boys discover a dream portal to R’lyeh—home to the Titan god Cthulhu himself.

Inhabited by monstrous creatures and eerie children who have appointed Tommy and his friends their new “apostles,” R’lyeh becomes a horrifying yet darkly fascinating world that proves to be increasingly real.

Meanwhile, the town’s population is suddenly overrun with a mysterious epidemic that threatens everyone. As the boys struggle to cope with what is happening, Tommy comes closer than ever to discovering the dark secret that lurks within R’lyeh itself—but will the price prove to be too costly? And, can the boys unlock the link between the secrets of R’lyeh and the devastation of their town’s population before it’s too late?

A truly unique work of fiction, The Unseen Kingdom is an LGBT coming-of-age novel skillfully infused with edge-of-your-seat horror, resulting in a wildly entertaining novel that will leave you guessing until the very last page.

Book Excerpt: 

CH A P T E R 1

The dust covered yellow school bus rumbled down the cracked asphalt road, shaking the children inside. Tommy’s body was inclined back against his seat, his feet planted at the top of the green vinyl covered seat in front of him. He alternated between glancing at his best friend Brian and peering out the window at the blur of the fading autumn colors along the road. Kevin was sitting rather imperiously at the back of the bus, grimacing down at his cell phone that he removed from his pocket every couple of minutes.

Unable to resist commenting, Carlos leaned across the aisle. “Alright, what’s the deal, Kevin? You got a hot date or something?”

Kevin’s face flushed slightly. “Uh…yeah! Jealous much?”

Despite his retort, his hands were shaking. Sunlight streaming through the windows revealed a rather puffy ring of black and blue flesh underneath his right eye. Tommy spotted the clumsy attempt to hide the bruise with makeup. For an instant, the two boys’ eyes met but Kevin cast his eyes downward, looking ashamed. He looked at his phone again, and Tommy knew why.

A smirk curled across Carlos’ lips as he quipped, “Yeah, right. Your left hand isn’t a date!” A chorus of chuckles emanated from the kids sitting in front of the group of boys.

Kevin turned to face him and punched the boy in the shoulder with a dull thwack. Before he could say anything, Kevin leaned back in his seat and said, “Just FYI, it’s my right hand.” The children in earshot giggled at Kevin’s assertion.

After rubbing his shoulder, Carlos looked back at Kevin. “Seriously, dude, what’s up?” Tommy looked over at him and discreetly touched his own face, to draw Carlos’ attention to Kevin’s bruise. After Carlos had realized what he meant, the group became quiet.

Kevin put his phone away, leaned back against the window facing his friends and forced a smile. “The only problem I have is your ugly face.” Carlos flipped Kevin off, and poked Jacob who was giggling at his expense.

Tommy glanced at Brian and smiled. When he returned the smile, Tommy looked down, his face brightening. Carlos and Jacob nudged one another and pointed at the pair. Carlos was dozing in the sunlight, while Jacob leaned against him listening to music on his headphones, watching Tommy and Brian with bemused interest.

Kevin shook his head and grinned knowingly back at Jacob. Tommy caught the boys’ conspiratorial glances and turned his head to the side. He felt he was the punch line of an inside joke sometimes, but wasn’t quite sure why. His curiosity was interrupted by his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. He dug the phone out and read the text message from his mother.

“Yeah! It’s here!” Tommy exclaimed as he pumped his fist in the air excitedly.

His voice rousted Carlos from his slumber. “What’s here? Another My Little Pony?” he asked.

“Your birthday was last month, dork. No, my Halloween costume,” Tommy responded matter-of-factly.

Kevin spun his hand around in a circle. “Uh, and...”

“It’s a surprise!” Tommy said with a mischievous grin, staring into Brian’s grey eyes.

Carlos huffed with annoyance. “Dude, if you wear the same costume as me again this year I’m going to kick your ass.”

“You’re still going as the red Master Chief, right?” Tommy asked with sudden concern. Carlos nodded affirmatively. “You’re going as a Templar, right, Brian?”

Brian responded affirmatively, “I got some chain mail, and Mom bought me a historically accurate tabard and helmet to go with it! Now if I could use Dad’s old sword, the outfit would be perfect.”

“Even with the sword, I’m still going to own you,” Carlos said confidently. He looked over at Kevin. “You decide on an outfit yet?”

Kevin shrugged, breaking eye contact with the others. “I don’t know if my father’s going to let me go.”

