ESTELLE MASKAME CHATS NEW BOOK ‘DARE TO FALL’ & SOCIAL MEDIA 157

Having started writing her phenomenally successful DIMILY (Did I Mention I Love You?) trilogy of books at the age of 13, Estelle Maskame has always been a passionate and determined young woman. Now aged 20 and with an army of fans behind her, she’s more confident and ambitious than ever. Just before she embarked on a book tour in support of her new novel, Dare To Fall, Estelle spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about DIMILY’s success, future projects and her advice for aspiring authors.

TITL: You’re now one of the biggest young adult authors in the country, if not the world, thanks to your DIMILY series, so exactly how old were you when you discovered that you had a passion for writing?

Estelle Maskame: Writing is always something I’ve always loved and I was first introduced to it back in primary school. Once a week we got asked to do story writing and I just really enjoyed it; it was my favourite class. But doing it once a week wasn’t enough for me and so I started doing it at home and it sort of just grew from there. It became my one big hobby – I wasn’t really good at anything else. I kept doing it, kept writing and then I started posting it online – where it somehow all just blew up.

TITL: I read an interview where you said you started writing your DIMILY series aged 13. How did you juggle that with school and all the other aspects of daily life a teenager has to deal with? Was it something you just worked on at home or did you sneak in a few chapters while at school?

EM: It was a mixture of both really. At the age of 13, I didn’t have exams or anything like that yet so I was always writing. Every night I’d come home, lock myself in my room, get on the laptop and start writing. But then over the years, when exams started coming around, it was harder to kind of balance it. I did used to write at school as well. I’d be in a class and underneath my notebooks, I’d be scribbling away. Even some of my report cards say that I would get distracted in class – but I just loved it so much that I couldn’t stay away from it.

TITL: Can you recall the first book you really loved and what impact, if any, did that have on your own writing and career plans?

EM: There’s not a specific book; it’s just books in general. I was always picking up books. I loved and still love the effect that books had and have on me – just being able to put everything else aside for a while and lose yourself in this other world.

TITL: Did you ever think your DIMILY book series would become as successful as it has?

EM: No, not at all. Even now, it’s surreal. The books were literally just an idea I got when I was thirteen, and I could never have imagined that something that stemmed from just an idea would be so big now. At the time, I just thought the idea I had would be fun to write and then I started posting it and people really enjoyed it and now it’s turned into what it’s turned into. I still can’t believe it. It’s been a few years now since the books were first published, but things just keep getting better and better.

TITL: What do you think it is about those books that have made them so appealing to so many people?

EM: I think it’s kind of a mixture of things. I think certainly for readers in the UK and Europe, the fact that the books are set in America is quite interesting and the rather controversial story-line – the step-sibling plot line – which isn’t one often written is possibly another factor. Then of course there’s the fact it’s written from the view-point of a teenager – by a teenager.

TITL: You’re about to release your new book Dare To Fall. How long did this one take to write and where did the idea for its story come from?

EM: I started writing it last August, September time. It took about seven or eight months in total. I had the characters, especially the main one, MacKenzie – Kenzie for short – in my head before I had the plot. The plot itself focusses on the effects of loss on young people. I wanted to write a novel that explored that a bit more.

TITL: Ultimately, what message or idea would you like readers to take from Dare To Fall?

EM: Like I said, the book explores loss in the lives of young people and how they deal with it – how they can turn it into a positive and learn something from it. I think that’d be the main thing I want readers to take from the book for sure.

TITL: Which one of the characters would you say you connect and identify with the most?

EM: Probably Kenzie. Out of all the female characters I’ve ever written, she’s the one I feel I can relate to the most in terms of her personality, her thought processes – they’re both pretty similar to my own.

TITL: How hard has it been for you to put the DIMILY series aside and focus solely on this new book and what lies ahead? Is it hard to say a sort of goodbye to a series that has helped establish you as a writer and earn you an army of fans?

EM: It was at first, especially when writing the last chapter in the trilogy, and by then I’d been writing the books for essentially five years, throughout the majority of my teenage years so it was a bittersweet moment for sure. I was glad to finish the trilogy, but at the same time, I guess I was a little worried about moving on and starting to write something completely new.

TITL: You’re about to embark on your book tour. How excited are you to get out there and meet just some of the fans who’ve supported you all these years?

