As an English major in college, Matt Zieammermann did a lot of writing. Recently, he applied those skills in a little different manner, penning his debut novel, "Ashley: A Broken Plank in Reason," earlier this year.
Currently, the Marion resident (who grew up in Newton) works at Viega in McPherson, but he admitted he has always enjoyed writing and the research that came with that in college, in particular. It didn't take much to pick those traits back up when writing his new book — with some minor tweaks to the process.
“Most of the writing I did in school obviously was research-oriented, expository writing, but I always wanted to do something a little more creative and this was a nice setting, I thought, to sort of blend the two concepts of research and more creative writing," Zieammermann said.
Zieammermann's first novel pulls strong inspiration from the urban legend of Ashley, a small town in Ellis County (outside Hays) that was reportedly swallowed up by an earthquake many years ago. Even though his research into the subject was only part time (which included going up to the site in question), Zieammermann admitted it was an easy myth to debunk, but it was still ripe for exploration.
Because of that mix of research and exploration, Zieammerman said it is hard to classify what genre his book falls into — noting a lot of it is conjecture.
“When people ask me if it’s a true story, my stock answer is that there’s a lot of truth in it, but I have trouble categorizing it as either fiction or nonfiction. I think there’s a gray area between there," Zieammermann said.
One genre that Zieammermann knows his book will evoke is that of science fiction, but his approach to that was very intentional. As a fan of "The Twilight Zone" TV series, he drew on that model in his portrayal of the events in the book.
“A lot of my inspiration came from 'The Twilight Zone' and Rod Serling. I was a big fan of the series growing up. I would say he was my primary inspiration," Zieammermann said. “I sort of wanted to point out that paranormal matters are really just things that we don’t yet understand. They’re not frightening, they’re not scary. This isn’t a scary story. It’s just things that lie beyond the reach of our current understanding.”
Quick as the writing process was (taking about two years total, including editing), the book reads at a similar pace — clocking in at 214 pages in length.
While the time flew by, Zieammermann noted he still had a lot of fun doing it — researching, fleshing out the characters etc. There is so much material to explore, he noted he would be open to returning to the Ashley setting for more books in the future.
In his debut novel in particular, though, Zieammermann noted there is something for everyone. He was intentional to make the story accessible for readers of all ages because he wanted to be comfortable with his own teenage children reading it. The subject matter is open to interpretation and, though not outright science fiction, it does explore the consideration of alternate realities.
“For others, it’s a highly entertaining story and intriguing in that I would say you’re probably halfway through before you even begin to catch on to what’s going on," Zieammermann said. "There’s a lot of unexpected turns in this.”
"Ashley: A Broken Plank in Reason" is now available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble, among other retailers.