America's greatest magic school, located on a secret island in New York Harbor, and is pleased to tell stories about its people in the five-book series School of the Ages, which will be published between 2010 and 2015. As the child of classically trained musicians, Matt is a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York's premier avant-garde multimedia club band.
Matt teaches high school English, with a fondness for special education students, as well as SAT preparation. His interests include magic and the paranormal, literature, movies,
history and culture, visual arts, world music, religion, photography, and professional wrestling history.
Click on the image to learn more about Matt.
Sara Ghost FAQ with Matt Posner
Dr. Gousseva's class.)
Q. How did this story come about?
A. I read an article called "Darkness Too Visible" from the Wall Street Journal. Written by their children's book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon, the article severely critiqued a trend toward dark themes in contemporary YA fiction. Novels by such authors as Jackie Morse Kessler, Andrew Smith, and Cheryl Rainfield were heavily criticized for dealing with themes of teenage hopelessness, extreme violence, and self-mutilation. I was inclined to agree with Gurdon that this content might be distasteful as presented, and I started to read the comments to see how it could be prevented. I saw claims that one
particular plot element, cutting, is incredibly widespread among American teens.
"What?" said I. "No one does that at the school where I work."
Asking around, I found that cutting does go on at my school, and realized I was wrong to disregard it. Only one thing to do after that: write about it myself.
How on earth could cutting fit with School of the Ages, though? Apprentice magicians have too many other options for dealing with their feelings, and no one in my core cast could become a cutter without a radical change of personality.
Hey, Simon, like, I was all mad and I tried to cut myself, but I missed
my own arm and cut Balaram instead.
I'm really kicking your ass for that later, yaar.
My boyfriend is such a dumbass, yo.
No, not happening. So I decided that my core cast would have to
help a non-magician who was a cutter. That's how Sara was
Q. How did you come up with the character of Sara?
A. I sat down in the bathtub with my notebook to start drafting
and Sara pushed her way to the surface. All the decisions were the result of
unplanned creative flow. I like mixed-race characters and I take advantage of
what I know about Indian culture to make my stories distinctive. Those are the
likely reasons that this particular character manifested from my subconscious.
As for her particular psychological condition, even though my upbringing was
totally different, I think I find common ground with her. Anyone can feel
isolated, and I certainly have, often, and those feelings are not different just
because their roots are different. And I've never cut myself, but I do
understand the origins and details of self-destructive
Q. What makes Sara's voice distinctive? (for Dr. Gousseva's
When I was at Florida State, majoring in creative writing, Prof. Bonnie Braendlin (now retired) told me that I was erring in my way of writing about teenagers because I was unironic. I told teenage stories as if the teenagers had a clear perspective, and she felt that teenagers always have to be shown to be in error and always have to have a learning experience about growing up. I was angry with Bonnie for saying it, but of course I understand now. The story "A&P" by John Updike is an example of the kind of story she was thinking of. You read and you see that the teen does not fully understand herself.
Some successful teen fiction, such as the Hunger Games series, is un-ironic, and the teenagers are righteous. However, I like the idea of showing a teen who is learning as the audience watches.
Sara embodies a contradiction. She is self-destructive, but full
of vitality at the same time, as Dr. Chatterjee tells her in an earlier scene.
The self-destructiveness is part of her spirit trying to force her to make a
change. Late in the story, she is able to channel that vitality to fight back
against her oppressors, and to make some important realizations about the people
in her life.
Sara's voice reflects the opposing forces within her, as she repeats her negatives like a tape recording at the same time that she moves toward a positive alternative view of herself and her life. Any teenager will feel, as I did in my teenage years, a certain amount of self-doubt and identity crisis, and such a reader will see, through an awareness of Sara's negativity, how unnecessary that negativity is.
Q. How is "Sara Ghost" different from other School of the Ages fiction?
A. It's written in present tense. This is the first time I've ever written in present tense. I was trying to channel Hunger Games.
Q. Why did you choose the particular School of the Ages characters you
A. I was having difficulty writing my protagonist Simon and had barely touched him for a year. I had lost my ability to write his voice, perhaps because I had raised the stakes so much in his life for the fourth book and because the book was about how he felt he had been found wanting after the previous book in the series. That was a difficult place for me to be in, not liking my protagonist. I felt I needed to try to get back in touch with him so that I could go on to finish that fourth book. However, you can see if you read the entirety of Sara Ghost that Simon is a bit player, acting mainly behind the scenes, except for a crucial moment at the end. Instead, I used my series heroine, Goldberry. She is a natural for a story like this, since she appears to be the exact opposite of Sara (elegant vs. sloppy, outgoing vs. misanthropic, confident vs. self-loathing), and bonding between them would not be easy.
Q. What kind of reactions have you had to Sara Ghost?
A. I think people have been unwilling to read it because of the subject matter. That's probably not the only reason, but the issue of teen girls cutting themselves make strike many as unpleasant, for the same reasons that Gurdon's article pointed out. I didn't help things with my original promotional copy at Amazon which excerpted one of Sara's dark fantasies about self-mutilation. I thought the power of the sample would draw in readers, but it may have made them think I am mentally ill. (Pause for obviously phony
One reader did share with me, though, that she was related to a cutter and that my representation was not incompatible with what their family had gone through. That meant a lot to me.