Spotlight on Matthew Munson


Today I welcome a writer who I met through an online writer’s group that I belong to. What always amazes me about the writing groups I belong to is the plethora of writing talent in these groups. Matthew Munson is one of these writers. He is a writer who likes asking the Big Questions. He likes writing stories that make a reader sit up and say: What if? So join me in welcoming Matthew Munson. Pull up a seat and make yourself comfortable as we discuss life’s challenges, writing, fantasy, clowns and morris dancers…If you are like me and want to know what Morris Dancers are, well pay attention and Matthew will tell us all.
Welcome Matthew…Thank you for joining me in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio.
 
girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Matthew Munson?
Matthew: Matthew is … an Englishman in New York. Ha, not really, I just love the song 🙂 So that’s the level of my humour anyway … I am English, though.
    I’m 29 years old (30 in June) and live in the south-east of England in a town you’ve probably never heard of (thanks for that quote, Sir Terry Pratchett). I live right by the sea in touristy Broadstairs and have been born and raised here. I have a condition called dyspraxia and OCD and am currently learning British Sign Language. Looking over that last paragraph, I can’t work out how I’m not actually three people.girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Matthew: I don’t honestly think there was a specific time when I didn’t want to write, in some form. My dad was a journalist and both my parents have always been avid readers, so literature and a love of words has always been part of my life. For a while, I considered going into journalism, but don’t think I’d enjoy the intensity of the lifestyle – I like to be a bit more laid-back about my career choices!

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?

Matthew: Well, I wrote my first book when I was eight or nine, and it was a way of getting out of double geography at primary school – which I loathed. During my teenage years, I’d often write short stories, but never had the confidence to do anything with them. It was only when I was in my twenties did I actually think “Come on, Matthew, just do it” – face the fear (and the rejection!) and start sending some stuff out there!

girl with a quill: You have a very interesting website written from two different POVs? What made you decide on this unique website?
Matthew: I wish there was a more interesting story to this … a friend of mine and I have joined forces to publicise our work. We thought by sharing a site that we could increase traffic to our short stories and double our chances of getting people interested in what we’ve written. We share a lot of similar interests, so sharing a website seemed a logical extension of that.
girl with a quill: On your website you state you have 3 fears; Clowns,Morris Dancers and Water. Is there a reason why you fear these? What are Morris Dancers? 
Matthew: You don’t know what Morris Dancers are? I’m shocked! They’re an English folk tradition; dancers with bells tied round their legs and hankies tied to their sleeves doing weird dances to welcome in Summer on May Day. They’re a very … intense group of people who have regular conventions, and probably the only group of dancers that you can hear coming from half a mile away. There’s also a dance called the “Black Morris”, which welcomes in Winter – as a kid, that used to terrify me, and I can’t shake it off to this day.
    Water – well, that’s an easy one. I had swimming lessons as a kid, and would never put my head under water, so my swimming teacher once pushed it under and I swallowed a huge amount of water. It was absolutely terrifying, and any large body of water still gives me the creeps to this day.
    Clowns … well, don’t they scare you??
girl with a quill:One often hears that you need to face your fears to overcome them and I believe writers often use stories to work through events. Have you ever/Would you create a story with these three things you fear?
Matthew: Strange you should say that … I’ve written a short story about a clown called Hector, which was published in Ethereal Times a coupld of months ago. That was great fun to write – I utterly LOVED creating the compexity of Hector, he was – and is – awesome, at least as far as I’m concerned.
    I’m currently working on a short story about the sea as well … but I won’t say too much about that at the moment. As for Morris Dancers … hmm, that’s one to think about for the future – maybe!
    I am definitely one who channels his thoughts and feelings into his writing; it’s very therapeutic.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Matthew: Facebook and Twitter! I have met some awesome writers through here – Eden Baylee, Richard Wood, my interviewer to name but three, and there are a lot more there. I love bouncing ideas off people and seeing how other people work.
    I’ve also got two “off-line” friends as well, one being a very prolific writer in the south-west of England, James Sheridan – we’ve known each other for 20 years, and can be totally honest with each others’ work. David Grimstone is a huge inspiration to me, and I’m glad to know him – he always incredibly encouraging to me and I always value our chats!

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Matthew: Phew, there’s a question … I don’t know if I can say one thing. My parents, clearly, are huge influences on my writing. As I said earlier, I grew up in a house filled with books and words, and learnt to love both. I think that my dad’s writing style has rubbed off on me, although he is far more awesome at constructing a column or an article; our humour is very similar, though, so we tend to approach things from a similar viewpoint.

    Author-wise, I’d have to say … well, there’s a list. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are utter legends, and Stephen King and James Herbert aren’t far behind. I could go on and on and on … but those four appeal to me because of their complex plots that are still very easy to follow and wonderful to read. I love writers where you’re physically excited about their next book.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Matthew: It would definitely be a cross between fantasy and some sort of medical textbook, I suspect! Fantasy because I don’t honestly believe people would believe some of the jobs I’ve had and people I’ve met during my life, and medical because of my dyspraxia and OCD that has an impact on my life – although I make sure it’s as little impact as possible.

