Author Spotlight – G.R. Matthews
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is G.R. Matthews!
Geoff Matthews began reading in the cot. His mother, at her wits end with the constant noise and unceasing activity, would plop him down on the soft mattress with an encyclopaedia full of pictures then quietly slip from the room. His father, ever the pragmatist, declared, that they should, “throw the noisy bugger out of the window.” Happily this event never came to pass (or if it did Geoff bounced well). Growing up, he spent Sunday afternoons on the sofa watching westerns and Bond movies with the self-same parent who had once wished to defenestrate him.
When not watching the six-gun heroes or spies being out-acted by their own eyebrows he devoured books like a hungry wolf in the dead of winter. Beginning with Patrick Moore and Arthur C Clarke he soon moved on to Isaac Asimov. However, one wet afternoon in a book shop in his home town, not far from the standing stones of Avebury, he came across a book by David Eddings – and soon Sci-Fi gave way to Fantasy. Many years later, Geoff finally realised a dream and published his own fantasy novel, The Stone Road, in the hopes that other hungry wolves out there would find a hearty meal. You can follow him on twitter @G_R_Matthews or visit his website at www.grmatthews.com.
Thanks for joining us today, Geoff. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’ve actually just finished an self-published title called The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while and he was an entrant in SPFBO #1, just like me.
The book is set in a dirty, vicious city where everyone is out for themselves. Mallor, the assassin, has a history which comes out as the story progresses – no one is safe and, you suspect, Mallor is not entirely sane. He has an agenda, a plan, a cause, and his own revenge to exact – and blood will show the way.
There is something about an author’s debut novel – they’re full of excitement, energy and there’s (sometimes) a lot of risk taking with form and story. When debuts work, they really work – Definitely Maybe by Oasis? (yeah, it’s music, but you get the point).
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Simple. A Rogue – though he will claim to be a fighter, adventurer, just lucky, and carry double daggers and a rapier… oh, and a hat with a feather. Really, and don’t tell my current group, he’ll be an Arcane Trickster – and go to almost any length to conceal his ability to cast spells of enchantment and illusion.
There is something about a Rogue. The knowledge that you are … erm… quite squishy in your light armour but, with a good roll, you can slaughter a monster with two quick stabs. Sneak attack, high dex, some lucky dice, and nothing can stand against you – unless it is looking at you that is. Add in some unpredictability and borderline sanity issues and Kenric… erm… the Rogue is someone you’ll want with you.
A quick leap onto the back of the monster currently killing the Paladins and Clerics, a double stab (with double natural twenties – I kid you not, this was the other night), a somersault off (disengage) and that monster will be close to death.
To be honest, and for me, it is more about the character than the actual class, just that a Rogue gives you some good options. I mean, I absolutely did not disguise myself as a disgruntled villager and lead a peasants revolt on the lord’s castle… not me…. honest! I wasn’t even there. <winks>.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type. Always type. My handwriting is illegible. There aren’t many with handwriting worse – well, T.O. Munro maybe. I touch type well enough and quick enough that I can generally keep up with my thoughts, but not always. I do miss words out when I type but I’ve a good proofreader who catches the ones I miss.
I used to handwrite chapters, many years ago. I still hand write in my journals – spider-diagrams, mind maps, scribbles and notes. Actually, the last book I finished was plotted out by hand – chapter by chapter, character arcs, events. It was the most planning I’ve ever done. I’m not sure I could have done that same planning by typing – it would have been awkward and clumsy.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Headphones and music – music I’ve known for a while. It cuts off the world around me, removes the distractions and lets me get on with writing. If the music is new, I’ll focus on that. Listen to the melody and words – probably drumming with my fingers on the desk (I can’t drum, though I can play the guitar so I suppose I really should air guitar, but I don’t).
If someone talks to me, the mood is lost and my thoughts scattered. It can get really, really annoying… and I’ve got two kids (no idea where they came from… might be aliens? They certainly act like it) and they are masters at pestering. Grabbing my sleeve and demanding attention… aaargh!! But they’re mostly lovely. Mostly.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
Unusual? I stole my son’s desk and chair to create a writing space in my bedroom!
