On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today Matthew Caldwell joins us to celebrate the launch of his novel, THE LOST TRIBE, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
1939. Harry Pike struggles with the rest of the country through the latter stages of the Great Depression. As a sportswriter, he watches as his jobs keep disappearing. As a Jewish zamler, or luck pusher, he feels the need to help his friend Abner, who is lost in the minor leagues in his quest to play baseball. But when German forces challenge America to a baseball series, another need arises: Harry knows he must mend the broken zamler trails to get the European Jews to safety before the war machine crushes them all.
1. What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
As is the case I’m sure with most historical novels, one difficult part of writing came in the research. I strive for accuracy in my writing, from the phrases the characters use to the objects they see to the streets they visit. When the team makes it to Germany, I even looked up weather almanacs to see if it was raining the day they were there or not. But since this was my second book with the main characters, one thing that came easy was remembering to speak in their voices again. The first book took place in the late 20s, and this one happened in 1939, so even then there was a bit of thought put into how the main even that happened in between—the Great Depression—affected them. It was challenging but very exciting at the same time, because I felt I had done a decent job fleshing out all their personalities in the first book (The Zamler’s Last Stand
). All I had to do was think about how those “people” would react to such a thing.
2. Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
Just as in the first book, there are two main characters, Harry and Abner, but Harry gets more of the focus. Harry is an eternal optimist, someone who I really would like to be. I wouldn’t say I’m a pessimist, really, but I’ve definitely become more cynical over time. Harry is someone who prefers to view things with rose-colored glasses, and then deal with the consequences later if he is wrong. I’m sure that someone like him would have been an anachronism during the Depression, but in his mind it was his job not only to be cheerful as much as possible, but as a zamler
(someone who can absorb other people’s bad luck) to do it in spite of the conditions. I touched upon that idea in the first book, that the luck Harry absorbs is energy, and that energy doesn’t go away just because he take it. But in this book I really go forward on the idea that Harry’s antenna is always on—unlike the other zamlers
in his community he’s always
absorbing bad luck—and he can somewhat direct that energy, but it’s an inexact science, to be sure. When we meet up with Harry, he’s using that energy to find his friend Abner. Continuing the story from The Zamler’s Last Stand
, Abner is playing professional baseball, but the fallout from his decision to play on Rosh Hashanah, unlike many other Jewish baseball players, has flushed him from the majors. Now he toils away in anonymity in the minor leagues. Harry truly believes that, with his ability, he is supposed to find his friend and save him. So that’s what he does. In true hand-in-glove fashion, Abner feels the same way about saving and protecting Harry, but it takes a while for them to connect. The Nazi challenge provides that moment.
3. Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
I’m sure that this is a similar story to any author you speak to, but I submitted dozens of queries for The Zamler’s Last Stand, The Legendary Branson Brand, and my Kindle Scout book, The Lost Tribe. It’s funny because the very first query I sent out received a bite from an agent, who then turned it down. I remember thinking, “I’ve got this in the bag!” but I have only received flat rejections ever since. (Laughs.) I don’t even remember where I first heard of Kindle Scout, but I polished up my second book, Branson Brand, (since I self-published my first) and entered it in on the initial round. Sadly, it didn’t make it, but I had another one ready to go. I guess I’m immune to the rejection by now. Or too dumb to know any better.
4. You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher/author/artist/scientist/celebrity you’ve always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
This is an easy one for me—Abe Lincoln. If you’re looking for evidence that occasionally people show up on this planet at the exact time they are needed, well, there’s your evidence.
5. Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
I’ve mentioned my first book, The Zamler’s Last Stand, which I self-published through CreateSpace and is my only other book available at this moment. My second book, The Legendary Branson Brand, which I renamed Don’t Forget to Remember Me in its Kindle Scout candidacy, is something I hold dear to my heart. It is about a man who can only be remembered if he wants to be, and then only by a handful of people. As he gets older he realizes that once he dies he’ll effectively be erased from existence. He goes about repairing his relationship with his family in the hopes that maybe he can make a lasting connection. Then he finds out his wife has Alzheimer’s, and, well, it gets even more hairy from there. I wrote it shortly after my aunt died from the disease. It’s just such a horrible, horrible affliction. I just finished the first book in what I hope is a new series. It’s called The Canary in the Coalmine, and it involves a government program that uses low-level psychics to try to find other, more powerful psychics that are being sold on the black market. The entire novel takes place over the course of one night, so it was an opportunity for me to work with characters that had to be developed on the fly. It’s always good to challenge yourself.
Matthew Caldwell lives in the Midwest. He is the author of 4 novels, including the Kindle Scout-Winning THE LOST TRIBE. He is currently being held hostage by his 3-year old, although Stockholm Syndrome is setting in.
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