Hello and welcome to today’s spotlight, my friends.
Please welcome ‘jack-of-all-genres’ author Matthew Raup who, if we are to believe his own words, “plays with Legos, treats his wife like a queen, and is pet dad to way too many cats”.
I don’t know about you, but I love him already.
Now, you know me. I like to know everything. So I went back for information and this is what I’ve found: a sample chapter from the novel, a sample story, 10 questions that I simply forced Matt to answer under threat of dire consequences, some pictures he’s rather fond of, and also 10 quick fire shots. Interested? Read on!
Here’s a short description of The City’s Assassin
An island in the sea is razed to the ground, and a child is left with only two choices: stay on the island to rebuild with his brother, or seek revenge. Apollo Bolland grows up, finds his parents’ killer in a City on the mainland, and experiences the revenge he’d always wanted. Ten years later, Apollo has risen to the top of the City as both a publicly known Aristocrat and a publicly feared assassin. He’s built a life on solidarity, trusting in himself, and keeping nobody close. But when the ripples of his revenge come back to him, he finds himself in need of companionship. As new problems arise and he becomes overwhelmed, Apollo finds friends where he never expected. A fellow aristocrat, a fellow assassin, an old classmate, and a beautiful woman all begin a search for the nameless enemy out to get Apollo. Through the strife caused by his foe, Apollo learns to accept help, learns to trust others, and learns to love. Nothing in this world is more inspiring and worthwhile than love and friendship. And although Apollo has wealth and power, he realizes that he’d give everything up to keep the friendships and the love that he finds. Action and mystery drive the characters to move forward, but the connections they make with each other and the lessons about friendship and love they learn is what really brings everything together.
Here’s a sample from The City’s Assassin, to whet your appetite
After a late meal at my favorite pub, I found a park bench long before I found my home. Two steaks and several mugs of ale left me in an exhausted stupor. The moon shone bright in the western sky. The casual noble robe I wore was warm, and the worry that had stressed me since the dinner party helped me drift away.
I came to with a start, suddenly completely awake. The moon had almost fully ducked behind the mountains. A black figure stood in front of me. The figure didn’t seem about to make a move, so I stayed still. I looked the figure up and down. She had the shape of a woman. Her form seemed easy, slight but firm. A gray mask covered her entire face save her eyes. A long ponytail flickered in a slight breeze. Despite the intoxicating feminine figure she possessed, my eyes were quickly drawn to the gleaming blade of a knife in her right hand.
I wasn’t going to move first. For some reason, this woman hadn’t struck yet, though my sleeping had definitely made me an easy target. I wouldn’t have killed a sleeping target either, so we had that in common.
For one nervous moment, I tried to determine who had paid this woman to kill me. And then she struck.
She obviously thought I was not a fighter of any kind since any other noble had no combat experience. She swung her blade at my neck, but I calmly batted her arm aside and kicked her in the gut, sending her tumbling away. She quickly regained her feet as I stood from the bench. Her eyes revealed her shock.
I could tell through the dim moonlight that she was preparing to attack again.
“Don’t,” I said.
She breathed in audibly.
“Who wants this?” I knew she wouldn’t answer, but I asked anyway.
She made a sound, which startled me, almost as if she wanted to respond.
“I will kill you if you persist,” I said sternly.
This seemed to anger her. Her eyes narrowed menacingly and she sprung at me again. This time, I disarmed her and threw the knife into the empty park behind me. She didn’t ease her attack. She continued, throwing punches and kicks at me. I didn’t have a hard time defending myself. I felt slightly bad because this woman wouldn’t have had a problem killing someone else. I, on the other, was an entirely different animal.
I tried to give her chances to quit this attack, but she seemed personally offended. If I had botched a job this badly, I probably would have fled by now to regroup.
