An Interview with GR Matthews (series finale part -1)

Spotlight: Author Interview

Jumping right away into the interview.

 

What’s next?

GRM: I’ve already started a new series. I haven’t got a name for it yet, but my strapline has always been; World of Warcraft meets the A-Team. I hope I can do my idea justice. I’ve got this one planned for a trilogy, but we’ll see how it develops.

“When they broke through, the world changed. Our culture collapsed, and people fled. Caleb and his small band of mercenaries aren’t ready to give up just yet.” – something like that.

 

Choose a character from your book you want to be or from one of your friends. Why?

GRM: A lot of my characters tend to have ‘gone through it’ – suffered grief and loss. I am not sure I’d want to be any of them. I’d probably be Haung if I had to choose someone – skilled with the sword, young, fit and everything I am not.

Almost all authors push their characters to the edge of endurance, break them in some way – I am not sure I could be any of them!

 

The scope of diversity in fiction: Your take as a writer and a reader.

Write what interests you – take the whole world in and paint it on a page. It would be the height of blind stupidity to ignore everything the world around us has to offer. Breathe in the world and exhale a book.

Read everything – there is so much on offer. Books offer a different view on the world than your own. You can learn from books, experience different cultures, races, genders, situations. Why close yourself off in some tiny cupboard full of only your world-view? Live someone else for a while. You might enjoy it, you might not, but you’ll learn something new. And life is for learning.

If you don’t like diversity, you’re only half alive at best.

 

Time for some personal and professional scoop. These questions are mostly for the benefit of wannabes and curious readers who want to see the man behind the book up-close.

 

Why do you write?

GRM: Why not? Which is a silly answer because there are so many reasons and barriers to writing – just as there are to music, to painting, to any creative endeavor.

I write because I want to because I have to. There are stories in my head that need to come out. When I started writing properly, that is writing to finish a novel; I found a strange thing; writer’s guilt. That feeling when you know you should be writing, but you’re not. It drives you mad, adds pressure and stress to your life. So much so that the only cure is actually to write, to do something creative.

Once you start, you can’t stop. It is addictive, infuriating and necessary. I write because I have to… And that makes me sound ill, doesn’t it?

 

How long does it take you to write a book? Each draft, edits, etc. the works. How do you manage your job, family, socializing, and writing?

GRM: I’m told, by others not by myself, that I am reasonably productive. I aim for two books a year. That is, I intend to write two first drafts, and release at least one.

While one book is being edited, I write another. Sometimes I get halfway through a book, have a great (to my mind) idea and scribble down half of another before going back to the first. Even if I am writing one, I am thinking about another – it lurks in the back of my mind, wandering the lonely corridors and picking up loose ideas until a story, characters and setting have all come together.

I have a busy job that is, quite often, eleven hours a day. I’ve two children who drive me insane, but whom I love dearly and a wife who is similar.

[Wife drives you crazy, Geoff? He says so publicly. This is one brave man!].

I do socialize sometimes; I love a good board game night with my friends – drinks, takeaway and making their life difficult as I struggle to win a game of Munchkin or Mansion.

I do socialize sometimes; I love a good board game night with my friends – drinks, takeaway and making their life difficult as I struggle to win a game of Munchkin or Mansion.

However, if you want to write, you have to give some things up, and you’d best decide what it’s going to be. If you really, really want to write you’ll be fine letting those things go… You’ll miss them, but you will be writing. You’ll find those minutes, hours, time and space to write. I wrote some of The Blue Mountain at a kid’s play center on my Kindle Fire… I found a way.

Editing… Where the real work begins. You get to read your story for the first time. Is it any good? Can it be improved, changed, adapted? Where are the problems and where are the good bits? Can you solve those problems, polish the good bits and get it ready?

I tend to do around four to seven drafts before I am happy enough with it. The book goes to a few, very trusted, beta readers around draft four… Which is when I might well be working on a new book.

 

That Treehouse of yours [A super secret organization of GR’s that is equivalent to Baker Street Boys….Not really, it’s something like the Grand Guignol. Kidding! It’s a fan club.]

GRM: I couldn’t live without them. The strangest thing is to go from writing into the void to writing for others. I still write the stories I want to read, but the Treehouse provides feedback, ideas, help, encouragement… Everyone needs a Treehouse. I am so happy they decided to set build one and let me in. It is an inspirational place!

