Let’s start by finding out a little bit about you…
- What is your name and do you write under a pen name?
I’m Matthew R. Davis, and I use that name for everything. Like, the middle initial gets bandied about everywhere, not just in my writing, because I’ve come to know myself by that handle.
- Where do you call home?
Adelaide, South Australia. I grew up in a large country town called Port Pirie, also in SA, where the rest of my family still lives.
- What is your family like?
Lovely. My father, mother, and younger brother work together in an auto parts store where I sometimes do casual shifts, and they’ve also dabbled in the creative arts. My father wrote some songs when he was younger, published cartoons in outlets such as Punch Magazine, and we recently collaborated on a short story that he wrote and I rewrote; my brother has self-released two albums of singer/songwriter pop for which I conceived and assembled the cover art, with images shot by Red Wallflower Photography.
- Do you have any hobbies, other than writing? What do you enjoy doing?
I love all forms of art and do as much as I can. I play bass, guitar, keyboards, theremin, and anything else I can get my hands on – I’ve been in many bands over the years. I’m the lead singer, bassist, and main songwriter for Blood Red Renaissance, an idiosyncratic heavy rock band on hiatus for years, and also the bassist/backing vocalist for icecocoon, a progressive metal group. I designed all the posters and album art for BRR and I’ve done some visual work for icecocoon as well as editing their live videos and performance clips. A MAPS film school graduate, I’ve worked on short films as composer, director, editor, producer, lighting guy, grip, and actor – recently I’ve shot a few scenes as an extra for Ribspreader, a forthcoming trash horror feature film by local punk icon Dick Dale. I’ve performed spoken word shows with punk poets Paroxysm Press and the SA Writers Centre. I’ve done photo shoots as a camera assistant for Red Wallflower Photography and we like to explore abandoned derelict buildings together. Basically, I’ll do anything creative that takes my fancy!
- What is your greatest dream?
For me: as much success, happiness, and creative fulfilment as I can earn. For the world: as much peace, compassion, and acceptance as we can attain.
- What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
Wow, getting deep here! I wish I could be more active, organised, healthy, and happy with myself. Life is a constant struggle against my own laziness, distraction, thoughtlessness, self-indulgence, and low self-opinion. Well, you did ask.
- Not to pry too much, but do you remember your first love?
Of course I do. You wouldn’t necessarily call it love from an adult perspective, but I fell hard for a girl called Janelle when I was ten. We were sort of an item in that harmless primary school way for about six months, and then, setting in place a pattern that would sometimes recur later in life, I refused to get over her for far too long.
- What is the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?
I’ve been fairly lucky thus far. I’ve lost very few people close to me and I walked away unscathed from a drunken car crash. In truth, my worst experiences are having my heart broken and living with the knowledge that I’ve hurt others through my own clumsiness, selfishness, and dishonesty. I don’t think that pain will ever entirely go away.
- What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing fiction since the age of seven. I don’t recall the impetus for that, but I’ve always loved stories. In terms of influences that kept me going after the initial phase of writing that so many kids do, I’d have to tip my hat to Terrance Dicks, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King among a great many others.
- What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?
When I was a kid, my dream was to be a heroic soldier of fortune who would live a life of action, save lots of people, and kill lots of bad guys – thankfully, I grew out of that! Otherwise, I’ve really only ever wanted to be an author and a musician, and I’ve done a lot in those fields… but I’m never satisfied with my achievements, and I’m still reaching for the stars.
- Who is your role model?
If I had to pick one at all, the Doctor from Doctor Who. Their courage, compassion, intelligence, eccentricity, and broad-minded joy at the universe has inspired me as long as I can remember.
- What is your greatest fear?
I asked myself this once so I could write a novel manuscript about it. Turns out the answer is mediocrity, failure, regret, and hurting others. Also, sharks.
- Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, or audiobooks?
Physical books, hands down. I will read ebooks when the occasion calls for it, but I don’t have much interest in audiobooks.
- Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so, what was it?
So many times! I’ve reread hundreds of books, though I don’t do that much these days as there are always so many new releases and unread classics to discover.
- What is your opinion of novellas?
Love them! Sometimes they are the perfect vehicle for a story, especially in horror, and they rarely outstay their welcome. I’ve written a few that have yet to find a home.
- Have you ever read a book just based on its cover?
Yes, of course! A recent example is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The cover art and author blurbs had my interest firmly piqued before I even took the book off the shelf.
- What books have made it onto your wish list recently? And why?
My wish list is and will always be enormous! We don’t have enough room for me to list off everything I want to get. In terms of upcoming releases, I’m looking forward to the new books by Stephen King (both of them), Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, Philip Fracassi, and Tamsyn Muir.
