This month I’m happy to have Michael Matassa for an interview. I reviewed his book The Well House here. We had an interesting discussion regarding his book and I decided to turn it into an interview! Many thanks to M.S. Matassa for agreeing to participate.
- First, tell us a little about yourself.
I am an attorney, municipal court judge and now an author. I am 68 years old and live in Arvada Colorado. I was married for 42 years. Unfortunately my Wife died last October of an unexpected heart attack at age 68. I have 5 children and 7 grandchildren. I first saw the real well house in 1994 on Hwy 85 south of Brighton Colorado and I had this idea that it would be interesting if I went inside the well house and it was a huge room even though it was a 6×5 structure on the outside. The story developed over the years in my mind and on paper into what it is today. It didn’t take 20 years to write but sat around for a long time. I finally got more serious in the last few years and decided to finish it. This is really a personal story with many elements from my life interspersed throughout so I was rather apprehensive about letting the world see what I had written. But in 2013 my Wife and I discussed that I should publish now or I never would. Once she passed I decided that I had to publish and take a chance as we had decided.
- What was your inspiration for the religious aspects of the book?
The book definitely has religious overtones but it is not a religious book. I tried to write the book to appeal to a wide spectrum of readers even if they did not hold religious views. I was raised a Catholic and this story is about parts of my life as portrayed by Ben, so it has to have the religious elements. When I wrote this book I basically put in 5 themes. #1: This is just an interesting fantasy adventure which I think takes the reader on an interesting and unpredictable ride. #2: This is the story of one man’s search for redemption. #3: This is a love story. #4: This has a specific parable which mirrors a parable from the Bible. #5: This has a parable which runs through the entire story where each character represents a spiritual or religious entity. What I wanted to write was an interesting story with memorable characters and a satisfying end. I have found that different readers are finding other themes I didn’t specifically put in the book.
- Can you explain Anne’s dream therapy a little further?
As far as Anne’s occupation and the effect of dreams on a person’s life, I made this up after doing some dream research. Whether not finishing a dream properly can fracture your soul and put you into a coma, there is no scientific or real world proof of that. I guess you just have to take a leap of faith and say, “oh well, I guess it happened in this book.” My theory is that most people awake from their dreams before facing their fear. If you can finish the dream safely you can overcome the fear. What happens if something goes wrong and you don’t finish it safely? No one knows. The book sets forth one possibility. It’s up to each individual reader if it makes sense.
- What’s the status of Anne’s and Ben’s relationship?
Anne and Ben have a great relationship but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t things lacking in the relationship. For example, Anne’s relationship to Ben’s family and especially Ben’s father created a real wedge between true intimacy and closeness of the couple. Anne never felt Ben supported her against his father’s attacks and of course Ben was defensive because it was his father. I know all about this type of relationship because my wife always had trouble with my parents and I never fully understood why, so there was a wedge in our relationship. In the book, there is a chapter which sets forth a conversation between Ben and Anne which is a turning point in their relationship. After that, their relationship became closer. My wife and I had almost this identical discussion about 32 years into our marriage. After the discussion with my wife, our last 10 years together were much closer. I felt it was necessary to show how the relationship strengthened over time which led to Ben’s resolve. As to whether I could have developed the love story more, the answer is yes. However, I think I just ran out of the time and the desire to add more to the story. You have to realize Anne was in a coma for most of the book. I will try to develop the relationship more in the 2nd and 3rd books. Also remember that Anne was pregnant and this had a great influence on Ben and Taylor’s resolve to save Anne.
- I noticed that there was a theme of racial prejudice in Claude Moran’s past. Is there a story behind that?
As far as the racism aspect, I specifically wanted the reader to understand that Claude came from a racially prejudiced time and that he had persevered as a strong black man who had struggled all his life and now had been chosen to do great things in the battle against evil. He learned how to survive the rough times but it never broke his spirit. This character is based on a black cook named George McGowan “Buster” who worked in my dad’s restaurant in McKinney, Texas in the 1950’s. My dad trusted him so much that he left Bus in charge to run the business when we moved to Albuquerque in 1957. He was a great man who made a lasting impression on me. I also told Claude’s back story because I needed the story of what happened to Claude when he was young to set the trap in the cornfield by the creatures who disguised one of the creatures as the little girl from Claude’s past. I brought up racism aspect to show who Claude is, where Claude came from and what created his strong spirit. Claude learns in the book that he has been chosen to do an important job in the battle of good and evil and he accepts the challenge with great courage.
6. What are Ben’s other motivations, besides saving his wife?
This was his story of redemption. This whole book dealt with Ben never feeling good enough about himself and feeling like God punished him for calling the host “a son of a bitch” when he was 7. Ben felt like Reggie had been taken from him when he was 11 by God as a punishment. This set up Lucifer’s temptation at the end. I believe that everyone has someone they lost that they would give anything to get back. This is where the story is very personal for me because my little brother died when I was 11 and he was 3 months 18 days. In the story Ben gets stronger as the story progresses and basically he is seeking redemption for his perceived past failings. The book explores what temptations could cause a person to give up his morals and goals.
- The ending battle with Satan/Lucifer wasn’t much of a fight scene. Why is that?
I agree with you that the battle wasn’t much of a fight scene. That is the whole point of the book. Lucifer/Satan has no power over you or me except what we give him. He can be defeated very easily but most of us can’t or won’t say no to temptation. Lucifer uses deception and lies to make good people do evil things, to create chaos and to hurt other people. Lucifer can’t kill us or physically force us to do anything. We give in to his temptations and we do the evil ourselves. Lucifer will suggest to a person that by doing something evil, we are actually doing good. (Such as killing others for religious purposes or the Christian crusades or killing people because they are thought to be witches.) So my whole point in the book is evil is easy to defeat in theory. Just say no to the temptation. However as we all know it is hard to accomplish in reality because of the ability of evil to deceive us. I think a bigger battle scene just didn’t make sense based on how I view evil. The real battle was in Ben’s ability to resist temptation and reject Lucifer’s offers. If everyone rejected evil’s temptation, evil would have no power in this world. I also called Lucifer by his real name. He is an archangel, not a demon or devil. Just a twisted one.
8. What are your thoughts on writing a sequel?
As you rightly pointed out, evil can never be defeated so any sequel has to aim for something else. The characters who will play an important role in the next two books are Molly, Taylor, Anne and Ben plus some new friends. Of course Jack St. Louis will be back with revenge on his mind. And Thelma and Penelope will be involved somehow. The next book will take place more in this world since the well house is not only portal to the underworld but allows Lucifer to enter the real world as a human for the first time. The new book will deal with Lucifer wanting revenge for Ben freeing the souls so he comes through the well house into this world. He is accompanied by the same black, scaly creatures of the first book who can change into human form and cause all sorts of problems for the characters. There will be battles, temptations, failures and hopefully a final resolution for Ben and his family, although evil still always lurks in the shadows. I am writing books 2 and 3 as one story so it is consistent. I am not sure where the story will end up but it won’t be a rehash of the first book. I think my preliminary ideas are pretty exciting. One thing I am asking my readers to do is let me know what they would like to see happen in the continuing story. I’m getting some interesting ideas.
Thanks so much for the interview!
Be sure to check out my review of The Well House.