The fight dragged on for several long minutes until the woman started to speed up her moves, managing a slap here or a body blow there, irritating me more than hurting me. I began blocking back her attacks hard, making her wince. Then I struck, blocking away an attack and thumping her in the chest with two flat palms. She landed on her back with a thud, and I was on her. I twisted one arm under her and grabbed her ponytail, pulling it violently. She squealed in pain.
I leaned close to her face, our breaths heavy and loud, her chest heaving, pressing into mine.
“I said I’d kill you,” I whispered, “but I wouldn’t waste such a beautiful assassin.” Surely no noble would ever speak to an assassin this way. I knew I’d made a mistake immediately, but this woman’s mere presence was provocative enough for me to feel attracted to her.
I hadn’t thought beyond this point, however. She shocked me with her next move. She reached up with her free hand and pulled her mask off. Then she pressed my head down and kissed me wildly. For a few wondrous moments, we weren’t assassins, or nobles; we were simply two people.
For a split second after our lips withdrew, our eyes met with something near understanding. I began to speak, but she kneed me in the groin and fled.
I couldn’t blame her, I thought, as I writhed on the ground. She needed to ensure she stayed alive through the night, get home before being seen. But now these thoughts of mine needed to be shelved.
I sat up abruptly. Who wanted me dead?
Did you like it? Did you like it? I did. Well, if you click on the title, it’ll take you straight to it.
Alternatively, you could go check out the stories – again, click on the title and it’ll take you to the right place.
Don’t tell me you’d like to see a sample story first. Well, do you? Ok, then. Here it is:
We had met somewhat precariously. Had I not known what she was before I met her, things might have turned out differently. The book I had read in the very back of the library when I was fifteen turned me onto a dimension of reality that most never even have a passing thought about. I can still remember that day, sitting in the darkened corner of the library basement. Nobody ever went down there. I had the whole place to myself, books about witchcraft that really worked, books about potions you could really make, books about nightmares that could really kill you. The book I picked up told about creatures that actually existed. The pages, like shining holographs, stunk of magic. The pixie dust came off on my hands. But I didn’t care. The magical twisting words on the pages riveted me.
At seventeen, I explored a huge tree in the forest behind my house because I thought a fairy lived in it. I was wrong. And if I had been right, I never would have known. Fairies make themselves appear. You can never search for a fairy and find one.
The day that we hired Chelsea, she caught my eye immediately. She was by no means a supermodel, and she knew it. In fact, she was more negative about herself than anyone else. I appreciated humility. She was beautiful though, to me. Short, only about five-two. Black hair, dark eyes, full lips, cute smile, and cappuccino skin. She had intelligence behind her eyes that made her look more than competent. In her interview, she told me her parents were from the Philippines. She was short and compact, but emanated a sexiness that took me over. Beautifully well endowed from top to bottom, she caught my eye immediately.
The guys loved her from the first day. She was cute and playful and witty. I didn’t particularly care how anyone else saw her. Of course I couldn’t look away when she leaned over so I couldn’t blame anyone’s attraction to her either. But she looked at me a little different. Sometimes I felt like she knew that I knew what she was. At times, it worried me. I found myself looking over my shoulder, worried that she would be there to turn me into a frog. I quickly got over that, though. She talked to me as if she wanted to know what was on my mind, unlike the way she talked to everyone else, which was vacant flirting or useless laughing. I grew to really enjoy the things she had to say. And even though I knew she was a fairy, I didn’t mind that she put on the mask of a human. I didn’t mind that she told everyone her parents were from the Philippines, when in fact she didn’t have parents. When a fairy is born, it is from the face that the teardrop falls that the fairy gets most of its physical characteristics. Chelsea’s teardrop came from an Pilipino girl.
I was twenty-four when she got a job at my store. She was eighteen. That I believed, too. She very well could have been older, but I trusted her. She looked eighteen.
The rules of fairy state that no fairy can love a human. If a fairy and a human fall in love, then that fairy must return to her world, and never again see the human world. As I read in the book, fairies liked to live in the human world for several years at a time because sometimes it is difficult to live with other fairies. I still don’t know why, but that’s how it is.
