Here is the first part of an interview conducted by Collette Scott about The Matadors series. The first interview is mainly about Veronasongs.
MEET SIMBARASHE, AUTHOR OF THE MATADORS SERIES
While working with Patti Roberts on her eBook giveaway, I dropped an email to a fellow writer and Goodreads friend, Simbarashe. During our back and forth communication, I had the pleasure to read the first two books of his series, and I have to say that he really ‘knocked my socks off’. I am proud to be able to share more about this multi-talented, beautiful writer, musician and photographer. Today we’ll talk a bit about Veronasongs.
Thank you so much for joining me this week, Simbarashe. I’d like to start with a little bit about you. Who is Simbarashe?
This is a difficult question to answer, so I’ll stick with the facts: I’m 32, I was born in California, and I’m tall. My father was an African diplomat for many years and my mother was a robotics tech. She remarried a teacher. I have spider legs for fingers. I only grow enough facial hair to shave but once a week. When I was 22 it was once every six months. I write a lot, but my writing is inspired through films and music and current events more so than other books.
When did you decide you wanted to write?
As a young person I kept refusing to write. I wanted to be a cinematographer. When I didn’t get accepted into any of the film schools I applied to I decided to pursue music after a few years. I was a guitarist in a few bands and enjoyed that immensely. But writing is hard-coded into my DNA. I would never get tired of shooting pictures or playing guitar, but I can write subconsciously. Therein lies the difference.
I understand you write full-time now. Can you tell us a little about your other writings?
I write a column for a website called Starpulse. They allot me the freedom to write whatever I want but my main gig for them is covering New York’s Tribeca Film Festival every year. Everything else I write for them is generally about music. I also am working on a project called The Musist (www.themusist.com) which will contain 100 essays about music from the past 30 years in all kinds of contextual subject matters. Did that last part make sense?
Absolutely! It’s a great thing to be able to do something that you love.
People should do what they love even if they get paid to do something
Tell me a little bit about your musical background.
I’ve been playing keyboard since I was about nine and guitar since I was fourteen. I have this uncanny ability to recall the most ridiculous bits of data pertaining to popular music in my lifetime. If it was a hit in the 80s I could tell you the year; if you want to know the record label that put out Madonna’s old albums I could tell you the imprint and its parent company. Some people think that I have a photographic memory, but it’s really just being able to preserve that information and associate it with everyday life events that have preserved many of my memories so well. If someone asked me what happened in the summer of 94, I would simply recall who had a hit that summer, and I’ll know exactly where I was then and what was going on in the world. (Brazil defeated Italy on penalty kicks in Pasadena on my 15th birthday; it was hot outside.)
Where did you come up with the idea for the Matadors series? Were you inspired?
I’d written a short story in high school back in 1996 called Christian and Donica and then turned it into a screenplay entitled Everybody Hates Donica Pine the next year before I graduated. That story is essentially Warsongs (Book 2). I didn’t have an inclination to do a series until I’d started writing Veronasongs in the spring of 2008, when I realised that I had a decent prequel to the original story. The original story was written as my way of coping with the death of a classmate. I dealt with my own depression during that time which was quite gnarly; what always astonished me though was how everyone who could help—teachers, administrators, my mother—were completely nonchalant about everything. Either that or they were thought we were bluffing. I’m convinced that kids who actually commit suicide are merely calling that bluff. It’s rather infuriating and humiliating at the same time. So does a kid lean towards feeling hopeless or insulted? For me it was the latter, and I suppose that’s why I’m still around.
You can read the entire article here: Clicky.
Posted: August 23rd, 2011
, The Matadors
Comments: No Comments
Love, Money, Drugs, Popularity.
The things that define the life of any teenager.You may have been lucky enough to experience love, have money, taste popularity . . . but what if you had it all at your disposal, everything you could ever want in world where the only thing that could get in your was your own legacy? Welcome to Verona.
Set in the late 90s during a time when New Money was in. The Neo Elite moved out to exclusive suburban neighbourhoods and set up Country clubs to keep out the inferior. New fraternities and alliances were formed. And in the local high schools, hierarchies and caste systems were established.
(or, everything you need to know minus the spoilers.)
The Matadors is the epic story of love, loss and deconstruction, made up of three volumes.
The Matadors, Part 1: Veronasongs
Fall semester, 1996.
Donica Pine views herself as a normal, average, teenage girl. She loves to write, she’s attending public school for the first time in her life, and she’s developed an innocent crush on a boy from England. The only problem is, everyone around her sees her as anything but normal. In this, her first year of high school, she’s been advanced to the junior class. Her older brother is infamous for keeping a universally loathed bunch of friends. Her mother might be having an affair with a married man. And if that’s not enough, she’s got this slight problem with being allergic to the sun.
Veronasongs examines the political structure of a community (Verona) as expressed through the actions of several people whose lives are touched by existence of this brilliant but odd fourteen-year old girl. Immediately hailed by teachers and influential students as a girl they want to mold into their likeness, Donica soon enjoys the fruits of being a local celebrity with an earnestness that’s never uprooted. But when the journal of the boy she admires turns up stolen and ends up in her possession, she discovers that the fickle nature of being a teenager can have devastating consequences.
Veronasongs is told in rich, wonderful detail. The verses flow into each other with poetry; the mythology of Verona is always present and the characters are painted against its landscape. The prose is heavy on the narrative and there is little in the way of dialogue that spills into full-on conversation.
Click here to buy Veronasongs
The Matadors, Part 2: Warsongs (Everybody Hates Donica Pine)
One week in March, 1997.
