Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend + Q&A w/author Matthew Dicks

New Release Feature Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Plus Q&A w/ Matthew Dicks

It is my pleasure to announce that Matthew has agreed to be my featured author in June of 2013 when the General Fiction Forum reads this incredible novel together.

Debbie - Matthew Welcome to the General Fiction book club forum at B&N.com
For those of you who don’t know Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is narrated by Budo who is the imaginary friend of an autistic boy named Max.
Matthew I have to admit that the premise of this novel grabbed me, can you tell me where the idea came from and tell us a bit about the novel too.
Matthew - The idea for the book originates back in in childhood.
When I was about ten years old, I was speaking to my mother about a trip that we had made to Roger William’s Park in Providence, Rhode Island.  I was reminding her of an afternoon spent in the Japanese Gardens, and how Johnson Johnson and I played tag on the connecting islands in the middle pond.
“Matt,” she said.  “You know Johnson Johnson wasn’t real.  Right?”
“You know Johnson Johnson was your imaginary friend.  Right?”
“No,” I said, thinking my mother was crazy.  “Johnson Johnson.  The boy who lived with us for a while.”
“Matt, there was no Johnson Johnson.  He was imaginary.”
“No. Johnson Johnson.  The boy who lived with us.  Like Jessica.” 
Jessica was a foster child who had come to live with my family for about six weeks, and she was one of several children who my parents would take in from time to time when I was young.  In my mind, Johnson Johnson had been just another one of these kids.  The first of them.
But it turns out that Johnson Johnson was not real.  I had made him up.  Even with a brother and a sister, I had somehow needed someone else to keep me company, and so I invented Johnson Johnson, who my mother had always assumed was named after Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. 
I couldn’t believe it.  Years later I would watch the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a story about technology that allows people to erase unwanted sections of their lives, and I instantly understood the concept and sympathized with the characters.  In a single stroke, hundreds of memories of my childhood had been altered forever.  The boy who I thought had accompanied me to all of my early  adventures had suddenly been erased, and for weeks afterward, I would find my mind stumbling upon memories in which Johnson Johnson still existed.  Memories in need of erasing. 
I mentioned this to a fellow teacher a couple years ago, and she said it would make the basis for an excellent book. I thought she was crazy, but my agent and wife agreed, so I began writing. I have learned to always listen to my wife and agent.
What I ended up with is a story told by Budo, the imaginary friend to a boy named Max. Max is an unusual child who is operating somewhere along the autistic spectrum, and he has come to rely on his imaginary friend for many things. But Budo has his own life as well, separate from Max, in which he meets and befriends other imaginary friends, navigates the world of human persons and worries about his continued existence in the very tenuous life of an imaginary friend. When Max finds himself in great peril, only Budo can save him. In doing so, however, Budo must risk his own existence as well. It’s a story about friendship, courage, love and the power of imagination.

This is your third novel, did this release feel as exciting as the first?
Every release is thrilling, and it is my most sincere hope that they never begin to feel like old hat. I am continually stunned by the idea that something I made up in my head can take on a tangible form and ultimately end up in the hands of readers around the world. While this release is a little less nerve-wracking than the first because I know what to expect now, it is just as exciting as the first. 

What are you working on now
I have a few projects in the works. I’m in the process of finishing my next novel, and I am also working on several children’s book and a memoir. I’ve also partnered with a musician to write a rock opera that was recently picked up by a Hartford playhouse for a two week run, so we are busy getting that script into shape as well. I have many irons in the fire at the moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When you research for your novels do you do it from a desk or do you go out in the field as well.
Most of my research takes place at the dining room table, which is where I do the majority of my writing. My process is to write first and repair later, so when research is required, I tend to make an educated guess rather than stopping the flow of the story in order to ensure that my facts are correct. I would much rather get the story on the page first before worrying about what details are in need to changing.
The exception to this rule has been my memoir. In writing it, I have begun investigating aspects of my own life to ensure that memory and reality are simpatico. It’s been an interesting process. I have found myself treating my former self as an entity separate from the current version of myself, and when I question old friends, relatives and former coworkers about my past, I speak about myself as someone other than me, which has brought about a number of odd stares.

Your bio says that you’re an active teacher, a published author of not just fiction, an owner of a DJ company, a husband and father and soon to be father again –congratulations, plus more. That’s a very active schedule, how do you fit it all in
I am not picky about the way in which I get things done. I like to tell people that I write in the spaces of my life. If my daughter is taking a bath and I have fifteen minutes to myself, I will try to write six good sentences in that time. I think that people are far too precious with their time, insisting on the right atmosphere, music, or beverage in order to write or accomplish a similar goal. I write whenever I can. Having the summer free from my teaching job helps, of course, but I have not missed a day of writing in at least seven years, whether that is ten minutes with a scrap of paper or eight hours at the laptop.
It also helps that I don’t sleep much. When you can feel good after just four or five hours of sleep, you have a serious leg up on a lot of people who require more time in bed.

It also says you’re a reader but doesn’t list your genre(s) of choice, so what kind of reading to you enjoy, do you have any favorite authors.
I read from almost every genre except romance, and I may give that a try at some point. I split my reading almost evenly between fiction and nonfiction. My favorite author of all time is Kurt Vonnegut, but some of my other favorites include Bill Bryson, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Nicholson Baker, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron and (of course) William Shakespeare.

