Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author and blogger Matt Tuckey. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Matt. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Matt: I’ve always liked reading and writing, but I had a big gap in adulthood until Myspace came along, I started blogging, and got the writing bug. I’ve been writing regularly now since December 06.
Morgen: Ah Myspace. I have a profile on it but I don’t do anything with it (no time really). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Matt: I rarely stick to a genre. My short stories and fiction have fallen into surreal, SF, horror, “literary”, and a few other categories- I think the light-bulb-moment of thinking of a good story will dictate what genre I’ll be writing in next.
Morgen: Me too. I think that’s the good thing about eBooks, you’re not tied down so much. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Matt: I’ve had a few short stories and articles published in online magazines- mostly based in the States- and a few pieces in local newspapers. I prefer for things to be published online as it means more people will see my work and find it through links, rather than it being buried in a printed magazine or book that few people will have access to.
Morgen: That’s very true. A lot of people prefer the other way round but I have to say, I’m a digital fan. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Matt: Quite a lot, in a certain sense. When your work is published online, you need to get people to find links to it. I use blog cards- like business cards- that I leave in as many places as possible. The card features the blog address; the blog links to all my published work. I’ve not got into trouble for leaving cards lying around just yet! As I cover events and bar reviews, I tend to discreetly drop a few on barstools and window ledges. You didn’t hear that from me though! Haha.
Morgen: Your secret is safe with me. 🙂
Matt: I also look for websites that allow you to comment on them. Many of these will allow you to leave a link to your website.
Morgen: Feel free with mine, I’m all for readers and authors getting to know each other. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Matt: I don’t really enter competitions. A lot of the competitions being ran ask for money from entrants. I don’t agree with that work ethic. Giving your work away for free is a necessity for beginners, but a lot of magazines will pay a small amount for stories and poems. Why pay to submit to one place when another will pay you? And even if they choose not to use your work, you’ve lost a few minutes sending the email. That’s all.
Morgen: Some competitions are ridiculous and a crazy number of people will submit so that chances of winning are fairly slim. I’ve entered some smaller ones and had some success so it’s great for the CV. I’d say do it if you have something strong to send (I prefer topic-lead competitions) and you can afford it; the chances are it’ll get you writing something new and if you don’t win you have it to send elsewhere. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Matt: I don’t, but I think it can be very handy for people who write while also keeping down a career. It does allow people to keep those ventures totally separate if they so desire. I don’t see a problem using my own name.
Morgen: I don’t suppose there are many of you out there so I guess it’s about people remembering your name… I’m hoping that works for me as there are only three or four of us in a Google search. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Matt: When I got my first Acceptance – Dead Chinese Girls in Flash Fire 500 – I was really pleased. I felt like I was getting somewhere at last, and I wasn’t just some blogger nerd hammering away on his keyboard on his own. It still feels good to get the acceptances.
Morgen: So, on the flipside, have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Matt: I’ve had hundreds of rejections among the acceptances. I’ve got a spreadsheet of everything I’ve ever sent out and what response- if any- I got. The first response I got was a very arrogant rejection from a “fanzine”, which was a bit of a shock. I learned that some people are more professional than others.
Morgen: That was really unlucky and could have put you off, but it didn’t. 🙂
Matt: Once I got the first acceptance, any rejection after that made me think, “okay, they don’t want it. Someone else will.”
Morgen: Absolutely the attitude to have. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Matt: I have a few short stories and poems in the pipeline that I’m really excited about getting finished soon. One’s about a young man with autism who gets into trouble with the law when he meets a woman. Another’s about two very strange but very different men who share a meal in an unusually-designed house.
Morgen: Ooh I love quirky. 🙂 You sound busy, do you manage to write every day?
Matt: Almost every day I manage to move something forward, be it a blog entry or tweaking a story draft using notes from a feedback group. There’s the occasional gap! I think it’s really important for a writer to get out and meet as many people as possible and do things to inspire stories- staying in and writing all day every day won’t help- but writing a little daily definitely does. I have spent entire days- 9am to midnight in some cases- constantly writing, but I was chopping and changing- a story here, a few hours reviewing other people’s work online, a blog post there.
Morgen: You do have to go and meet the people who will ultimately become your characters. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Matt: I think I’m working on that many projects concurrent that if I ever hit a wall with one, I just switch to another.
Morgen: That’s how most of my previous interviewees get through writer’s block; variety keeps the brain happy. 🙂
Matt: But generally, if the initial story idea is there, I’ll manage to put a draft together without getting the block. One method of curing it is to attend writers’ groups, where the group will perform a quick writing exercise. It will force you into writing something in a sharp burst. That trains you for writing on your own.
