Matthew S. Rotundo wrote his first story, “The Elephant and the Cheese,” when he was eight years old. It was the first time he had ever filled an entire page with writing. To his young mind, that seemed like a major accomplishment. It occurred to him shortly thereafter that writing stories was what he wanted to do with his life.
Matt gravitated to science fiction, fantasy, and horror at an early age, too. He discovered Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn” in a grade school reader, and read it over and over whenever he got bored in class. (Needless to say, he read it a lot.) Other classics soon followed — Dune and Lord of the Rings and Foundation, the usual suspects. As a boy, he often pretended his bicycle was Shadowfax, and that he was Gandalf, riding like mad for Minas Tirith. Yeah, he was that kind of kid. Half the time, his family and friends didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
Matt’s story “Alan Smithee Lives in Hell” placed second in the 1997 Science Fiction Writers of Earth Contest. In 1998, he attended Odyssey. The workshop led directly to his first sale — “Black Boxes,” in Absolute Magnitude. In 2002, Matt won a Phobos Award for “Hitting the Skids in Pixeltown.” He was a 2008 winner in the Writers of the Future Contest. He has since continued to publish in various magazines and anthologies, and is the author of Petra, the first book in The Prison World Revolt series.
Matt lives in Nebraska. He has husked corn only once in his life, and has never been detasseling, so he insists he is not a hick.
Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published August 9th and August 16th, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through July of 2016.
Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?
We both attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop — I in 1998, and you in 2005. We got to know each other via an email group for alums. You graciously volunteered to read and critique an early draft of my novel Petra. (Thanks again for that, by the way). We’ve kept in touch ever since.
I’m really starting to go into denial regarding how quickly the years are passing. Tell me, since my initial beta read of Petra, can you talk about your process from that stage to the published stage it’s at now?