EM: I love doing signings and events. It’s always really nice to get out there and interact with the people who’ve read and been touched in some way by what you’ve written. It’s always really nice to hear their thoughts and opinions and to just have the opportunity to thank them for their support.

TITL: You’ve said in the past that if and when the DIMILY series is optioned for Hollywood – which I’m sure many people would like to see happen – you’d like Selena Gomez and Drew Roy to play the central characters Eden and Tyler, but who would you like to see play Dare To Fall’s two leads, MacKenzie and Jaden?

EM: I honestly don’t have anyone in mind for them yet. I think, because I was writing the DIMILY trilogy for so long, I was able to really think – as the series progressed – who would be a good fit for the characters, but with Dare To Fall being so new, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe eventually I’ll figure it out, but at the moment, I really don’t know. I would love to see the DIMILY series optioned – that’s the next big dream.

TITL: Have you started thinking about where you’re going to go next or are you just taking some time to enjoy sharing Dare To Fall with everyone?

EM: I’ve already started working on my next project which is another contemporary young adult novel but that’s all secret at the moment.

TITL: As an author who gained a following on Wattpad, where you first started sharing chapters of your DIMILY books, the internet and social media have played a huge part in your career, but how do you deal with the more negative side of things that can come from and with that such as trolls?

EM: When I was younger, I definitely got a lot of negative comments from people, notably because I was so young and putting myself out there. I did kind of make myself an easy target in a way because with the good attention I was getting, I knew there was always going to be bad attention too. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve learned how to deal with it. When I was younger, it was hard to see people say and write nasty things about me and my writing, whereas as I grew up, I learned to just ignore it because those people really weren’t worth my time and they were just looking for a reaction from me. Now I just roll my eyes a bit and usually just block people straight away.

TITL: Do you think you’ve become a stronger and better person because you’ve faced the good and bad sides that can and do come with being a writer, and such a young one at that?

EM: Yeah. I think because I threw myself into it quite young and dealt with criticism at a young age, obviously now I’m 20, I’ve matured and I’ve learned that some people and their comments just aren’t worth my time. The people who go out of their way to put others down, I think, are either jealous or just have nothing better to do with their time.

TITL: What would you say is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about you and your work?

EM: Oh my goodness, that’s hard. It’s always nice to read comments from people who say that they didn’t like reading before they discovered my books and now they really enjoy reading. I’ve had several of those over the years which are already really nice to see. As an author, you want to inspire people to read because books are amazing, and it’s always nice to know that your books have gotten people into reading.

TITL: Young adult books in particular are undergoing quite a resurgence at the moment. What do you think it is about the genre that’s getting not just young adults but a much wider audiences to read them?

EM: I think the YA genre is probably the most diverse genre out there at the moment. It deals with real issues and serious matters that young people are going through and that anyone can relate to. Some people might assume that YA books are just for younger people, for children and are a light, fluffy read but they’re not. YA books are amazing and address issues that everyone, no matter their age, can relate to.

TITL: Finally then, in an ever-competitive market, what advice would you give to those wanting to make a name for themselves as writers?

EM: My biggest piece of advice for people who want to get their name out there is to put yourself out there. Especially with online communities these days, it’s so easy to get your work out there and get feedback from people. I know some people can be worried about letting others read their work and it’s a bit nerve-wracking at first, but you really have to show people – even if it’s just friends; getting feedback really does help. With the internet and social media, more and more publishers over the years are looking at sites like Wattpad and those kinds of communities to see which writers are on there. That’s how a lot of people are getting discovered recently, so yeah, definitely put yourself out there. Have a look online and share your work with family and friends.

For more information on Estelle Maskame, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Dare To Fall is available online and from all good bookshops now.

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TAMI STRONACH REFLECTS ON ‘THE NEVER ENDING STORY’ & TELLS ALL ABOUT HER NEW PROJECTS 43

Catapulted to fame in the 1980’s thanks to her role as the Childlike Empress in The Never Ending Story, Tami Stronach is a name few film fans of a certain era have ever, or will likely ever forget. Having recently launched several exciting new projects, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Tami to find out how the Childlike role impacted her life and career, which one venue she’d most like to perform in and what’s left to tick off her bucket list.

TITL: How does it feel to know that The Never Ending Story is still as well loved now as it was back upon its original release?

