07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walking into Strange Lands

It's something that I always seem to be doing, walking into strange lands. I often wonder where I picked up the habit. Perhaps it was the summer I was twelve. We had just moved from a small cow town in upstate New York (seriously small, 1,200 people and 10,000 head of dairy) to across the road from the original IBM headquarters in Poughkeepsie, New York. (Serious culture shock!) I believe that it may be the most boring (and terrifying) summer of my life. I spent three months not knowing anyone and in absolute terror of starting 7th grade without a single friend.

It was the boring part that kicked me in the behind, I swore I would never be that bored again. And, well, most people think I'm either hyperactive or been crazy ever since. Not really, I just learned the value of intentionally walking into strange lands. In high school, still awkward, I joined and eventually ran the theater. In college, the planetarium and, due to an odd vacancy among professors, the astronomy department for almost two years. Then, tossing a coin (almost literally), I put my life in my car and drove 3,000 miles to Seattle. Later all my college friends kept saying how brave it was. I hadn't thought of it that way, I'd just done it.

Over the years this has served me well. I've walked into projects way over my head, and been the guy who led them to successful completion. I bicycled solo around the world when my career collapsed due to outside forces in my mid-30s. And I discovered writing fiction while bicycling across the Australian Outback. My first novel was written there, across the outer islands of Indonesia, and through southern India.

It never struck me that to simply "start writing" was all that unusual, though my friends did look at me strangely. For the last couple decades I've relentlessly pursued fiction, mostly because it was so much fun, but that's not the point I'm after today.

One more strange land to mention of the many I have discovered, military romantic suspense (MRS). Yes, I'm a guy writing contemporary romance and science fiction and thrillers, but I've also found a passion for MRS. I never served, I don't fly helicopters, but I became fascinated by the people who chose as a life's career to fly choppers with SOAR(a), the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (airborne). Fascinated enough to walk into their strange land through my stories. And what better story to tell than that of falling in love?

I am constantly amazed at what I've learned by walking into strange lands and seeing where the flight would take me. All of the best things I have ever found in my life have come from that including my wife and the coolest kid on the planet (not that I'm biased). It is by walking my writing into these interesting places that inspires my stories. Pursuing that passion of discovery has always served me well, I hope it serves you too.


Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed your post, Matt. Walking into strange lands, jumping without a net, even a willingness to muddle through when you're in over your head - these are the things that separate writers from authors.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Matt. I'm glad one of the strange lands you've ended up in (or are passing through) is ours. The launch of Romancing The Genres was a leap into a strange land for me. And, I'm very glad I did. I've met many interesting people and stories!

Diana Mcc. said...

Great post, Matt! Having lived mostly on the west coast I always think of New York as over populated. The small town you came from and the large cow population seems incredible. So glad you continued taking chances on new life experiences, because that makes you the wonderful author you are today.

Louise Z. Pelzl said...

Matt. you are an adventurer. which is a great quality when you are a writer. Like your books.