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:
Welcome to The Writer's Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?
Some people spend their entire lives running from the past. The past that they believe is best not remembered, or even acknowledged. Yet, to deny that past is tantamount to denying their own identity. The truth is that I spent most of my life on the run, both figuratively and literally. The day I decided to sit down and write The Demons of Plainville was the day I decided to stop running from the events that shaped my identity. It was my hope that in dealing with my own childhood demons, that I would be able to help others fight their own.
How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
The greatest challenge of writing The Demons of Plainville was dealing with the raw emotions of anger, sorrow and regret that would surge forth while putting together each major scene. Sometimes with each sentence typed, I’d be so overwhelmed with emotion that I’d need to step away from the project briefly to regain my composure. Though, I must confess that even working on genre fiction can evoke similar emotions, perhaps because I can leverage some of my real life experiences in crafting fiction.
Whether you’re penning a memoir or a work of fiction, outlines are your friend. Every project I’ve undertaken has involved some form of an outline that covers major scenes, locations and plot points. I believe this is a good tactic to thwart writers block and to ensure solid narrative across a three act structure.
Now in the case of The Demons of Plainville, my outline focused on the key events of my childhood. The challenge was not just in cataloging key events of my past, but to try and tie them together in the form of a cohesive, compelling story. Once you’ve begun the actual writing process, you can always revisit and expand upon the outline to make sure you’re on track.
Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
I opted to self-publish this project. I used both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark to maximize availability. I consider my primary niche to be LGBT Young-Adult Horror and Science Fiction, which doesn’t lend itself to mass market publication. So, I decided to operate my own company so I could concentrate on tackling a market that most publishers opt to ignore.
Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
As an author, there is nothing quite like the sensation of clutching your first book in your hands. I always believed that was a silly cliché, but it’s absolutely true. There is a surreal quality to writing a manuscript on the computer because there is no tangible volume to hold in your hands. However, the day that proof arrives in the mail, suddenly your months of work becomes real. Now, I suppose if you are Stephen King, that feeling probably evaporates about the time of the sixth bestseller. We should all be so fortunate to find out for ourselves!
What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?
My next book, The Unseen Kingdom, is already in post-production and should be available for sale by early September. The Unseen Kingdom is a LGBT Young-Adult Lovecraftian Horror novel that follows teenager Tommy Wilson and his friends who discover a dream portal to another dimension -- a portal that holds a horrifying secret that threatens their sanity, their lives and their town just days before Halloween.
I’m currently revising a fantasy novel tentatively titled The Druidic Chronicles that I hope to have available during the first quarter of 2016. This is my first fantasy coming-of-age novel that will follow the adventures of a young Druid and his eclectic group of friends and allies as they attempt to unravel what is behind a series of attacks on their homeland.
What’s your favorite place to hang out online?
In terms of social media, I’ve been spending most of my time on Twitter. I suppose the challenge of sounding literate in under 140 characters is oddly alluring and profoundly frustrating. I also am suffering from a small World of Warcraft addiction, but that’s another story.
Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your
I think if I were to break down The Demons of Plainville to its simplest core message, it would be that you’re not alone. Victims of abuse, bullying, and homophobia frequently come to believe they're alone in the world and worse that they somehow brought this upon themselves. But it’s just not true. You’re not alone, and you do deserve better.
Thank you again for this interview!Do you have any final words?
I believe there is nothing more empowering in this world than writing. Never be afraid to unleash your imagination upon an unsuspecting world of your creation. I do believe you can make a difference in this world, and in people’s lives through the written word. However, if you want to make a real difference in just one person’s life, offer them friendship. Especially in the eyes of a lonely child, there is no greater gift in this existence than friendship.
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
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
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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