Interview with Daniel R. Mathews, author of The Demons of Plainville

Can you tell us what your book is about?

The Demons of Plainville is a memoir that revisits the darkness of my childhood experiences.  I detail my struggles against abusive parents, bullying and homophobia while attempting to somehow discover my self-identity. It’s a memoir where I’m forced to battle the demons of anger, sorrow, loneliness and fear while learning to fight for myself and others. And perhaps more than anything, it’s a book about the power of friendship and mentors in the life of a troubled child.

Why did you write your book?

Ultimately, I wrote The Demons of Plainville with the hope that readers who had suffered similar experiences in their lives, or knew someone in a similar situation could derive some sense of solidarity and hope. But, to be honest, there is a storyteller compulsion behind the memoir. While there is no single catastrophic event that on its own merits a memoir,  there are many bizarre events, occultist ties, and real-life plot twists that read like a work of fiction. I hope for these reasons that readers will find the memoir an entertaining read, as well.

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

There are a couple of messages, but I believe the most important one for young people is that it really does get better. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy process, but as hopeless things may seem right now, life can and does get better.

However, the secondary message is that this process does not happen alone. I only survived because the right people stepped into my life and gave me a sense of hope, belonging and a reason to keep up the fight and not give up. If you know a troubled child or an adult who is struggling to recover from his or her past, there is no more powerful weapon than friendship.  

Who influenced you to write your book?

While it was a handful of friends that pushed me into penning the memoir, I have to credit my Grandfather above all. He believed that I had stories to tell and that I had been born to do this. Granted, I’m sure he never envisioned me writing a memoir, but then he knew that I had always kept my past and my feelings bottled up. About a year before he died, sensing I was unhappy with my current career, he urged me one last time to start writing. Sadly, it wouldn’t be until after he had passed that I finally took his advice. Regardless, this memoir and my subsequent novels wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for his belief in me.

Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

I think writing a memoir can be the most difficult of non-fiction books because it is inherently emotionally evocative. I experienced an outpouring of emotion with almost every major scene in the memoir, and I know I’m not alone in that experience. Now, I’ve done some non-fiction work with aviation instructional materials and found it difficult to resist over embellishing the material. Typically, non-fiction material needs to focus on the core information that you need to convey to readers while holding their attention. This can be a surprisingly difficult proposition, especially when dealing with educational materials that are dry in nature.

Which author(s) do you admire?

I’ve gone through an interesting evolution as I’ve grown up. Because my Grandfather was a bookbinder by trade, I grew up with Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charles Dickens. So they quickly became my favorite authors. As I became a teenager, my affections shifted to Tom Clancy, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. As an adult, I became infatuated with the works of J.K. Rowling and her amazing world-building abilities and H.P Lovecraft for the same reasons.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I rarely suffer from extended writer’s block and I credit my use of outlines that I develop prior to starting a major project. I think when you take the time to map out some major scenes, plot points and characters arcs in advance that the likelihood of running into a serious block diminishes. However, when I do start encountering a block, I return my focus back to improving the outline. Sometimes just some mindless plotting or playing with ideas will reignite that creative spark. If all else fails, I just step away from the computer and take a walk.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

If I said, I’d devote that extra hour to getting these questions answered that would probably be a little too much on the nose. So, instead, I’d devote that extra hour to flying. I’ve not been behind the yoke of an aircraft in some time regrettably, and there is nothing that gets the adrenaline pumping or your confidence rebuilt as commanding a small aircraft.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Far and away, my favorite holiday is Halloween. There is no other holiday that encourages you to become anyone or anything. I cannot think of a day that is more geared to the art of storytelling and imagination. There is an animatronic zombie sitting beside my desk as I type that shows my devotion to the holiday.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so I’d be inclined to say Panera Bread over Starbucks. But in reality, nothing beats a small independent bookstore with a nice little cafĂ©.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m a PC gamer, so I enjoy playing MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, and games like Skyrim and Fallout. I also enjoy heading over to Netflix or the local theater to see a movie.

Can you tell us about your family?

Well, technically I wrote an entire memoir discussing this subject. I guess I could summarize my family as having been profoundly troubled. Alcoholism, drug abuse and some degree of mental illness pervaded my immediate family back at least one generation.

What do you like the most about being an author?

There are few careers on this planet, where use of your imagination is not just encouraged, it’s required. What other job can you sit down and create other worlds for people to explore and enjoy? There is a symbiotic relationship between movie production, game development, and novels. In the end, someone has to sit down and create a world, then populate it with characters. While it is a challenging job, I believe there are few that are more gratifying than being an author.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

Whether fiction or non-fiction, I’d say first that outlines are your friend. Take the time to make at least a simple outline before you type the first word of the project. In some ways, this is even more critical for a non-fiction author that needs to keep their material properly organized and collated to properly convey the necessary information to the reader. I’d also say to be sure to fact-check your information and keep all of your sources well documented and cross-referenced if at all possible. Your credibility as a non-fiction author rests upon your ability to deliver factual information practically and informatively without resorting to hyperbole or hearsay.  

About The Book

Title: The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor's Story of Storms and Reconstruction
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 292 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710745
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction

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Book Description:

Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.

As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.

But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.

Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1: Telling The Truth

Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.

I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.

My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation

would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.

“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.

“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.

“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”

I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.

My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.

My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.

“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.

“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.

I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.

We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.

The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.

Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.

Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”

She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.

She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.

She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.

I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.

That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of

Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.

As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.

Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.

I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.

“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.

Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”

I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
began blushing.

The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”

This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.

Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.

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    About The Author

An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom. For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.   

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