I trained Chelsea because that was my job at the store. I spent more time with her than others because I had to train her. But our age gap kept the nosey employees at bay. Everyone joked of my crush on her, but nobody took it seriously.
During the third week she worked at my store, Chelsea and I closed two nights together. I found myself flirting with her uncontrollably. I loved to watch her smile. We shared our love for Star Wars, reiterating our favorite scenes to each other, laughing wildly. I took the first step. I told her that my crush on her was highly inappropriate. She didn’t know yet that I knew she was a fairy. Calling my crush inappropriate worked on more than just the obvious level. Humans and fairies are forbidden to fall in love. As are bosses and employees. As are eighteen year olds and twenty-four years olds. The latter is not so much forbidden as it is frowned upon though.
But I didn’t care. She had captured me.
On that second night we closed together, after everyone left the store, she stayed behind because she told everyone else that she needed a ride home, and I was giving it to her. I closed the front doors and locked up. I caught her walking into the front office, so I followed.
I had been mistaken. She knew that I knew.
Fairies have the ability to hide their fairy attributes. Some look completely different from their human masks, some look barely different. When I walked into the dim office, Chelsea stood in the back corner, draped in shadow. A violet twinkling broke the darkness. I shut the door. The room was very dark, only a small bit of light shone in through the two-way mirror. She crept toward me slowly. I barely noticed the changes in her, if there were any.
I sat down on one of the chairs in the office and she sat on my lap. I gently ran my hand down the ethereal surface of her wings. They flickered in the darkness like glistening tricks. We kissed. I can’t describe to you the feelings of a fairy kiss very well. It’s difficult to put together the words that depict the sensations. I learned from the book that a fairy keeps her magic on her lips, under her finger nails, and on the bottoms of her feet. Kissing magical lips filled me with tingling. Chelsea’s lips were soft and gentle. Her tongue felt like velvet. I felt like I was kissing a girl for the first time, back in middle school, out in the hallway after a football game. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.
We had a few guys who redularly hit on Chelsea. Sometimes it irritated me, not because of what the two of us had, but because it interfered with their work. None of them were so serious about it that I ever felt jealous. I hated the things that some of these guys would say though. Lying about getting places with her, getting her shirt off, or pulling their pants down. It made me sick. But I couldn’t open my mouth. I wanted to keep my job, and she was still only eighteen and one of my employees. And though fairies aren’t allowed to fall in love with humans, they are allowed to do everything but, as long as nobody speaks a word of it. It must be a wholly private matter.
Some time after we hired Chelsea, we picked up a couple more young people for work. A young man and a young woman, both eighteen. For a week or two, the spotlight came off of Chelsea and onto the new girl. Alexandra was tall, fit, slender, athletic. She went to a local college and competed on the diving team. The guys in the store instantly targeted her.
She didn’t match up to Chelsea, though. Chelsea was close to perfect, which, I suppose, is just what a fairy is supposed to be.
Perhaps it was the magic, but I think it was simply her charm and cute smile that brought the boys back to eye her more than Alexandra.
And that’s why I don’t think it bothered me. I knew how Chelsea felt about me.
Sitting in the office, watching my employees on a particularly slow night, I laughed to myself. I could see the front desk where our newest young man was sitting on the counter against the wall, right next to Chelsea. I didn’t mind that they weren’t doing anything because it was late and we’d be closing soon. Seeing the way Danny acted with Chelsea brought me back to my days as a clueless high schooler. I would go to parties after football games and sit on couches in basements or on lounge chairs in backyards and sit as close to a girl as possible. I would wait and wait and wait until the right time came to say something. But that time never came because I was too chicken to say anything at all. I knew Danny wasn’t waiting for the right time to speak, but sitting right next to a girl with that cool, confident face just screams, “I think I’m cool because I’m sitting on the counter next to Chelsea. And she’s laughing at my jokes. And she isn’t running away.”
