Author: Matthew S. Urdan
Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Matthew S. Urdan author of The Siren's Call.
Good day Matthew and thanks for participating in our interview
It’s my pleasure, Norm.
How did you get started in writing and what motivated you to write The Siren's Call?
My motivation for writing
The Siren’s Call was mostly personal. When I was seventeen, I
had a close friend that was killed by a drunk driver. When I
was twenty, I was involved in a car accident in which I caused the
death of another young man. I was driving along at 50 mph on a
Detroit highway and the driver in front of me was driving 45. I
moved over to the left to pass him, and then I saw the car in front
of me that had crashed into the median. All I could do was slam
on the breaks. If I swerved to the right I would have crashed
into the car I was passing. If I swerved left, I would have
crashed into the median.
It happened so quickly. I never even got a ticket for the accident, but it tore me up inside. A week later when the young man actually died from a collapsed lung, it was revealed to me that he was drunk. My anguish transformed a little bit to anger. I started asking all the “Why” questions. I questioned God, and existence and free will and fate and karma and chance—which are all themes of the novel. I suppose writing this story was my attempt to find answers and put to rest some demons. And definitely I wanted to share the philosophical issues at the heart of the novel and the experience of “when bad things happen to good people” so that others might make sense out of similar events in their own lives.
What was your creative
process like and what happened before you sat down to write your
have a formal creative process. I think about ideas I want to
express, just as if I’m writing a college essay for the social
sciences, or education, or business. Then I work on a rough
outline or storyboard in my head. I write the first paragraph,
and once I have that down, the rest just flows. It was the same
way writing The Siren’s Call. I have never been one to
organize a paper with note cards or detailed outlines. Keeping
a loose storyboard idea gives me a confining structure, but without
every detail planned out my characters were free to evolve and even
say things in their dialog that I didn’t expect them to say or do
things I didn’t expect them to do.
When they started going
off on tangents, I let them. It was as if I wasn’t writing at
all, but observing characters that had come alive. I guess I
would call this the “zone” when writing is easy and most
productive. The feeling is as if I am but an observer as my pen
writes down words that are somehow pulled out of the ether, bypassing
my conscious mind completely. It’s like letting myself become
a conduit for the expression of a creative force. Maybe that
sounds a bit lame, but the surprise and the occasional revelation of
new thoughts and ideas is what makes writing most enjoyable for me.
Did you share drafts of your writing with someone whose opinion you trust?
Drafts were circulated.
Are the characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional? And as a follow up, how did you go about creating the characters of Steven Perry and Kenneth (Kip) Pierson? Is there anything of you in these characters?
This is a
complicated question. The Siren’s Call is a work of fiction,
however the book is firmly grounded in real science, real places,
real phenomenon and real background events and real mythology.
For example, the scene at the Arizona Memorial is one hundred percent
accurate as it happened, without the fictional characters of Steven
Perry and Kip Pierson present.
I was in Hawaii in 1997, and the
tour of the Arizona Memorial is accurate as described in the novel,
right down to the tourists present and their behaviors, and the
Japanese man with the Internet Explorer T-Shirt videotaping his
family. Other scenes and places in the novel share that
accuracy. I actually learned how to surf outside Duke’s in
Honolulu, so the description of the process is my experience, right
down to the sunburn. However, these experiences are used quite
This goes hand-in-hand with your follow-up
question. In terms of there being anything of me in the
characters, the answer, of course, is that there has to be.
Writers write what they know and from their own experience.
Otherwise the writing loses believability and some measure of
originality. The beauty of fiction writing, for me at least, is
that the situations and characters I create gives me the freedom to
explore and express ideas and situations that I wouldn’t
necessarily have the chance to do in real life, or if I did have the
opportunity, I wouldn’t necessarily choose to do so.
What was the time-line between the time you decided to write The Siren's Call and publication? What were the major events along the way?
I started writing The Siren’s Call in the winter of 1997, so it’s been just about a fifteen year process. I have gone through three literary agents and with each agent, there was a major revision of the story. In each round of submission to various publishers, rejections were quite complimentary, but the unifying theme was that there was no clear way to market this novel, and as an unknown without a publishing track record, editors were reluctant to take a chance on it. So, last September, after my most recent contract with a literary agent expired, I took the step John Grisham did with “A Time To Kill” and pursued self-publishing.
Did you know the end of
your book at the beginning?
I knew how
I wanted to begin, and I knew what I wanted to say or express, but I
did not know how the book would end when I started writing it.
When the ending revealed itself it required significant rewriting to
set up the ending. I admit I was a bit surprised when I
realized how the book had to end. That realization evoked some
unexpected and very strong emotions.
How has your
environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I think the answer to this question is evident in the various anecdotes throughout the book. There are stories of travel when the main character was a child, when the main character’s parents were divorced, and such. Those anecdotes add a little depth to the main character, but they reflect my experience. Maybe they’re a testament to my upbringing.
Did you learn anything
from writing your book and what was it?
I think I
learned to appreciate the resilience of life. When natural
disasters devastate the earth, when personal tragedies devastate
families and individuals, somehow we cope, we survive, and we move
How can readers find out
more about you and your endeavors?
Matthew: First and foremost, readers can check out the WEBSITE for the book. News about the book, background information regarding events from the novel, and more will constantly be added. There’s a section on book signings and appearances, and links to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Interested readers can follow me on Twitter @MSUrdan. They can also join The Siren’s Call Community on Facebook. They can also leave comments or email me from links on the website and purchase books, articles and material related to The Siren’s Call from my store on Amazon.com. Autographed copies of the book are also available from my website.
Do you have anything
specific that you want to say to your readers?
Of course. I would sincerely like to thank everyone who reads this book. I greatly appreciate their time and support and hope everyone can find some enjoyment and meaning from reading this novel. But this book is not just about two characters and a tragic event in their lives. The friendship of Steven Perry and Kip Pierson is a metaphor for the relationship between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan with the auto industry. Throughout the novel, there are references to people from Detroit, events that took place in Detroit, people who have left Detroit. The auto industry gave Detroit and the State of Michigan political clout and economic might. Those days are gone. The people of Detroit are suffering tremendous economic losses. The loss of the security and prosperity once guaranteed by the auto industry to those who labored for it is in some way like the betrayal of trust that takes place in The Siren’s Call. The recent Chrysler Superbowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood illustrates Detroit’s suffering, but it also illustrates resilience. Detroit is down, but not out. And neither were Steven Perry and Kip Pierson in The Siren’s Call.
What is next for Matthew
Well, it’s an exciting time for me. Publishing my novel is the realization of a lifelong dream. I’ll be spending most of 2012 trying to find an audience for the book while at the same time completing my Master’s Degree. I have another completed novel that I might decide to dust off and work on a little bit, but before I do, there’s another story I need to tell. All I can say about it right now is that if you are familiar with Pat Conroy at all, it will be my “Prince of Tides.” That should keep me pretty busy for most of the year, but sometime I plan to do a bit of traveling and definitely I’m going to get on the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia. There’s nothing like Class V Whitewater to provide a little bit of focus and perspective.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Matthew: Thank you so much!