Welcome to the four hundred and fifty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with sci-fi fantasy and horror author Mathew Bridle. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Mathew. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Mathew: Hello Morgen. I herald from Horsham in West Sussex, though I now live a full six miles away in Crawley. I suppose, I began to write any of length while at Primary school when I filled an entire exercise book with the exploits of Katie the Kitten.
Morgen: How sweet. (and I’ve only moved 55 miles in my life). What genre(s) do you write?
Mathew: At present I am writing a fantasy saga, with all of the trolls, orcs, dragons, and stuff like that. My first novel was an 80’s style horror called Rising. I then wrote a first person sci-fi called 3 Phaze, followed by an X-file inspired sci-fi / horror entitled Lagoon. I wrote a few others which I lost the manuscripts of. I have written a few short stories, though I must admit that I find them difficult to stop.
Morgen: That’s no bad thing, they just have longer legs. What have you had published to-date?
Mathew: I had one novel, Emun of Mor, published by indie press Vamplit Publishing. The others I’ve thrown out there on Smashwords as badly-written freebies, which in the last year have had over 13,000 downloads. My latest is self-published.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Mathew: Over the 20 or years that I’ve been writing novels I’ve had plenty of rejection letters. You get used to them after a while. It is only recently that I discovered the primary reason for most of them. I had no idea what a publisher or agent is looking for in the query letter and synopsis. I, like many, fall at the first hurdle.
Morgen: There are more sites out there with advice but the publishers and agents I’ve spoken to have often said that many authors don’t simply read their guidelines which, as you say, is most certainly falling at the first hurdle. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Mathew: I’ve not entered any. Until now, I never thought that I could win or even get noticed. I have a distinct lack of self-belief.
Morgen: That’s a real shame although I don’t know of many authors who don’t, even to a small extent. I would recommend not putting anything ‘badly-written’ online but take your earlier comment with a pinch of proverbial salt as your reviews have been good. Do you have an agent?
Mathew: I had one, back at the start. He was someone that I knew, and like me he was new to the game.
Mathew: Ebooks are my primary focus. They can easily be kept up to date every time I find another error. Though there is nothing like holding your work in your hands.
Morgen: That’s very true. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Mathew: I do it all. Utterly clueless at it. I am thinking of blogging my activities to help / warn others of the pitfalls and successes, but I would need someone to nag me to keep it up to date.
Morgen: Having regular guest pieces might do the trick although be warned, it could take over your life. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Mathew: My first novel is a favourite. My latest is my best, bit ambitious. As for actors, I actually have them in mind all the time so that I can write dialogue ‘in voice’. As an example, I have a dwarf priest, Arrborn, who is voiced by two actors. One, Morgan Freeman for when he is being kind and nurturing and the other is Brian Blessed for when he is being more… outgoing. I also have Stephen Fry as a gnome.
Morgen: Wonderful choices, and I’d love to see 6ft+ Stephen Fry as a gnome. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Mathew: I designed all them except one, Emun of Mor which was done by the publisher. I like the drawing on it but the title is painful on the eyes.
Morgen: At least you can see it; some are so near to the colour of the background, or the text so small that you have to squint or enlarge it and any stumbling block for a potential buyer is best avoided. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Mathew: I’m working on the saga, I have over 350k words already down as outline, so I’m putting the flesh on the bones.
Morgen: Wow. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Mathew: I try to write every day, but I have to work and have three children. As for writer’s block, no, I have the opposite, too many ideas and not enough time. I would also like to try and collaborate on something that is out of my field.
Morgen: I’m the same; too many ideas for (probably) my lifetime but better that way than struggle. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Mathew: I used to just jump in the saddle and see where it ran, but now I put down some notes. Then I hack away at the story and get it done then I go back and fill it in. I have even used a desk calendar to plot out a chapter to make sure that it all worked out to the right number of days.
Morgen: When I was writing my first novel I had events happening all over the place and had to date the chapters so I could keep track, a calendar is a sensible idea. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Mathew: Sometimes names change, anything will do for a start.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry? If so, why do you think it’s such a difficult market to break into? Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Mathew: I have written poetry but it’s not very good. Natural poets are something to admire. I have a friend that is exceptional, double acrostics are no bother to him at all. He once wrote a poem about being by the sea. You could feel the motion of the waves in the rhythm of the words, just beautiful.