Morgen: It does. I set three or four exercises for my group in our fortnightly sessions, oh and then I put them here. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Matt: I think the shorter the story, the less of a plan you need. With word processors you can type in ideas in block caps to remind yourself of any twists or hints to twists, then go back and fill in the gaps when you’ve written the end. The plotting and the writing kind of happen at the same time.
Morgen: Aren’t computers wonderful… when they’re behaving. 🙂 We mentioned characters earlier, do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Matt: The important thing for developing realistic characters is to get out there and meet as many different people as you can. Listen to how they talk and what their beliefs are. Watch how they behave. You start to analyse people every day without thinking, eventually, and you imagine yourself writing the scene as it’s happening. If you don’t get out there and meet people, all of your characters will sound the same- and sound like yourself.
Morgen: Which would be really weird / happy / sad / dull / interesting (delete as appropriate). 🙂 Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Matt: I’m a member of Writers Connect Manchester, a feedback group that meets in the Arndale Centre. We’re a fair but critical group with strong stomachs and open minds. And we’re always looking for more members! http://www.meetup.com/Writers-Connect-Manchester.
Morgen: Oh MeetUp. They’re great. I first joined my local cinema group and have since joined two more and go to all sorts of things when I can. I did belong to my nearest MeetUp writing group for a while but got booted out before I could go to anything (because there was nothing listed, I received an automated email from MeetUp asking me to suggest an event, which I did, then I was accused by the guy running the group of taking over when I was actually just trying to take part). Hey ho, I run two writing groups and belong to two others so no time anyway, so I’m not bothered, it’s just a shame. Where were we? Oh yes, do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Matt: Reading your work again a few days later, you always find something to tweak. But your own eyes won’t see problems that you’ve created yourself, so getting feedback from others is essential before diving into a proper edit.
Morgen: Absolutely, no writing should go out that’s not been past at least one set of eyes. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Matt: I’ll find that an idea comes to me and I’ll have to jot the basics down as soon as I can- even if it’s just on a note on my phone. I get a burst of excitement and think, this is going to be awesome! Then, when I’ve got a chance, I’ll blast a draft out as fast as I can.
Morgen: And realise how awesome it actually is? 🙂 So paper vs computer, you do a bit of both?
Matt: I haven’t always got a computer to hand, so the notebook is handy for the bus. But computers are easy for storing ideas and drafts, and coming back to them later. It also means you can skip a scene and write something that comes later on, then go back and fill in the gaps.
Morgen: I put ‘MORE HERE’, it’s easy to find the gaps then. 🙂 What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Matt: When I’m plotting, I’ve taken to internet radio- you can pick any niche you like there. I think chillout music helps get in the mood. But when it comes to the serious act of writing the guts of the story, I prefer silence. I’m too easily distracted. Even this interview has taken a few days!
Morgen: Oh dear, sorry about that. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Matt: Because I’m a blogger I might have a leaning towards first person, but if your main character isn’t as bright as your perceived reader it’s easier to use third.
Morgen: That’s so funny (your main character isn’t as bright as your perceived reader); I’d not thought of that before. 🙂
Matt: Third person allows you to point out character weaknesses. It allows you to let the reader see more, and allows you to describe events in the way you want your reader to visualise them. I tried second-person for a short blog about mobile-phone pickpockets. I wanted people to be aware of what is happening to revellers in the city in a way that would make them more conscious of their surroundings.
Morgen: Ooh, I love second person… be right back. Oh, OK, I’ll wait ’til the end. 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Matt: I’ve used a prologue in a longer piece, a screenplay. I used it because it was relevant to events that happen later in the story. If it’s entertaining and necessary, use a prologue. If it’s not, don’t.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Matt: Probably. I wrote an SF piece a few years about a scientist using spider’s silk to create weaponry, but I got the science completely wrong. I’m tempted to go back and have another go, but science isn’t my strength. The best SF writers tend to have a good base of science knowledge to refer to that makes their work believable. I haven’t. There are a few other ideas that I “killed”, but I’ve forgotten them and moved on.
Morgen: Science so isn’t my strength either; my physics teacher told my parents at the first parents’ evening that I should give it up, I was so pleased to and glad I stuck to art. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Matt: Loneliness. Writing is a thrill but the isolation can be a pain. I still hit the clubs every weekend and I’m at the gym a lot doing classes there, but every writer has to subject himself to solitary confinement if he wants to get the words down.
