Category: Spotlight On

AlisonBec: A number of important themes run through Refuge: (friendship, loyalty, and self-discovery to name a few). What is the most important thing you’d like your readers to come away with, after having read this book?

A V Mather: If Refuge could be considered a cautionary tale, in the tradition of the original fairy tales, then the Doctor is the witch in the gingerbread house. I wrote the character as an example of how easy it is to be taken in and controlled by someone, when you are lost and desperate. I guess one message is: if a much older stranger seems to be completely captivated by you, if they agree with you and understand you better than anyone else, be very suspicious. They may be leading you somewhere dangerous and some people never come back from those experiences. Even if they are not physically harmed, they can remain trapped there emotionally, just like the children in Refuge.

The story is also about finding your own strength and your own character, regardless of what other people are doing or saying. That is a very difficult thing to do, to back yourself, particularly when you are young and feel you have no real power. Nell discovers that she does have worth, beyond the needs and desires of the people around her, and this gives her the courage to forge her own path.

Bec: Refuge contains some incredible world-building. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you draw maps for yourself, for instance?

A V Mather: I do a bit, but they’re mostly just scrawls to orient things in my head.
The world-building is at the centre of the process for me, and I tend to be very indulgent about it. I am that person who notices everything and I have a tremendous curiosity about my environment. I had to cut reams from my first drafts of Refuge because there was far too much description of the world Nell was seeing.

Most of my process stems from an original point of view and then grows outwards. For example, I see it from Nell’s perspective first, experiencing it as she would, and then pull back to the bigger picture. That first impression is very important to me and I find that if I do it the other way around, I tend to lose that original sense of wonder or intimacy. I begin with my imagining of the place — the look, feel, smell — and then follow that up with research. This is mainly if the place or object is based in historical reality, if it’s drawn from a subject that I know little about, or just to feed the imagination with examples.

Bec: The characters in Refuge are so vivid and distinctive that they virtually leap off the page. Can you tell us a bit about the process you went through creating your central characters and their relationships?

Mather-Refuge Official CoverA V Mather: I began writing the story around the characters of Doctor Nathanial Fray and Gideon. Although it might not seem like it to the reader, the story very much grew from the Doctor, rather than from Nell, so I devoted a lot of my time to him in the beginning. I knew that he had to be a psychiatrist and not from the modern era, so I did a great deal of research on the development of psychiatry through the ages. I wanted him to be experimental and tragic and I’ve always been horrified and fascinated by Bedlam, so seemed the ideal place to start.

It’s very important for characters to have their own, authentic voice. This was a challenge in Refuge because so many of them belong to different eras, as well as nationalities. There was a constant danger of slipping into the wrong mode of speech. Keeping them all distinct from each other while having the same conversation proved difficult, particularly when I was racing to keep up with what they were saying in my head. I found it necessary to keep a vocabulary profile for each character, that I could refer to when writing their dialogue.

All the Australian characters have grown from my own experience, but all of the others were researched. The Doctor is from early-mid 1700’s in London, Gideon is an English ‘wharf rat’ from later in the century, Fox is one of the ‘Bright Young Things’ from the early 1920’s, Deuce is from the Deep South in the ‘50’s and Janus is from Queensland in the mid ‘70’s. Mixed in with that are characters like Mary Wentworth, who is from the Doctor’s time but a different social class, and the twins, who originate from Paris in the early 30’s.

The real trick was to make all of that authentic but not alienating. I constantly had to keep my audience in mind when writing the interactions between characters, to make sure that they would be able to follow it.

As for creating the relationships, I think all of them are based on real-life scenarios, if not as true accounts, then at least symbolically. Gideon’s need to confront the father who bullied him, and his need to bully others in turn, is probably the most obvious example of an eternal allegory or trope. You can see examples of it every day in the news, the workplace, or the school playground.
I strove to portray a variety of relationships and show that they don’t have to be perfect, or even particularly wonderful, to be valuable. For example, Nell’s relationships with her grandfather, her aunt and Grace are pretty uncomfortable at times, but they’re worth more than a thousand fake friendships with the likes of Tabby Crane.