Tami Stronach: It’s incredible. Obviously I am surprised by the staying power, very pleasantly. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated it. I think the story, which was translated from Michael Ende’s book, has these really powerful messages. All the whimsey and magical characters add to it, but underneath all of it, there really is a depth to the story. For me the film is about valuing the child within us…In really dark times, it is really our ability to imagine our way forward that is going to save us. Historically, I think that is always true. The people who can vision a better future and vision a way forward manage to see doors and openings that the rest of us don’t.

TITL: What do you think it is about TNES that makes it so timelessly appealing?

TS: This notion that in each of us resides the power to imagine a better world, a kinder world that we can actually manifest if we believe in our vision enough. That is a powerful message and I think it is one we all need to hear so we don’t give in to apathy.

TITL: Do you have any favourite memories from your time on set/with the cast and crew?

TS: I spent a lot of time with the make-up artists and puppet designers in beer gardens when we were not working. They were really fun adults to hang out with – creative and warm. I learned how to flip coasters and do all kinds of tricks because obviously I wasn’t drinking beer.

TITL: How did landing the role of the Childlike Empress ultimately impact your career? Would it be fair to say that the role is and was your career defining moment?

TS: It definitely is what I am best known for since film has the capacity to reach such wide audience and its very fun to be part of something that means so much to so many people. I view The Never Ending Story as a wonderful defining doorway into what would become a lifelong commitment to a career in the arts. Any opportunity I get to be creative is something I will jump at and I’m happy to do that across a lot of different platforms, dance, choreography, theater, music, puppetry, audio recording–in a small theater or in a massive one–on camera or off.

TITL: You’ve never truly ‘left’ Hollywood having then gone on to do dance and theater work in NYC, but you’re back now, having launched the Paper Canoe Company, which specialises in family friendly work. Where did the concept for it come from and what’s the ultimate aim?

TS: Paper Canoe was something that I founded with my husband after my daughter was born. We wanted to come back to family entertainment because we saw first-hand how impactful stories were to shaping our daughter’s worldview. Also it was something we could do as a team–pool our collective experiences in the arts and make stories that would be meaningful to our daughter, her friends and beyond.

TITL: You’ve also got several other projects in the pipeline including a series of collaborations with indie folk/rock artists in Williamsburg, which marks your first ‘return’ to music since your ‘Faerie Queen’ album in the 80’s. How and why did you decide/feel that now was the right time to work on the music side of your career some more?

TS: After 20 years of being a choreographer in contemporary dance it feels slightly mad to just dive into all this new terrain – but having a kid is a great chance to relive some of your childhood. I’m actually going back to my roots with singing and it is really fun. This project is about how music can be a unique kind of storytelling. No one is making narrative albums any more. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to make singles because everyone is streaming and shuffling playlists etc. But I’ve never been so into following the rules of what you are ‘supposed’ to do. Greg and Jake and I dreamed this. And we’re doing it. Beanstalk Jack has won a couple of awards. We’re really proud of it.

TITL: With so many projects ongoing and in the pipeline, how to you find the time to prepare and be part of them all? Do you try and plan as much of each day as you can or are you more of a ‘let’s wake up and see where the day takes me’ kind of woman? 

TS: You have to prioritize what project you will focus on when. I tend to set a goal for a three month block of time and then evaluate where to go next. It’s a lot of juggling for sure but it keeps things interesting which I like.

TITL: What can you tell me about the live theatrical experience you’re hoping to unveil later this year? Are you excited about getting back on stage and performing the new material/production to audiences and how far and wide would you like the experience to go in terms of locations and venues?

TS: I love performing for live audiences and I’m looking forward to finding out how to build some visual support for the musical numbers for shows in the NY area. But to be honest, I’m actually focusing more on digital content right now…making a video, recording an audio book, turning Light into a podcast….maybe even creating a short film.

TITL: If you could perform in one venue anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

TS: It would be BAM Harvey. There is something so magical about that theater. Whenever I go there I feel overwhelmed with excitement even if the show I saw in the space wasn’t my cup of tea. Some spaces just make us feel awe – this is one of them. It’s both majestic and rustic…Sometimes architecture has a way of holding a group of people that just encourages everyone to feel connected. Theater at its best is aiming for that same connection.

