Interview with Dave Matthes, author of “Paradise City”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I suppose it differs person to person. I myself, while not exactly socially inept, prefer to stay as far away from the social scene as possible. It may be a slight case of what I call “social claustrophobia”, but I don’t really consider myself a people person, at least in terms of being able to tolerate other people’s bullshit.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

It really all depends what you consider to be “published” and “glamorous”. Writers like Stephen King is published, and has an enormous following. I’m self-published, and have a small to moderate sized following.

What is your motivation for writing more?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it “motivation”. It’s more along the lines of: “I have to write. There’s no other choice.” If something happened to me one day like I went blind or deaf or my carpal tunnel got so bad I couldn’t write anymore, I’d demand the someone with loose reserve for morality take me out to the pasture and shoot me.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

Again, this depends on the movie, the book it is based on, and the viewer’s opinion. Personally, I don’t think the book ever dies. I tend to pretend a book-based-movie that doesn’t tickle my boat, just doesn’t exist. For instance, The Hobbit movies.

What books have influenced your life the most?

I would say The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. While spending my short little bout in the military, I would read those books at night if I couldn’t sleep. While most of my time in the military was enjoyable, everyone who’s ever been enlisted will tell you that the hard times are unavoidable. The Lord of the Rings books made those times a bit more tolerable.

From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholics. Your views on that?

It’s a stereotype, sure. I myself have been known to drown both my literary and my emotional sorrows with a bottle of two of whiskey. I used to put away a bottle or two every few days. But that doesn’t make me an alcoholic, it just means I enjoy the drink. While I do prefer to have a bottle handy while I write, and 9.99 times outta 10 I do have one close by, it’s not necessary to get the word on paper.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

With each book that I write, I try to differ or alter the style for each individual one. I also don’t stick myself with one particular genre. That’s boring, and painfully limiting. Whenever someone asks me what genre I write, the author snob in me takes it as an insult to my creative testicles.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

It’s a combination of the two really. Most of the time, I’ll get an idea in my head and run with it in one single direction, writing a half-assed outline. I’ll usually write the beginning and the end first, but by the time the book is actually finished being written, I’ve gone through a hundred draft changes, a million title changes, and from time to time I’ll scrap up to a hundred pages at a time and start completely over. Generally, at the end of the day, where the book ends up is nowhere near where I originally intended it to be.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

I design all of my book covers. Call me stingy, but I don’t trust anyone with the physical image the themes of the book represents.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

I’d say the aspect of NOT writing. Sitting there naked in the night, drinking from a bottle of whiskey and just listening to music while staring at the blank page. Such a ritual also doubles as a therapeutic exercise in lining all your mental ducks in a row. Of course, sometimes that’s all that ends up happening: staring at the blank page, and not a single word is born.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

I want to say none of them, but my third novel “In This House, We Lived, and We Died” would have to be the one. It’s the heaviest piece of literature I’ve ever written, both in style and at its core. The way it was written, is a style in which I’ll most likely never write again, and something I just had to get out of my system. The most frequent thing I hear about from readers is that it’s an incredible story, and one of the most profound they’ve ever read, but it takes a lot for them to reach the end; reading the book is pretty much an exercise in attention span, and will separate the boys from the men. I don’t want to rewrite it, and never will, of course, because it acts as a literary milestone for myself and a staple in my life in general. But if I were to change anything about it, I’d probably rewrite it in a slightly different style.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Covers and titles are two separate ingredients to the life of a book that really have to be carefully designed and thought about if the best message is to be conveyed. Something I’ve seen recently, that disgusts me as a writer, is that just about every single cover and title out there… are generally exactly the same. There’s a lack of creativity out there, a missed opportunity. I’ll go through a handful of title changes and even more cover changes because the story changes as I write it. If the cover of a book only has an image of a seductive female or male model and the title is some one-word, one-syllable verb or adjective describing the function of the reproductive system, I’m going to file that book under “worthless junk”.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I’m currently writing the third volume in “The Mire Man Trilogy”, and the genre is pretty much as close as you can get to contemporary fiction with a pinch or two from my own personal spice cabinet. I wanted it to be gritty and real and nothing exaggerated or superficial, and many of the events that take place will make readers uncomfortable, but that’s the point. Reading these three books above all of my others, will force the reader to think; they aren’t just a vacation from the soul from the real world.

What inspires you to write?

Life; that’s it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the sexual, the smelly, the stuff we find between our toes after a long day of work, the jizz stains on our mattresses that look like someone spilled a gallon of ice cream and just left it, the cracked parts of our week we will with drugs, booze, “meaningless meanings”, the yesterdays and the tomorrows, and everything else in between.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

Was or is? With my current work schedule, punching out on average about 60 hours a week during first, second, and third shift, leaves little room for sitting down to write. I keep a little notebook with me if I get a free moment or two while at work, and whenever I actually have a day off, I try to use that for actual writing.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

The Road. A lot of people will probably disagree with me, but I’ve never seen a better movie based on a book. Reading the book was like slowly walking down your favorite aisle in the liquor store. Watching the movie was like drinking every bottle you could get your hands on.

Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?

Depends on the author, and where he draws his inspiration from. Saying that the characters are all purely fictional is just a way to protect the writer from unnecessary harassment. However, and I’m sure most writers will say the same thing assuming they have any real balls between their legs, just about every one of my characters in my books are based on someone I’ve known in real life. It’s what makes them so real and relatable, and so easy to create.

In case one or any of your books honor the big screen, which book would you like it to be?

I’d like to say either “Sleepeth Not, the Bastard” or the three books in “The Mire Man Trilogy”. I feel like those would make pretty good movies, if done right and not Hollywood-ized.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Absolutely. I prefer to be alone, most of the time. I enjoy my solitude, and usually avoid anything to do with “the bar scene”. When I was younger, I’d be out almost every night and every chance I got. I’d leave the house with a wad of cash and wake up the next day with barely any lint left in my pockets, assuming I was wearing pants at all. Now, life has sort of taken on an opposite likeness, and not in a bad way at all. I’d say I’m more at peace in ways that I used to be drowning in chaos.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

I’m sure. I’m no stranger to such a tool. Mine happened to be a combination of whiskey, women, and all the sex things with those women. Getting between the legs of a woman is the surest way and most direct way to the most human of emotions: carnage.