“He’s gotta! There’s going to be ten thousand dollars in prizes. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!” Tommy said exuberantly.

“And, you know, nobody does Halloween better than us!” Brian proclaimed proudly.

“Alright...alright. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure,” Kevin assured his friends.

“What about you, Jacob?” Kevin asked.

Jacob smiled. “It’s a secret.”

“I’ll take care of this,” Carlos said, poking him mercilessly in the side, causing him to squeal. The bus driver cleared his throat loudly, glaring at the boys through the rear view mirror.

“Quit it!” Jacob protested, his face turning red enough to mask his pale freckles. “I’m going as a vampire,” he surrendered begrudgingly.

“God, another sparkly vampire!” Carlos teased.

“No way, dork! A real vampire!” he retorted. Tommy and Brian laughed and applauded.

Tommy leaned back and peered out the window again. The bus sputtered to a stop, letting a few children out. He sang under his breath, “Eight more days to Halloween, Halloween. Eight more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock.” Brian’s reflection in the window beamed at him while Carlos and Kevin simultaneously rolled their eyes.

As the bus rounded a bend adjacent to the swamp that surrounded much of the town, Tommy caught a glimpse of a boy wearing filthy blue denim overalls and a wool beret. However, the boy disappeared behind the veil of swirling white smoke left by the bus’s exhaust. There was something inherently disquieting about the boy.

The bus ride grew progressively quieter as the bus approached the end of its daily journey. His eyes widened when he saw the same boy from earlier emerging from behind a row of wild hawthorn bushes. This time he made direct eye contact with the mysterious boy. A wicked smile danced across the child’s otherwise emotionless face, causing Tommy’s body to shudder involuntarily. There was something terrible in the child’s visage, forcing him to look away from those hollow, soulless eyes that invaded his consciousness. Tommy looked up to see the bus driver staring intently at him through the rear view mirror. The rest of the group had fallen into their own little worlds, lulled into virtual slumber by the constant droning of the engine and swaying of the bus. He sank down in his seat, trying to avoid the bus driver’s penetrating stare. He glanced over at Brian, who was playing with his phone.

Tommy felt some relief when the final stop was reached and it was time to offload. Carlos, Jacob and Brian were already halfway down the aisle before the bus reached a stop, leaving Kevin and Tommy as the last passengers to disembark. As Tommy descended the stairs, the bus driver reached out and grabbed his hand. “You’ve seen them, haven’t you?” he asked.

A startled Tommy gave the bus driver a bewildered stare as he struggled to withdraw his hand from the man’s tight grasp. “Seen who? What are you talking about?” he asked, growing fearful of the man’s narrowing eyes.

“The children of the Great Unseen have revealed themselves to you, and now it’s your turn to hear HIS call,” the man whispered in a raspy voice. He tried to back away as the man’s eyes darkened, much like the boy he had seen earlier.

“You’re hurting me!” an increasingly flustered Tommy stammered, trying to pull away from the man’s grip.

Like a passing summer storm, the man’s face brightened, and he released Tommy’s wrist. “Well, what are you waiting for, boy? It’s Friday night. You got the whole weekend ahead of you. Now git!” He smiled warmly at the astounded boy. Tommy stepped off the bus, confronted by Kevin and Brian.

“What the hell happened?” Kevin demanded.

Tommy could do little but shrug his slender shoulders. “I don’t know. He was mad about something; it didn’t make any sense. Whatever it was, he got over it quickly.”

Kevin watched with concern as the bus disappeared down the road, before turning his attention to the dilapidated two-story greyish white house in front of him. “Well, I can’t stall any longer,” he said with a sigh.

“What are you doing guys doing tonight?” Tommy asked.

Kevin shifted his weight. “I think I better stay in and work on homework.”

Brian said, “I promised Mom I’d clean up around the house tonight, but I’ll have the rest of the weekend free after my homework is done.” Tommy looked a little dejected, but at least this afforded him some time to check out his Halloween costume.

“We’ll see you tomorrow morning, right?” Tommy asked Kevin expectantly.

Kevin forced a smile and gave him a playful push. “Yeah, Bro, I’ll see you guys tomorrow. We’ll go into town or something.” Tommy and Brian said their good-byes and the boys parted company for the day.

Tommy’s house was a little larger than Kevin’s, painted a similar weather-beaten white although clearly more care and maintenance has been put into his house than Kevin’s. He bounded through the front door, his eyes scanning the entranceway and hallway for any signs of his package. He poked his head into the kitchen, spying the nondescript brown box sitting on the table between his mother and father.

