Interview With Author Matt Eicheldinger

I’m thrilled to welcome Matt Eicheldinger to the Mixed-Up Files to chat about his new book MATT SPROUTS AND THE CURSE OF THE TEN BROKEN TOES—Available March 19th (Andrews McMeel Kids).

I loved hearing all about his backstory and journey to publication.

I think you will, too. 


Lisa: Tell us about MATT SPROUTS!   

Matt: The story follows sixth grader Matt Sprouts at the start of summer vacation, where he accidently trips his neighbor Jenna, breaking her collarbone in the process and ruining her summer plans. In the weeks that follow, Matt finds himself in all sorts of problems, including breaking a few toes. Matt thinks it’s just a coincidence, but every other kid in town suspects he has “The Curse”, a hometown myth which has haunted other middle schoolers before him. As Matt attempts to solve The Curse and stop his ill-fate ahead, he also has to contend with school, the soccer team, a new “fake” girlfriend, and a slew of other problems, including the Purple Grape Lady.

Lisa: What inspired the idea for this book?

Matt: The book is actually autobiographical. Even though it is fiction, almost every single scene is based on something from my life (and yes, I have broken all ten of my toes!). These mini-stories are things I would share with my middle school students, and they liked them so much I wove them together to create Matt Sprouts and The Curse of The Ten Broken Toes. So really when I think of who inspired this idea, it was my students!

Lisa: Did you always want to be an author/illustrator?

Matt: I enjoyed reading comics when I was younger, and I doodled on basically anything that a pencil could leave a mark on, but I never had a desire to be an author or cartoonist. For me, drawing was just for fun.

Lisa: Can you tell us about your publishing journey?

Matt: My journey is a long one! I wrote The Curse of The Ten Broken Toes my first year teaching middle school in 2009-2010, and placed it in my classroom for students to read who were struggling to find something that would hold their attention. I figured if they liked my stories I told in class, they would like my book.

And they did!

I didn’t know anything about publishing, so I started researching and began sending query letters. I was pretty naïve and I’m sure my first dozen or so letters were absolutely terrible. Still, I continued sending letters for the next ten years, and received hundreds and hundreds of rejections, but I knew my book was good because kids were reading it every year and loving it. So, in 2021 I decided to self- publish my novel. Over the next two years I sold thousands of copies online and won some indie book awards, which helped me get noticed by a literary agent. Within just a couple weeks of signing with agent Dani Segelbaum, we signed a two book deal to re-release the original book, and follow it up with a sequel.

Lisa: Do you have favorite part of the book making process?

Matt: Creating the title is my favorite part, because as soon as I know it I feel like I can understand what needs to happen in the story. I have two kids (one in elementary, one in middle), and sometimes they will just start giving me ideas by starting the sentence with “Matt Sprouts and the. . .” and we’ve come up with a ton of ideas for sequels. I love that they have been able to be involved in the process!

I’ve also enjoyed illustrating, because it is something I am continually finding ways to improve. When I signed my book deal, I was asked to add about 100 illustrations, which was the most I had ever drawn in my life. It was intimidating at first, but now that I’ve done it multiple times I find a lot of joy in creating visuals for the reader.

Lisa: Do you use social media? If yes, how do you feel about the role social media plays in your writing/artistic life?

Matt: I do use social media, and have accounts under the name @matteicheldinger for both TikTok and Instagram. I have pivoted a few times in my content, but have finally settled in to storytelling which has really resonated with people. I have collected hundreds of stories over my teaching career and other walks of life, so I share these stories and what I learned from the moment with the audience. Since I script out the video first, I find it creates a good routine for me to write every day, and really get at the heart of the story faster.

Lisa: What do you think makes a good story?

Matt: Many things, but right now I am focusing on relatability. I am fortunate enough to have a really, really good memory when it comes to experiences. I can’t remember daily chores unfortunately, but if you were to ask me what it felt like when our soccer team lost in the semifinals when I was 17, or when I sang in front of an audience for the first time, I immediately re-experience those same emotions and sounds. When I write middle grade stories, I try and put myself back in those moments and describe them in a way that makes sense to kids. If I can present them with scenarios (even as silly as breaking toes), but make them resonate with the reader by comparing it to something else they may have experienced, I find that is a great approach.

Lisa: What book made the strongest impression on you as a child?

Matt: The Calvin and Hobbes series, without a doubt! It was basically the only thing I would read in late elementary through junior high. There was something so captivating about Calvin’s adventurous spirit, but I also like how reflective he was. Bill Watterson captured adolescence so well, creating a seemingly over-confident kid who at his core wanted the best for everyone, even though he didn’t always show it. I find the humor of that series has spilled into my own writing, along with finding ways to help character find time to reflect.

Lisa: What advice would you give twelve-year-old, Matt?

Matt: Me, or Matt Sprouts!? Since we are basically the same, I would tell younger me to stop lying. I was a frequent liar when I was younger, and it mostly stemmed from wanting to impress people. It caused a lot of problems, but I also really learned the value of honesty, and how much that can build (and destroy) relationships. As a teacher, I try to help kids understand that who they are is enough, and there is no need to exaggerate anything to find a connection with others. I do this with my characters too. I want the reader to see what kind of friendships you can form when you are your genuine self.

Lisa: What’s are you working on now?

Matt: I was fortunate enough to secure three more book deals with Andrew McMeel. The third Matt Sprouts book is called Matt Sprouts and The Search for the Chompy Wompers (Summer, 2025), which I just finished illustrating and is now being reviewd by my editor. I also am in the final stages of review for Sticky Notes: Memorable Lessons from Ordinary Moments, which is a compilation of illustrated, true stories from my teaching career for parents and adults (October, 2024). As these two projects wrap up, I will begin working on Holes in My Underwear, an illustrated collection of poetry for elementary/middle grade readers.

Aside from those, I am also currently working on a stand-alone novel, my first graphic novel, and other sequels for the Matt Sprouts series. These are in the very early stages, but I find a lot of joy in working on things that are so new, even if I am not sure if they will ever become book.

Thank you for spending time with us. It has been great getting to know you and more about MATT SPROUTS AND THE CURSE OF THE TEN BROKEN TOES.  I can’t wait to read about all his adventures!  

About Matt:

Matt Eicheldinger wasn’t always a writer. He spent most of his childhood playing soccer, reading comics, and trying his best to stay out of trouble. Little did he know those moments would ultimately help craft his first novel, Matt Sprouts and the Curse of Ten Broken Toes. 

Matt lives in Minnesota with his wife and two children, and tries to create new adventures with them whenever possible. When he’s not writing, you can find him telling students stories in his classroom, or trail running along the Minnesota River Bottoms.

To learn more about Matt Eicheldinger, please visit his website

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Lisa Schmid
Lisa Schmid has always loved a good mystery. At four years old, she went door to door interviewing “suspects” when her favorite stuffed animal went missing. Fortunately, Big Blue was eventually found safe and sound. No arrests were made. Lisa is the author of OLLIE OXLEY AND THE GHOST—Out Now and HART & SOULS coming 7/23/24. She is also co-host of the Writers With Wrinkles Podcast.