Now, all disclaimers aside, I spent a good long while trying to figure out how best to kick this blog off; would I just do a short post saying hello and promising a great many things to come, or would I go on a rambling, sprawling 420,000 word epic poem describing my life from birth until the moment I began writing this blog post. In the end, with the help of my lovely wife and co-author, Fiona, I came up with a compromise in the form of 18 Questions About Matt to help you get to know me better.
(P.S. Why 18? Because 20 felt too long, and 17 just didn't feel quite right)
18 Questions About Matt
About Matt the Author:
So, what kind of stories do you write?
For the most part, you could say I'm a genre writer. I really enjoy writing both sci-fi and horror and have dabbled with the odd bit of fantasy here and there (though more along the lines of things not working as they should and less mystical lands of dwarves, elves and dragons). I skew toward the dark, because at heart I'm a little boy who still loves his monster movies, but I'm willing to give pretty much anything a try so long as I'm allowed to put my own spin on it.
What sets your work apart within its genre?
I love playing with a juxtaposition of darkness and comedy in stories. If you see me writing a dark story, expect lots of odd bits of humor (often uncomfortable humor) to be sprinkled throughout to try and unsettle the reader. If you see me writing a comedy, on the other hand, I love to insert moments of unexpected darkness to shock the reader from their expectations. I love making people laugh and cry, and will do my best to get them to do both at the same time. As well, I've been told I've got a very cinematic style. I love setting a vivid scene, whether to instill wonder or terror or confusion in the reader. If you can feel the legs of one of my creepy-crawlies crawling up your spine when reading one of my stories, then I've done my job.
Who are your strongest influences?
Having been raised on movies as much as I have been on books I can name a nearly equal number of authors and filmmakers who have shaped my writing style. On the authorial end of the spectrum, I gotta say Stephen King has been my greatest influence, with honorable mentions going to Max Brooks, H.P. Lovecraft, Harry Turtledove and George MacDonald Fraser. Filmmakers whose styles have sculpted my writing (and a fair few of my nightmares) would include John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Eli Roth and Sam Raimi (pre-Disney, pre-Spider-man Raimi who knows how to keep the laughs and the screams coming).
What’s your journey as a writer been like so far?
A long, fairly standard path these days I imagine. Started writing stories when I was about seven (my shining achievement being a short story about how my friends and I were eaten by a robot T-rex and lived in its stomach), moved on to fan-fiction in my teenage years, and finally started attempts at professional writing in earnest once I hit my 20's. I've had a few short stories published in a variety of small press anthologies, but I am now looking forward to getting that ever-elusive first novel out there.
What are you working on now?
With my writing partner and lovely wife, Fiona, I am currently working on the third book in our series of YA SciFi/Horror books, The Prospero Chronicles. Taking influences from H.P. Lovecraft, The X-Files and The Thing, we are having a lot of fun writing this, and think you'll have quite a bit of fun reading it.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
The second draft. Why? Well, my first drafts almost always turn out pretty long-winded. It feels really good to take a machete to the extraneous words, sentences and paragraphs to find out what the chapter's really supposed to look like.
What’s the hardest part for you?
Starting stories. Getting the first line, the first paragraph, the first chapter down is always a challenge. There is nothing scarier than a blank page and a flashing cursor.
What’s your strategy for dealing with writer’s block?
Write whether I want to or not and hope it gets the motor running. If that doesn't work, there's always taking a walk or bingeing on video games, though this latter technique isn't the most reliable.
What storytelling pitfalls do you find most important to avoid?
Making characters jump through plot hoops. So often a story outline is just a series of scenes you have in mind that you absolutely want to write, but it's very easy to get lazy and not adequately explain how characters get from one situation to the next. In fact, it's usually much easier to just have a character completely forget who they are and act wildly out of character just so you can get them to the next scene that you really really want to get to. Sure, it's an easy shortcut in writing, but it'll distract readers. Take the extra time to think things through, make each action flow logically to the next, and the story will benefit greatly.
In the pursuit of your writing career, what question have you most fantasized about being asked by an interviewer, and how would you answer it?
Considering the kind of stuff I write, I hope one day to be asked, "How do you sleep at night?" And my answer would probably be something along the lines of "On top of a large pile of money surrounded by many sharp objects, just in case." Whether or not this will be true by the time I'm asked is another matter entirely, but what can I say, I'm an optimist.
Other than reading and writing, what’s your favorite way to spend a day?
This'll probably sound clichéd, but it'd be spending a day with my wife. Maybe catch a movie or two, or hit up Disneyland, or go to the zoo, or if we're not particularly ambitious maybe spend a day inside marathoning movies, cartoons or Star Trek, or playing games (board games, video games, Magic: The Gathering... we love our games in the Carter household). We have a lot of fun together.
One food you can’t live without?
Peanut butter. So versatile. So addictive.
What’s one fact about you that most people would never guess?
I am a huge fan of Disney musicals from the 1990's-2000's, especially The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Princess and the Frog. In fact, given enough caffeine I can bust a pretty mean rendition of "Friends on the Other Side".
What’s your zombie apocalypse survival strategy?
Consistently surround myself by people who aren't as fast as me and hope for the best.
DC or Marvel?
Though Marvel has a better track record of movies, I gotta say I'm all about DC. I am a proud child of the Batman generation.
If you could be a member of any fictional species/race/class/subset of humans or humanoids, which one would it be?
Klingons, hands down. They know how to party, they love telling good stories, and they take pride in how much of their day is spent playing with sharp objects. Qapla'!
If you could have a loyal magic guard pet to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies, what would it look like?
A Lovecraftian horror so great and terrible and indescribable that a mere glimpse of it would cause instant madness. Playing fetch with it would be a challenge, but I imagine a combination of sunglasses, mirrors and a few pulleys would make it possible with some effort.
And of course, coffee or tea?
I don't drink hot drinks, but if I had to choose among my iced options, I would go with tea.