- What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
You’ve caught me between books! I grabbed a few things from the library today – as if I didn’t have enough at home to read – and I’ll probably start with The Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve, edited by Ellen Datlow.
Let’s shift somewhat and talk about your latest story
- What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say?
Midnight in the Chapel of Love, my first novel. “A rural gothic mystery with underpinnings of cosmic horror, an examination of what makes a man tick – a great read!”
- How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)?
Don Noble created the cover of my novel, and I’m very happy with it. My first collection had internal images that were thought up by me before passing through the mental and literal lens of Red Wallflower Photography to become something new between what I wanted and what she was seeing; the cover was my idea, she shot it, and I put the layout together.
- Did you listen to any particular songs while writing your book(s)?
I don’t listen to music when writing or editing, but it nevertheless plays a huge role in my work. I often write about music and musicians and they seep into my process in all sorts of ways. For example, the chapters in MITCOL are titled after songs which create a cool playlist for the book.
- How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
My collection went nameless a long time before I found a title that resonated with me; once I lit upon If Only Tonight We Could Sleep – after a song by The Cure which is mentioned in the book – that was the job done! I wanted to call the cave system at the heart of my novel the Cathedral until I learned there was already one by that name, so I changed it to the Chapel; for a while I thought The Chapel of Love would make an interestingly different title for such a dark story, but then I expanded it to Midnight in the Chapel of Love and that clicked neatly into place.
- In your latest novel, who is the lead character and can you tell us a little about him/her?
The main character in Midnight in the Chapel of Love is Jonathan Trotter, who goes by Jonno when he’s a teenager and Jonny as an adult. He’s become a kitchen manager but he’s one of those people who never really feels at home anywhere – even, perhaps, in his romantic relationships. He’s a well-meaning guy but he’s fraught with confusion and insecurity. He left his country town home under a dark cloud after finishing high school and he’s stayed away for fifteen years, insistent upon leaving that part of him behind in the inscrutable shadows – but now his father has died and he must return to Waterwich, where the mysteries and challenges of his past rear their heads to threaten his future…
- What are some of his/her favorite foods?
Jonny is, as I said, a kitchen manager, and he’s always been a bit of a whiz with food. He doesn’t have a clear favourite, but the vegetarian burgers he makes at work are mentioned at one point and he’s also a fan of pizza and yiros.
- Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?
I hope that readers will identify with Jonny to some degree. The book is, in many ways, an examination of the male psyche and its tendencies toward grace, and also toxicity. Aside from Jonny, we meet a few different types of man throughout the story and see both their natural strengths and endemic weaknesses. Jonny is flawed, but he’s smart, funny, and caring. Whether these attributes are ultimately enough to save him is for the reader to discover…
- What first gave you the idea for your latest book?
The first seeds of MITCOL were planted as I drove from Port Pirie to Adelaide one afternoon, listening to Something for Kate’s “The Fireball at the End of Everything”. The basic idea is fairly plain, all things considered – a standard plot in lit-fic and horror both, really – but I layered more ideas and themes onto it until I felt I had something unique that needed to be written.
Let’s talk now about your writing process
- What is your writing style like? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m almost exclusively a plotter, though I leave a bit of wiggle room to add or alter things on the fly. I like to know where my tale is going to end up so I can feed in relevant themes, recurring images, foreshadowing, etc.
- Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time?
The main challenge in writing is to achieve the level of craft I set for myself, to reach a bar that is forever being lifted higher and higher and yet will never attain the lofty heights where my favourite authors reside. The main challenge in publishing is to crack the bigger markets, receive the critical and financial success reached by my influences, and make a real name for myself – the usual! It’s hard to know what I should or would have done differently – maybe a stronger focus on my goals so that I could have been where I am a lot sooner, but to be fair, my work might not have been ready and I might have come to regret publishing things that would embarrass me.
- Are you a self-published/Indie author or did you publish through a traditional publishing company?
My first book, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, came out through Things in the Well, a small Australian indie; my first novel, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, is being released by JournalStone, a well-known and respected American independent press. I came close with a major Australian publisher, but I don’t know if my work will ever quite be what the majors are looking for… even if I believe there’s a lot of crossover potential.
- What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
Simple: read a lot, write a lot, and just keep going.
- What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing?
See above, plus: be well-read enough that you can see where your own work stands in relation to industry standards, and be objective enough to know when you’re good enough to compete with your idols and influences.
- Where can your readers follow you? Please list links to any applicable websites and/or social media accounts.
My blog is at matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com. You can find me on Facebook, too, at www.facebook.com/MxRxDx.