Morgen: How lovely. I write very little (“only when I have to”, I say) but admire those who do. Do you write any non-fiction or short stories?
Morgen: Oh, thank you very much. One of your favourites for the Flash Fiction Fridays slot would be great (I also ask for a few words on your inspiration behind the piece). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Mathew: If you get my first book, The Rising, it’s in need of an editor and probably a re-write. That’s where I began to learn. I used to run from editing, that’s a serious skill. I’m no academic, I tell stories. I have now learnt to slow down. Read as I type, and then re-read. I finish a chapter, print it, mark it, edit it before going on to the next one. When the book is done I go over each chapter again. When that is done I get a copy printed and create an ebook for beta testing. Then it’s publish and be damned.
Morgen: I’ve heard many writers say that Dan Brown’s writing is fairly poor but he tells a good story. The same is said about the writing of Fifty Shades of Grey although I’ve heard more bad comments about the story than good ones. Do you have to do much research?
Mathew: I have done. For this saga I have researched armour, leather making, ancient tooling, foreign cultures and different religions. I’ve looked into climate systems.
Morgen: Yay for the internet. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Mathew: Third person. I’ve done one first person, but cheated a bit. Never tried a second person; at least not deliberately.
Morgen: <laughs> Wise for novels but you could try it for a short story. It’s an interesting pov. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Mathew: Possibly, I’ve got two on the backburner. Mark: future sci-fi apocalyptic thing where the public can play at real as a video game. Rain: a black comedy vampire noire.
Morgen: They sound really interesting. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Morgen: I am full-time (although more blogging / emails than writing) and yes, although no longer surprised (more annoyed) at how quickly the time flies. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Mathew: Go for it. No matter how bad it turns out, just go for it.
Morgen: Absolutely – you can’t edit a blank page. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Mathew: Desmond Tutu, Jesus, and Steven Hawking. I’d probably cook roast beef with all the trimmings.
Morgen: Nice. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Mathew: Hair, just like everyone else. Homer (Simpson that is).
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Morgen: Ah great, if you let me know what they are I’ll add you / them to my Reviews page. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Mathew: Working and family, playing video games with children or watching movies.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Mathew: The most useful thing that I have found is www.grammarly.com anyone who struggles with punctuation and grammar and so forth it is a real boon.
Morgen: I was of the era that was taught grammar at school but can always do with a refresh. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Mathew: I’ve been on Twitter for a few years now, Facebook Goodreads, and a few forums. They can be as helpful as they can be destructive.
Morgen: Apart from being stupidly time-consuming there are a small number of people who are quite happy to bring others down – having a thick skin for rejections comes in handy. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Mathew: I think that today the opportunity to be read is vast. Because it is possible to write in the morning and be published by lunchtime everyone can have their say, but not all should.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Mathew: My website is best www.theonesaga.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mathew: Nothing springs to mind. If anyone would like some help to get onto smashwords or kindle they can contact me through my site.
Morgen: Great. Thank you, Mathew.
I then invited Mathew to include a synopsis of one of his books…
As the youngest mage ever, to pass through the University of Elements, Dekor never expected to be hunted by them. He was warned about the lust of the flame, he believed that he would not succumb, he was wrong. Running for his life, he finds help in unexpected places as he follows the voice of The One. Torn between two masters, he struggles with his inner demons while avoiding the hunters that draw ever closer in a land on the brink of war.
The horde in Gnell is growing impatient, seeking to conquer the lands of men. Driven by their new King, the warlock Vargor, the goblins begin to test the mettle of men. Will anyone come to the aid of Mages or will the horde prevail?
Born in 1963, Mathew Bridle heralds from the south of England where he lives with his wife of 17 years and his three house monkeys (children). He never obtained a high academic level, scraping through with few ‘o’ levels.
He has had numerous forms of employment including: retail, warehousing, manufacturing, care work and even ran his own business in graphic design.
His main hobbies are video gaming, reading and writing, he also enjoys the occasional movie.
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