I met Matt through mutual friend and author, Junying Kirk. He was kind enough to interview me earlier this year, and I’m delighted to return the favor.
Matt is a diligent writer with passionate views. He doesn’t pull his punches as you will find out from his interview. He’s written a new book entitled How to Write Dialogue, and I’m happy to spotlight it.
Please welcome a man of many talents, author Matt Posner.
Who is Matt?
Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, FL, Matt lives in Queens with Julie, his wife of more than ten years, and works in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Matt is also the Dean of School of the Ages, America’s greatest magic school, located on a secret island in New York Harbor, and is pleased to tell stories about its people in the five-book series School of the Ages, which will be published between 2010 and 2015. As the child of classically trained musicians, Matt is a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York’s premier avant-garde multimedia club band.
Matt teaches high school English, with a fondness for special education students, as well as SAT preparation. He has an active channel at youtube dot com called schooloftheages and regularly posts to pinterest dot com backslash mattposner. His interests include magic and the paranormal, literature, movies, history and culture, visual arts, world music, religion, photography, and professional wrestling history.
Great dialogue is essential to fiction — but what are the elements that make it great? Novelist Matt Posner breaks down the subject with meticulous detail and plentiful examples from published novels. Using classic novels and recent novels by active publishing authors, Matt tackles every element of dialogue writing, from content to punctuation. It’s a fun and comprehensive study of dialogue writing that’s as entertaining as it is useful.
How to Write Dialogue contains selections of expert dialogue writing by eleven current working and publishing authors in many genres. This amazing bullpen includes fantasist JA Beard, science fiction writer Cynthia Echterling, harsh realist Marita A. Hansen, multicultural icon Junying Kirk, horror specialist Stuart Land, fantasy romance author Mysti Parker, conspiracy expert Roquel Rodgers, prolific nonconformist Jess C. Scott, fantasy/science fiction/romance author Chrystalla Thoma, thriller and children’s book writer Ey Wade, and time travel romance specialist Georgina Young-Ellis.
Featuring commentaries by best-seller Tim Ellis and prolific non-conformist Jess C. Scott, and with illustrations by fine artist Eric Henty, How to Write Dialogue is a powerful resource for fiction writers at all levels of experience.
Inside Matt’s Mind
[eden] Welcome Matt! So good to finally have you here. Please tell readers your idea of perfect happiness.
[Matt] I would like to stop making mistakes. The things I’m too lazy to do, someone else does them all for me and I don’t have to feel bad about neglecting those tasks.
I would like to be able to eat cheese all day every day without any health consequences.
I would like Internet that is lightning fast and always shows me what I am looking for whatever search terms I pick.
I would like it if all people on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me just shut up and mind their business forever.
I would like to be a professor with my own office, tenure, and the right to teach whatever courses I like.
[eden] Wow, I don’t think anyone’s ever listed it quite like this before. You must be a teacher!
What turns you on creatively? I like permutations and combinations. I like to blend old things in new ways. Things that I do have been done before but not in the same place or in that particular way. For me it’s like the world is a Chopped kitchen with infinite ingredients. How do I make these previously uncombined things taste good together?
Do you overuse any words or phrases? I went through a phase in which all my dialogue tags were “snapped.” A search-and-replace took care of that problem. Other than that, I am like many other teachers in that I tend to tell the same stories over and over again, to the point that I apologize when doing it even if my class hasn’t heard those stories yet.
What quality do you most admire in a man? If you mean the quality I admire in a man but that is not present in me, then I admire the ability to fix things. I envy contractors and mechanics. I can keep track of hundreds of characters in my head, and construct lengthy periodic sentences, but I can’t change my oil or replace a bad light switch. A house that I own has had running toilets for three, four, five years, and I keep reaching into the tank after the flush to make them stop running, because I can’t repair a running toilet myself and the plumber is too damn expensive.