It is three months into the second semester, and everything has changed. Battle lines have been drawn. The most exclusive clique at Verona High School are engaging in increasingly dangerous war-games with the freaks. The state high school basketball tournament is well underway and Verona as a community finds itself at the center of a heated political battle over the transfer of a star player from Lakeview High—only their most bitter rival. Love triangles become messy spider webs. Drug money may or may not determine the outcome of who gets into the state championship game. And in the middle of all this, Donica Pine is about to have the worst week ever.
Warsongs is told through the eyes of the students themselves, unlike Part I. The result is a very different portrait of Verona from what is painted in Veronasongs. The teens—whether they realize it or not—are in foot soldiers in two very different social wars: the one happening within their school between the most popular and unpopular kids, and the other ensuing outside with their crosstown rival, a predominantly African-American school that has owned them in basketball the past two seasons. With Warsongs, Verona has become a fractured, vulnerable place. Yes, it’s still affluent, and yes, it is still a place where you can have anything you want, but sometimes you don’t want what you ask for. Weeks of building tension culminate with the atom bomb of tragic events.
The story of Part 2 is pushed at all times by the actions of several key characters, and since teenagers like to talk [a lot], the dialogue is more prominent. It’s also heavier in tone as to accurately present the mood of the time and place.
The Matadors, Part 3: Wintersongs
One year, August 1997 – June 1998.
Synopsis forthcoming . . .
Here’s a rundown of some of the people you’ll come to meet in Verona, segregated by affiliation (as of Veronasongs):
Hewson O’Mallery – a senior, the most popular boy at Verona High School. Originally from Devonshire, England. Dates the most popular girl in school. Possesses strong character, but soft-spokeness is sometimes mistaken for apathy.
Lauren St. Andrews – a senior, the most popular girl at Verona. Lives in a massive house in the most exclusive neighbourhood of Verona. By all accounts, Lauren runs things. A closet intellectual, she has notoriously little patience for people who can’t keep up. She’s also a closet recreational drug-user. On the plus side, Lauren is a fiercely loyal Verona supporter.
Christian O’Mallery – a junior and Hewson’s younger brother. Not shy, but very quiet, introspective. The girls’ vote for Verona’s cutest boy. Spends his alone time writing in a journal. Christian is gifted as an athlete, pianist and academic, but he’s made a career out of turning down opportunities to play on any sports team for Verona. Of all the popular students, Christian seems to be the least happy to be there. He’s never had a girlfriend, but is perpetually star-crossed with—
Sara Owen – a junior and best friend to both Lauren and Christian. Tall; the type of teenage girl who has all the tools to be a model but for lack of self-confidence can never become a model. Has feelings for Christian that are so twisted and complex she can never sort herself out about him.
Representing the Squad
Ethan Jones – a senior, captain of Verona’s basketball team (The Matadors). Position: forward. Owns the state high school record in all-time points scored. Leader of a team that has one state championship runner-up, one third place finish, no state titles. Top high school prospect known for incredible dunks. For a big-time athlete, Ethan actually studies and maintains a respectable GPA. Committed to the University of North Carolina.
Marcus Minor – a senior, co-captain of The Matadors. Position: forward. For a big-time athlete, Marcus has no problem with taking the perks. Can be seen as intimidating to those outside his circle. Committed to the University of Texas.
Trae Johnson – a senior. Position: center. Verona’s biggest, tallest student. Generally friendly, but he’s so big that it only takes a little effort to exert a lot of strength. Is called upon Crew occasionally to “take out the trash”. Still uncommitted.
Daniel Hope – a junior. Position: guard. Is chasing the state record for all-time three-pointers. Known as the team’s moral compass.
Representing the Outsiders
Sam “Monty” Pine – a senior. Known as Verona’s most mysterious student (but not necessarily as a compliment). Monty is very tall and freakishly pale. A cancer survivor who smokes. Firmly entrenched in the anarchist camp.
Angelica Houston – a senior. Known as Verona’s darkest student. Angelica is madly in love with all things gothic. Her relationship status with Monty is ambiguous.
Robbie Jacobsen – a junior. Monty’s best friend. Known as the most feared of the Outsiders for his ridiculously short fuse. Snaps with little agitation. Loves the punk culture. Is known for driving a red jeep around town.
The Free Agents
Jonathan “Jon” Hall – a senior. As popular as Jon is, he doesn’t consider himself part of Crew, and for good reason: he doesn’t walk or dress the part. Born and raised in neighbouring Lakeview, Jon became a Verona transplant just before high school. Though he has blonde hair and blue eyes, Jon grew up in the early gangster rap era and currently makes his bones dealing drugs to popular kids. He frequently returns to the predominantly black neighbourhood to visit old friends; at Verona, he commands equal respect from both Crew and the athletes, as well as the lesser cliques. The Outsiders, however, loathe Jon with a passion.
Jeanette Hargreaves – a junior. Verona’s chief humanitarian, Jeanette welcomes new students, is active in three of the school’s biggest clubs and runs the school yearbook and homecoming committees [as a junior]. Jeanette is essentially an uber-achieving nerd . . . but she’s pretty, and her love for all things Verona at least registers on Lauren, and the senior harbours high respect toward the junior (this means essentially that no one is allowed to pick on her).
Donica Pine – a (reclassified from the freshman level) junior, and set to graduate from high school after only two years. Donica is quiet, reserved, pensive. Her dark-prep fashion sense is inexplicably outstanding; she takes chances like it’s normal. Constantly wears a Nordic beanie hat to cover the sides of her face from sun exposure (of which she’s modestly allergic). Donica possesses a brilliant academic mind but is sorely lacking in the realm of the everyday evolution of relationship complexities. Like Christian, she keeps a journal.