Indie Fantasy Author: Matt Posner, School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal
Welcome to my weekly series of interviews with independently published fantasy authors. This week I interviewed Matt Posner about America’s greatest magic school. Enjoy!
1. What got you into writing this book in the first place?
I was working at a yeshiva high school in Long Island, which caused me to get very immersed in the culture of Mishnaic Judaism, and I was fascinated by the subculture with its traditions and taboos. I thought there would be great dramatic potential in the idea of blending a magical boarding school with this tradition.
A rabbi told me about Yeishu ben Pandeira, a heretic from the Baraitas (one of the lesser ancient Jewish texts) and I thought: this guy would make a great villain! I had written about magicians and apprentices before, and had read a tremendous amount over the years about paranormal and occult studies, and I was still fairly new to New York City and excited even then by its complexities.
So I guess all those things came together as I began to draft School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal.
My main character is Simon Magus. That is, he’s a thirteen-year-old boy who takes that name for his magician’s name, with the unexpected consequence that he is haunted by the ghost of Yeishu ben Pandeira, who thinks he is the real Simon.
Things go downhill from there, but Simon has an excellent supporting cast of friends and enemies. For my supporting cast, I focused on diversity. I wanted to include a broad melting-pot of characters to make School of the Ages a truly all-American place where cultures and ethnicities blend and differences get absorbed into a commonality. Any book about boarding school, from Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days, to R.F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days, to Harry Potter, has the advantage of a huge supporting cast of students, teachers, parents, and so there is no realistic creative limit to what can be done with School of the Ages.
The push for diversity continues in the second novel of the series, Level Three’s Dream, where I feature a young magician with Asperger’s Syndrome, and deal with the issue of whether autism really is disability, and what from a mystical perspective might explain its presence in the universe. And then there’s my young magicians in Alice in Wonderland world, too, which will prove to be much funnier than Tim Burton’s recent fiasco of a film.
About the book: America’s greatest magic school is New York City’s School of the Ages. Simon is a teen from Queens, New York. When he answers an advertisement in a magazine, the South Wind shows up at his door to introduce him to a world of adventure, power, and tragedy that feels both strange and right: ghosts, elementals, time travel, magic duels, clashes of culture, teen romance, sacrifice, and ultimate loss. The evil spirit of a bitter and scheming heretic from ancient Alexandria attacks him and forces him to risk everything in order to save his soul. Kids and adults won’t stop reading — The Ghost in the Crystal.
3. What are readers saying about your book?
They like the New York setting, they like the detailed and multicultural magic system, they like the strong and active conflict, and they are always pleasantly surprised to learn that the book is not a Harry Potter rip-off. Oh, and reviews have said that it could be the next fantasy craze, and that it should be made into a movie. To be honest, what I’d like to do is write a School of the Ages series for SyFy Channel.
4. Why did you decide to Indie publish?
I don’t like how literary agents do business; in fact, I don’t like how any of the gatekeepers in the publishing world operate. I felt that I was not getting a fair look, and the reviews I have show that I was right about that. I felt that I would rather get my work out in the market and have people read it than keep going hat in hand to people who don’t respect talent and who operate within a culture where middlemen hold all the power and talent is out in the cold.
5. What advice do you have to authors just starting out?
Focus on characterization and conflict. Build round characters, master point of view, have your story be about interesting people with problems.
Oh, and try to get a high-paying job in the finance industry!
6. Anything else you’d like to share?!
About the author: Author, Matt Posner is a New York City English teacher. Originally from Miami, Florida, Matt is 42 years old, very happily married to Julie, with no children or pets. He has an MFA in fiction from University of Alabama, an MA in fiction from Florida State University, and BA in Humanities from New College of Florida.