TITL: Given that you were thrust into the spotlight at a time when social media and the digital entertainment era was still just a dream, how do you feel about social media and the impact it has on the entertainment industry as a whole? Is it something you use much of or are you more traditional in the ways you prefer to interact with people?

TS: Like everything powerful, there are two sides to the coin. I think that on the one hand, social media has allowed people to connect in unprecedented ways that I really value. I met my press agent Clint on twitter, and have made some other great friendships there. Now there really is an opportunity to have more of a direct exchange with people who you are really curious about following.

On the flip side, I think some issues are genuinely complex and can’t be thoughtfully or productively discussed in soundbites, and there is also a temptation to be more cruel in a format where you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of how your actions are affecting someone else were they right in front of you. I worry about a world where we are looking to oversimplify everything and the cost of that. If social media can be used as a tool to bring people together so that there is genuine engagement and face to face time as a by-product of that exchange then I think we are heading in the right direction.

TITL: What advice would you give to those actors/actresses and performers who are just starting out and hoping to emulate the careers of their idols? Is there one piece of advice you were once given that you still reflect on today?

TS: I think it’s important to pursue your passions but to allow space for your career to unfold in ways that you may not have anticipated. There is a balance between being determined and rigorous and being interested in and open to unexpected avenues.

TITL: Finally then, having already achieved so much, are there any other plans and ambitions you want to fulfil? What’s left to tick off on your personal and professional bucket lists?

TS: One of the values I inherited from my mother was to prioritize growing and learning. There is always a sense that if you were fulfilled and interested, that was the most important thing above how much money the project garnered or how many people liked it. Of course those external accolades matter and can be a useful benchmark in terms of making sure what you are making is relevant to other people. I do think it’s challenging to stick to your own sense of purpose and to live an authentic life if the things you value are less mainstream.

What excites me in the industry right now is how good TV is getting. Netflix shows, HBO shows, and all the streaming content coming down the pipe has transformed kinds of storytelling we can expect from those platforms. I’m also excited to see more women producers and writers and generally new voices cropping up in the industry which are escaping formula and offering us some really exciting shows. After having been out of the commercial acting game for so long, I’d love to do another big film or two at this stage of my life and tick that off my bucket list. But more importantly, I hope I’m lucky enough to keep being creative on a daily basis and inspiring and encouraging others to be creative as well.

You can find out more about the Paper Canoe Company by visiting the website and to keep up to date with Tami Stronach, you can follow her on Twitter.

PARKER MATTHEWS CHATS “HIT AND RUN” & HIS FAVOURITE ARTISTS 30

As an advocate of suicide prevention and anti-bullying campaigns, Parker Matthews is an artist determined to spread positivity to the masses via his music. His latest track “Hit and Run”, with its sleek production, a chorus that is hard to get out of your head and an impressive, smooth vocal is just one example of how he’s going about this, and with plans already in the pipeline regarding his next few singles, Parker spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about being influenced by Christina Aguilera, his thoughts on social media and the one stage he’d most like to perform on.

TITL: Please introduce yourself if you would.

Parker Matthews: What’s up everyone? I’m Parker Matthews and thank you for the interview!

TITL: What would you say is your unique selling point as an artist?

PM: I would say the tone of voice is a unique selling point for any artist. Sounding different, and being different, are two things that really make you stand out.

TITL: Has music always been your career plan and path or were their other avenues you looked into?

PM: Music has always been my dream, but it wasn’t always my career plan. I followed my parents’ wishes and earned a degree in business after high school, and began working in the corporate world, but was absolutely miserable. I really felt like I wasn’t doing what I was put on this earth to do, and one day, I up and quit my job, and packed my bags for LA. Since that point, I’ve never looked back because the only direction to go in is forward.

TITL: Which band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? Which acts have influenced and inspired the music you make?

PM: There are so many artists that I’m influenced by, but overall, I grew up listening to mostly female artists.  Christina Aguilera, who is from the same neighborhood as I am, was always an artist and a person I gravitated towards. I connect so much with her music, and love hitting those high notes, just as much as she does.

TITL: Tell me about your new single “Hit And Run.” What’s the story behind it?

PM: “Hit and Run” is about not being the person who only has one night stands. I, as a person, like to make connections on a deeper level, and want more than a ‘one-time thing’. So many of us are hurt from past relationships, or times we wore our heart on our sleeves and someone crushed it, but just because that has happened in the past, doesn’t mean it will happen again in the future. Every situation is different, and that’s the beauty of it.

