The History of How Civilization Ended

Dave Matthes Author Interview
Dave Matthes Author Interview

Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a western, action, and science fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

-“Blackheart Mountain” is actually a prequel to a novella I wrote last year, titled “Mercy”, which was only supposed to be a one-shot story. “Mercy” was so well received that it got me thinking about writing more for the character of Mahoney. While writing “Mercy”, it started off as simply another run of the mill post-apocalypse story that I began writing out of trying something new, since I don’t really dabble too much in either genres of westerns, science fiction, or post-apocalypseness, but as with everything I write, and I’m sure as it happens with a lot of writers, the story and the subject nature just kind of evolve on its own. About halfway through finishing the first draft of “Blackheart Mountain”, I came up with a story for a third book, to take place after “Mercy”, and just before finishing “Blackheart Mountain”, I came up with an idea for another story for Mahoney. So there will most likely be four books total for Mahoney and the world he lives in.

I understand that you have an educational background in computer engineering, automotive science and criminal justice. Has your familiarity with these subjects helped you write your books?

Actually not at all. There isn’t a shred of my formal educational background that I can say helped with my writing career. I can say that many people I met in college influenced some of the characters I’ve written about, but that’s where it ends. Most of my research for the stories I write is done on my personal time.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?

There was a lot of time and research put into Native American history, Manifestation Destiny, and the historical figures having lived during that time period. In regards to the history and the foundation of the book “Blackheart Mountain” itself, I purposely didn’t go terribly in depth with the history of how the world “fell” in my book, because how the world ended is really not what the story is about, and it would just seem like unecessary info to detract from what was going on in the story. I wanted it to remain a mystery, something for the reader to wonder about while they’re reading, as it is literally said in the beginning that the populace largely doesn’t bother itself with the history of how civilization ended so much as it does with maintaining the will and the means to survive, because they can’t find a relation to the two concepts. The going philosophy in this world is that the ability to survive has no reliance on an understanding of how humanity got to where it currently is(and in a way, that kind of mirrors today’s world). With forming the image and the history of the Tuskatawa, a tribe of survivors claiming to be the direct, albeit long and far-off ancestors of the native americans who were massacred long ago and far away, I wanted to make sure their culture was as concrete and concise as possible, from their funeral processions and how they handled their dead to their food recipes, their stance on violence, and exceptions to their own Law. In the end, I took from the behaviorisms and cultures of several different tribes, combining them into one, as at the heart of the Tuskatawa is their combined bloodlines of every tribe to have existed in the past. I picked up a half dozen books on the history of native americans and spent a decent amount of time reading just to familiarize myself with where the Tuskatawa “came from”. The title “Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain” is actually a spin on “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”. Being that this takes place two decades before “Mercy”, the only real challenge I had was making sure nothing spoken about in “Mercy” contradicted the events that are taking place in this new novel, particularly with the main characters Rancid Mahoney and Til Drange. I’ll have the same task when writing the next book in the series.

While editing writers often have to remove things they want to keep in but just can’t for various reasons. What was the hardest scene for you to cut from this book?

I actually didn’t cut anything, but rather added a few scenes and expansions to dialogue to flesh out the character development of Mahoney a little better. Very rarely will I ever cut out material while editing, unless it’s just that awful, or during the course of writing I decided to change something about a character later on in the story that would have to be supported by something that happened earlier on. Most of the time, the first draft ends up being a pretty bland, almost point for point blueprint, more than an actual cohesive story. I use the editing phase to sort of “fill in the blanks”, and oftentimes it feels as if the first draft I wrote is a movie or a book someone else created that I’m changing to make better in my eyes.

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“When the world ended, people eventually regained their footing, but that was a long time ago. We have come so far since then. We still have so much farther to go…”
Two decades before the bloodstained events of the novella “MERCY”, Rancid Mahoney is commissioned by Gunther Ostrander: purveyor of opportunity and Head Prospector of New Canterton, a mining settlement located in what was once, but long forgotten as, the heart of the American Northwest. Mahoney is tasked with scouring the land in an attempt to locate Blackheart Mountain: the source of “Blackvein”, the heavily romanticized miracle mineral rumored to be able to enhance the human body’s ability to heal, effectively defeating death itself. But time and time again, Mahoney returns empty handed to his reluctant employer.
On the heels of setting out on yet another venture to locate the Mountain, Ostrander orders Mahoney to first escort the prisoner Til Drange to the settlement of Vermouth not far to the north, so that he may face judgment for crimes committed against the eccentric Mayor Henry Kenroy. On the way to Vermouth, the two are interrupted by scouts of the Tuskatawa Tribe, an assemblage of people who believe the cataclysmic event which put an end to civilization long ago was a sign for their people that it is now the time to take back the land that was once theirs in the name of their native ancestors. To make matters worse, Mancino Rolandraz, the deranged leader of the savage Crimson Collar gang, is on his own quest for vengeance under the guise of what he believes to be the only purpose worth fighting for. Spearheading his campaign for “justice” is an obsessive hunger to kill Til Drange, and anyone else who gets in his way.
It swiftly comes to the realization of Mahoney that a new war is not only about to break out, but is impossible to prevent, one which he must decide whether or not to take part in, and if he does, which side to fight for.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on September 6, 2020, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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