I leaned down on the tiny ledge and stared out at the front desk. What a spectacle. Danny had that confident stride about him. It made me laugh because he thinks he might be flirting in his own little way with a girl his age who might be interested in him. It’s not like he wasn’t an attractive guy. With any other girl, he might be doing the right thing. But with Chelsea, he was batting zero.
I walked out onto the floor to close up the registers.
“Are you still giving me a ride home?” Chelsea asked me.
“Sure,” I said, sounding as indifferent and managerial as possible.
“I’ll drive you,” Danny chimed in.
I cursed silently, but I didn’t catch myself before I snapped my head up to look at Chelsea. It wasn’t the actions in the office we shared that made me want to see her, it was her, the whole package. I made a forceful effort to look back down at the money in my hands.
“Um…okay, thanks,” she said, unable to refuse. If she refused it would look weird, I guess. Having someone catch on would be a disaster. I didn’t mind as much as my initial reaction would have indicated. I’d see her again. I could see it in her eyes though. She wished Danny hadn’t offered the ride.
I looked up and gave her a passing smile as I went along closing the store.
We continued on like that for weeks. Sometimes we just sat in the dark in the office after work and talked about things. I told her everything that I knew about the fairy world. She told me everything that she knew about the human world. We became much closer than I would have imagined.
I didn’t know it would all come crashing in on me. Somewhere, though, in my mind, maybe I did know. But I didn’t want to admit anything to myself.
I worked the morning shift a couple of days a week and she only worked at night. But she showed up at the store one morning, just to see me. I can’t explain in words how that made me feel. I was special enough to her that she risked coming to see me. I wanted so much to be with her as a normal couple would be, but I knew it would never be allowed. She knew too, which was why I found her arrival that morning so surprising.
“I want to show you something today,” she said to me.
“Okay,” I replied. “I’ll leave early. Where can I find you?”
“I’ll be waiting in your car,” she said. And then she left.
The rest of the morning dragged on forever. I peed ten times. I nervously cut out fifty snowflakes from pieces of colored paper. I even spent a solid motionless ten minutes staring at a blue dot on the wall of the office. Each click of the minute hand on the clock lasted forever. I thought I would die before I left work that day. I don’t know how I made it through those four grueling hours, but I did. And as she had promised, she awaited me in my locked car.
“Drive me somewhere,” she said without looking at me. I tried to catch the expression on her face, but all I could feel from her was a despairing fear.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I’ll show you the way.”
She placed her hand on my leg and I saw the way. I drove us down roads until all of the cars disappeared, until we were the only ones on the road. I drove us through hills and fields. Our destination was a lone tree at the top of a large hill. We climbed up to it and sat in its shade.
Chelsea let her wings out and she lay in my arms for hours. The sun never went down where we sat. It stayed light out forever. Days, weeks might have passed. I had no idea, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to be with her, lay on the soft grass with her until I closed my eyes and died.
“This is my tree,” she said. “It is my only passage into my world. Do you know what happens to a fairy that’s fallen in love?”
I nodded. “The tree withers and dies, trapping the fairy in the human world forever, to die.”
“A fairy cannot permanently live in the human world,” she added. She turned around and faced me. She was crying. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t think about it. She crawled onto me and kissed me, held me like the world was ending. We hugged and kissed lovingly and then she handed me a folded piece of paper.
“Read it when I’m gone,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Okay,” I said softly.
She stepped into the tree, melded into the bark like the spirit that she was.
I watched in horror as the beautiful tree in front of me died. Its leaves dried up and fell to the ground. Then its branches cracked off, one by one. In only a minute, a dried up rotted stump lay on the ground at my feet.
I sniffed and wiped tears from my eyes as I opened the folded piece of paper.
“I love you,” it read.
I whispered those same words into the wind, though I knew she would never hear them.
10 Questions with Matt
1) Could you tell us ten words that best describe you?