I fully recommend, if someone out there enjoys the books, you get in contact with one of the members and ask to join. We’d love to have you. We’ll clear a space just for you.

 

Okay, serious things now.

GRM: < Gulp!>

[<evil grin>]

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

GRM: Turning off the internet, the telly, the distractions of life and just getting down to it. Once you can do that, it is easier… Much easier.

[Turning off the internet is like cutting off your arteries!]

 

What is the easiest thing about writing?

GRM: Ideas. They come from everywhere, all the time. All you have to do is listen, dream and try them out. Some work, some don’t. Keep working on the ones that do.

 

For your reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

GRM: I honestly don’t mind. I like a good paperback, but I can devour books on my Kindle – and buying ebooks is so easy such a temptation. I’ve Kindle full of unread books… One day!

Judging the SPFBO takes up a lot of time, and they are all ebooks, but it does mean I get to find some real treasures – Paternus by Dyrk Ashton [yeah, the one and only] from last year’s batch was the standout for me. I’ve got Josiah Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends on my Kindle to read, and I am looking forward to that one.

 

 

Do you proofread/edit all your own books (preliminary or final) or do you get someone to do that for you? Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?

I proofread and re-draft four times, then they go off to two loyal beta/proof readers. One of whom went through the 1950s grammar education in England which is useful; the other doesn’t have English as a first language which means she picks up so many errors that I blindly read over. When I get those back, I redraft and again. Nothing’s perfect, but it is done.

 

How do you schedule your writing?

GRM: I try to write every day. Whether it is a part of the book, an article for Fantasy-Faction, something for my own blog. Every day, every night, I have to write something – if you don’t exercise the writing muscle it will wither and die. That was a hard lesson to learn – how to start a book and how to get it finished. There’s nothing magic to it, just hard work, dedication, and effort. If you can’t motivate yourself to do the hard work you’ll never finish writing the book.

 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

GRM: I like a good comma chain, a stream of conscious thought process. Oh, and a dose of sarcastic banter between characters. In the process of writing, I’m not sure I have a quirk exactly. I do need to set targets and feel good when I exceed them. I am sure it releases some sort of pleasure endorphin, a reward for hard work. Mind you, I feel guilty when I don’t reach it.

 

Do you get cranky when you are deep into a story? How do your friend and family handle the pressure? What do you do to keep things under control?

GRM: I get cranky when the guilt of not writing gets to me. As it does if I miss a day of writing or two days. The pressure builds up – I should be writing, I should be getting this story written, and I’m not. I feel like I am wasting my time. I do get fed up with my stories sometimes when something isn’t working, but that’s quite often why I write two at a time, or least am thinking, making notes for a second. I mostly write when my family is asleep, or I find an hour of peace to write. I’ve got a laptop set-up (an old netbook that only runs Scrivener) in an out of the way place in my house – I go there to write sometimes.

 

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

GRM: A bit of both, if I am honest. If I settle down for a long session of writing, night after night, then I can get exhausted. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice now – and that month is very, very tiring. Work all day and write all night. The payoff is incredible though. The feeling of finishing a book, of having a story complete, is exhilarating! (or even just half a book).

 

You have successfully self-published a complete series. What’s your process? How did you overcome the initial hiccups and fears related to the idea of going solo?

GRM: There was no fear. I always intended to self-publish the series, and I worked to that end. It was all a matter of making sure I produced the best book I could. Editing was the hardest part and remains so. Picking out every little bit and correcting it is difficult. I have a little team that helps out, and I couldn’t do without them – help with drafting, the story, the feel and just the encouragement they give means everything.
Marketing is the hardest part!

 

Do you believe in collective help? The voluntary fan group or a launch team?

GRM: Oh yes! I have a little team in the background (two people) and a voluntary fan group that has a look at some of the stuff and get some previews of writing. I don’t think you can write in a bubble of your own – you need to share and listen. They encourage me, make me laugh and feel that I am not alone in this process.

 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

GRM: I don’t spend a lot of time researching. I tend to have a long think about the characters and setting. My journal might get full of mind-maps and spider-diagrams. Google might get a look in, but I do a lot of that as I go along – the characters go somewhere or do something that I need some exact detail for. That can bring my writing to a crunching halt as the research opens up a whole information filled alleyway of distraction that I wander down and get lost in.

 

How did your academic life help you with this particular profession?

