‘A spark turned into a flame’

Author of “The Sweetest of Slumbers,” Matthew McWilliams released his novelette along with six poems of his own creation. Matthew McWilliams/courtesy

Amateur author Matt McWilliams combines inspirations from nature’s safe spaces in SoCal and dark realities of creating a thematic story on modern-day societal awakenings

Surrounded by several framed Van Gogh pieces scattered around blown up The Doors tour photos, a bright red “Pulp Fiction” movie poster ties together the chaotically organized background of artists in novelette author Matt McWilliams’ boxy white bedroom. Located in his off-campus apartment near San Diego State University, he speaks about surges of inspiration leading to the September publication of his first story, “The Sweetest of Slumbers.”

The 19-year-old college student takes in the impact outside influences contributed unconsciously to the plot of his book by reflecting upon the resemblance between characters. Occurring in the present time period, McWilliams’ main character, young and bright-eyed Wells Robertson, emulates a direct prelude to his thoughts and curiosities on life’s maddest characteristics, he narrates.

Featuring people who demonstrate corporate wealth and capitalistic greed within his narrative and simultaneously sprinkling in various experiences of being consumed by nature in his venturing endeavors turns this book into an extension of McWilliams’ self. He sits back on his bed frame, and fiddles with the electric guitar brought out from beneath the piece of furniture, looking off to the side as he describes who initially sparked this idea to create a piece of work romanticizing life and adventure away from the combustion of a tireless society.

“One theme of it is based around businessmen,” he says. “I like my dad, but he represents the adults that kind of suck because he’s caught up in this business world and has – you know – business calls, and I’m kind of different from that. The way that he talks and acts … I’m like ‘dude just be yourself!’”

His father’s perspectives on success dictated the sophomore’s first pick at a major when entering college. But as he grew away from his hometown family in San Clemente and more deeply explored poetic writing, he departed from the pre-constructed path. Still perceiving writing as an ardent hobby, the amateur novelist takes advantage of the interdisciplinary option at San Diego State University and has three emphasized interests in an English major, sustainability and tourism.

“The Sweetest of Slumbers,” edited by McWilliams’ high school English teacher, Margi Westling, with a cover illustration by Selin Aydin. Matthew McWilliams/courtesy

His observations of nature’s ability to create a wall between himself and day-to-day pressures of constant expectations follow him into the writing realm. He often finds creativity in these very circumstances. McWilliams describes his preferred place to think creatively as a sunny, green spot on campus to put pen to paper in the journal where he hand wrote most chapters of “The Sweetest of Slumbers.”

“There’s this favorite grass hill on campus that I like,” he says, reminiscing about the innovative, safe space. “I was sitting there in February, I think: right before corona, so there weren’t that many people. And I was sitting on this old brick little red abandoned fireplace surrounded by trees and thinking, ‘what if I wrote a story with talking animals or something like that. Just an idea I had.”

While the creatures within the novelette take the silhouette of various individuals from his lively encounters, the emotional emblems from a diverse pick of environments spruce the dreamy aspects of the tale. Influences from the infamous campus koi pond to standing in the middle of the silent French countryside at midnight leave McWilliams with a whirlwind of feelings disconnecting him from the demands and compulsions of modern-day congestion.

Pairing with Amazon and Kindle to distribute “The Sweetest of Slumbers” made it easiest to distribute the creation in an inexpensive fashion to go through a self-publishing route. Along with his ideals of living in the moment and valuing time over the material, he shares that gaining capital or recognition is not the goal of this publication but is, in fact, a sign of accomplishment.

“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to get famous or make a ton of money,” he says. “I just wanted to do it the cheapest way. However, I could in the form of a book.”

A commonly associated perspective for the audacious up-and-comer makes life seem like a breeze and pans out across his works. He remarks that dark realities do not affect his chipper outlook on life as it is only just beginning.

Handwritten in a journal that follows him to every destination and later typed into the short story seen today, McWilliams’ transformative journeys across his past demonstrate the “physical encapsulation of who I am,” he says of the 69-page publication. He dreams of traveling back to Europe where not a single soul knows him and handing it out to random strangers on unfamiliar streets in hopes of giving people a nostalgic anecdote forever residing within them.