On Writing: Matty Dalrymple's Rock Paper Scissors

After writing two novels in the Ann Kinnear Suspense series, Matty Dalrymple has just written a paranormal thriller called Rock Paper Scissors. Kirkus Review noted, "Dalrymple has written a fast-paced, complex thriller that can keep a reader engaged and off-kilter until its foreboding conclusion." The new novel was published on March 3 and Matty is holding a launch party at Kildare's in West Chester, PA on Friday, March 3rd, 2017 at 5pm.

Jim: What was your inspiration for writing Rock Paper Scissors?

Matty: I've always been fascinated with the idea of how someone who has an extraordinary ability deals with that in the context of the ordinary world. In the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels, The Sense of Death and The Sense of Reckoning, that extraordinary ability is the ability to sense spirits. What would it be like to be on a dinner date and have the spirit of a dead person hovering over your date's shoulder? What if other people learned about your ability and thought you were crazy or a liar, or, maybe more difficult, wanted you to be able to connect them with a dead person in a way that was beyond your ability? I get a lot of reviews of the Ann Kinnear novels along the lines of, "I usually don't like paranormal novels, but I really liked this one," because the story isn't really about Ann's spirit-sensing skill--it's about how that affects Ann's life.

I pursued that same theme in Rock Paper Scissors. Lizzy Ballard is a little girl, and later a young woman, who has the ability to cause strokes in other people when she's angry. That ability has tragic consequences, and the story is in part about how she deals with those consequences. That ability is also of interest to people who want to turn it to their own nefarious ends, so that's where the "thriller" part of the story comes in.

Jim: How was writing this thriller different than writing your mystery series? 

Matty: I always like to alert readers that the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels are not mysteries in the "whodunit" sense. In The Sense of Death, you know right away who committed the crime and the story is focused on why he did it and whether he will get away with it--and how Ann's ability leads her to become involved, unknowingly, with a killer. In The Sense of Reckoning, the story is about whether Ann will be able to avert a crime whose nature is implied but not made explicit until the very end.

I bill Rock Paper Scissors as a "thriller" because it is a little more action-oriented than the Ann Kinnear novels, but all of them include aspects of psychological suspense, and deal with people's influences and motivations.

Jim: This blurb caught my attention. "Not since Carrie have we seen a character excite such fear in those forced to learn her terrible secret the hard way." Robert Blake Whitehill, Award-winning screenwriter and author of The Ben Blackshaw Series. Being compared to Stephen King is high praise. My question is this - Is Rock Paper Scissors as gory as Carrie? 

Matty: Of course, I love any comparison to Stephen King, but Rock Paper Scissors is NOT the gore-fest that Carrie is. One way in which Rock Paper Scissors differs from Carrie is that Carrie is a story of extremes--Carrie's mother is abusive, her fellow students are unusually cruel, and the trick they play on Carrie that triggers the final showdown is particularly hateful.

I feel that Rock Paper Scissors is a bit more subtle--the "good guys" are doing their best, even if their best efforts sometimes bring about undesired consequences, and even the "bad guys'" motivations are, I hope, understandable even if the reader can't condone them. The Stephen King novels I love most are the more recent ones, like 11/22/63, where he has toned down the gore and violence and focused on the plot and the characters. I believe Rock Paper Scissors will appeal to that same audience.

Jim: People also should know you host a writing podcast where you discuss the craft of writing and publishing. (Thanks for having me as a guest!) Who will you be interviewing in upcoming episodes? 

Matty: Yes, that's The Indy Author Podcast, and it's available on iTunes and Stitcher. In the next episode I'll be talking with Brandywine Valley Writers Group member Tony Conaway about the craft and business of short stories--what skills does a short story writer need that might differ from those a novel writer needs, and what are the available outlets for short stories? Some of my past episodes have been on screenwriting, with Robert Blake Whitehill; publishing image-intensive books, with Andy Schön; and creativity and motivation, with Alexandra Amor. And, of course, you and I got to talk about how Story Slam came about, and the importance of storytelling in fiction!

Jim: You have a book launch at Kildare's on Friday, March 3rd. Any other book events coming up?

Matty: Because all my books, and especially The Sense of Death and Rock Paper Scissors are set in the Philadelphia area, I'm focusing on local events On April 1, I’ll be at Wellington Square Books in Exton from 10am-12pm signing copies of my books. On April 9, I will be appearing with three other thriller authors—R. G. Belsky, Jane Gorman, and Scott Pruden—at Kennett Square Brewing Company, where they will be pairing our books with one of their beers and a local cheese. On April 30, I'll be appearing at the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. And on June10, I'll be on an author panel at my alma mater, Dickinson College. If people would like to be informed of events, I recommend they sign up for my email newsletter at mattydalrymple.com, or follow me on Facebook.

Jim: Good luck with your book launch and thanks for answering my questions.

Matty: Thanks Jim!

Check out Matty's books on Amazon or learn more about Matty's writing and podcast at mattydalrymple.com.