Though Matthew Ward was crowned back-to-back School Spelling-Bee Champion in the third and fourth grades, his childhood passed with little international distinction. He went on to attend the University of Southern California, where he studied graphic design and cinema, then fittingly became the art director for a cinematography magazine. He does not usually refer to himself in the third person.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for kids 8 to 12 (and anyone who ever was 8 to 12) in the “fantastical, but not quite fantasy” genre, which I just made up just now. (Other entries in the genre include: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket, ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ by Joan Aiken.)
Henry: Preternatural? Semi-fantasy?
Tell us about your latest book.
‘The Fantastic Family Whipple’ is the story of Arthur Whipple, the only non-record breaker in the Most World-Record-Breaking Family on Earth. But despite his failures, he just might be their only hope. When the Whipples suffer a series of catastrophes that appear to stem from a mysterious family curse (and a pair of sinister clowns), it is up to Arthur to solve the mystery and save his family from impending doom—as he struggles all the while to earn his first world record and prove himself worthy of the Whipple name...
Henry: Clowns. It’s always the clowns…
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
On top of being entertained, I hope readers might be inspired by Arthur’s determination and compassion. And also that they might develop a craving for giant French toast.
Henry: My fantasy book ‘Nimpentoad’ is also about determination. But, sadly, while it does feature, goblins, trolls, and even a giant, it does not feature giant French toast. Damnit. That’s what sequels are for.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Coming up with all the words. (Sometimes I feel like I’ve used up every combination of words I can possibly conceive of and will never be able to write anything ever again.) This is especially a challenge for me with action scenes and transitions. I could write dialogue all day long, but give me an action scene or a transition between locations and my writing slows to a crawl (or at least a slower crawl than usual). I think part of the reason is that with dialogue, you’re essentially describing something as it happens in real time, but with action you have to cram in lots of details that are all happening at once and try to make it feel like its happening in real time. Transitions are similar in that you’re trying to sum up a series of events (like moving your characters from one place to another) into as short a sequence as possible. Because there is so much more happening in every second of action, each thought takes that much longer for my brain to translate into words. Faster, brain—faster!
Henry: Interesting. I find writing voicey dialog more challenging than writing action scenes.