I used to panster everything. Start with an idea of a beginning. middle and end. A couple of characters. A keyboard, a journal and a spare hour. Write, write, write until the book ended. My first book, The Stone Road, was such an experience that way… there are twists at the end that I set up during the book, without realising I had set them up! When it all clicked, I was hooked on writing – if I could accomplish that on my first real, completed book, the world was mine! Mine, I tell you!
Utter bloody fool. What happens, for me at least, is the realisation that it just ain’t that easy. Writing a book takes thought, effort, perseverance, sweat, tears, blood, the patience of my family, friends and a lot of luck. At the end, if I’ve a little bit of writing talent to inject into the process, well that’s just dandy.
However, Rivers of Song and Shadow (unpublished atm) has three points of view, three stories going on and took a lot of planning. I ended up sticking a load of A4 sheets together and plotting the arcs chapter by chapter on, what now looks like, some mystical scroll of magic which I rolled and unrolled as I wrote. And there are a tonne of maps, notes, geographical, tectonic, agricultural and societal details in my journal about the world… yet the story starts in a small village and only moves to the tiny town at the base of the mountain.
Corin Hayes #4, Back in Blue, (due out in April 2019), was planned out though less exhaustively than Rivers of Song and Shadow or A Good Day to Die (also unpublished atm), but then Corin does tend to lead the way through the story. There is something about writing in the first person, and something about Corin, that is almost uncontrollable. He dictates his actions, and his actions drive the story; for good or ill.
Like a lot of authors, I use Scrivener now. I used to use WriteWay (a similar piece of software). They’re damn handy things to have!
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
I read a lot of Sci-fi when I was younger, but I suspect that might not be the thrust of your question. Hang on…
I read biographies every so often; Churchill, Ghandi, Bruce Lee – they give you a sense of a different life, a different time, and how people overcome the difficulties they face.
Spider-Man comics when I was younger (*cough* and now). Here’s a teenager who gets extraordinary powers, realises that fame and riches are not what they are to be used for… surely something that would be lost on most of us today. Warhol spoke of 15 minutes of fame – with youtube, love island, xfactor, almost everyone who wants those minutes can get them, or stretch them out to years.
History books too, non-fiction. I’ve read books on archaeology, on the Vikings, the Romans, China and anything else that takes my fancy. Learning is one of life’s greatest pleasures and never to be ignored, diminished or taken for granted.
M*A*S*H – the single greatest television series ever made. Hawkeye, Trapper, BJ, Winchester, Potter, Houlihan, Radar, Klinger – every character, every walk of life, every fault and every noble trait, often in the same character. It was cast with genius, written by the same and is just an absolute joy to watch. I laugh and I cry – it is just what I want from a good book, just what I want to achieve in writing a good book!
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Two programmes have my attention at the moment; Forged in Fire and Wheeler Dealers. Yeah, I know, but what can I say?
Firstly, I have never smithed and I am not a mechanic. A stick is too technical for me! I can build a computer, but the true physical crafts are outside of my skill set. In the garden of my old house is a wall I built. Just four bricks high, but enclosing the patio I laid… the wall isn’t straight and the topography of the patio is best described as rolling.
Secondly, and related to the first, I am in awe of people who have the skills I lack! I can watch a skilled artisan for years.
I play the guitar, badly, and have for 20 odd years. My brother is a talented git and plays every instrument going, exceedingly well – I can watch his fingers dance across the fretboard or keys of the piano and be mesmerised, enraptured. Envy is part of it, but it’s more than that – it is awe!
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
I’d spend it doing all the jobs around the house that I haven’t done – the DIY, the washing, the ironing… (has my wife looked away? Good!)
I think I’d gather up some friends for a day of Boardgames and D&D! A Time Story playthrough, maybe some Pandemic, a game or two of Dark Mages and some Star Wars Destiny, with maybe a touch of Munchkin… and then into a dungeon battling the hordes of orcs, goblins, dragons or whatever the DM can throw at us. If we happen to start a rebellion (guilty) or accidently burn down a town (also, guilty) then well… ooops! In my defence, both actions were kind of accidents! (Mostly).