You said that you narrowly avoided dying twice by the age of 18, did these events change the way you live, the way you look at life in general, does it enter into your writing at all.
My two near-death experiences, in addition to surviving an armed robbery, have greatly dictated the way in which I live my life. Like it or not, there is not a day, and oftentimes not an hour that goes by that the thought of my mortality does not enter my mind. It is this mindset that propels me from bed before sunrise every morning wanting to make the most of my day, whether that is making time to play with my kids to working hard to teach my students, write my books, improve my golf game or grow my business. The awareness of time passing and the fragility of life are ever-present with me in a way that is difficult for most people to imagine, and for good or ill, this is the reason I manage to get so much done.
In terms of my writing, I think that Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend marks the first time that these experiences have impacted my fiction. It wasn’t planned when I began writing, but I quickly came to know Budo as a character who was just as concerned about his continued existence as I am, and for even greater reason. The lifespan of your average imaginary friend is frighteningly short, and Budo knows this. Many of the fears and anxieties over my own mortality are reflected in the way in which Budo feels about his own mortality.   

Now for something unrelated to writing, what’s at the top of your bucket list
I’ve been fortunate in knocking off a few of those things recently, including becoming involved in the live storytelling circuit in New York City, primarily through The Moth. My goal was to someday tell a story for a Moth audience, and I was fortunate enough to win on my first try. Since then I have won twice more and competed in two GrandSLAM championship events, but I have yet to win one. That remains a goal.
I’d also like to give a TED Talk someday, and publishing a children’s book has also been goal for a long time. I’d like to write something that my three year old daughter can read sometime before she is a teenager. She is decidedly unimpressed with my books so far. I’d also like to find my way to teaching writing on the college level someday, though leaving my fifth graders behind is hard to imagine. 

Matthew I know after reading your blog and website that I would love to meet you in person, do you tour with your books and do you have any specific B&N events or signings planned.
My book release will actually be taking place at the Barnes & Noble in West Hartford, CT, which is the town where I teach. They have always been great to me, and I am thrilled to be able to kick things off there. We are in the process of planning the rest of the tour, and I hope to include other Barnes & Noble stores as well.

 Matthew thank you so much for taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to answer my questions and good luck with the sale of the book. I look forward to the next one too.

I urge my readers here to check out Matthew’s wonderful website, it’s an eclectic grouping of information that is fun, interesting and educational and his piece about this release day is especially poignant and a tribute to his wife.
And here is the address of the Barnes & Noble where Matthew’s book kick off will take place
Barnes & Noble
Blue Back Square
60 Isham Road
West Hartford, CT

Here is the code to listen to a sample of the audio book http://media.us.macmillan.com/video/olmk/macmillanaudio/MemoirsOfAnImaginaryFriend.mp3

 My Review of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Matthew Dicks
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN13: 9781250006219
320 pages

Budo and Max are best friends, Max created Budo from his imagination. Budo is Max’s imaginary friend. Budo is different from other imaginary friends, he’s been alive for longer than any imaginary friend he knows and he looks more human than a lot of imaginary friends do, that’s because Max is different than most boys his age. Max lives inside himself a lot, he doesn’t like to be touched and sometimes he get’s “stuck” inside himself too, this makes him a target for bullies and the other kids don’t know how to act around him so they mostly avoid him. Imaginary friends can see other imaginary friends even though they are only visible to the friend that created them and Budo has befriended and lost many imaginary friends since he’s been alive. Budo loves Max’s mom and dad, he loves Max’s school and most of his teachers, but not all of them. Budo also hopes that since Max is different that means that he won’t “disappear” like other imaginary friends have done, maybe Max will need him forever or at least a long, long time, because the one thing that scares Budo is disappearing.

I have to admit that several things caught my attention about this novel, first the title and second the premise, so after being reeled in by those things I was totally hooked when I started reading the book.
The narrative is intelligent, witty, innocent and adult. The story is told by Budo the imaginary friend of an 8 year old suspected autistic boy named Max, we follow Max and Budo through their very interesting life and the lives of the people and imaginary friends around them, and then something happens which gives the novel a very different feel as they get caught up in a dangerous situation and how they go about getting out of it. It’s about life, it’s about death, it’s about being brave, being scared and doing the right thing even at the cost of your own survival to help those you love, it’s a journey into unknown danger and how to persevere. And if you’re anything like me by the end of the read you’ll have been dragged through the gauntlet of emotions and wish you had a friend like Budo too.
Thank you Mr. Dicks for this very impressive novel and I can’t wait until you join us for the month next June and I’m also looking forward to journey with you as I read another of your novels.

Matthew's other novels

Buy the book(s) here visit the author's website here


  1. This sounds like such a good read..lovely interview and review

  2. I finally got my review of the audiobook edition of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend written and posted and so am going around reading other reviews.
    I did see yours beforehand and linked to it, but didn't read it till today. Very interesting interview with the author too!

    1. Laurie, thanks for the view and your review was great, I'm linking it here- http://baystatera.com/2012/08/28/what-it-means-to-be-real-memoirs-of-an-imaginary-friend-by-matthew-dicks/

      You should definitely visit his website he's an eclectic personality and a great interviewer he's even agreed to be my guest author next June for my B&N forum
      I can't wait.
      thanks for stopping by