TITL: You’ve also just released the video for the track. How did you come up with the concept?

PM: When I wrote “Hit and Run”, I always imagined being at a house party and rocking it out. When my team and I found the space, which was located in DTLA, I immediately fell in love and knew we had to shoot the video there.

TITL: How did you meet with the team, including director Nicholas Wendle, who helped you make the video?

PM: I’ve met and hand selected the team I work with through colleagues in the industry, and by pure fate.  Funny enough, I met my writing partner and producer, Darren, through a Tinder date. At the time, Darren was living with his best friend -who I was on a date with – and we ended up meeting up with Darren later that night, and the rest is history.

TITL: Are there any fun stories or moments from the shoot you can share with us?

PM: Haha, yes! When we were filming the pool table shots, I wasn’t paying attention how close I was to the edge during a take, and rolled off the pool table and hit the floor. It hurt, but was so funny.

TITL: Do you think you might move into directing music videos at some point in your career?

PM: Being a director for music videos isn’t my calling, but I do like to come up with my own video concepts.

TITL: Would you agree that some music videos can, and do, have a more powerful impact than a song itself, because of the visuals they display and the messages they get across?

PM: Oh absolutely. A video really brings a song to life in so many ways; through color, fashion, choreography, etc. a song can really shine for a music video.

TITL: As a victim of bullying, you’re now a proud supporter of anti-bullying campaigns and organisations and an advocate for suicide prevention via The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. How much of an impact are you finding putting your support behind such causes is having, and do you wish more individuals in the public eye would stand up and support great causes as you are doing?

PM: I find that if you can stand up and tell your story, it’s living proof that it does get better. My favorite memory of standing with these organizations was last year, when I was in Sydney for Mardi Gras. I met with a local non-profit the focused on LGBT youth and suicide prevention. I was able to talk to a group of kids, share some laughs, and hopefully brought some light into their lives. Giving back is so important. So many people in the entertainment industry have done a great job of making their voices heard, so I think people need to keep it up!

TITL: If you had to say one thing to those struggling with bullying and/or mental health issues, what would you say? 

PM: My favorite quote that is so important to remember is, ‘Why try to blend in, when you were born to stand out’. We are all unique people, with a different story to tell. In life, if you can always remember to dance like nobody’s watching, and have fun, then you can achieve it all. There will always be someone in the corner who might not like you, or better yet, put you down because they envy what you have, but you must remember to brush that negativity off and shine on.

TITL: Music wise, what’s next for you? Is there an EP or album in the works? Are there any performances in the pipeline?

PM: I have so much more material this year and I’ll be in the studio all summer. We have some great locations for some upcoming video shoots, and I am choosing to release the next several songs as singles. They are all so different from each other, and I truly want them to be stand-alone pieces of art.

TITL: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and where would you perform?

PM: The Super Bowl, hands down. I’d gladly share that stage with Gaga, Christina, and Jessie J – all such amazing women with such talent.

TITL: How is and has social media impacting your career? Are you a frequent user of sites like Facebook and Twitter and do you think there are any downsides to the businesses’ apparent ‘reliance’ on it in terms of earning a band or artist more widespread attention?

PM: I am a frequent user of all mainstream social media. I think social media is great, because I’ve been able to connect with many fans around the world. Without social media, it would be a lot more difficult to do so and reach people around the globe.

TITL: Finally, then – music, unlike several other things and industries, has stood the test of time. Why do you think that is and personally, where do you see the industry going in future? What messages would you like to see the industry give out to the world, in terms of not just music, but more global inclusion and connectivity?

PM: Music, like all art, should be timeless. Sure, there are songs that follow trends, but then you have others that can truly stand the test of time. Music is all about emotion. We, as people, have different stories and pasts, but we all share the same feelings of emotion. That’s the beauty of music: reliability. Music can heal and inspire someone to change. It can and does instill confidence in a person, and bring out the passion they have stored within. I think in the future, music will continue to add sounds and ad libs that are borrowed from other cultures, and I think music will continue to be ‘real’ with the lyrics written and the delivery of the recordings. Thanks for the fun chat!

Check out the video for “Hit and Run” below and for more information on Parker Matthews, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.