Matthew Dawkins, Watty award-winning author of Wicked, Wild, Wonderful, vividly remembers the moment he knew he wanted to be a writer. He was in the seventh grade. Instead of completing classwork, he was in book heaven with Clockwork Angel by New York Times bestselling author Cassandra Clare, one of his inspirations. Dawkins was the kid who asked for a book any chance he got.
“When I was younger I would follow my mom everywhere, everywhere I went I was behind her, tagging along,” the Jamaican writer tells So Booking Cool. “And when we went to the supermarket, any type of store, absolutely anywhere, I would always ask to get a book. I would always ask to read, I would always ask to do something involving that, and I was never interested in toys. Everyone thought it was weird, and that was just me.”
Dawkins fell in love with his own writing around the time he penned Wicked, Wild, Wonderful, which won the Changemaker category at the 2018 Watty Awards. To this day, the book has more than 140,000 reads. The coming-of-age tale follows Naomi Morgan, the only black dancer at her ballet school, who sacrifices plenty to win a prestigious ballet competition, but her dream is questioned when she gets sucked into an online anarchy group.
In addition to having the desire to portray a black and mixed-race female protagonist in a new light, Dawkins also thinks the book resonates because of the emotions he drew as a then 17-year-old. “When I was writing it, I was a teenager and Naomi’s a teenager,” Dawkins says. “So I definitely feel like I was experiencing a lot of those same feelings that she was in the very same, intense, heightened way that she was, so I was able to capture that and was able to be very, very raw and honest.
And so I put that in the story, and I feel like that’s what kind of elevated the story’s writing because it was so authentic to what teenage experience really truly is that I feel like an old man in a writing room probably can’t muster up in the exact same way.”
Watch the interview to learn more about Dawkins including the research he invested in Wicked, Wild Wonderful; one of the selections from his work Dreaming Black Boy; whether he prefers buying or borrowing books; his advice for writers who are also full-time college students and double majors; the kinds of books and authors he wants to see more of including how society views masculinity; his definition of a slow and fast reader; his Black History Month book recommendations, and more! For more information, visit his official website.