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This Is A Lesson To Us All

Matt Edwards Author Interview

Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here follows a lonely rancher on a contemplative journey that explores our idea of God and how we can become servile to that idea. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story? 

The initial spark of this story came from driving through the same Oregon High Desert that’s depicted in the novel. It’s a lonely stretch of highway. The kind where significant chunks of time can pass without seeing another car. This produces an immense loneliness. But oddly it’s sort of a euphoric loneliness, especially if you’re the kind that can appreciate the beauty that a high desert has to offer, because it makes you feel like you’re the only one alive. And, if you’re inclined to believe in god, it makes you feel closer to him/her/it. It makes you feel special.  

So, the idea of putting a character out there on the edge of the horizon sat around in my mind for quite some time. Then, as I began to read and teach authors like Kafka, Sartre, Camus, and Dostoyevsky, I became fascinated by absurdism, existentialism, and the like. The specific idea that became the driving force behind Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here is the clarification Jean-Paul Sartre provided for existentialism in a famous speech turned essay titled Existentialism Is a Humanism. It was there that he outlined that people traditionally believed that our essence precedes our existence, meaning that the idea and purpose of human beings was conceived in a creator’s mind before we were born. Existentialism posits that the order is reversed, that we exist and then it is us who determines our essence.  

I wanted to critique the traditional religious view of that debate by showing the dangers of thinking god has ordained all that you do. Historically, there has been a lot of pain caused by this idea, especially because it’s so difficult to rid yourself of once the idea takes root. I believe it to still be one of the biggest cancers in modern American culture. 

Dale Samuel is an interesting character. What were some driving ideals behind his character’s development? 

Toughness and self-sufficiency are probably Dale’s two defining characteristics. And although Dale is rather rough around the edges from the beginning, those characteristics give him a nobility that I think readers can respect. He is in some ways an ode to the kinds of hardworking, rural people that can be found in the wide-open spaces of Idaho and Oregon and, of course, the rest of “Middle America”.  

Eventually, Dale’s toughness and self-sufficiency work against him, as it does with many of us stereotypically stubborn Americans, because he thinks he can figure everything out by himself. Or, when rather humble and undecided, he tends to go with his gut instinct to break the tie. It’s through this type of thinking that I critique all of us who find the meaning in life’s events that we desire to exist. We create our own meaning but think that we’ve discovered god’s, which creates a sense of elation that few recover from.  

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book? 

Demonstrating the flaws of thinking our essence precedes our existence is the central theme, which is why the novel is told non-linearly and why there is no real inciting incident. I attempted to marry content and form by having the reader witness events in Dale’s life without knowing why they were happening. The why, or the essence, comes after the event as you piece things together. So, that theme dictated not only what the novel is about but also how I constructed it and sequenced the final product. 

Another more subtle theme, that’s also prevalent in my first novel Ways and Truths and Lives, is the idea that everyone possesses little bits of relevant truths. If we pay attention to all of Dale’s encounters, all the people he comes into contact with dispense tiny fragments of wisdom. Wisdom that could have saved Dale a lot of trouble if he wasn’t so headstrong. This is a lesson to us all, and through it I try to celebrate the idea of democracy merged with the more Eastern idea of multisided truth. 

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available? 

I have a third novel idea that is now mostly in note form, although a few practice chapters have been drafted. It will center on a priest who has lost his faith and a whole host of characters that come to him for guidance. The book, as I see it now, will center on how the church (at large, not specifically Catholicism) represses our sexuality in unhealthy ways. That project is, however, probably several years away. 

What you’ll most likely see from me first is a book of poetry, which I hope to have fairly ready after I finish my master’s in creative writing (2024). The bulk of my poetry centers on the idea that absent and/or delinquent fathers are a perfect metaphor for a god, assuming one exists, that has abandoned us (i.e., the Christian god). 

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

Dale Samuel speaks to the horizon.

Years of living and ranching in the lonely and desolate Oregon High Desert has given Dale plenty of time to think. He specifically ruminates and wrestles with the idea of whether he and his wife Janice are cursed like all of humankind, or if somehow they are different—special even. Armed with only a thimble full of theological understanding, Dale must figure out whether he indeed has a preordained essence or if he simply exists, and what the consequences of either would be.

Dale’s inevitable descent into frustration and erratic behavior illustrates the irony that so many of us are guilty of: when we try to emulate the idea of god that we’ve developed in our mind based mostly on intuition, we end up becoming servile to an idea, the results of which often ripple and reverberate in disastrous ways.

The only question is, does the horizon say anything back?

Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here

Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here is a literary fiction novel that follows the story of Dale Samuel, a lonely rancher who has isolated himself in Oregon’s High Desert. Dale’s only companion is his wife Janice and their farm animals. Isolation from the world has made Dale question the complexities of life as he often finds himself wondering how little he knows about existence. Dale talks to the horizon as if it contains all the answers that he seeks so desperately, the main one being as to whether he and his wife are just as cursed as the rest of mankind, or if they’re special. The mysteries of the universe, and his own curiosity, have a huge effect on Dale’s life as the story unfolds.

Icarus Never Flew ’round here by Matt Edwards is a thought-provoking novel that follows a contemplative protagonist on an intellectually invigorating journey. The novel slowly builds up the characters, giving you plenty of time to immerse yourself in the world. Before I knew it, I was engrossed and captivated by the character. Dale Samuel is a character that is relatable but still compelling. He is a lonely rancher who questions even the slightest details of existence, which I feel a lot of readers will be able to relate to. Readers will find themselves wondering the same things as readers realize how little they know of the universe and existence; and that philosophical meandering is intriguing. The author has written a novel that is bound to pique reader’s curiosity and leave them thinking about things long after they put the book down.

The southern accent of the characters was a nice touch and served to make the characters feel authentic and also gives readers a feel for the Oregon High Desert. Dale’s evident fascination and connection with the everlasting horizon is a beautiful aspect of the story. I really enjoyed the descriptions in this book as it painted a vivid visual of a beautiful place. Dale’s connection to nature really elevates the descriptions and makes the backdrop almost ethereal. At first, the extent of Dale’s curiosity is acceptable and seems normal for someone who is completely isolated. However, as time passes, we see that his curiosity begins to get threatening and maddening until eventually, it takes over his senses.

Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here is a reflective coming-of-age novel that explores questions about life in an impassioned and potent way. If you’re looking for a meditative novel with a unique voice, then this is a book that will keep you thinking well after you put the book down.

Pages: 160 | ASIN: B0BG8Q9JKG

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