DSP: For starters, tell us a bit about you, we like to get to know our authors as a person!
Matthew: I'm 29 years old, and I live in Northern Ireland with my partner and our little boy. I have a background in psychology, and I work for the government commissioning and managing various social research projects.
In my spare time, and when I'm not writing, I like playing the guitar, listening to music, going for bike rides with the youngster, playing golf, and of course, reading.
DSP: Nice to meet you! So tell us, where did you find the inspiration for your most recent book?
Mathew: Well my most recent book is a collection of short stories, so the inspiration for each was quite different, but the first story, for example, The Burning Bar, was inspired by a photograph by the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. It's a photo taken in New York City in 1935 of Joe, a jazz trumpet player with his wife May (It can be found here).
The intensity of the man in the photo, and the unspoken relationship with his wife led me to write that story, but I was also inspired by an anecdote from BB King, the famous blues guitarist. I hope that's not too cryptic, but I don't want to give anything away.
DSP: It sounds intriguing! So, do you have any kind of ritual for writing? Such as, you have to write with music on, or you can only write when you’re completely alone, etc?
Matthew: I don't really have a ritual as such, or any kind of structure to my writing either. I tend to keep a note of any ideas I might have, but when one of them takes off then I just write wherever and whenever I can get the time and space. If I'm not near a computer, then I'll write longhand and type it up later. Usually, once I have a section complete, or I want to see how it is working, I'll send it to my ereader and review it that way. I think it gives you a much better idea of how it flows if you can see it as it will look when it's published.
DSP: That sounds dedicated, a lot of folks (admittedly, myself included) don't write unless it's typed. Of course, I have messy messy handwriting that sometimes even I can't read! On to the next question! Who is your favorite character in your book, and why? How about the character you had the most trouble with?
Matthew: My favourite character is probably the protagonist in the story Wee Tiny Spiders. For some reason I really enjoyed writing his spiral into madness. I like the idea that it can take one small thing to set someone off, that madness is ultimately not so far away for any of us.
The character I had the most trouble with is the former terrorist in What have you don'. It's a touchy subject at the best of times, but it was difficult to get across his menace without going down the road of caricature, and creating an evil villain-type character.
DSP: His spiral into madness...I gotta admit, that sounds fun!! Now, when you sit down to write a book, a paragraph, or whatever you‘re working on at the moment, do you just sit down in front of the computer, or do you need an outline of some sort? Is there any other prep you need in order to organize your thoughts either before you write or in the process of writing?
Matthew: With a short story, I usually just need the germ of an idea, and then the rest follows pretty easily. With something longer I try and map out my thoughts, taking them from a kind of scatter-gun, free association/stream of consciousness type of thing and putting them in a timeline or rough outline that makes sense. Of course, each piece of writing feels different, so I don't follow any strict rules.
DSP: Fair enough. I suppose if you're writing different types of pieces, it does make sense that each book is different! Do you foresee any more books to continue this story? If so, do you think we can get a taste of what’s to come?
Matthew: I'll certainly be publishing more short stories, but so far the only recurring character is Sam, the little boy in the story entitled The Bicycle. The next story which contains this character is based on a trip to the local children's hospital.
DSP: Awesome! Other than this most recent story, do you have any ideas for different books that might be published in the future? Care to give us a teaser?
Matthew: My next book is based in Belfast in the 1930s and 1940s, a hugely interesting time for the city. Belfast was an important port and shipbuilding hub in those years, and was targeted by the Luftwaffe accordingly during WWII. My story centres around a building called the Floral Hall, which was a dance hall in the pre- and post-war years, and later hosted bands such as Pink Floyd. It has sat derelict and empty since the 1970s, in the grounds of what is now Belfast Zoo.
Here is the opening paragraph:
"I had never seen an elephant before. I knew what they looked like, of course. I had seen pictures in the newspaper and at school. I knew their general shape, and that apparently they were enormous, bigger than a tram car by some accounts. But a real live elephant - that was something special in 1934. The day before had been stormy, Belfast Lough pricked with angry white-caps, high winds shoving heavy clouds across the sky. My father worked at the docks, like a lot of people back then, and the night before he had told me the news."
DSP: What a unique opener! An elephant? It kind of makes you NEED to read more, because how strange is it to own an elephant anyway? I love it! Which brings me to my next question. Who is your greatest inspiration to write? What person makes you believe in yourself, and how?
Matthew: I don't think there is a single person or thing that inspires me. I write because I feel like I have to.
The person who makes me believe in myself is my partner Carrie. Any time I voice my doubts, or lack self-belief she gives me a kick up the arse.
DSP: As a writer, you learn to appreciate the arse kicking. It gets you out of self-pity and makes you get stuff done. Do you have any aspirations to be similar or comparable to another author? Why?
Matthew: Well, I'd like to be known for having my own unique style, but there are plenty of authors who I admire. I'd like to have the beautiful use of language and arching plots of David Mitchell, the enduring appeal of Ernest Hemingway , and the enthusiasm and vigour of Hunter S. Thompson.
DSP: Some very awesome writers, and I think we should all aspire to reach their level of writing abilities! At least on some level. Okay, one last question, and this one is different for every author, not to mention completely off the wall! If given the option to know what day you were going to die, would you really want to know when or how? Why or why not?
Matthew: That's a very interesting question. I think I would like to know when, but not how. If you know when, then at least you have a timescale in which to try all the things you've always wanted to try, do all the things you've always wanted to do, and say all the things that you want to say. If you know how though, you would spend your whole life trying to avoid it, or come up with ways to avoid it.
In one of my short stories, Defenestration, a man is thrown from the twelfth story of a building, and although his death is not made explicit, the implications of it lead to a discussion about his fate, and whether or not this is something which all of us should ultimately learn to accept.
Wow, gripping! And I like your response, it does makes sense about giving you time to do everything you've wanted, but not let it consume you with how. I like that!
Folks, we have a new author to brag about!! Let's give it up for indie author Matthew McFarland! You can get a copy of his book on Amazon HERE, and stay tuned. Tomorrow, I'll be posting as many links for Matthew as I can possibly find. (Google, here I come!!) Till tomorrow, happy reading to all, and to all love and insanity.