GRM: I have a BSc in Geography, a Diploma in Creative Writing, and a Post-Grad in Education. To some degree, they all play a part in the books and process. Geography helps me look at landscapes; human and physical. I hope that I do every place and character justice.

 

Have you ever experienced a writer’s or a reader’s block?

GRM: Not writer’s block. It is always possible to write something whether that’s a book, blog post, short story or interview. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do it, but that’s the nature of the beast. Variety keeps the writing interesting and writer’s guilt at bay.

Reader’s block? There are some books I don’t click with. Those I’ve learned to pass by and get on with another. Life’s too short otherwise. Judging the first SPFBO taught me that lesson! There are so many excellent books out there that get stuck with one you don’t enjoy doesn’t make sense.

 

What’s your support system? Any friend or family member who has immense influence in your life as a writer?

GRM: The Treehouse is my support system, along with the team at Fantasy-Faction. Also, there are some authors out there that I’ve met, talked to, and would call a support team. Again, no one writes in a bubble.

In particular, Julia is a constant help, assistance, and motivator. She’s honest and doesn’t mince her words when things need to be said about the books. All the folks in the Treehouse help out and keep me going. I mention them a lot, but I couldn’t do it half as well without them! And then there are all the people I am about to mention below.

 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

GRM: I can’t go round claiming friends, they might disagree!

T O Munro and I were working together as we wrote our debuts. Having someone, you can talk to, measure your progress against, and discuss the whole process with is something I will value for the rest of my life. The fact that he is maths/science genius does mean I can check science stuff with him on occasion.

I met Mark Lawrence in London at a Fantasy-Faction event, through the SPFBO process, and at BristolCon twice. He is a great chap to talk to and another genius. I like surrounding myself with intelligent people – I can bask in the glow of their brains! Hrm… Sounds like a horror movie when I say it that way.

Laura M Hughes, on the Fantasy-Faction team, is a wonderful person to chat to. Very northern in an honest, blunt and caring way. J P Ashman is a great fellow, and we share a few interests, so it is not all about books. Dyrk Ashton is friends with everyone and makes me laugh, giggle or just roll my eyes. There’s a bunch out of SPFBO #1 that I speak to. So many. Authors are friendly folks!

I love reading their work – there is always something I can learn from their process and their work.

 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? It can be about yourself or anything else.

GRM: That I could do it. It took effort, motivation and stubborn unwillingness to give in, but I did it. Finishing that first book gave me so much confidence and resilience.

 

Which is the favorite character you have created till date?

Corin Hayes as the main character – because he reflects a lot of the things I’d like to be able to say. Writing in the first person, seeing everything from that one point of view is hard, but so enjoyable.
As for secondary characters; Jing Ke, Xiongmao, the priest in The Red Plains, Gang and Liu. There are no characters I dislike – even the villains I have some sympathy for.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Interviews 😉

When I am not writing, I read. When I am not reading, I am watching documentaries – you never what you might find out that will end up in a book. Other than that, I am with my family or working.
How I wish I could say, I am parachuting over tall mountains, or wrestling sharks, or seeking an answer to life’s imponderable mysteries but I’m not.

How I wish I could say, I am parachuting over tall mountains, or wrestling sharks, or seeking an answer to life’s imponderable mysteries but I’m not.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Do you believe in engaging in discussions with your peers regarding the craft? With newbies?

GRM: Just write and tell the story you want to tell. Read some books on writing – Stephen King’s is good. Finish your first draft before you show anyone – and take criticism. Make sure you’ve got the pace right, that your sentences make sense and don’t run on and on and on and on.
And definitely, talk to other writers. Find those you can relate to and spark up a friendship. Advice is always welcome, but you decide whether to take it or not!

 

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

GRM: Too concerned with the description of every scratch, petal, facial expression instead of writing about the character of the landscape or person. Info-dumps – hate them, don’t put them in. Give us the information in a different way.

[Yeah, true. The second part of the finale episode will be posted on Friday. Show GR some love, readers, read his books, leave reviews, read my post and like’em. 😀 ]

 

G.R. Matthews

Ladies and gentlemen, that was GR Matthews for you.

 

G.R. Matthews: Sunday Spotlight

Three times the trouble

 

Author links

GR also writes for the Fantasy Faction website

Website

Blog

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Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Book links

Goodreads

Amazon – will take you to the books wherever you are.

Smashwords for Outlaw Mountain (Free)

Barnes and Noble for Outlaw Mountain (Free)

 

So what say you?