[eden] Matt, they have instructional youtube videos on how to fix running toilets. You’ll save on your water bill too. 😉
In a woman? Uh-uh, not touching this one. I went to graduate school during the 1990’s iteration of feminism (Laura Mulvey, etc.) and learned that if a man has an opinion about women, he is automatically being sexist. Let me appeal to an expert instead. Whatever Sheryl Sandberg said in Lean In is 100% right.
What is your greatest regret? I should have focused my college education upon a money-making profession. Without money, life is too damn difficult.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My diet. I don’t enjoy healthful food (greens, fish). I wish I did. I wish I was one of those people who eats salad with tofu and exercises every day. It’s not just a matter of willpower, which I don’t have; I wish I craved those things rather than seeing them as a disgusting chore to eat. I would like to be one of those people who gets intense pleasure from being fit and healthy. But I get intense pleasure from gruyere and asiago and potato latkes and gooey chocolate chips. <Sigh>
[eden] You are an honest man. I’m sure you speak for many people with this response.
Do you have any great fears? Day to day, I most dread being late, especially because of traffic. It triggers a feeling of being out of control, of being helpless in the hands of malignant forces.
On a greater level, my pattern as a human being is to fear losing what I have worked to obtain, such as my home, my possessions, my creative output. I think my personality pattern is about building a stable base and then trying to improve incrementally. If I lose the base, I will be traumatized. Once I lost a flash drive that had creative work on it and I was so upset that I couldn’t write fiction for three months.
Which living person do you most admire? This is where I should be listing great humanitarians or successful business leaders, right? Or people who are more successful than I am in my own profession? But I see feet of clay everywhere I look. Let me try hard…
Colin Wilson, who is now 82, is a man with no foibles that I know of. His writing is terrific. He writes on topics that I like. He’s never done anything shitty that I know of or been in any scandal. He has a tremendous output and I have never read anything of his that I didn’t think was super. So I’ll pick him. I see that he has had a stroke and lost his ability to speak. I’m very sorry for that. I won’t ever get a chance to communicate with him — nor have I achieved enough in life to deserve it.
I should mention that the living and working writer Andre Jute has been very good to me since I met him, providing advice when asked and offering promotional help not only when asked, but on his own just because of his kindness. He is a very wise and articulate man as well, someone I would like to measure up to someday.
What profession other than your own would you like to try? I’m a teacher. A lot of people aspire to be teachers. It’s a caregiving profession, requiring a high level of skill and training, seen by some as having nobility, seen by others as the refuge of the incompetent and lazy. Those who think the latter can go and penetrate themselves. Those who think the former, thank you.
When I meet aspirants to the profession, lately at least, I try to talk them out of it. The profession has no honor in this day and age in the United States. We are treated by the powers that be with as much respect as clowns sitting on the high seats of dunking tanks. If I could be the same kind of teacher who taught me, I would do the job gladly until retirement. Maybe that day will come again, but right now the job is the shits.
Thus, assuming there were money in it, I’d like to be a movie critic or an art historian. I’d also like to be a professional drummer, and I wouldn’t mind being an actor either.
[eden] I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with many wonderful teachers in my life. I think an art historian would be a cool profession too.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? Duh.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I survived 1999-2004, years in which I had no job security.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? I can’t stand lack of compassion. People who don’t care about the suffering of others make me sick.
What is your greatest extravagance? My wife and I travel to Europe every year.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? I would like to live in some of the great cities of Europe, with enough money and with sufficient fluency in the language.
Who is your favorite writer/musician/film director? Writer — J.R.R. Tolkien/Jane Austen/Colin Wilson/Neil Gaiman. Musician — Jascha Heifetz/Zakir Hussain. Film director — Hayao Miyazaki/Stanley Kubrick.
[eden] Great lists. I like Kubrick as well.
What are some of your favorite curse words? I like to create new combinations of the F word and other words. Instead of cock-a-doodle-doo, maybe F-a-doodle-doo. That sort of thing.
What is your motto? There is never enough time for everything I need to do.
[eden] You’re right Matt, there never seems to be enough time, but I’m happy you found some to come on my blog. Thank you for such a revealing interview.
Readers, please connect to Matt, and learn what he has to offer on his sites.
* * * *