Well, I’ve never been very good at using single words to describe things. Unless something is cool or stupid, my mind probably makes it more complicated than a single word. I suppose I can manage a few words or phrases: quiet until I’m comfortable, always thinking, logical, accepting, relaxed. There might be more. I feel like describing oneself requires too much vanity for me to feel totally comfortable doing it.
2) You’ve got a couple of books on Amazon – The City’s Assassin and Glistening Tricks. One is a novel and the other a collection of stories. When writing, what comes easiest?
Nothing. Actually, self-criticism is easiest. The people who know me and have read my work probably can’t really tell the inner turmoil that goes into writing for me. Even when something is finished, a chapter, a book, a page, I can’t help myself. Inside, in my head, I’m going over each point that I just wrote and realizing that I should do something else or that it’s just bad. It takes a lot to calm myself down and accept that what I wrote is good.
3) In ten years’ time, how many books will you have published?
Well, ten years ago, after I’d been writing consistently for about two years, I would have said a million. I would have said some ridiculous number. Unfortunately for that teenager of ten years ago, I didn’t really mature into what I consider a good writer until this past year. It took a lot of growing up to be happy with my writing. But commercially distributed? Widely read? Turned into movies after professional publication? Well, I don’t write BDSM fan fiction or about vampires, so until someone wants to read about awesome assassins or my version of magic, I have no idea how many books I’ll have published professionally. So, I’m going to say I’ll self-publish as many books as I’m happy with. Maybe by then people will know my name and buy them.
4) How does the writing process work? Do you have a writer’s warren where you go to hide away and write? Do you allow interruptions and the occasional snack and drink?
Unfortunately, I’m very susceptible to distraction. If I’m in the middle of a play-through of a video game, then I’d probably end up loading it up for a few hours instead of writing. Since I can remember, being somewhere that requires little thought and with strict rules is the best for me. In my case, I write best in school and at work. I wrote “The City’s Assassin” while I worked at a bank last summer. I wrote a young adult novel this past year during class (I’m going to school for computer networking). If there is even the threat of something else to do, I can’t write. I can’t have TV, a computer, any type of game, anything like that around. I need to be sitting in an uncomfortable chair behind a flat table. And I also only write my stories by hand in a notebook. I can’t type creatively. It is absolutely impossible for me.
5) What is the best thing about writing?
The escape. I’m not exaggerating when I say I fall in love with my characters. I usually am the main character. I love the love interests. I love the best friends. I hate the villains. I write like that because I hope that a reader will feel that in the characters. One of the greatest minds/writers ever to grace any form of media, Joss Whedon, is the master of this. My wife and I watched Buffy from beginning to end last summer. I cried plenty of times. When it was over, I went out and bought all the season 8 comic collections because I couldn’t bear to be away from the characters. It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone (I can’t watch Firefly or Serenity anymore because last time I watched through the whole series, I went into a pretty bad depression for about a week. Nothing has devastated me more than the cancellation of Firefly.) ANYWAY, it’s the escape into the characters that is the best thing about writing.
6) You call yourself ‘super nerdy’. Would you care to explain why?
Well, I’m obviously a huge Joss Whedon fan. I play a lot of video games. I don’t like first person shooters, which is like the craze in the nerd community. I like older stuff. RPGs from SNES and PS1 and PS2. And platform games are probably my favorite. Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Megaman. I was in band all through school, so I totally rock at guitar on Rock Band. I love board games and D&D. Star wars, Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, etc… I have an inordinate amount of Legos in my house. If I had all the money back fro the Legos I have, my wife and I could probably build another floor onto our house. I have a collection of mighty muggs and Disney vinylmations. I read a lot of fantasy and sci fi books. Neil Gaiman is one of the biggest influences in my life. As is a relatively lesser-known author though I think she’s the best. She is probably my favorite author of all time. Her name is C. Dale Brittain. She wrote a series called the Wizard of Yurt series. There are seven books I think. It’s a fantasy, but Christianity is also a theme in it. I’m not religious, but I really like the way she uses magic as a foil for religion. It’s awesome. So, there’s lots of stuff that makes me nerdy. I’m a big Bruce Campbell fan, but who isn’t? Miyazaki is my favorite filmmaker. I grew up with Calvin and Hobbes and have all the books. Though there is a book called Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes that sells for thousands. I do wish I had it.