Morgen: I could so easily be a hermit (except the dog, work, the cinema, friends etc gets me out). If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Matt: I wrote a poem a few years ago that- in all honesty- I thought was garbled nonsense. I sent it off to a few magazines and quite a few of them wanted to publish it, Some even wanted to pay me! A few months later I wrote a black comedy that I was really pleased with, but nobody has accepted it because it apparently isn’t original enough. It was quite hard-edged- featuring an attempted rape- but nobody turned me down on moral grounds. Only on originality. I never have any idea about how well something is going to be received.
Morgen: You just have to catch the right person at the right time with the right thing, easier said than done (unless you say it really quickly). 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Matt: Take it seriously and get involved. Visit writer’s groups. Get feedback. Read at fiction events. Compete in poetry slams. Don’t just do it on your own. Once you’ve done something in the writing community you feel a little more validated. You’re part of a group.
Morgen: Yes, just do everything and keep doing it. What do you like to read?
Matt: I’m hammering through a James Ellroy trilogy at the moment- he’s great at saying a lot with a little. I’m also a big fan of Hunter S Thompson, Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Matt: I go to the gym a lot, not that it shows! I also get out to Manchester for the bars whenever I can. I’ll be getting back into Mixed Martial Arts soon, which I’ve done for four years nearly. I’ve had a break for about 9 months.
Morgen: Martial arts… eek, I’d better be nice to you. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Matt: http://duotrope.com is a search engine for magazines that are looking for stories and poems. Invaluable for writers. http://dictionary.com is handy for obvious reasons. I’d also recommend books from the “Teach Yourself” range – Creative Writing, Copywriting and Journalism have all helped me. I used to use a feedback site called Urbis.com, where writers would share reviews on stories and poems. The site has been defunct for a while now, and I’m looking for a new site to use. If anyone could suggest one they’ve used, I’d be really grateful!
Morgen: Duotrope’s great – I’ve heard it a few times over the years but only recently explored it, perfect for searching out markets before or after you’ve written something. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Matt: I’m UK-based.
Morgen: Oh UK! So Manchester is our Manchester… there was I thinking it was this American metropolis. I’ve been to Manchester a couple of times (as ‘press’ guest at Coronation Street’s 35th birthday, I sat next to ‘Alf Roberts’ at lunch! Then a few months later to a wedding)… lovely place.
Matt: With the internet, location isn’t too much of a problem really as I’ve “met” a lot of writers from across the globe through websites. Thankfully Manchester has a good creative writing scene and I’ve managed to meet a lot of other writers doing a similar thing to me.
Morgen: Sorry Northampton, but Northampton’s has a fairly rubbish writing scene… apart from the writing groups I belong to of course. 🙂 Nottingham and Leicester are far better but then I guess they’re bigger. No excuse I know. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Matt: Twitter is growing in popularity every day, and I’m finding that more and more helpful in terms of finding other writers and events. http://twitter.com/Matthewtuckey
Morgen: So apart from Twitter, where can we find out about you and your work?
Matt: I run a blog about writing, social media, celebrities and Manchester at http://Powerisastateofmind.blogspot.com.
Morgen: You do, I’ve seen your brave requests to celebs for an interview. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Matt: I think the internet is changing everything. There’s a lot more opportunity for your writing to be seen now, which is great, but I think the divide between short story writers and novelists is widening. Who’s going to buy short story anthologies when there’s so many shorts free online? With people having busier lives, short fiction- available online on people’s mobile phones- short story magazines could really take off. I think for novelists it will be harder than ever to get recognised.
Morgen: But more ways of jumping up and down and saying “pick me”. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Matt: I’m always looking for guest bloggers. I’m keen to get people involved in what I’m doing. I’ve been running my blog since ’08. In March this year, I had 10K hits. In July, 20K. I must be doing something right, and part of that has been including posts from other writers.
Morgen: Absolutely. I started mine late March this year (2011) and in the first couple of months had about 1600 visits but then started doing these interviews mid-June and have over 12K so it’s definitely about putting lots of content up (I’m so grateful for all the authors who approach me to get involved) and talking about things that visitors will be interested in (ditto). Is there a question you’d like to ask me? 🙂
Matt: Fancy guest posting? Haha.
Morgen: Absolutely! Something about writing or a bit of fiction? – just let me know. 🙂 Thanks Matt.
Matt works in local government in Marketing, using social media and doing copywriting.
Outside work, he drinks scotch and listens to house music. Not continuously, though.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).
The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:
- Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group (http://novelwritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/508696639153189)
- Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group (http://poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/388850977875934)
- Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group (http://scriptwritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/319941328108017)
- Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group (http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/544072635605445)
We look forward to reading your comments.