Boise State alumni Matthew Edwards publishes second novel, exploring existentialism

icarus never flew 'round here by matt edwards
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Boise State alumni Matthew Edwards published his second novel, “Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here,” a story exploring concepts of existentialism through simplistic characters, narrative and setting.

Edwards currently teaches at Boise High School and is in his 17th year of teaching. Edwards shared that he earned a degree in English at Boise State, as well as a teaching certificate. At the time, he didn’t believe writing would become part of his career.

“Having to do all the education classes kind of limited how many writing classes I could take,” Edwards said. “So I only took one fiction class and two poetry classes, because that’s kind of just what I could fit in my schedule … I’d just kind of been self-taught and slowly getting better.”

Edwards started writing his first novel, “Ways And Truths And Lives,” back in 2012, and self-published the book in 2017. He then published the same novel through Atmosphere Press in the summer of 2021, the same publication in which he just published his newest release.  

Edwards shared that although he always loved writing, he never thought it would become more than a hobby.

“The first one (novel) I just sat down because I had an idea that I thought was interesting. And I’d never written long form before, like this long. And so it honestly started as more of a gag … let’s just keep writing and turn it into something,” Edwards said. “At one point in time, I just kind of considered myself a novelist or a writer.”

For Edwards, writing a novel was something he creatively stumbled upon. 

“I sort of stumbled into it … I’d always loved reading books. I’d written mostly poetry in college, and then in my 20s,” Edwards said. “I just thought I had a bigger idea, a better idea, and thought I could turn it into a book.”

Edwards revealed that the setting of his newest novel takes place between Bend and Burns, Oregon, which he described as a “super lonely desert.”

“As I was probably, I don’t know, 21? … I was going through there with my brother, and it was just kind of like a desert. Some people think it’s ugly, but it’s just open and beautiful,” Edwards said. “And I had told myself at that age,, ‘oh my gosh, it’d be so perfect to put a character out there.’ And then not until I was like 30 did I realize like, okay, what kind of character would actually be out there? That would be interesting.”

“Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here” presents main character Dale and his wife Janice living on a desolate farm in Oregon, far away from civilization. Dale questions his purpose, despite appearing seemingly fulfilled with his mundane life with his loving wife.

Edwards shared that he was inspired by writings exploring existentialism from other creators such as  author Franz Kafka, philosopher Albert Camus as well as Christopher Nolan’s films. He accredited these creators as his three main influences for the novel. 

icarus never flew 'round here by matt edwards
[Photo of “Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here” by Boise State alumni Matt Edwards.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

“The main thing is the idea that the existentialist position is that we exist first, and then we get to create our essence, as opposed to people who typically believe in God. They think God has the essence of you in his mind before he kind of creates you,” Edwards said. “And so I basically wanted that debate to happen, but in a very rural setting with someone who wasn’t educated and didn’t really know how to, I guess, go look up information on the issue. So it was a mix of lonely desert, and then existentialism.”

Edwards explores existentialism through a philosophical and descriptive lens of nature, with simplistic and expected characters.

“I wanted to have the natural environment almost be a character, and be very important. And then I tried to make Dale kind of almost a product of that environment. Like I wanted him to be desert-ish, like he’s rough and tough,” Edwards said. “I think that landscape is beautiful. So I tried to paint it as beautifully as I could to … do justice to that area.”

The novel is flooded with beautiful descriptions of nature, providing detailed illustrations of moments that would otherwise appear mundane.

“The sun is a golden stone sinking behind the western horizon. An ocean of rolling clouds paints the ceiling of the sky, cooling from tangerine to coral as they ripple from their catalyst.”

As someone who was raised Christian, Edwards explained that there are a lot of hidden critiques and symbols of religion throughout the story. He comments on the connections of God to the main character.

“So as Dale starts mimicking God, he’s basically just trying to create … And then when creation doesn’t work, because like, he and Janice can’t have kids, then he turns to destruction,” Edwards said. “And so that’s why he starts ripping apart things, and so it’s basically commenting on there’s not much in the middle, God doesn’t know what to do with the middle. He just knows how to create and destroy. So I had them all kind of copy that behavior.”

The novel contains a thrilling and unsuspecting plot twist that reveals even more about the characters as well as the concepts of existentialism. Edwards emphasizes that any audience could find something to take away from the book.

The book is available to purchase at your favorite bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, as well as through Edwards’ website.

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