He made a beeline for the package before his mom intercepted him. “Not even an acknowledgment of us being in the room?” she mockingly admonished him, wiping the curly locks of blonde hair from his face.

“Stop, Mom! Hi, Dad!” he blurted out as he reached for the box.

“So, remind me why you needed to spend six months of your allowance for this?” his father asked while Tommy tore open the package excitedly.

“It’s a surprise for...” Tommy cut himself short. “I mean, I’m just looking forward to Halloween.” The boy delved into the contents of the package, procuring large sheets of fine brown fur wrapped in translucent plastic.

“Is there something you’d like to talk to us about?” his father asked softly, casting a glance at his wife.

“You know, you can talk to us about anything,” Tommy’s mom said soothingly.

Tommy pulled out the lower jaw of the werewolf costume, running his fingers along the jagged teeth as he looked up at his parents with confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, we thought maybe you’d like to talk about someone,” Tommy’s father said.

Tommy thought for a moment, unsure where his parents were going with this line of questioning, though admittedly he felt embarrassed as a sloppy grin crossed his face imagining Brian’s reaction when he sees the costume. Before he could assemble the pieces in his mind, he blurted out Kevin’s name.

“Kevin? What about him?” his mother asked, casting a confused gaze over at her husband on this unexpected subject.

“I think his dad beat him up last night. He was wearing makeup to cover up a black eye, but he didn’t have it yesterday,” Tommy said, looking out the kitchen window toward Kevin’s house. “I’m worried about him,” he added.

“That’s a serious accusation, Tommy. Has Kevin given you any indication of this?” his father asked, looking troubled.

Tommy shook his head. “No, but he acts afraid to go home. Every day on the bus you can see him start shaking the closer we get.”

“That’s a worrying sign, Tommy, but we need to know the whole story. Kevin is lucky to have you as a friend. I think the best thing you can do right now is be there for him, and let him know that when he’s ready to talk, you’ll listen,” his father instructed.

“Is there anything else, anything Kevin’s said that would make you feel there’s trouble with his father?” his mother interjected.

Tommy thought for a moment. “Kevin’s mentioned his dad drinks a lot. I think that’s when he gets in trouble.”

His mother rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Isn’t it always?” she whispered to no one in particular. “Your father is right, Tommy. Let know Kevin that you’re there for him. There is a counselor at your school trained for this kind of thing, so Kevin has options if he’s in trouble.”

“Couldn’t you talk to his dad, make him stop?” he asked his father.

Tommy’s father leaned back in his chair and sighed. “It’s not that easy, kiddo. Nobody likes to be told how to raise their child, and I’m afraid if we stick our noses into his business, he might take it out on Kevin. It would be best if the school became involved in this.”

Disappointed, Tommy knew this was a problem that couldn’t easily be solved. He pulled out the remaining mass of soft brown fur and the upper jaw of his werewolf costume. “Some assembly required,” he moaned, pulling out a plastic bag full of plastic claws.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to do all the work,” Tommy’s mother warned.

“Uh, no, of course not, Mom!” he replied, his bright, blue pleading eyes belying his underlying intent.

“Well, if you like I can take the measurements and help you get started this weekend,” his mom offered diplomatically.

His face brightened. “Thanks, Mom, that’d be awesome!”

“Alright, go get started on your homework. Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she concluded, sending the Tommy and his costume out of the kitchen.

His father shook his head and laughed. “I have a feeling this is going to be an unforgettable Halloween.”

Tommy bounded into his room, and spread all the individual components of the werewolf costume across his bed. The macabre mass of soft fur, jaws and claws melded naturally with the horror movie posters hanging on the far wall, above the shelves filled with rows of horror movie DVDs and a couple dozen similarly themed novels. He plopped himself down in his wooden desk chair and rummaged through his backpack for his homework assignments.

Buy The Book:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Kingdom-Daniel-R-Mathews/dp/0990710726/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442868026&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Unseen+Kingdom+Daniel+Mathews

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-unseen-kingdom-daniel-r-mathews/1122709418?ean=9780990710721

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26795882-the-unseen-kingdom

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/17505392-the-unseen-kingdom-by-daniel-r-mathews

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.

Connect with Daniel R. Mathews:

Virtual Book Tour

No comments:

Post a Comment