Bec: Which of your characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

A V Mather: My first reaction is to say the Doctor, although of course I like them all. The Doctor is really the character that the whole story revolves around and without him there would be no Refuge. The first thing I wrote of Refuge was one of his interactions with Gideon and it grew from there, so they are both close to my heart. Perhaps it’s strange, beginning a story by writing the villains but they are so interesting.

The Doctor is brilliant, charming, perceptive and ruthless. A man ahead of his time, crushed by tragedy, who has been given the opportunity to rewrite history — a dangerous combination. He is a master of manipulation and operating on a completely different playing field to everyone else. He represents what happens when intelligence and sensitivity become warped by ambition, guilt and obsession. I very much enjoyed developing his character. One of my early readers said that he reminded them of a spider, sitting in the centre of its web and I like that analogy.
And just quickly, I also love Fox. I would love to be that confident and unflappable.


I was born an only child in a remote gold mining town in Canada. My family moved to Australia when I was very young and I grew up on stories of eccentric characters in wild places; of exciting rescues, bears that destroyed helicopters and the silence of wolves.

My life since has continued to take a few eccentric turns of its own, from studying Visual Arts in Northern NSW, to set painting on a TV series, to teaching art at a boy’s boarding school in Central QLD. Through it all, my love of stories — telling, watching, reading and hearing them — grew stronger and eventually I answered the compulsion to write.

I enjoy reading widely across genres and am also interested in art, nature, satire, history, photography, popular culture, psychology, road trips and good stories – real and imagined.

I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband and a constant sense of foreboding.


Refuge is available now on Amazon for Kindle:



To what do you attribute the resurgence in retro-style games?

I believe the resurgence of retro-style games is coming from the gamers who grew up playing games, and wanting to make their own. I had classics when I was little, like Commander Keen and Chrono Trigger, which I must have finished twenty times or more over the years! There’s a strong nostalgia with those games, that brings you straight back to the feelings you felt when playing those old games you loved.

The first Beta version was publicly previewed at a games showcase. How nerve-wracking is that experience & how much testing and feedback preceded the release?

Presenting a new game is always nerve inducing, but we had fantastic responses at the first public showcase. If you have confidence that your game is fun to play, that helps a great deal!

What was your model in the creation of the ‘down scrolling’ retro style?

When the idea came to me, it brought up images of a fast, free flowing and tricky game play style, and I just wanted to play that! I’m not sure that there’s any particular game that inspired it, there’s plenty of vertical climbing games and side scrollers, but not so many falling games.

I’m a huge fan of American McGee’s ‘Alice: Madness Returns’ & the story that accompanies the game play. How difficult is it to incorporate a narrative into a gaming environment?

Bringing in a strong narrative to the game was very important to me. One of the aspects that made me fall head over heels in love with games was the way you could sink into another world and experience the story unfolding. But yes, you do need to approach story telling in games in a different way to how you’d approach a short story or film.

I know many indie developers just go the easy route of using a stereotypical story or not having a story at all due to time or budget reasons, but if you think creatively, there’s always a way.

Freedom Fall has been created for multiple platforms. Which are users predominantly downloading for and have you been any shifts in this trend over time?

I’ll have to answer this one after release!

What are some of your favourite retro games and why?

What counts as ‘retro’ differs from person to person, but I grew up playing games like Jazz Jack rabbit, Final Fantasy, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure, Sim City and pretty much anything I could could find!

GOG, Humble Bundle, & the like offer gamers bulk games for incredibly low prices. How difficult is it to compete in this market and what do you need to consider in terms of promo work?