    The arc would be … interesting, to say the least; highs and lows, the same as anyone! Really developing new strands to my life in my 20’s; developing the confidence to face the inevitable rejection of being a fledgling writer, starting to learn Sign language and becoming an advocate for dyspraxia and deaf awareness. An intense arc, some might say!

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Matthew: I have a desk in my front room right by the window, so I can look out over the street from my flat. I love that; it gives me so much inspiration, just that view of people and the sea. The actual desk is fairly Spartan – two laptops, some notepaper and pens … oh, and a book I really MUST take back to the library. I prefer the space to be as empty as possible; it’s less distracting and more calming for me.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Matthew: They won’t shut up! I usually spend a week or so just jotting random thoughts down; names of characters, bits of plot, etc, then spend a lot of time daydreaming! I find music really helps me with that; it sends me off into the realms of … well, wherever you got when you daydream! I often walk as well – for some reason, walking and music together really help me think about the process. Gradually, things solidfy in my mind and I just start writing.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Matthew: Both – although more of a paster, if I’m honest! Everytime I start a story, I tell myself I will plot it through and follow that plot religiously … but it doesn’t quite work somehow. I love how things can evolve, and that can only happen if your plot is flexible enough to change.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Matthew: Reality-based fantasy. I love using the real world as a basis for my fantasy stories, because I love the “what if” question, and fantasy really helps me explore that. I can put the world into different contexts and see how people would react to the incredible.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Matthew: I’d love to try horror one day – but haven’t yet got the confidence. You need to be able to get that “fear factor” just right, and I need to read more extensively more I even have the nerve to try it!

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Matthew: Working on a couple of short stories at the moment, then hoping to go back to my manuscript in a couple of months; I need to change portions of that, so I’m having some “thinking time” away from it!

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Matthew: Because I couldn’t imagine a life without it.
girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Matthew: I would hope there’s a humour that permeates my work. I find it funny, but the test is if other people find it funny as well! I’d also like to think that there’s a passion for life that comes through, as well; a message that life can survive, in a lot of different forms.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Matthew: I’d love to be a characted in Jasper Fforde’s series of Thursday Next books. Thursday is a LiteraTec, a detective working in and out of the fictional world and real world. That would be a fabulous job to try.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Matthew: Character, because without strong, powerful characters, your story will wither and die.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Matthew: I’ve got two; Hector the Clown, who I’ve mentioned before, because he’s got this extraordinary gift and just uses in such a morally dubious way, but for reasons that he thinks are good and decent and honest.

    My second character is Joseph, a leading character in my unpublished manuscript “Fall From Grace”, which I’m just re-editing now. He is very similar to me in many ways, and he was definitely my mouthpiece in the book.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Matthew:It’s tough to pick just one, it really is. I’m going to say Thursday Next again, because of how she’s written; Jasper Fforde has created this absolutely deep and layered character and invested a huge amount of humour and pathos within her.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Matthew: Must I have just five?? Alright then … Jasper Fforde (because of his book series and how much I suspect his humour is similar to mine, Richard Wood (because  he runs the Word Count Podcast and has just been published – and would have a lot of stories to tell), Terry Pratchett (who is just plain awesome), David Grimstone (the author I mentioned earlier who is incredibly down to Earth and well-versed in so many subjects that overlap with my interests) and Jeani Reactor, editor of the Horror Zine, who is an amazing and patient editor!

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Matthew: Thursday Next – because she just kicks arse; Samuel Vimes from the Discworld novels, because he would actually give a totally straight answer to anything you asked and wouldn’t filter his response; Davey Swag from David Stone’s book of the same name because he’s had experiences so far out of this world, it’s untrue; Symond Bryson from The Prodigal’s Foole, because he could really advise me on my own fantasy creations, and Lyra Belacqua from Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – she’s so well-written and complex.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Matthew: Don’t be afraid of rejection. It happens to everyone – accept it and make your writing better as a result.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Matthew: Remember how you felt when you had your first piece of fiction published? Hold on to that feeling; if you ever lose it, it might be time to consider your options.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Matthew: To engage people in my stories and make them think.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find you on the web?

Matthew: At www.writeordie.co.uk or 
http://vikingbay.blogspot.com/ – come and visit, maybe even say “hi!”


7 Comments

  1. Matthew, While reading, one particular line from the song London Homesick Blues by Gary P.Nunn comes to mind: “The English sense of humo(ur)r is dryer than the Texas sand” (just the line, not the song ;-))

    As an ESL reader/writer I can’t help but wonder whether your/the British “fantasy” leans more toward what the same word (fantasie) means in Dutch – imagination, rather than the “made up world” of U.S. fantasy genre.

    After taking in Kim’s interview with you I really look forward to a show that’s based on your IRL work experiences etc.

    Q: Are you familiar with the U.S. series “Monk” and if so, do you think the genre (comedic/ mystery) is a good vehicle to introduce the public to OCD?

    Thanks Kim and Matthew, It’s great to be drawn into a conversation such as yours!

  2. Good interview! I always instinctively warm to a writer who admits they don’t have the confidence to try something yet – it shows they’re serious and won’t settle for for second-best.

    All the best to you both.
    Visiting from SheWrites.

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