Friday, December 21, 2012

Paradise Earth: Day Zero - Interview with @armathenia #newrelease

Hello everyone!

We have a very special guest with us today. The amazing Anthony Mathenia has braved the fireballs ripping through the sky outside to answer a few questions about his new release, Paradise Earth: Day Zero. I'd like to apologize to Anthony for not getting this posted earlier in the day. I was busy cowering under the bed in my aluminum foil hat with a broom in hand, waiting for E.T. to come and take me away. Okay, not really, but that's so much more fun. Anthony, our apocalypse expert, reserves the right to point and laugh at me. :) 

But seriously, I am incredibly excited to bring all of you this interview today. Paradise Earth released yesterday from Curiosity Quills Press, and it promises to be a novel so many of you will love! 
When the ground quakes and blazing balls of fire fall from the sky, a reli­gious sect inter­prets it as the ful­fill­ment of long-held prophe­cies fore­telling the end of the world. The mem­bers flee to their reli­gious sanc­tu­ary, believ­ing that this global cat­a­clysm is the por­tent of a new par­adise of eter­nal happiness.

Inside, one cold and starv­ing man strug­gles to hold onto his hope for the future. He’s sac­ri­ficed every­thing for his faith in the prophecy, includ­ing his fam­ily. As the tor­tu­ous night drags on, he strug­gles to hold onto his hope for the future and grap­ples with a life­time of beliefs, and expec­ta­tions.

If he sur­vives to see the par­adise earth, will it be worth it?

Par­adise Earth is a decon­struc­tion of faith at the end of the world and beyond.
Now that the world hasn't ended, I need a little apocalyptic goodness in my life. And if Paradise Earth can cure me of the bitter taste (as I'm certain it will!) Battlefield left in my mouth yesterday, all the better. :)

Let's see what Anthony has to say about Paradise Earth: Day Zero before we all rush off to grab our copies.

Please tell us about yourself in fifty words or less.

The amazing Anthony
Hi! I’m Anthony Mathenia, author of Happiness: How to Find It and most recently Paradise Earth: Day Zero. I’m also a travel columnist for I was raised in a cult and I apologize if I woke you up on Saturday morning to try to recruit you.

What can readers expect from Paradise Earth: Day Zero?

The story concerns a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that retreat to their Kingdom Hall, to ride out what they believe to be their long awaited world end.  Then things get messy. The story is told from the perspective of one of the congregation members.  He first approaches the horrifying situation with resolute faith, but as the tumult drags on he begins to give into doubt.  The story is also a reflection of his past when he made some serious sacrifices for his religion.  In the tortuous dark with an uncertain future, he begins to ask himself if it was all worth it.

Paradise Earth is surgery.  It’s peeling back the skin of beliefs, hopes and fears in order to peek at the blood and guts.  It’s bleak and morbid, but not without a heart inside.  It’s some serious soul searching but without religious baggage.

What's the story behind the story? Where did the idea for Paradise Earth come from?

I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but labeled as an apostate and kicked out when I was an adult.  It’s a pretty high-control religion (I don’t begrudge those who say ‘cult’) and there is no easy way to say, “this isn’t working for me anymore.”  So when I was kicked out it was pretty messy and I lost my family and friends in the process.  In the aftermath, I was kind of in this introspective limbo, staring at something I believed with all of my heart for decades.  One of those beliefs was that one day God was going to kill everybody on Earth, except for us Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The survivors would then live happily ever after on a paradise earth.

Which brings me to 2010, when I picked up a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories called Armageddon in Retrospect.  It contained a short story called The Bombing of Dresden, which was a sort of template for what would later become Slaughterhouse 5.  In that story Vonnegut goes into the gory details of what it was like to live through a firebombing that destroyed a city and having to clean up the dead.  As I read that I couldn’t help but to juxtapose that against my former beliefs.  I had this incredibly visceral image of Jehovah’s Witness survivors coming out of Armageddon only to be faced with mountains of the bodies of relatives, neighbors, workmates, etc.  How does a person face that?  How is that a paradise?  What happens when the carrot on the end of the stick turns out to be poison?  Those were the questions that I started with.

What's been the single most empowering piece of advice you've gotten when it comes to writing?

