By Carol Hopkins
Graduation is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. This is especially true for graduates heading out into media jobs, where older technologies are yielding to new ones.
Matthew Ledrew graduated CNA’s journalism program in 2005 and promptly moved to St. John’s. His path first led him to work with the Marystown Southern Gazette as a correspondent.
“I always wrote, and I expected that print journalism would be a way to go,” Ledrew said. “But I found I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The creative process wasn’t quite the same.”
Ledrew continued to write, taking on regular jobs – such as one in a call centre – to pay the bills. He said he was trying to have his book published when he realized there was no publisher in the province or even in Atlantic Canada that catered to the type of science-fiction he wrote.
His mother pushed him to attend the first science-fiction convention held in St. John’s, Sci-fi on the Rock. Ledrew said he was very reluctant to go but went when his mother insisted.
It turned out to be a good thing he did. Kenneth Tam, author and founder of Iceberg Publishing, was one of the guest speakers. Ledrew had an opportunity to chat with him afterward.
Tam did not publish Ledrew’s book but steered him in the direction of starting his own business and became a mentor for the young writer.
“He really was my crutch for a little while. He was the one who helped me get Engen Books going,” Ledrew said.
Ledrew started Engen Books in 2007. He publishes about four books a year including his own and other authors.
Ledrew’s novels include the Black Womb series, Transformations in Pain, Smoke and Mirrors and Ghosts of the Past. He has also written short stories in several anthologies, and he is the coauthor of the Infinity series.
Ledrew travels throughout Atlantic Canada attending sci-fi conventions and makes appearances in book stores to sign copies of his books.
“It’s so much legwork, even if you’re an established name,” Ledrew said. “The author has to be there for people to buy their books”
He tries to make the most of every business trip and often will facilitate writing and self-publishing workshops at various sci-fi conventions.
“Sometimes they pay us to go, and when that happens it’s wonderful, because even if you don’t sell any books, you’re making money,” said Ledrew.
Ledrew attributes his success as a publisher, in part, to the skills he learned through the journalism program. Knowing how to use layout and design programs as well as how to manipulate photographs has helped him to keep his business afloat and allowed him the independence of being able to do these things in-house.
Last year his company became affiliated with Amazon Books, which has increased the opportunity for book sales.
Ellen Curtis is Ledrew’s co-author on the action series Infinity. Curtis described the books as similar to a comic book, but in novel form.
She said there are many challenges as well as rewards in co-authoring a book because both people are so invested in the project.
“We always have to be compromising and coming up with the best idea to ultimately make the best story,” Curtis said.
Curtis said her style of writing is very different from Ledrew’s.
“I was never one to plot out my books,” she said. “Now we sit down and figure out what we want to do and plot out every step, chapter by chapter.”
Ledrew and Curtis have also contributed stories to an anthology called What the Wild Things Read, which was published by Ink’d Well Comics. Jay Paulin, owner of Ink’d Well, met Curtis and Ledrew in 2010 at a sci-fi convention in Halifax called Hal-Con.
What the Wild Things Read is a collection of short stories that includes humorous and personal stories from the authors’ childhoods. All proceeds going to the Canadian charity Free the Children.
Paulin has a lot of respect for Ledrew.
“He knows how to structure a story, and I think that’s really a benefit and one of the reasons he’s been so successful. He has the technical chops and the story-telling ability and it’s worked out for him.”