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
You want me to remove a punctuation mark from useage… to make it illegal? You know what will happen then? All the ‘cool’ kids will be using it – it’ll go underground. There’ll be dealers on street corners offering you a taste of an exclamation mark, or an interobang, or an em-dash. Once you’ve em-dashed, you can never go back!
There’ll be a police department set up to deal with the problem… Jasper FForde may have already set one up to combat the Toast Marketing Board’s monopoly on illegal semicolons!
This making punctuation marks illegal is the first step towards a dystopian madness! First they’ll come for your parentheses, but they won’t stop till they’ve taken the full stops too!
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Corin Hayes, book #4, Back in Blue is still struggling with life beneath the ocean and the murder of his daughter. Called back into Naval service as NOAH goes to war with VIKN, it is clear that the threat posed by the enemy may be nothing compared to dangers presented by his own corporation. His Fish-Suit, Oxyquid, intellect, and luck are all that can keep him alive… he’s screwed.
Worth noting, for marketing purposes and in order to put food in the mouths of two little children, that there is Omnibus of Corin Hayes Books 1 to 3 coming out on 26th March, while book #4 will hit the electronic shelves on a month later on 30th April.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
If I could, if the planets aligned, if all the gods that ever were and ever will be smiled upon me, if fate conspired to offer me the chance, I’d write Discworld with Sir Terry.
I’d never do it justice. I’d screw it up, but the chance to sit down with that man and just write, talk, and that first-hand insight into his world view would be worth a thousand years of time. That man could say more with a comma than Shakespeare managed with a whole play (that might be hyperbole… might).
For spearing the pomp, pricking the thumbs of the arrogant, the unthinking, the dwellers in ivory towers, no one did it better. How you take the decline in public services and turn it into Going Postal? Football Hooliganism into Unseen Academicals? That man could write Party Political leaflet that I would have actually read, instead of dumping straight into recycling (I am that environmentally conscious) – hell, it could have been for double-glazing and I’d still have read it!
Sadly, I never got to meet him (and even if I had, I would probably have said something really stupid – I tend to do that, sorry to all the folks who have met me).
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Writing should be a habit. Get into the habit writing every day, no matter what you write, be it shopping list, magnum opus, or a complaint about that Magnum you just ate (it is an ice cream). Exercise those writing muscles and they will get stronger.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
China, warring states period. Hands down, no other options. Iceland, when the sagas were written. Damn. Easter Island when the moai were erected! Wiltshire when Stonehenge was built! When humans first crossed from Africa into Eurasia… the discovery of iron… farming.
The future… whatever country, place, develops true spaceflight! Mars, when we finally colonise!
The problem is, there is so much to see, so much to experience and learn! This is why books are such a joy – why great writers do us such a great favour by putting words to a page and images/experiences in our minds.
That moment when life first crawled out of the ocean and onto the land. The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs… the invention of penicillin… that greek steam engine – why did you not develop it further? 1,700 years of wasted time… what could have been?
So many questions…
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Writing can be like playing an old-school MMO – sometimes you just have to grind your way through it! I am in one such chapter now – hence I sat here, doing the interview, procrastinating and delaying the grind. It’ll be done tonight – it has to be.
I set goals and get writer’s guilt when I don’t meet them… I’ve got Guilt at level 200. I am the Grandmaster of Guilt… that should be my MMO character. That chapter will get done and I’ll move on! That’s what keeps me going… there is always the next chapter and next scene!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy. An instruction manual in all forms of magic wrapped around an adventure. I’m not sure it is either underappreciated or obscure, just old (1980s old). If you get the chance, you really should pick it up and give it a read!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
He is not the hero you wanted, but he is the one you root for. In the dark of the ocean life was tough enough and with now war on the horizon Corin Hayes has been called back into the Navy. Danger comes from all sides, but the largest threat might be from his own troops.
Thanks again for joining us, Geoff, and good luck with your latest release!
G.R. Matthews writes fantasy and sci-fi, including the FORBIDDEN LIST trilogy and the CORIN HAYES series. His next release, the Corin Hayes 1-3 omnibus, will be out on March 26th 2019, and the fourth Corin Hayes novel, BACK IN BLUE, will be out in April 2019.