Do it every day.  It’s the same piece of advice you get when you say, I want to be a skilled piano player, or a good bowler, or master pickpocket.  A good starter goal is to write 500 words a day.  All of that writing won’t be genius, but you have to give yourself to the art, before the art gives back to you.

What's been your most challenging writing moment to date?

Probably writing Happiness: How to Find It.  I started writing that after I had finished the first draft of Paradise Earth. I wanted to approach the work with a sober and positive state of mind.  In some ways it was more difficult than writing from a position of despair. The response to the story has been positive.

What's the worst thing you've ever written? The best?

I have an unpublished manuscript called With Fingers and Other Instruments.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to publish it because it reads like a sick love letter to anorexia nervosa.  So “worst” in terms of subject matter, but “best” in terms of writing.  It’s the manuscript I’ll probably keep perfecting until I die.  Then my heirs can decide if they want to publish it or bury it with me.

Do you share any traits or characteristics with your characters?

Yes, but only the good qualities.  Just kidding.   So while I’m not religious, I am a strong believer in the power of love.  I hope that comes across in the writing.  I also have an affinity for the idea that we can transcend horrible situations.  So even though my writing can skew very dark at times, there is optimism for better days that I’m drawn to.  In Paradise Earth one of the themes that I’m dealing with is the concept of personal rebirth and the discovery of identity.  That dovetails with my own experiences of leaving a religion that required oppressive conformity.

I noticed that you and Matt Maniscalo used the Watchtower for inspiration when collaborating on the cover for Paradise Earth. Why the Watchtower specifically?

Because the story centers around one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wanted to use some iconic images from their literature for the cover art.  The image for the first volume Day Zero is a pretty spot on depiction of the end of the world through their eschatological lens.  In fact you could take that cover art and put in a Watchtower magazine and no Jehovah’s Witness will blink an eye.  For the cover art for the next two volumes we are going move away somewhat in a way that will mirror the story arc and a pretty profound theology shift.  It’s another way to comment on the horrors of that particular worldview.

What does a perfect day entail for you?

Hanging out at the Rose & Crown Pub at Epcot in Florida drinking a Hendrick’s gin and tonic, while singing drunken Irish bar songs with Japanese girls.  I could live in that day forever. 

In high school you were most likely to ….

… get in trouble for writing.  In high school I started a rebellious underground newspaper called The Subterrestrial.  It gave me an outlet for creative expression and general teen angst, though it didn’t always endear me to the faculty. 

You're stuck on an island... what 3 books would you kill to have with you?

I’m going to lose some serious writer cred here by admitting I don’t really read a lot.  There are two novels that I do read every year: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson and The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls-Wilder.  So definitely those two. The Bible would probably be my third choice. It contains some pretty profoundly inspirational things.  A lot of what Jesus says is open ended, without easy answers.  A person could probably contemplate on that for the rest of their lives.

Apocalypse tales seem to be a staple for many world religions. Which is your favorite end-times tale?

I’m happy to go on record and say that it isn’t Left Behind.  I really like the ancient end-times tales because they always had an idea of rebirth.  The world was not ending so much that it was transforming.  There is an element of creation as much as destruction. The deluge would be a good example of this.   In Paradise Earth this is a theme I’m also working with. 

I think there are a couple reasons why these tales are universal.  I believe that in our collective past we have experienced “end times” and that trauma has left a psychological scar. These tales also appeal to the notion of being able to leave our current life behind with all of its burdens and just get back to what really matters. We know in many ways it would be a harder life, but there is this niggling notion that it might be a better one – so long as there aren’t any zombies to worry about.
Where else can we find you?

On Sunday afternoons I’m generally writing at Global Brew in Edwardsville, IL.  Stop by; I’ll buy you a beer.  If you aren’t in the area, you can find me at my website (, twitter (@armathenia) and facebook (
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I am officially fascinated with Paradise Earth, and I hope the rest of you are equally as intrigued. You can purchase Paradise Earth via Amazon now. And be sure to follow Anthony via the links above as he and Paradise Earth continue their blog tour in the coming weeks! 
Anthony, thanks so much for stopping by to chat today!  


Fade - The Ragnarok Prophesies: Book One - On Sale at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

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