Right now, the indie market is doing wonders for small developers! Of course, this also means there are more and more people making games, so you do need to work hard to reach your audience. Indie groups don’t often have a large marketing budget, so you need to use every avenue you can: social media, conventions, personal blogs and websites, even supportive friends and family helping to spread the word can make a lot of difference!

Can you tell us how your idea for a reverse Rapunzel story evolved and why you elected to make the princess creepy and dark?

For Freedom Fall, the story emerged naturally from the game play style. The falling mechanic needed a set-up that suited it, so I created a prison tower that reaches the sky, then worked from there to develop a world and characters around it. I also wanted a story that would work without cut-scenes that take control away from the player, so the idea of the creepy little princess in her ridiculously tall tower, writing on the walls, just fit.

Which games are you currently playing in your spare time?

Spare time? What’s that? I do have a pile of games I’ve been dying to play after the release, but I did find the time to play Evoland the other day (that’s certainly a romp through some of the games I grew up with!) and replay Bastion, which I can also recommend a great deal!

Thanks to October Coast, we had the chance to interview american filmmaker and writer David Mickey Evans, best known as the director of the iconic “The Sandlot movies, as part of the celebration of the first film’s 20th Anniversary.

In addition, Mr Evans is also promoting his book “The King of Pacoima, which is the full, unedited story (his story) told in the film Radio Flyer, which he also wrote.

David’s other credits include The Sandlot 2, The First Season with actor Sean Astin, Ace Ventura Jr and Barely Legal.

1. David, how did you originally get involved in children’s film and what are your favourite aspects of working for that demographic?

I have very strong memories of my childhood and so I suppose that makes childhood and adolescence fertile creative ground for me.  Having said that it is not the only thing that interests me.  I write stories that interest me, I have scripts that range from a true story epic western, to a drama about a reclusive writer.  I get associated with family and kids movies because ever since I sold RADIO FLYER, every family-oriented or kid-oriented script that gets written by anyone, comes across my desk.  I love working with kid actors because I’m still 12 years-old on the inside.

2. Could you tell us about your latest book, The King of Pacoima and your experience writing it?

The King of Pacoima is actually the novel I wrote, upon which I based the script for Radio Flyer.  After the film was released, I put the manuscript away promising myself someday that I would return to it and get it published.  I think it needed to age or season or something, like a good whiskey.  When the e-book thing started to happen it seemed like a good time to publish it.  So I edited it somewhat and included photos, storyboards, old kodachrome slides and paintings I had commissioned to illustrate the book, and hopefully add a depth of authenticity to it for the reader (it’s autobiographical to a large extent).  Legacy Publishing is dying, and since the reach of publishing in the e-book formats is worldwide, you’re only limited by how either good or bad the book is, I think.  And I think the book is good.

3. You’re currently undertaking the 20th Anniversary Sandlot tour. Can you tell us how it’s going? What’s the energy been
like at screenings and how has it felt to revisit that time of your life?

We had the first screening of the tour last night at Arm and Hammer Park in Trenton, New Jersey, home of the Trenton Thunder and the staff there told me they had never seen anything like the response to the screening.  It was a double header – game first, then screen The Sandlot.  Attendance was about 5,500.  And no one left after the game, so clearly they all came to see the movie.  The line for SANDLOT posters and t-shirts started out about 400 people long and never got any shorter.  I signed probably 2,000 autographs.  I didn’t get out of there until about 11:30 PM.  So I’d say it was off the charts.  And honestly, it didn’t feel like revisiting anything in my life – because The Sandlot is ever present, it’s always with me, it never went away into the past and it never gets old.  There’s hasn’t been a single day in twenty years in which I have not received a note, a thank or 100 emails thanking me for the film.

4. You collaborate on a number of writing projects with your colleague, Paul Jaconi-Biery. What most appeals to you about co-authorship, and what’s your collaborative process like?