7) You are also an avid movie watcher and book reader. Which one do you do most and how often? Once a day/week/month/year?
I watch movies all the time. I usually read a book all the time, but I don’t blow through them. I don’t read fast. I have a lot of books, but I have around a thousand DVDs and then we have Netflix and we go to redbox, so there are plenty of outlets. I’ll give you my top five favorite movies. 5. White Squall, 4. Stargate, 3.My Left Foot, 2.The Hudsucker Proxy, 1.The Shawshank Redemption. My favorite book is 1984, followed closely by Ringworld by Larry Niven. There are some movies that can’t be on my top five list because they transcend mere numeric listing: any Miyazaki movie, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars Episodes 4-6, and the Back to the Futures.
8) Tell us about your current projects. You’ve written another book – a YA novel, right? When are we going to be able to read that? And what are your next three book ideas?
I have finished a young adult novel that is the first of a trilogy. Considering that I believe it’s too good an idea, I’m going to keep the details to myself. But it’s got magic in it. It’s based in Native American history. I created my own type of magic and gave it a back-story and stuff. The kids start out around ten years old, but in the end will be older. There’s a really mean bad guy and some mysteries. That novel is called “Glyph Writers: the Wish Glyph.” I supposed you could deduce some things about it, but there’s a lot to it. Also, there is “The City’s Assassin,” which is a freestanding story. I describe it as a renaissance mystery romance with assassins. There is some killing in it and everyone is an adult, but I never write graphic violence or sex in my stuff because I don’t believe there is any place in books for that kind of stuff. I think there is a big difference between mature topics and gratuitous description. Anyway, I do have plans for the characters beyond this first novel, and I have written a few new storylines. I really have no idea what will be finished next though. At this point, it will probably be the next Glyph Writers book. I submitted the first one to a bunch of agents and publishers. Two publishers are looking at a full manuscript right now, so until I know what’s going on with that, I won’t be doing anything with it.
9) What is the silliest thing you would do to try and draw attention to your books – hypothetically, of course?
Jeez, I don’t know. Anything, I suppose. It’s always been my dream to be a successful writer, so I would probably do just about anything anyone asked me to do to promote myself. I do have a few new dreams though. I just started watching these two youtube channels. One is called the Nerdist and one is called Geek and Sundry. Chris Hardwick and Felicia Day created them respectively. It’s my dream to represent myself as a self-published author on one of three shows on these channels: 4 Points, Chris Hardwick’s All star celebrity bowling, or Table Top. Or all of them. Really, I’d die to be on Table Top. It’s a show about board games, which I love, hosted by Wil Wheaton, who I also love.
10) Where can people find you and your books?
My books are on Amazon as paperback and ebook. My name Matthew Raup is easily searchable. I’m also on a few websites:
Redbubble.com – Profile name: matthewlraup
I’m also on facebook and twitter @matthewlraup and instagram
P.S. Starting the day this interview is up, The City’s Assassin will be free on kindle for 5 days.
And now the 10 quick-fire shots, also obtained under duress
1) music or silence? Silence, unless it’s good music
2) steak or lobster? steak
3) pepsi or coca-cola? Coke
4) vanilla or chocolate icecream? New York super fudge chunk
5) Earth or another planet? That’s a tough one…
6) movie or picnic? Movie always
7) Lamborghini or Chevy? Neither, Nissan forever!
8) penthouse or tent? Single-family rancher in the suburbs
9) tux or t-shirt? T-shirt
10) Sahara or Alaska? Alaska