Paul and I have a writing partnership that most writers would probably kill for.  There isn’t a solitary molecule of ego anywhere in the room when we write together. The only thing that matters is the story and the question, “can we do better?”  In a practical sense, having a writing partner forces you past any proclivity toward writing-death, which of course is procrastination (you can’t get the work done unless you get the work done).  Creatively, having another brain that is symbiosis with yours, making for a single voice on the page, allows us to throw ideas, dialogue, jokes, anything back and forth, always trying to find the exact best way to go structurally or emotionally or dialogically.  Can either of us do it alone?  Yes.  You can’t collaborate with another writer unless you’ve got the chops to being with.  And listen, writing is fucking scary.  It’s essentially playing God.  And I’m pretty sure he gets annoyed if you’re taking credit for stuff you shouldn’t be taking credit for.  Having a partner keeps the terror quotient down to tolerable levels.

5. Fans know that you’re an avid baseball fan. What do you love about the sport, which is your favourite team, and what are some of your favourite sporting films, baseball-related or otherwise?

I bleed Dodger Blue.  Clemente is my all time baseball ball hero. I love baseball because it’s a meritocracy, like life, that can be summed up in one word, “Hope.”  I’m not a fan of sports movies in general, although Raging Bull, Rocky and Cinderella Man were beautiful pieces of work.

6. Speaking about ‘The Sandlot Kids’, can you share with us something about the process while filming that iconic film and also maybe some funny stories behind the scenes?

The whole production was like one big summer camp for the kids.  They gelled really fast as friends on and off screen.  That made the “Herding Squirrels” thing much easier.  Working with them wasn’t so much “working” or directing as it was guiding them like a big brother or a camp counselor.  They were all great mimics too, so when we would get stuck (which wasn’t very often) I could say “Try it like this…” and then line-read them and they would mirror me and we’d get it done.  The scene that probably took the longest to shoot was the “S’mores scene,” in which Ham instructs Smalls in the fine art of making a S’More.  Pat Renna was so damn funny saying “You’re killin’ me Smalls!”  That all the other guys busted up laughing every time he said it, and essentially rendered the take unusable because they were in the background.  And when kid actors get the giggles, forget it, day over.  They simply cannot stop laughing.  Eventually (after hours and hours) I had to use a take in which I told the guys “look if you can’t stop laughing, just laugh with you r mouth closed!”  The take used in the movie, if you look at Benny in the background, poor Mike Vitar is actually biting his lip to keep from ruining the take.

7. You graduated from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in film and screenwriting. How significantly did your studies affect your career and would you recommend formal study to other creative artists?

College gave me the opportunity to study lots of different things.  Sort of soak up a bunch of information I might not otherwise have been exposed to.  So for that, yeah, it’s good.  But college didn’t teach me to write, no one can teach anyone to write.  But if you want to write, you have to live a life, in other words you have to experience things, and learn things.  What you do with that stuff creatively is what makes you a writer, so tangentially yeah, it was valuable to my becoming a writer.  But it did not teach me to write.  Film production wise if I had to do it over again, I’d bypass the college thing altogether and work on as many film productions as I could and learn it all on the ground.

8. How important are blogging and social media to your career and how much interaction do you have with your fans?

Hugely important.  In the movie business everything is people.  Social media is people.  The two are now, I think, inextricably connected forever.  If you’re a writer or a director and you don’t have a FB page you’re an idiot.  I have direct contact with my fans through a public FB fan page and my Blog.  It is the doorway through which anyone, fan or producer, can contact me.

9. What’s next on your creative agenda?

A Christmas movie called MIRACLE AT PALMER HOME, in Memphis, TN this fall.  A film I wrote that takes place in Hawaii called THE HAOLE SUBSTITUE, another script Paul Jaconi-Biery and I wrote (for Peter Fonda) called HEMINGWAY’S HERO,  And the initial few movies adapted from the great Matt Christopher Sports Books for kids.

Thanks a lot for your time.

My pleasure!

Interview courtesy of our creative content partner Jorge Duran and The Spotlight Report


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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